• Beach Huts and Bathing Machines by Kathryn Ferry

    This review is a joint effort by me and The Iron Duke. Joint in that he did all the work, and being Management I just offered a few suggestions at the end. Anyway, we hope you enjoy it over here on RP. Please note beach huts are not to be confused with boathouses.

    If the Army Rumour Service can be said to stand for anything it is violence, sex and sheds with some boring stuff about the military here and there so where better to review Beach Huts and Bathing Machines, since your beach hut is basically a shed painted silly colours but without dangerous sharp things and huge spiders.

    As you may be aware, talk of sheds is banned over on the ARRSE because of a disappointing incident involving Bad CO, a Hillman Huskie gearbox and a lawn edger in a shed many years ago. As a result the Sheddi Forum is hidden from view and accessed by invitation only. A bit like Longdon Bar but with rather fewer advertisements for soft furnishings and Pamper Weekends. So it is with great delight that I am finally able to discuss my passion in the open by reviewing this book. That is a passion for sheds. Not soft furnishings and Pamper Weekends sites. Don’t get ideas.

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    This is a slim volume with lots of pictures of beach huts and bathing machines. So what is to write about beach huts I hear you ask, other than they have four walls, a roof and are painted silly colours? Quite a bit as it turns out. Their history – back to 1730 - is fascinating as is the knowledge that Victorians bathed naked. I thought Victorians were born fully clothed and stayed that way until they karked it. I didn’t know that beach huts were used as a form of class repression since local by-laws meant you couldn’t bathe unless you hired a hut, so starvers were kept from eying up their naked masters and mistresses.

    The book traces the development of this frankly weird aspect of our seaside culture right up to today where we have all read tales of Boscombe beach huts selling for the price of a small semi. And as a classic example of English eccentricity (they have beach huts in Scotland and Wales, but they nicked the idea off us as with so much else; and French and Belgian people have ‘Beach Retreats’ so they don’t count) it is delightful to find that beach hut culture shows no sign of flagging. They took a bit of a dive from the 60’s when poor people got cheap flights to Benidorm and other ghastly places, but today they are enjoying resurgence around our coasts. They plan to put up overnight stay beach huts with all mod-cons near me. A hotel room on the beach – fab idea.

    I enjoyed this book and was thrilled to be asked to review something that would allow me to mention SHEDS, the topic that dare not breathe its name on ARRSE. I find it is always wise to get a birds eye view when it comes to colourful things, so I enlisted fellow shed afficionado Boldnotold who was gracious enough to take time off restoring her tank and making jam to give me the following insights…

    Hired Swimming costumes!
    Oriental Flourishes
    Men bathed naked throughout the 19th Century

    Strange that hired bathing costumes gets an exclamation mark but naked men does not? Let’s not go there, shall we?

    We both agreed that Beach Huts and Bathing Machines by Kathryn Ferry gets three Wine Glasses and we very much look forward to the sequel whose working title is 'Army Rumour Service Sheds Of Note And The Filthy Campaign To Repress Them By Bad CO'.

    TID's worry about my exclamation mark must be a man-thing, but I was definitely more ed by the idea of using a swimming cossie that had been worn by lots of strangers, than the idea of men swimming in the buff. Maybe other RPers would like to comment?

    TheIronDuke and Boldnotold

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