The Thing Is with Steve Canavan - May 28, 2015

Northumberland Coast Path at Howick
Northumberland Coast Path at Howick
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There are few things in life worse than a bad hotel shower.

Granted, that might be a slightly simplistic, self-centred view; I’m sure, for example, there are greater issues to fret about in, say, Africa, what with widespread famine and disease.

But for me, a pampered Westerner, a dodgy shower is infuriating.

I mention this because of the shower I had during a walking holiday last week.

I had headed north with a couple of friends to attempt the Northumberland Coast Path, a 65-mile trek over three days.

We started a place called Cresswell, about 20 miles north of Newcastle, notable for the fact that despite being tiny (there are about 27 houses, an ice-cream shop, and three dog poo bins) it has the most hi-tech public toilets I have ever come across.

After doing one’s business (in my case, a short and very green-coloured wee – I’d eaten a lot of asparagus for lunch), you stick your hand in a hole in the wall, at which point a large dollop of soap drops onto your palms.

Where it comes from or how it is dispensed I have no idea.

Next water pours down – again from an unseen source - then a dryer powerful enough to take your eyebrows off at 10 paces removes any trace of moisture, and most of the skin, from your hands.

It is fantastic and wouldn’t be out of place in New York, yet there it was in a tiny fishing village.

I was so impressed I went to the toilet five more times, until I realised the locals were giving me funny looks and discreetly dialling 999, at which point I stopped and began the walk.

The first day was a 18-mile trek to Alnmouth, or 20 in our case as we missed a vital turning, something we didn’t realise until we reached a very deep estuary and – after briefly contemplating an attempt to swim across (a plan I abandoned after realising I’d not packed my water-wings) – did a U-turn and retraced our steps.

So, we arrived at our abode for the first night shattered and smelling exactly as you’d expect three slightly out-of-shape 30-something men who had just walked 20 miles to smell.

The three of us were sharing a room (we’re nothing if not thrifty).

I nipped in the shower first and – after delicately removing my underwear and placing them in a clear plastic bag to be destroyed by a specialist team at a later date – pressed the ‘on’ button.

Now imagine filling a teaspoon with water and gently tipping it to one side so that the liquid dribbles off.

That was the strength the water came out of the shower (a shower which - and I can only assume this was some kind of joke on the manufacturer’s part - was called Powerforce 500).

Worse still, the temperature of this water was not constant.

It went like this: icy cold for 12 seconds, perfect temperature for two seconds, skin-frazzlingly hot for 10 seconds – and the pattern repeated.

The result was that I had to time to the exact second when to put my head under the shower, otherwise I was either left freezing or in need of medical assistance for second-degree burns.

After 47 minutes – during which time I had still not rid my hair of the shampoo I had rubbed into it right at the start – my two friends were banging on the door and quite rightly asking what the hell I was up to.

They were even more disconcerted when I finally emerged with gunk in my hair and holding a plastic bag containing my dirty underwear.

Is it too much to ask, in modern-day Britain, and especially when you’re paying £112 for a room, to have a shower that distributes the correct amount of water?

I ask you…

Right, rant over. As you were.

Beautiful world

As for the remainder of our walk in Northumberland, it was wonderful to traipse through what is a lovely part of the world.

The five mile stretch, for instance, along the beach from Seahouses to Bamburgh and its fantastic castle (right) is breath-taking (though if you’ve not been there I guess this will be of absolutely no interest as you won’t have the faintest idea what I’m on about).

Alas we didn’t actually complete the full walk.

A decade ago it would have been no problem.

But our ageing bodies let us down, my calf seizing up midway through the third day, with the end result that we had to cut things short and catch a bus into Berwick (£5.10 for nine miles – daylight robbery).

I write this missive at home in St Annes with an ice-pack strapped to my left leg and in excruciating pain, but content in the knowledge that tomorrow morning I can have a blinking good shower.