In the US, every house or apartment that I lived in had the same basic configuration of amenities for bathing: a bathtub with either a sliding door or shower curtain rod, and a fixed or detachable showerhead above one end of the tub. This handy arrangement allowed for great flexibility and was ubiquitous to the point that I don’t recall really ever thinking about it. I have been utterly amazed to have not once found this combination in my time in the UK.
During my travels prior to moving here, and in my temporary apartment in my first four months of living here, my accommodations invariably had only a shower stall. My current flat has only a bathtub, and one with separate hot-and-cold-taps at that. My first purchase on settling in was a rubber hand-held water combiner thing that attaches to the individual taps and produces a mini shower-like spray of water of an intermediate temperature… it sort of works. And sometimes it leaks all over. At least you can rinse your hair with a stream of fresh water. Normally I don’t mind this arrangement too much, and I simply kneel in the tub and have a pseudo-shower. This has been tricky in recent days, since I seem to have torn a muscle in my leg in Italy and I find kneeling quite uncomfortable.
But I admit it, I’ve had trouble getting used to the idea that a bath is not a relaxing evening thing involving a good book but a rushed thing done in the morning before work. I am finding that I miss my flexible American arrangement where either a bath or shower was an option. I get this sense that the shower-stall-only configuration is somehow seen as progress as it is characteristic of newer English construction. It certainly takes up less space to forgo the footprint of a bathtub. Regardless, and as usual, it’s amazing the things I didn’t anticipate missing about the country I left behind: I find myself fantasizing about the modern American master bath with both a shower stall for the morning and a separate and large jacuzzi tub for an evening soak with a good book and an adult beverage. Now that would be progress.