Sue Arnold: The dry spell has put an end to my hot tub hi-jinks

I've tried sitting in my tub listening to Monteverdi, but, inevitably, someone will call me from the house

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Five years ago I cashed in my Premium Bonds, emptied my Post Office savings account and fulfilled a lifetime's ambition. I bought a hot tub. Other people go sailing, join gyms, ramble, write poetry, brass rub or collect antique French clocks by way of relaxation. As for me, I sit in my hot tub under a tree in the garden feeling the water jet pummel my back and listen to birdsong. That's the great thing about sitting up to your neck in a cedar wood barrel full of hot water. You can't physically engage in any other activity so you have to relax.

There's nothing else to do.

Years ago someone gave me a natty notepad and pencil which apparently worked underwater but it didn't work in hot water and anyway, I lost it. It came from that marvellous survival shop next to Euston Station where you can also buy DIY dentistry kits, should you ever find yourself stranded on the north face of the Eiger with an abscess under your wisdom tooth. I've tried sitting in my tub with my earplugs listening to Monteverdi or Tom Lehrer but, inevitably, someone will call me from the house, I'll turn my head sharply and plop, my Walkman falls in.

Occasionally someone will join me in the hot tub and once or twice, after a hectic weekend, we've had up to eight people in it. It's on these occasions that I tend to worry very slightly whether the guests, who have just peeled off their clothes and jumped in yelling: "Wow it's so hot,'' or "Gosh I never thought it would be as brilliant as this',' are as scrupulously clean as you would hope that someone who is, after all, sharing what amounts to your bathwater should be.

Hence my new project. As Baldrick would have put it, I have a cunning plan.

Apparently there's an internet website called iwantoneofthose.com which sells showers that look like old-fashioned red GPO telephone boxes. Put one of those next to my tub and people would queue up for the novelty of using it.

My worries would be over. Or so I thought. I've just heard this morning that our local authority is enforcing a hosepipe ban on all gardens in our area. Forget the red telephone box shower. At this rate it doesn't look as if I'll be using my hot tub this summer.

In the great global context of climate change with polar ice-caps melting, new desert areas springing up and shorelines eroding at an alarming rate, the piddling problem of my hot tub doesn't amount to much I admit. Besides, if I followed all the instructions the man from Hindhead Hot Tubs told me when he installed it about changing the filter and testing the pH level to keep it clean, the chances are I needn't change the water till Christmas.

Morally though, could I bear to sit up to my ears in water watching the geraniums wilt in their tubs and the roses wither and die on their trellises all around me because we're not allowed to water them?

As a nature lover and regular listener to Gardener's Question Time, I should be siphoning off that precious resource in my tub to nourish my blooms. On the other hand, will my roses and geraniums thank me for feeding them dirty water?

The one thing I remember from my Constance Spry flower arranging course, is that flowers are hypersensitive - which is why you have to keep vases as hygienic as instruments in an operating theatre and give them fresh water every day.

On balance we'd be better off forming the family into a human chain to haul buckets of water from the stream at the bottom of the hill up to our parched plants - unless that too is illegal. I'll bet stream water isn't public property. It probably belongs to the local authority like those flowers in the middle of roundabouts.

On second thoughts, I'm not sure the flowers would thank me for the water from the stream either. Ever since our neighbour up the lane dammed and diverted it to make an island for his ducks, it has had a strange bubbly scum on the surface.

When the children were small, they used to spend all summer paddling in it, catching minnows in jam jars. The likelihood of finding a minnow or any other living creature in that murky gloop is remote. Even the moorhen who used to nest next to the stream has been driven off by the rancid smell that wafts up from the water.

That settles it. Tomorrow I'll empty the hot tub, water the plants and wait for Armageddon.

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