Working towards pleasure

The components for filtering and heating the hot tub are moving into position

Sometimes, probably most of the time, we work for survival. Sometimes, if we’re lucky, we work for pleasure, for the sheer delight of work, and then it doesn’t feel like work at all, of course. But there are times, and we should make the most of them, I guess, when we work for the anticipated pleasure a completed task will bring. So it is with my plan to create an outside enclosure, to facilitate convenient maintenance of our hot tub (review of our purchase in 2011), which has already brought much pleasure to us over the years, high on the Sparty Lea fellside.

I don’t know of too many other hot tubs in the area, or whether they are, like ours, heated by an indwelling wood-fired stove. Certainly there are at least a couple ‘wild’ pools, and there’s always the river Allen with its inviting bathing spots in the fairy glens. But we learned about wood-fired hot tubs during one of our visits with the SNAP music project a decade ago during mid-winter in Sweden; thereafter recreating a similar experience here was high on our list of home leisure facilities. The Swedes, of course, indulge in their own hot tub leisure in the altogether, but they kindly wore swim suits for our visit, to make sure we felt at ease.

It really is amazing, to be so warm after a good old soak that it’s comfortable just to sit on the edge and gaze out over a frozen valley. We tried jumping into a snowbank too, once, but the icy pins and needles made that a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Much more fun to sit and enjoy the view, marvel at the stars on a crystal clear night, open another bottle of bubbly, and chat until we turn into old wrinklies. Err, ooops.

But the hot tub holds about 2000 litres of water, and that’s a lot to heat up (typically I need 7 hours to heat the tub from 5ºC to 40ºC, at a rate of 5º an hour, with a roaring fire). Moreover, there’s maintenance to consider, especially the worry of freezing: a cracked hot tub is just a circular pile of firewood, really. And the water challenges we’ve faced this year mean it’s no good to do too many full changes of water. Yet the wooden tub depends on soaked and swollen wooden sides, and when it dries up there’s endless re-conditioning required to get it water-tight again. I decided to re-visit an early idea to use a larger pool filter, with judicious chlorine tablets, to keep the fresh water clean and clear. Along with that, I envisaged coupling in a heat exchange unit operating off our central heating boiler, to forestall the ravages of Jack Frost. Perhaps this extensive renovation would make the topping up of the heat that much less planning-intensive, should we decide that the evening is perfect for a dip.

So my first job on this little ‘work towards pleasure’ odyssey was to clear the corner behind the tub, preparatory to siting the filter and pump, which will be joined by a heat exchange unit and then tidily enclosed. Man! I remembered why I hadn’t attempted to do much in that corner before!

The previous owners, some 50 or more years ago, had left a strange bulwark of concrete jutting out of the porch wall, which was in the way of any reasonable level surface on which to site the filter-pump-heat-exchange units. The only thing for it was to join the rock-smashing chain gang, only this time I was both basher and overseer, and the chain gang was only me. Hard work! But, at least, it was hard work for anticipated pleasure!

Eventually the concrete bulwark shifted in two large accretions, and I could lay out the paving slabs, configure the gear, and look forward to lunch. When the heat exchange unit arrives from The Netherlands, I shall have lots of fun putting everything together, and testing the whole system out in anticipation of a delightful autumn evening under the stars. And then, when everything is working well, we’ll enclose the whole shebang in a little insulated shed carefully designed to be opened fully for maintenance. The fairy lights will return again as the pièce de résistance.

Even if the work itself isn’t much fun, the sheer anticipation makes the whole process that much less onerous, and kind of offsets the hard graft to get there.

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