Habitual readers of scientific journals – the kind sold in newsagents and marketed at the non-academic, armchair-bound hoi polloi - will occasionally find themselves regaled with fanciful descriptions of distant planets. These florid accounts of alien geography, assembled from bland screeds of data, cribbed from the fuzzy, monochromatic images of intergalactic majesty harvested by isolated space telescopes, and subsequently imparted in the style of a Thomson's holiday brochure, speak in wide-eyed tones of vibrant pink and green skies dappled with clouds of hydrochloric acid the size of continents. They wax lyrical over sparkling, crystal-clear turquoise lakes of liquefied copper sulphate that will strip human flesh from bone within seconds. In these off-trend, far flung worlds, that are seemingly destined never to be troubled by the ruinous bootprint of humankind, anything is garishly possible; the only constant being the corrosive nature of the elements making up the atmosphere and the hydrosphere. If there is a conclusion to be drawn, it is that man was not meant to live anywhere that is too colourful.
In recent years Lush – the bath and shower cosmetics chain, whose high street outposts frequently elicit a barrage of sneezes from olfactorily-sensitive passersby – have carved an idiosyncratic niche for themselves as a producer of bath bombs that mimic a strain of alien geology last seen on the set of the original series of Star Trek.
The Experimenter, in name alone, conjures an alarming mental image of a disturbing sex toy designed to boldly go where no man has gone before. Thankfully it resembles something liberated from the semi-precious minerals exhibit of a natural history museum that exists entirely inside the over-stimulated head-space of a two year old child, whose recent exposure to sugary fruit squash and colourful plastic blocks has conspired to induce an entry-level acid trip. It is in appearance a mottled, brazenly-hued hexagonal polygon, speckled with glittery deposits that catch the light in a pleasing manner.
Described in the accompanying hyperbolic bunf as “your own bathtime motion picture” and by me as “in this regard not as good as Mad Max: Fury Road, but about on par with Jurassic World,” it is also said to comprise “vibrant colour, popping candy and comforting Fair Trade vanilla.”
While the ephemeral snap and crackle of the popping candy is well and truly drowned out by the thunderous sound and fury of the hot tap, the vanilla scent lingers pleasantly on the skin. Whatever your opinion of the Experimenter, you will emerge from it a more fragrant human being than you were beforehand.
Upon introduction to turbid water the bath bomb immediately jettisons its colourful outer layers; an effect reminiscent of a poster paint explosion inside a primary school art supply cupboard. Swirling, iridescent tendrils of pink and yellow infuse the clouded surface with a glittery shimmer as the decomposition of the bomb settles to a gentle ferment.
In stark contrast to the sparkly, two-dimensional cords of rainbow-tinged suds, the water beneath assumes the leaden pall of a rain cloud. Upon immersion into the bath the foam quickly disperses. Whether it is absorbed into the skin or seeks shelter inside one of the bodily orifices I cannot confidently say.
With the initial riot of colour now thoroughly dispelled, one is left marinating in waters reminiscent of the bleak Manchurian skies that inspired the music of bands such as Joy Division. Anyone entering the bathroom at this juncture could be forgiven for assuming that you had spent the previous hours lying underneath an ailing motor vehicle.
Maybe we are being taught a lesson – one that resonates particularly strongly around this time of year, when the initial burst of bright colours that accompany the Christmas period abruptly fade, leaving us to face January poorer in pocket, somewhat unwell, and harbouring the nagging suspicion that we have displaced more bathwater than we would have prior to the festive orgy of over-eating and general self-indulgence.
|The Experimenter (final form)|