Hot and Naked into 2019

 

 

There is a weekly Jewish night for frummers or Hasidim, and a monthly Muslim night. The Jewish night begins at 10.30pm on a Thursday and ends at 3.00am the next day. The Rabbi, from Stamford Hill, of course, comes in advance to make sure the premises are purged of mobile phones, credit cards, newspapers and other trappings of what Rastafari calls “Babylon”. After repeated submersions in the icy plunge pool (mikveh in Yiddish) the Hasidim are seen to sleep like babies until the Sabbath dawn light.

 

Most days, rub-downs are provided by an official masseur, but regulars sometimes offer a vigourous kneading in return for a meal in the café upstairs. “The massages are safe and enjoyable”, says Wayne Gruba, a trustee and founder-member. “Any suspect predator is sent off site immediately.” Maurice and I took turns to be schmeissed by Wayne, who flailed us expertly amid lashings of steam and lather, and took us to a far continent of bliss. Saturday mornings are reserved for the “old bathers” – non-practising East End Jews and their pals: retired boxers, cabbies. By lunchtime the West Indians arrive with boxfuls of patties and jerk chicken. Cans of Jamaican Ting grapefruit juice sell by the dozen. The banter downstairs in the banya is loud, sweary and aggressively homosocial; you have to fight among the Jamaicans to get a piping-hot besom. In today’s mass uni-culture dominated by unisex lavatories, internet porn and Facebook, the New Docklands Steam Baths represent a rare steam spirit.

 

 

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