It was Mark Twain who observed that travel broadens the mind; you don’t have to go far, however, even the local streets are full of rich pickings, if you care to look! I thought my own mind fairly broad, but it’s been stretched further by our recent North America travels, experiencing other places and other cultures. So when I encountered the thinnest, no, I really mean thinnest, loo paper in my life in Seattle, I thought this could be the subject of another PC ….. although it might need a little delicate handling ….. know what I mean? And if you had a rather prudish upbringing, maybe it’s best not to read any further!!
When I refer to ‘loo’ paper I encompass all the various descriptions of the genre; ‘toilet’ paper, ‘lavatory’ paper (very old fashioned maybe) …. and now the word ‘tissue’ is common-place. In France they refer to loo paper as PQ (a contraction of ‘papier cul’- ‘cul’ meaning ‘bum’ or ‘arse’); in German it’s ‘klopapier’ and in Portuguese ‘papel higiênico’. A couple of hundred years ago you might only have had the option of using some torn grass or old newspaper, but now the options are endless. The manufacturers of the ubiquitous ‘Wipes’, available for every cleaning job, have even developed the ‘toilet wipe’, which is ‘flushable’. Oh! Joy!
Back in the days of a less sensitive nation, in Britain there was ‘Jeyes Toilet Tissue’. Jeyes is now synonymous with cleaning products that get around the U-Bend but back then …. here was a cardboard pack of folded sheets of hard paper. The paper was a light brown in colour. It was neither absorbent nor comfortable; fortunately we have moved on. All loo paper used to be white, then coloured bathroom suites came into vogue and the manufacturers made a fortune in making loo paper that matched the various colours on offer – Avocardo, Peach etc. And we all know Andrex’s playful little puppy …… to advertise loo paper! I’m sorry, I simply do not see the connection here; what is the association between a sweet, soft, cuddly, youngster, having fun …. and wiping your bum?
If you worked for Her Majesty, as I did during my time in the British Army, we had ‘Government Issue’ loo paper; like the Jeyes stuff, but on every sheet it said ‘Government Issue’! If you were not a fan of a particular Government, the joke was obvious! And the ration that came in the ‘field pack’ had three small sheets per day; the common thought was ‘one up, one down, one polish’!
In Waitrose, an upmarket British supermarket, you can buy ‘Bathroom Tissue’ scented/coated in Aloe Vera, Jojoba or Cashmere. Do you sniff it before you use it, or do you really appreciate the difference in texture ……. by touching it? The mind boggles! In Yukon Territories, Canada, in a small place called Carmacks, a tourist emporium had a stack of loo paper wrapped as ‘Up North Toilet Paper’!?
The large, round container with a commercial-sized roll means less checking for cleaning staff , but have you ever found that the ‘free’ end is somewhere inside, almost stuck to the whole roll, and getting the free end usable takes forever? The ‘Seattle’ loo paper I think was designed for two (or more?) uses. The first is obvious, but the second? Well, it could easily have been used for tracing paper, it was so thin. And actually very difficult to take off the roll if the end was not obvious; a little like cling film/kitchen wrap when the effing end is completely invisible/undiscoverable!
One of the loos I use regularly (no pun intended!) is in our Bikram Studio complex. The overhead light is motion-activated (I’m sorry, this is just the way it comes to mind) which is fine unless you sit for longer than the timer allows – and the light goes off ….. and stays off until your flailing arms get noticed. In the Riverside Cottages we stayed in in Fairbanks, Alaska, they went one better, or worse! The shower/loo room had a timer for both light and extractor fan, and was customer-operated before you went in and locked the door. Well, here’s a conundrum. How long do you set it for before you enter? Get it wrong and you might end up in the dark, with your knickers around your ankles and …….
Bikram Yoga is practised in a studio where at least two walls have floor to ceiling mirrors. That’s fine, as part of the practice is to observed one’s half-hearted attempts to get into a certain posture; ‘must do better’, the voice in my head is often shouting! But in Brazil I encountered a mirrored wall …. in the loo! Aaaggghhhhh! The first time I used it, I was only wearing my Bikram shorts, ready for the session that would started shortly. After a minute or so sitting down, I suddenly looked to the right and ……. saw ……. well, Rodin’s Thinker is good to contemplate …… this sight was not! It sure hurried up my visit.
Recently I went into a loo, a rather narrow little room, sat down, did what I wanted to do, and then looked for the loo paper. After about 30 seconds, I located the roll, behind my shoulder. I almost dislocated said shoulder in trying to release a few sheets of paper; should I put my arm under my shoulder or above? Eventually the only way was to physically swivel on the loo seat through about 160°.
I don’t think we British have really got into using a Bidet, but I can understand its raison d’être! In an imagined nightmare scenario, you use the bidet ….. and look for a towel. There isn’t one! OK! There are probably some paper towels somewhere ….. but then you realise that in the C21st paper towels have been replaced by a Dyson Hot Air drier, fixed up on the wall. Success in the subsequent physical gymnastics required might guarantee you a place in the 2016 Olympics!!
Very mundane musings for a summer afternoon!
Richard Yates – email@example.com