Some subjects are so dry it’s difficult to get worked up about them, but my PC about loo paper brought back many memories for my readers, some good and some hilarious. So popular was this PC that it’s inspired me to go the next step and scribble about the actual loo.
Some of you will have visited ancient castles or manor houses in England where the ‘loo’ was a little seat in a turreted corner of the bedroom; an improvement from the portable box! From the outside, the turret overhung enough for the ‘drop’ to clear the stone façade. Some years ago there was a TV documentary series in the UK, trying to take a new look at old designs: one was about the loo. The design of the loo doesn’t seem to have changed much in more than 150 years.
There are many words for this receptacle for our daily waste. Whilst this list if not definitive …….loo, toilet, lavatory, ‘long drop’, khazi, WC (short for water closet), the crapper, the Dunny, the ‘restroom’, bog, the ‘ladies’ or ‘gents’ in a public environment, the facilities, the white phone, latrine, the John, little room and privy.
Funny how words become part of our language. Take ‘crap; possibly a verb and certainly a noun! It’s been around since the C17th referring to waste, but not used for bodily waste until 1846. But the word only became well known thanks to a Victorian plumber, Thomas Crapper. He was extremely successful in manufacturing bathroom fixtures and had a Royal Warrant. So ubiquitous were Mr Crapper’s toilet bowls, with his name written on the rim, that American servicemen stationed in Britain during WWII coined the phrase “going to the crapper”!
Thomas Crapper (1837 – 1910)
I do remember potties under the bed, but was shocked by this story, told to me in 1975 by a female newspaper reporter who had covered the kidnap by the IRA of a Dutch industrialist in County Kildare. Traced to a small village called Monasterevin, the siege attracted the world’s press, who had trouble finding somewhere to stay. My chum eventually found a house that offered the share of a bed (!) …… but was horrified to find that under the bed were emptied beer bottles ….. full of urine!
I am indebted to Paul for sending me this photograph, the latest design of ‘pissoire’ used by men at the Spa motor racing circuit in Belgium. He couldn’t find the female equivalent although you can buy a female ‘P EZ’ funnel on Amazon!
I wonder at what point the rocket-nose-shaped ‘pissoires’ take off?
Back in 1968 I chartered a small 19ft yacht for a week’s sailing in The Solent on the south coast of England. On board was fellow Gunner Gerry and two girl friends (note that this is girl …. friends and not girlfriends!) joined for the weekend. Braganza was a very basic sailing boat, with two small bunks and a little gas stove – but no loo! This doesn’t present a problem if you’re a bloke, but for members of the fairer sex a bucket placed below on the cabin sole of a moving/shifting/lurching sailing boat does not encourage the natural flow of things! On the Saturday evening we moored in Wootton Creek on the Isle of Wight …. and I have a very vivid memory of these two girls rowing the little pram dinghy ashore to find a proper loo. The speed at which they were rowing was possibly indicative of the urgency of their quest.
I remember painful experiences at boarding school. If you wanted to go to the loo before breakfast, you had to go before the breakfast bell sounded. After that, you were simply not allowed to go, irrespective of how desperate you might have been. I really to this day do not know what aspect of social behaviour I was meant to learn? If you need to go to the loo, you need to go to the loo – simple!
If you were camping in the 1960s and 1970s you simply took a shovel and walked off to somewhere where no one could see you. Cousin Susan writes: “…. Then there was the loo paper in Egypt and one small town in particular…..a hole in the middle of the floor, no loo paper and no doors so we had to get our friends to stand in the doorway so passers-by could not see us performing our acrobatic ablutions. My thighs were mighty strong in those days!” Benedicte has similar memories of loos in China today – but would rather forget them! In the Army the camping arrangements were more formal; the Royal Engineers dug bore holes (should that be bored bore holes I wonder?). If it was cold it was OK, in this hessian-encircled latrine; if hot, the flies ensured it was not somewhere you lingered.
My stepfather loved smoking his pipe, particularly when mowing his wonderful lawn … but also, and sadly for the rest of us, when occupying the small downstairs loo. Part of his morning weekend routine, I guess, attempting the daily crossword in the paper, sucking on his tobacco-filled pipe and attending to nature … all at the same time. The little room needed a quarantine notice on the door for at least an hour afterwards.
Mind you, it isn’t necessarily your own loo experiences that are worth writing about. Jeremy Clarkson, a man made famous as much by his Top Gear TV Motoring programme as his ability to call a spade a spade, has a column in the UK Sunday Times. After someone complained of their hotel in Turkey, his weekly column was full of his own experiences, including this: “Certainly I cannot forget the converted old sheep station in the uplands of Bolivia. During my stay, I was woken one morning by a cleaner who entered my room without knocking, shuffled past my bed with a mumbled ‘Buenos dias’, went into my bathroom and took a noisy dump (slang for ‘going to the loo’!!) before shuffling out of the room with a frankly insufficient ‘gracias’”
I have always remembered a story that did the rounds one term at school; written on a grubby piece of paper it told the story of the confusion that arose between the use of WC for either ‘Wesleyan Chapel’ (Named after John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church in the C18th) or ‘Water Closet’. This being the C21st, I ‘googled’ it (That must be a verb by now – ‘to google’?) to get the story correct. It hasn’t lost its amusement after 50 something years and is reproduced in full below.
Celina’s father would sympathise with Paul who, recalling Bronco loo paper, wrote: “Bronco was absolutely useless of course but then I have always detested loo paper of any sort, as it is just not up to the job (so to speak)! Every house I have ever owned has had a bidet and I would find it uncomfortable now to live without one.” Maybe he should try the combined loo/bidet; choose your music/scent/temperature/softness/air …… and away you go!
This PC seemed to go on and on; sorry! I normally try and constrain myself but seem to have suffered a bout of verbal diarrhoea with this one! Enjoy the scribbles!
Richard – 8th November 2015 – firstname.lastname@example.org
- “There was a little old English lady who was looking for a place to live in Switzerland. She asked the local village schoolmaster to help her and together they found a place that suited her. She returned to London to get her things, but on the way home she remembered that she had not noticed a bathroom in the new place, or as she called it, a water closet. So when she arrived in London she wrote to the schoolmaster to inquire about a water closet in her place. Being somewhat embarrassed to ask about this, she decided to just use the abbreviation W.C. rather than spell out the words. When the schoolmaster received her letter he was puzzled by the initials W.C., never dreaming that she was referring to a bathroom. So he went to the local minister to see if he knew what a W.C. was. Of course, the minister thought it stood for the Wesleyan Church. So the schoolmaster wrote this reply to the English lady.
The W.C. is situated nine miles from the house in the center of a beautiful grove of trees. It is capable of holding 350 people at a time and is open on Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday of each week. A large number of folks attend during the summer months, so it is suggested you go early, although there is plenty of standing room. Some folks like to take their lunch and make a day of it, especially on Thursday when there is organ accompaniment. The acoustics are very good and everyone can hear the slightest sound.
It may be of interest to you to know that my daughter was married in our W.C. and it was there she met her husband.
We hope you will be here in time for our bazaar to be held very soon. The proceeds will go toward the purchase of plush seats for our W.C., which the folks agree are a long-felt need, as the present seats all have holes in them.
My wife is rather delicate; therefore, she cannot attend regularly. It has been six months since the last time she went. Naturally, it pains her very much not to be able to go more often. I shall close now with the desire to accommodate you in every way possible, and I will be happy to save you a seat down front or near the door, whichever you prefer.