Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Up in the Air - Introducing Exuberant Archaeologist Friend

Finally acknowledging the packed nature of our schedule, we had determined to do useful things like have a shower and maybe go to bed at some point, but fucking HELL have we got some great pictures! Sleep be damned - these pictures must be published!

We know all our regular readers will join us in a festive imaginary round of applause for our latest Counsel chum - Exuberant Archaeologist Friend! This sprightly young thing has recently returned from a trip to Rome, the Eternal City, where she went to get pissed on limoncello with her husband, and take the odd toilet photo.

Exuberant Archaeologist Friend writes in a vivacious, spirited prose, which is a joy to read. Voilà! (A translation follows below the original missive in Swedish.)

Yo, dude! 
Här kommer de första bilderna från resan. De är från Kastrups flygplats: helt nystädade toaletter ;-) De var helt ok, men tvålet var sådär, det löddrade liksom inte bra nog trots att det var sånt där skum-tvål. 

Yo, dude!
Here are the first pictures from our trip. They are from Kastrup Airport: the toilets had just been cleaned. They were totally ok, but the soap was so-so; it didn't lather enough despite being one of those foam soaps.

Copenhagen Airport - disappointing soap but almost implausibly clean!

There is a reason we have named Denmark "Everyone's Favourite Toilet Country".

Nästa är från Fiumicino i Rom. THEY FUCKING SUCKED!! Det enda som var bra med dem var krokarna inne i båsen. Toaletterna spolade automatiskt, INNAN en hann resa sig, jävla skit. Och att tvätta händerna var en plåga. Allt var automatiskt; tvål, vatten och luft, som för övrigt, (trots att den uppgick till minst orkanstyrka, INTE torkade händerna) gjorde en tillfälligt döv för att det var så jäkla högt. Och det kom alldeles för lite tvål!! Och till råga på allt så har de skyltar utanför toaletterna där de SKAMLÖST SKRYTER OM att deras toaletter är så jävla bra. NOT!!

The next pictures are from Fiumicino in Rome. THEY FUCKING SUCKED!! The only good thing about them was the coat hooks inside the stalls. The toilets flushed automatically, BEFORE one had time to get up, fucking hell. And washing one's hands was a pain. Everything was automatic; soap, water and air, which, by the way (despite reaching hurricane strength), DIDN'T dry one's hands, and made one momentarily deaf because it was so fucking loud. And there wasn't nearly enough soap! And to add insult to injury, there were signs outside the toilets SHAMELESSLY BOASTING about how fucking good their toilets are. NOT!!


Urgh - a loose seat!

At the risk of angering Exuberant Archaeologist Friend,
may we suggest that these are inoffensive flush buttons, at least?

VERY sturdy coat hooks - bravo!

More Italian bog-related clarity: aria, acqua, sapone.
 Say what you will about Italian toilets (and Exuberant Archaeologist Friend has much to say on the subject on Italian toilets - stay tuned for more!), there is one thing the Italians do well, and that is bog-related clarity. While we hate those automatic handwashing atrocities as much as the next man (or very probably more), at least the one above has charming bilingual signage.

The charming bilingual signage inspired this post's festive video:

Festive video - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Canzonetta sull'Aria, sung by Cecilia Bartoli and Renee Fleming (with Spanish subtitles for extra bilingual festivity).

Related Reading
More automatic handwashing atrocities:
Morrisons York - Aw, for f...
Saturday on Silver Street
Everything that needs to be said about air-dryers, ever, is said here:
More Italian bog-related clarity:

Monday, 29 September 2014

On Mansplaining and Monastic Drains


Have you noticed it, too? The never-ending shit-stream of mansplanatory comments!

Don't know what we're talking about? Believe us, if you have visited a social media site in the last decade or so, you will have seen it. Mansplaining - it's in the media, it's in academia, it's in politics, it's goddamn everywhere.
Where is all this coming from? you might be asking yourself, scratching your hairy belly under your string vest, and belching. This is fucking annoying - when I come home I want my dinner on the table, a beer in my hand and my favourite bog blog to be about toilets, you might continue, turning the TV up louder to hear the sports. We're all equal now anyway, and blogs purporting to discuss toilets shouldn't be bothering me with rampant feminism, you might conclude, affectionately stroking your testosterone-fuelled ear hair.

The point is, it is EXHAUSTING. Mansplaining makes us angry, and being angry takes up useful time, which we would have liked to devote to other useful activities, like teaching, or studying, or writing interesting blog posts about toilets. Instead, we are having to listen to dudes explaining things we already know, because they blithely assume us to be a) ignorant and b) desperate for enlightenment from this particular God's gift to womanhood. (This doesn't happen to just ladies, by the way - we have it on good authority that men get mansplained to, as well. But, in the words of Rebeccca Solnit, "the out-and-out confrontational confidence of the totally ignorant is, in my experience, gendered".)

It is EXHAUSTING, trying to decide how to react, when one is being mansplained at. Our favoured response to people who annoy us is to ignore them. Our attention and devotion are liberally bestowed on people we like, but the rude, the boorish and the ignorant do not deserve it. However, while ignoring bad behaviour is a useful strategy when training dogs, it doesn't usually work on mansplainers. The mansplainer dude tends, in our experience, to interpret silence as a sign of his triumph. Unbe-fucking-lievable, right? But that is how the mansplainer psyche works: if you don't respond, he will take it as submission.
The obvious solution is to inform the offending mansplainer of his ignorance. To say, "Dude, we already know. Shut the hell up". But - and here is the crux - that would be rude!
For good or bad, we have been brought up to believe that to expose another person's ignorance is the height of rudeness.
Isn't it bad enough to be ignorant, without having it rubbed in your face by people who know better? Such is the attitude taught us by our kind and ladylike mother. Hence, we expend time and energy protecting the mansplainers from the knowledge of their own ignorance.
Is that ever fucked up? you ask, doing a Google search for a decent feminist blog. Yeah. It totally fucking is.

It is EXHAUSTING, being furious and exasperated. We wish that certain dudes would realise that WE ALREADY KNOW what they are about to say. And that, even if we didn't, it would be courteous of them to not assume that we don't know. And to not ram un-asked-for information down our throat.
Hence, in order to promote non-mansplaining, yet without hurting the feelings of any mansplainers (who may, for all we know, be totally ignorant not only of their ignorance but of their offensive mansplaining habits. In fact, we suspect that some rampant mansplainers believe themselves to be chivalrous in their attitude to the gentler sex. They genuinely have no idea that the reason the womenfolk fall silent when the dudes start explaining things isn't that the dear things are flabbergasted by the dudes' good looks and charm, but that the little ladies are overcome by seething irritation, and are literally biting their tongues in order not to scream with frustration), we created a chart to clarify when mansplaining is socially acceptable, and when it isn't. Enjoy:

Ever wonder when mansplaining is socially acceptable? Find out using this simple infographic!

Having got that off our chest, let us enjoy some soothing toilet photos! These are from our archive, into which we bravely ventured, having listened at the door and determined that the pheasantry had quietened down and most likely retired for the night.
The location is a delightful café in Malmö called Lilla Kafferosteriet. These pictures are probably a couple of years old at least, from when we met up with a very dear friend in Malmö, but actually we went to Kafferosteriet with another dear friend just the other week, and spent a delightful afternoon plotting plans to destroy the patriarchy.

Old-fashioned light switches calm us right the fuck down.

Old-fashioned door-handles, too, are instantly soothing.

If lovely soap had the power to smash the patriarchy, this one, from Bliw, would totally do it.

This toilet-bin combo is totally not offensive in any way at all,
which we find immensely invigorating after all the mansplaining bullshit.

Hygienically covered bog roll - this soothes our soul and takes our mind off the offensive eejits of the world!

Pictures of coffee farmers attached to a fairtrade cooperative
are a delight to contemplate, and provide happier food for thought.

Finally, let us alert you to the existence of our friend Jane's hugely enjoyable blog, cleverly named Temple of Janus - it's got some EXCELLENT monastic drains! Jane is one of the most rampantly intellectual, brainy and amusing people we know, and yet has never been guilty of mansplaining anything to anyone. We love Jane to distraction, and not only because she once referred to our humble blog as "literally the best thing you will ever read on the internet".

Also, let's have a festive video, to take away the bitter taste of all the mansplaining!

Festive video - Wanda Jackson, Hard-Headed Woman

Related Reading
Jane's totally rad blog: Temple of Janus
Our own forage into the murky world of monastic drains (not half so learned as Jane's):
A Draining Matter
All our posts on gender equality
All posts about Shewee Fiend Friend, one of our favourite feminist academics
All posts about Caitlin Moran, a feminist we love so much it hurts

Some of our favourite people of the male sex, who are frightfully clever and knowledgeable, yet would never dream of mansplaining anything to anyone:
Intellectual Friend
Semi-Intellectual Friend
German Friend
Obsessive Emmerdale Fan Friend

Friday, 26 September 2014

Of Mixer Taps and Spiritual Solace

Are you in need of spiritual solace? We're in need of spiritual solace - fuckloads of it.

We read somewhere that a helpful response to things being vile beyond measure is to force oneself to feel grateful. Apparently, according to the article we read once on the internet, the human mind is neurologically unable to feel gratitude and other emotions (like irritation, say, or plumbing-induced spine-chilling horror) simultaneously. Kind of like how, if you get one of the academics in your life to bore on and on about their favourite topic, they will be unable to simultaneously bore on and on about other topics. (Yeah, shit simile, we know. It's been a long day. On this subject we have nothing more to say, no other apology to offer.)

Anyway. We're lucky in not having to think long and hard about things to be grateful for, belonging as we do to the category of people who are quite often overcome with untimely and sometimes inconvenient gratitude. (If you've ever seen us drunk, you will know what we mean.)
Apart from being constantly, non-stop, round-the-clock grateful* - to the point where we know for a fact that people have believed us to be a bit retarded - for having access to functioning plumbing and cholera-free water, we can quite often be found, when not frantically busy with academic and other endeavours, musing on the awesomeness and kick-arse-ness of our friends.
Today, for instance, on the train, we found ourselves reminiscing about a lovely weekend we spent at Mr and Mrs Smith's house, and smiling - yes! Actually! Smiling! On a commuter train stuck in the arse-end of nowhere due to a signal failure on the kind of day that you fear to tell small children about lest they develop permanent trauma and a debilitating stutter - at the thought of the zing, joie-de-vivre and well-stocked booze cabinet of Mr and Mrs Smith.

Do you know Mrs and Mrs Smith? If not, let us enlighten you. Mr and Mrs Smith live in a house filled to the rafters with fantastic and functioning bathrooms, cheese, cocktail shakers, and lovely, lovely wine. They like having people round, and cooking awesome food, and they're totally fucking delightful people to hang out with. Is having such friends reason to be grateful? We'd say so.

Mr and Mrs Smith have, if we remember rightly, three bathrooms in their house, and very grand and mixer-tap-enriched they are, too. The one we found ourselves thinking fondly of today, however, on the cursed commuter train, was the little downstairs bathroom, tucked away near the back door, the one with all the shoes and wellies in it.

*except, of course, when in the UK. Let us on no account cease to be appalled and horrified by British plumbing.


So much loveliness!

Mixer tap, lovely soap and even lovelier lotion! 
It's like a waterfall of spiritual solace washing over your soul!

Another nice thing that happened today, apart from us reliving pleasant memories of Mr and Mrs Smith's bathroom on the train, was that not one bus driver but two bus drivers were very nice to us. Two! God, we love bus drivers! Oooh, actually, did we mention that we met a lovely coach driver named Tony on a coach trip to Bath this summer? Awesome dude! Let's all be collectively grateful for all the nice bus drivers out there!

[We pause here for a couple of seconds to give you all time to run screaming for the hills.]

Because they're some of our favourite things and we fucking well deserve it: A divine mix of Father Ted and Elvis!

Festive video - Father Ted, Rock of Ages

Related Reading
If you, too, are appalled and horrified by British plumbing, you may find solace here:
Les Conduites Dangereuses - For Once It's Not Just Us Ranting
All posts about Mr Smith and Mrs Smith
Philosophy can, or so we've heard, offer spiritual solace: De Consolatio Philosophiae
If you are in need of some unbridled joy, get it here: Unbridled Joy

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

The Ancient Agora Museum in Athens - Unbridled Stoicism

We know you enjoy the vague reports on our mental health which we have been rather prone to publishing in recent months. Rest assured, then, that there are possible signs that everything will be ok, but in return the speed at which things happen has been cranked up to "relentless", and also there has been an infestation of fur beetles at Privy Counsel HQ, which has been traumatising in ways previously not imagined by us. Take our word for it - fur beetles are much less fun than they sound.

The levels of culture, intellectual endeavour, and - for want of a better word - refinement, have been dangerously high at the Privy Counsel of late. Everywhere we turn there is diligence and intellectualism - whether we want it to be there or not. A close friend of ours is currently in Rome, not only to get shitfaced on cheap Italian wine, but actually to engage in academic pursuits! We have been promised pictures of antique sewers, to be accompanied by stories of what archaeologists get up to when they are in the Eternal City getting sloshed on the local vino. Debauchery ahead!

That's all very well, we hear you say. Imagining future delights is one of the perquisites of possessing a human [Editor's note: Or, in the case of some of our friends, near-human] intellect. But life's a bitch and the future is unpredictable - what is there to delight and edify us now?
Fear not, gentle readers! We are all in favour of panem, circenses et picturae latrinarum! Let us frolic in the intemperate joy that comes from perusing pictures from the Ancient Agora Museum in Athens!

You will recollect (unless your gin is the really cheap kind) that we visited the Greek capital some time ago. While there we spent most of our time taking smug pictures of the local beaches and chugging home-made limoncello. However, we did manage, even while on holiday, a certain amount of culture and refinement, although said culture and refinement were tempered somewhat by the inordinate amounts of perspiration caused us by the Mediterranean climate. Be that as it may, we enjoyed ourselves immensely, tramping round the Ancient Agora carrying a stupidly heavy rucksack and sweating all over the place!

(We would not ordinarily do two posts in a row from the same place, but the risk of all the Athens pictures disappearing without a trace in our archive, unless we publish them straight away, has been judged by our risk assessment team to be very great indeed.)

We are all in favour of breaking the turgid restrictions of convention and bravely venturing outside the box, right? Yeah, that's what we thought - so obviously you will welcome this one sideways picture with open arms.

Very promising so far - the lack of a seat makes this toilet interesting and, possibly, more hygienic, and the flush pedal on the floor and the sticker forbidding in-toilet paper disposal make for high levels of festivity!

 This bin is for putting used bog roll in, which is icky but also exotic. (Or so we thought at the time, but then we get very excited and high-spirited in museums.)
A closer look at the super-festive flush pedal! Woof!

A sturdy and secure coat hook - we would expect nothing less of the cradle of democracy!
As our regular readers know, we adore toilet signage!
This one is made extra thrilling by incorporating a non-Latin alphabet!

(At this point we were definitely totally unable to restrain ourselves.)

Another exciting feature of the Agora: a fountain house!

Driven to extreme heights of excitement by the festive toilets, Hadrian lost his head completely.

These ostraka, displayed in the museum, nearly caused us to emit high-pitched excited noises, something we generally try to avoid.

The Head Privy Counsellor (note strap of hulking great heavy rucksack on shoulder) sweating
all over the Ancient Agora, in a relaxed horizontal position.

As Australian Friend said on one memorable occasion, "Although one would prefer to have Johnny from Grease, one may have to settle for a Johnny from Greece".

Festive video: Swedish Marines do Tribute to Greased Lightning in Afghanistan

Related Reading
Our previous post from Athens: Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts, But Totally Trust the Toilet Attendant
Other instances of us being creative with Latin puns, despite not knowing any Latin (thanks, mum):
Nunc Est Lavandum - Bath-time!
Roaring Good Roman Fun
All posts on Roman plumbing
A couple of previous festive museum toilets:
On the Nature of Academic Friendships
Quickly, Before We Sober Up: Icelandic Nostalgia
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