Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Things That Are Better Than Elvis

We don't know what your neck of the woods is like, but round our way there has been vigorous galloping in many directions, and enthusiastic cries of tally-ho! have been heard all over the realm. There has been frantic activity, not all of it related to escaping homicidal horror-clowns. Amid all the confusion, Shewee Fiend Friend accidentally agreed with us on two things, one of which was music-related. We know. It was a shock for everyone involved. Right now we're having a metaphorical sit-down in the shade, panting feebly and guzzling reassuring amounts of gin.

Shewee Fiend Friend went to a diner in North America recently, and sent us pictures with helpful and enlightening captions. The toilets in the diner in question were reassuringly sex-segregated, meaning that Shewee Fiend Friend felt safe throughout her visit. We've talked quite a lot about the horror of forcing women to share intimate spaces with people who a) are on average significantly larger and stronger physically, and b) commit 98 % of all acts of sexual violence. However, we'd still like to take this opportunity to recommend this excellent summary on why mixed-sex toilets are awful for women by Woman's Place UK, and also this one by Holly Lawford Smith.

Allez, en piste! Shewee Fiend Friend writes:

Inside it was pretty cool. Lots of 50s shit

Every table had a personal jukebox
I played Video killed the radio star Not Elvis
The bathrooms. Phenomenal

You enter this little vestibule from which you can enter one of two toilets

If you look closely, you'll see women's is marked doubly
I like that

 Same for men's
 And in case it wasn't clear, the doors go to the floor

Very pleasant and reasonably clean. Above right was a sturdy coat hook

The joy of almost seeing people is present in this photo!
 The comforting reminder that employees must wash hands
(I don't know why Americans have these signs everywhere. I find it disquieting that employees need to be reminded)

And finally, just in case it wasn't clear

Wasn't that wonderful? We feel somehow safe and clean, which is how we like to be if at all possible.

A friend who we might refer to, for the sake of convenience and also accuracy, as Nerdy Beer Obsessive Friend, sent us this festive photo from a place in Helsingborg, Sweden, that provides culture for the people.

Mmm, let's have some more of that almost seeing people joy! Hurrah!

Now for a Jonny Babe Parade photo. For reasons to which we are not privy, Jonny is going through a Peaky Blinders phase. The result is most pleasing. We don't know where this photo was taken, and we also don't care.

The thing about getting older is that one realises there are things that are better than Elvis. For instance, sex-segregated toilets. Also one realises that there are a fuckload of Elvis songs that other people did long before Elvis, and that are actually much better. Today's Festive Video is one example.

Festive Video: Big Mama Thornton, Hound Dog

Related Reading

An excellent summary of why mixed-sex toilets are awful for women, by Woman's Place UK:
Why Gender-Neutral Toilets Don't Work for Women 

Another excellent summary of the issue by Holly Lawford Smith:
Should Companies Install Gender Neutral Bathrooms?

Some previous Privy Counsel posts on the horror of mixed-sex toilets, which can be summarised with  the words a) NOBODY WANTS TO ELBOW THEIR WAY THROUGH A SEA OF BEARDED HIPSTERS TO GET TO THE SINK and also b) HARDEN THE FUCK UP AND GIVE THE WOMEN THEIR OWN FUCKING TOILET:

Divide [the Toilets] and Conquer [One of a Multitude of Aspects of Women's Subjugation to Male Violence]

"Let Them Eat Cake" - Could It Be Any More Obvious That a Man Designed These Toilets?
Stockholm Central Station: The Trauma Is So Great We Are Brought To Quoting Cicero

All posts featuring Shewee Fiend Friend

All posts featuring Jonny

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Springing a Leak

It seems improbable, at the arse end of February, that you will ever see sunlight again, or do anything more constructive than sit wrapped up in your duvet, rocking back and forth and eating cheese. The memories of last summer's carefree, open-air gin consumption seem like a dream at best, or at worst a cruel and sadistic joke by our robot overlords who may well be amusing themselves by implanting false memories into what passes for our brain these days - we can't prove that they're not. Still, the world keeps turning round the sun and soon enough the birds are tooting in the shrubberies and various species of wildlife are doing unspeakable things to each other in the grounds and messuages. Spring is here, and there are signs of life from various corners of the world. Semi-Intellectual Friend, for instance, sprang this stark and surprising message on us:

Holy shit. I assume the internet is all over sending you stuff like this but biiiiig feature on hand towels vs dryers in the Guardian today:  

Also noticed a link to an older story about bowel movements near the bottom (fnar) of the page:

Is the Guardian trying to make a move on Privy Counsel? Maybe you could sell out and make your millions.

Regarding the hand-dryer-versus-paper-towels issue, there are good arguments on both sides. We reckon it's one of those things where you just have to pick a side, and stick to it, belligerently. We've made our views on air dryers known, and will most likely maintain our opinion, even if presented with evidence that we are wrong, until old age and senility make the matter moot. Be advised that we are prepared to defend our viewpoint in a bout of bare-knuckle fighting. Bring your own gin.

When it comes to bowel movements and the worry that sitting on a toilet is "unnatural" compared to the "natural" method of squatting on the ground, we think it's mostly Brits who agonise about this. Possibly also Germans. (More research is possibly needed on which nationalities, exactly, are afflicted by this particular anxiety.) Personally we are very fond of the allaturca or squat toilet, but we by no means feel the need to purchase the "wildly popular seven-inch-high plastic stool, designed by a devout Mormon and her son, which curves around the base of your loo".

Is the Guardian trying to make a move on the Privy Counsel? What a fascinating question. What do our readers think? Feel free to drop us a fan letter in the form of a five-paragraph essay, either arguing for or against, or discussing the different viewpoints. Don't forget to summarise your views in a neat conclusion.

On avance. We're sorry to inform you that we've had another disagreement with Shewee Fiend Friend. Though most of the time we are as two giant brains pulsating as one, sometimes we have different opinions about things. Last time we counted, we came to the conclusion that we disagree on a total of nine things. (We're fucked if we can remember what those nine things are, but remember our terror when we realised that the powerful magical number nine was involved. We're not free of superstition at the Privy Counsel, however intellectual we purport to be.) Our latest clash was regarding the toilet doors at Vancouver Airport. Shewee Fiend Friend thought they were great, we thought not. We shall present you with the evidence, so that you can form your own opinion and stick to it, belligerently.

Possibly an entirely inoffensive toilet. We can't quite tell from this photo. The tiles are nice, though.

If you enjoy almost seeing people, here's your chance to go hog wild!

We do like the fact that these doors look like they lead into a Wild West saloon, but why do people insist on designing toilet doors that don't go all the way down to the ground? Our guess is, a man did this.

We can't fault these hooks. They're fucking excellent hooks.

The conversation went as follows:

Shewee Fiend Friend:
Vancouver airport loo is swank

Privy Counsellor:
They are very good hooks
I shall make a note of this.
Thank you for sharing the picture of the excellent hooks


Swanky, but don't go all the way up to the ceiling or all the way down to the floor
#fail #YouHadOneJob

Nice and bright, but why do they do that horrible material in the sinks that looks like grubby cement

It's sparkly [the Privy Counsellor]
I love it
So critical
The doors were super nice 
They looked all woodsy/cabiny

Yes but they're not noise-insulating

And that's the end of that fascinating academic debate, because at this point we went on to discuss something completely different.

Finally, we've got a build-up of enticing pictures of Jonny that we should publish before there's a blockage.

The first picture comes with this comment:
I did an art piece
It’s dark tho
Viewer discretion advised
It’s called Beauty and the Beast

The [non-] mixer taps are the beast and it think it’s obvious who the beauty is

We couldn't agree more! Woof!

The next set of pictures is summarised by these words:

Somewhere in London
Too drunk to take note where

There was a dog in the bar too so extra points

Feeling single, seeing double?

Well, this is a very nice sink, good tap, and unobjectionable hand soap. Why do people insist on making counters out of wood, though? There is a reason why the traditional materials are porcelain or stainless steel - they're easy to clean and FUCKING HYGIENIC. Wood absorbs water, making for a germ-friendly environment and has plenty of crevices for bacteria to fester in.


We can't tell if we approve of this saloon-style door or not, as it lacks context.

The graffiti comment says, "We evolved to walk upright and use cutlery".

Actually, now we check our archive, we discover that there is a metric fuck-ton of toilet selfies from Jonny that we have forgotten about, due to the horror, trauma and gin consumption of recent times. We don't wish to overwhelm you with wonder and awe, so we'll save those ones for whenever we next find ourselves inspired by the gin fairy.

Let us finish with a festive video. We enjoyed, when in Budapest recently, a very nice and intellectual lunch with Lithuanian Friend and her intellectual colleagues. One of them sends his regards to the Privy Counsel's readers, and a video! It relates to our musings on the German toilet shelf, which is apparently rife in the Hungarian capital, and about which we poured forth appalled comments at some length in our post about that city. We're not sure we agree with any of the points made in the video, but it is certainly an amusing political commentary. Apparently, the above-mentioned intellectual colleague says to keep in mind that the drawings are not correct.

Festive Video: Hermeneutics of toilets by Slavoj Žižek

Related Reading

Some other times when we enthused about the arrival of spring:
Cracking Some Suds in Kreuzberg

In Which We Express Our Gratitude to Electricians Springing into Action

All posts featuring Semi-Intellectual Friend 

Our opinion on air dryers:

All posts featuring the allaturca toilet 

A blog post on the wonderful things that happen when men don't design fucking everything:
Caitlin Moran Really Does Make Everything Better

According to this post, we described the horror of recent times "with plenty of poetic expression but not a whisper of a scintilla of an iota of hyperbole", in this post:
Hungary: Dubious Shelf-Life

All posts featuring Shewee Fiend Friend

All posts featuring airports

All posts featuring Jonny
For the benefit of all the hipsters out there whose aesthetic and hygienic ideal is a 19th-century farm yard, we hereby remind our readers of the existence of the

Also another post featuring cholera

Also a toilet letter from the 19th century reminding us of the lack of public facilities, and wide variety of hygiene-related horrors that people endured until very recently

Another post in which we despair at the  possible conspiracy by hipsters to make everything look like 19th-century farm equipment:
Stockholm Central Station: The Trauma Is So Great We Are Brought To Quoting Cicero

All posts featuring Lithuanian Friend

Saturday, 9 March 2019

A Wild International Toilet Journey, Possibly Incorporating Sacrilege

We described in our last post, with plenty of poetic expression but not a whisper of a scintilla of an iota of hyperbole, our work situation. Said work situation is the reason our oh! so intellectual yet firmly grounded in common sense bog-blogging, beloved by really quite a few people, not all of whom are imaginary, has regrettably been reduced to a sad, slow trickle, only faintly reminiscent of the mighty river that once roared through the barren badlands that comprise the sum total of factual yet humorous toilet blogs, vitalising the dry banks and causing the desert to bloom.

We are blessed in having many humorous yet intellectual friends to keep us, if not sane then at least functioning (to a greater or lesser degree, depending on time of day and level of sobriety). Said friends keep sending us amusing and/or horrifying toilet pictures, and currently we are at the point where we simply must use these pictures or be crushed under a thundering avalanche of porcelain imagery. Hence we are simply going to post the pictures currently languishing in our archive, without any thought as to coherence or even sanity.

First up are a wonderful collection of photos from a dear friend of ours who is a nearly finished physician. She asked if we are still blogging about toilets and hygiene, and continued to tell us about her travels to Malaysia and Singapore. The toilets there, she says, are always clean and nice. Our friend also reflects that it is important that toilets be easily accessible and clean. The first pictures are from Gardens by the Bay, in Singapore, which establishment, our friend assures us, sported "proper clean and nice toilets".

Next we are treated to pictures of a toilet in Malaysia, "probably from a karaoke bar". We are, as regular readers are aware, not fond of cubicles, but these cubicle doors at least have the grace and decency to be colourful.

Finally we are treated to these photos from the airport in Kuala Lumpur.

Our friend notes with approval that the bins have one of those lids with a flip chute, so that you are not forced to view the contents of the bin when discarding your sanitary product. We also approve of these, and have ranted in the past about the fact that so many toilet designers assume that one has the use of both - or even three, or more - hands when operating a bin, being blissfully ignorant of the fact that it is rather hard to flip a lid when one or both hands are covered in blood and you are crouched weirdly in an insane toilet stall CLEARLY DESIGNED BY A MAN, trying not to bleed on your clothes, your shoes, or the wall.

We observed once in Copenhagen that having a foot-operable bin makes it approximately 180 % easier to not smear blood on everything in one's vicinity, and concluded that letting women design things would vastly improve the world. (See also Caitlin Moran's "If" poem, based on the line "If you can change your tampon in the toilet of a moving train".) Note to male designers everywhere: WOMEN HAVE ONLY TWO HANDS.

Our friend concludes her very enjoyable toilet odyssey with the words "These were all the pictures I took before I left my phone in a taxi and never found it".

Next up, we have pictures of a beautiful yet mysterious toilet in Amsterdam!

A friend of ours who is a midwife and a rampant feminist explains that this toilet is in the old first-class waiting room at Amsterdam Central Station, which is now a bistro. She adds:

Den stora frågan är ju om det är en duva med kronan över - i så fall har jag ju kissat på den helige ande

[The main question is if this is a dove with a crown - in that case I weed on the holy spirit]
Tycker mer det liknar en papegoja
[I think it looks more like a parrot]
 We are inclined to agree that the bird in question is a parrot - perhaps an Indonesian one? It appears that parrots where a common motif in Dutch art from the 17th century. We have also found evidence of at least one porcelain cockatoo associated with the Netherlands - perhaps this emblem of luxury worked its way, over the centuries, onto the porcelain of a toilet bowl? Certainly parrots and other exotic animals were frequently used as decorative elements on Dutch tiles in the 17th century. Why the parrot should be graced with a - presumably royal - crown is still a mystery to us, however. According to the internet, the restaurant in question has an actual parrot living on the premises, though we wonder what came first - the parrot or the bog?

Finally, we offer these pictures from a toilet in Prague:

 We asked the friend who sent these pictures a simple, yet searingly relevant question:

The reply? 

I don't know. That's just the way it is.
 And that, dear readers, summarises the answer to the question of life, the universe and everything. Many thanks to our kind friends for sending us these pictures, which warmed our heart and lit up the darkness during very troubled times.

Let's have a Festive Video that not only continues the avian theme but soothes a troubled soul. We find this song comforting when things get too crazy. It was originally written and performed by Blaze Foley, but we find that we prefer this version by John Prine.

Festive Video: John Prine, Clay Pigeons

Related Reading

All posts featuring Singapore

Medievalist (With a Side Interest in Roman Archaeology) Friend's rather fabulous report from Singapore, into which we managed to squeeze a not inconsiderable amount of feminist ranting: All Mouth and No Trousers - Sichuan Food in Singapore

All posts featuring Malaysia

A post featuring a really great bin: Caitlin Moran Really Does Make Everything Better

Another post in which we rant about things designed by men: "Let Them Eat Cake" - Could It Be Any More Obvious That a Man Designed These Toilets?

Caitlin Moran reading the poem "If" I Were a Woman

All posts featuring delftware

All posts featuring the Czech Republic

Another post featuring a song by Blaze Foley: Cuteness, Intellectual Solace, and a Correction

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Hungary: Dubious Shelf Life

You know how sometimes your workplace turns into a piece of surrealist theatre of the scary, nightmarish kind, with land mines hidden in a muddy field surrounded by barbed wire that you have to traverse at night in the rain while being jeered at by homicidal horror clowns churning out Excel documents with distressing mis-spellings and being forced to solve abstract maths problems with your hands and feet shackled while an orchestra of deformed, plague-infested children plays Andrew Lloyd Webber numbers on rusty brass instruments covered in slimy snails to the accompaniment of the anguished screams of amputees being forced to endure team-building exercises on a rail replacement bus, all the while being observed by a group of toothless sex offenders scratching their fungus-infested nails on a blackboard? Yep. That's been our work environment for the past two and a half months.

Luckily we went on a much-needed mini break to Budapest recently, to visit Lithuanian Friend, and are pleased to report that Hungarian plumbing appears to be entirely satisfactory; toilets are hygienic and well-equipped. Innocent tourists frolicking in the land of cabbage-rich food beware, however: Lithuanian Friend warned us that Hungarian toilets are prone to exhibiting the dreaded German-style toilet shelf!

[we pause briefly here to give everyone time to utter loud primal screams of fear]

We noted with interest when skiing some years ago that while you would find the Italian-style allaturca toilets in Italy, they would be absent just across the border in Switzerland. When skiing, in other words, one could encounter vastly different toilet cultures on the same day, in the same mountain range. Clearly in the Alps, culture trumps geography when it comes to porcelain design. Likewise in Hungary, though they don't speak a Germanic or even an Indo-European language, people apparently feel enough affinity with German culture, or at least the toilet-related parts, to embrace the toilet shelf enthusiastically. 

The history of the toilet shelf, meanwhile, is somewhat murky. From the various blog posts and articles that we could find in the shadier corners of the internet, it appears the toilet shelf is intended to either 

a) facilitate inspection of faeces in order to be able to discuss colour and consistency with one's physician (unless one suffers from colon cancer, why?), friends (why on Earth??) and family (WHY, IN GOD'S NAME, WHY?), or 

b) reduce splashback, which apparently fills Germans with bacteriophobic terror. Possibly a combination of a) and b) may account for this strange and off-putting phenomenon. Unfortunately not even Der Spiegel was able to illuminate this turbid aspect of German culture, and perhaps that is for the best. It seems, however, that the shelf toilet is rampant not only in Germany and Hungary but also in the Netherlands and parts of Poland. We are tempted to induce its prevalence in these parts to a vaguely defined shared cultural heritage, possibly to do with the Austro-Hungarian empire.

Let us swiftly move as far away from the image of the toilet shelf as possible, and instead enjoy some pleasant images of Hungarian toilets. We'll begin with the facilities at one of the Central European University buildings!

As we entered our friend's office, we noticed this on the door and were most impressed. A master sign-writing craftsman has been at work here! Note the exquisite politeness, constructive advice, and helpful illustration.

The outside of the toilet-stall door boasts an equally friendly and helpful sign. We were in signage heaven!

An overview of the stalls, with their helpful and instructive signs and doors that go all the way down to the floor. Could this toilet get any better?

An encouraging cleaning-supply corner with a sink, a mop and a bucket. Our friend told us that a family cleans this building, and that they are really friendly.

For some reason we don't seem to have a photo of the actual toilet. A strange and slightly disturbing oversight - but perhaps we were so overcome with the toilet's cleanliness and efficiency that we simply forgot to photograph it? In any case, we hope our inattention is made up for by this wonderful picture of the sink, with its special antibacterial soap and pedagogical instructions for how to disinfect one's hands!

One last wistful glance at yet another wonderful, friendly sign. To whoever wrote the signs in this office, you are our hero!

 Our next view of the best of Budapest plumbing is from a delectable little patisserie called À table, on Arany János Utca. Lithuanian Friend had assured us that this gem of a café has the best pastries in town. Now, to be fair, we only visited one boulangerie on our sojourn in Budapest - this one - but we are convinced that our friend is right! Feast your eyes on the sight of the toilet in this delightful pastry-shop, before booking your tickets to Budapest:

The first thing we noticed was this beautiful yet sturdy coat-hook. We actually sighed from sheer delight.

Zappy prints brighten the wall

We can't conceive of a more cheerful and hygienic sight! There is a good bin and a toilet roll holder, and cleaning obviously takes place on a frequent basis.

To add to the whimsical cosiness, the walls are decorated with French newsprint.

We can't believe we are still having to mention the fact that paper towels should not, in the interests of hygiene, be uncovered, and especially not displayed in a dip-your-wet-hands-with-accompanying-germs-into-this-pile-of-towels-that-everyone-else-will-also-be-digging-their-hands-into manner, but on the other hand, check out the nice soap and festive mirror!

A sign on the door imparts a no doubt friendly and informative message. (We can't read it, but there is no doubt in our heart.)

Democracy in Hungary seems, sadly, to be going down the toilet, but in terms of hygiene facilities, Budapest is a city to be celebrated! We found the locals friendly and the city itself so beautiful we risked whiplash injuries from craning our neck wherever we went - we could not stop staring at the gorgeous belle époque architecture!

We have many wonderful toilet pictures in our archive, but we have to leave off here today. Not, however, before enjoying a Festive Video. Here's a song with a feminist message that features the word "plumbing". The video also has footage of an actual toilet. You're welcome!

Festive Video: Elizabeth Cook, Sometimes It Takes Balls to Be a Woman

Related Reading

All posts featuring Lithuanian Friend

The fascinating story of the time when we fell on our face on the face of the Matterhorn and had to be rescued by a strapping Swiss mountain guard, and some much less strapping and much more leering Italian mountain guards:
Italian Toilets: Mi Piace Servizi Igienici 

More fascinating information about the Italian allaturca toilets: On Her Majesty's Privy Service

All posts featuring cafés

All posts featuring signage

An excellent blog post on scary German toilets 

Another excellent blog post on scary German Toilets 

An article in Der Spiegel, disappointingly inconclusive, on the origin of the terrifying German toilet shelf

Yet another blog post on scary German toilets, that commends the Swedes for doing good toilet

Shewee Fiend Friend's favourite blog about German toilets (actually we found this one disappointing and crude, but we agree with Shewee Fiend Friend about almost literally everything else (except, at the last count: the merits of brunch, cats, and country music), so one small disagreement is probably healthy)

Do not forsake this chance to refresh your memory on the history of the Austro-Hungarian empire!
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