Sunday, 27 March 2011

Indian Splendour

We had an interesting toilet experience at the Lalbagh Botanical Gardens in Bangalore today. Spending a penny costs 1 rupee for using a urinal, or 2 rupees for using a toilet, as pictured above. These toilets were perfectly clean, but as there was no flush (or at least there was, darling, as Bridget Jones's mother would say: there was a tap and a bucket), toilet paper or soap, we are unable to award any points. However, we don't want to disappoint you by writing a boring blog update, so, as in all moments of crisis and difficulty, we turn to literature: here's a quote from Andy McNab's book Bravo Two Zero (Corgi Books, 1993). Andy is a prisoner of war in an Iraqi prison:

There was no ambient light whatsoever. It was so dark in the room I couldn't even see my hand in front of my face. There was a gagging stench of shit. I got down on my hands and knees and felt my way around. There wasn't much to feel. The room was tiny, and it didn't take me long to discover the two porcelain footpads either side of a hole about eight inches in diameter. No wonder my new bedroom stank. I was in a minging Arab shithouse. (pp 272-274.)

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Coming Soon

Exciting times! Intellectual Friend returns soon, with a thrilling report from The Best Toilet in Iceland! You do not want to miss this - keep your eyes peeled!
Also, we are shortly to introduce Semi-Intellectual Friend, with some interesting pictures from a restaurant with a murky past!

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Toilet Showers: Reaching the Bottom

Oriental loos all appear to have these funky toilet showers. We imagine they are the forerunner of the Japanese bottom-cleaning toilets. With our last blog update in view, isn't it lucky that you don't find these in Britain - scalding one's bottom would be extremely uncomfortable!
Could one term them a tree-friendly alternative to toilet paper?

Related Reading:

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Are You British? Does Tap Sanity Elude You?

Why visitors to Britain complain about taps

Most visitors to Britain end up, sooner or later, becoming enraged by the plumbing. If they settle in the country they usually end up complaining about it, sometimes going off on lengthy and even hostile rants. (If this happens in a pub after a few pints, the situation can get very embarrassing and uncomfortable for everyone involved.) Most Britons don’t understand the reasons behind the complaints, since, knowing no other type of plumbing, they consider British plumbing normal. They are therefore, understandably, hurt and offended by the criticism. Since this is a blog dedicated to critique of plumbing of various kinds, we thought we’d try to explain why British taps unleash so much aggression.

Mainly, it’s to do with water temperature. With separated taps, you get two temperatures: scalding hot and freezing cold. Since most people prefer their skin intact and free of dangerous burns, one ends up washing one’s hands and brushing one’s teeth using freezing cold water. This is, simply, unpleasant. Brits often argue that one can fill up the sink with tempered water. This is true, but is it practical, or even hygienic? Would you fill up the sink to wash your hands in a train station, for instance, where you don’t know when the sink was last cleaned, or what kind of bodily fluids have gone into it? And why go to the trouble of filling it up at all, when a mixer tap will instantly provide you with water at the temperature of your choice? (Unless, of course, it is one of those bizarre British mixer taps which separate the hot and cold water inside the water stream.) As to Boris Johnson’s comments regarding getting hand-washing “over and done with”, we consider them downright dangerous. Cf. the NHS guidelines to handwashing.
The author Judith Flanders, in her excellent book The Victorian House, (London: Harper Perennial, 2004) points out that when indoor plumbing was first introduced in Britain, the people who could afford it had servants, and thus didn’t need hot-water taps at all, since they could employ people to heat and carry water (for a factual and unbiased account of Victorian technical developments, see this blog post). When taps became more common, hot-water taps were often added as an afterthought, and thus it became standard practice to keep hot- and cold-water taps separated (for a brief history of British plumbing, have a look at these pictures from the Castle Museum in York).  James R. Hagerty, in his article “Old-Fashioned Faucets: Unique British Standard” in the Wall Street Journal (31 October 2002; we found it on another blog) also lists the desire to keep Victorian houses looking Victorian as one of the reason why Britons so strangely persist with their uncomfortable plumbing arrangements.

How many men end up with burns due to shaving using scalding hot water? How many people with sensitive teeth end up in severe discomfort after rinsing their mouth with icy cold water? How often do you scald your left foot topping up the bath water?  One of the people interviewed in the Wall Street Journal article opines that she likes twiddling the bath taps with her toes. You can still do this with a mixer tap. So many of life’s little unpleasantnesses could be done away with if mixer taps were installed!

There are many other irritating aspects of British plumbing, like the unwieldy, disability-hostile toilet flush handles, the instalment of pipes outside which causes them to freeze in winter (for an unpleasant example and downright scary pictures, see our previous blog post on this subject), and the lack of drains in bathroom floors, causing leaking water to permeate the entire building and making it even damper than it already was, but we fear that contemplating them for too long would have a negative effect on our health and mental wellbeing, and so we believe it safer to leave them for another day and another blog post.

Apparently Jamie Oliver has had to weld the toilet handles to the toilets in his restaurants, since guests habitually steal them. Why someone would steal such an annoying, impractical contraption is beyond us. Image from ifood.

As a counter-argument to the reasons for complaint stated above, let us present the views of a friend of a friend, resident in Sweden:

I've been trying to develop a system to SEPARATE your hot and cold since I came here.
I mean seriously, what kind of country is this with no extremes on a day-to-day basis? You've got summer and winter at opposite sides of the year - we get it every day! Scotland and Wales get it 4 or 5 times a day! Then you develop safe cars, and safe taps, and double glazing (probably not Swedish, but triple glazing has to be!). Everything's so bloody LAGOM!
Great Britain became great through urgency, fear and panic... Daily doses of it! We NEED to be unsure if we can handle the temperature of the water.... How do you think we motivate ourselves to go to war so often? Even if there is no enemy, we can always rely on the French for a fight!.... And as for driving on the wrong side of the road - you guys had it right... then changed! How do you develop xenophobia in liberal people that travel? That's right, force them to drive on the wrong side of the road in the countries they travel to.... Now that's a base-level of fear that can motivate middle-class intellectuals to fight anything foreign.... Sooner we get the empire up-and-running again the better.... Where's my G&T and mogadon?

Does this blog post enrage you? Do you have opinions on British plumbing? Do not hesitate to e-mail us at theprivycounsellor [at ] 

Related Reading
Alien vs. Predator: Blood, Gore and Mixer-Taps
Terminator Toilet
Mixer Taps - The Great Controversy, or, When Will Britain Enter the 21st Century?, or, You Are Not Alone!  

Thursday, 10 March 2011

The Toilet Roll as an Aesthetically Pleasing Object

After our last post's hard-hitting, practical approach to toilet roll, here is, as a contrast, an artist's view: flowing, undulating, sensuous.
Stop a moment and appreciate the softness and pleasing roundness of your loo roll. Toilet roll - where would we be without it?

To read more about this fantastic, round and hygienic invention, click here

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Immediate Action: Soldiers Use Toilets, Too

We're broadening our horizons in more than one sense during our sojourn into the East. A thrilling book called Immediate Action, by Andy McNab, has come our way, offering a tantalizing view into the British Army's use of toilet roll as motivation:

There were...other bonuses [to doing a tour in Northern Ireland]. One, we got 50p extra per day, and two, we got soft toilet paper instead of the hard stuff in UK garrisons. It was actually dangled as a carrot during training: 'Remember, it's soft toilet rolls over the water.'
(Corgi Books,1995, p. 50)

We are amazed, but not surprised, at this typical instance of British eccentricity. Are you amazed?

Image from Principiadialectica
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...