Tuesday, 30 August 2011

If You Like Sheep and Beer: Why Not Go to the Lake District on Your Next Holiday

In an unparalleled fit of madness we went camping in the Lake District in January with Intellectual Friend, Quasi-Intellectual Friend (a.k.a. The Mexican Hair Horror) and somebody we like to think of as the Giant Lump of Lunacy. When it didn't snow like buggery it rained like the dickens, until we actually got flooded and had to leave the campsite in a dramatic night-time life-saving manoeuvre. Why, you may ask, quite reasonably, did we set out on so ridiculous a project? Why, because of the Old Dungeon Ghyll pub of course! Enveloped in its welcoming arms one may attempt to dry one's sodden garments in front of the friendly fire or, failing that, at least drink oneself insensible.
There is of course always the Café Treff in Ambleside as well, which, you may remember, harbours the best toilet in England. We tend to take refuge there to get away from our travelling companions and warm up briefly.

This old receipt turned up in a book, reminding us of bad weather and a seriously good toilet

The Old Dungeon Ghyll Hiker's Bar toilet: antique taps and sinks

A perfectly reasonable, if freezing cold, toilet, bin and toilet roll holder.

Smart-One - actually quite clever! This device makes it difficult to pull off unnecessary amounts of paper

Retro formica door

These toilets don't get many points, but we happen to be very fond of them nonetheless. We cannot recommend the Old Dungeon Ghyll warmly enough.

The Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel
Great Langdale
Cumbria, LA22 9JY


Related Reading
The Best Toilet in England

Monday, 29 August 2011

GBK: Bliss in a Burger Joint

We don't know where to begin with this one, though P. G. Wodehouse's Bible paraphrase "Joy, joy, joy in the morning and joy, joy, joy in the afternoon" seems to cover the gist of it. Actually, though we wouldn't normally reach for said work of literature, Google informs us that the King James verse goes something like, "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning". And that's exactly how we feel about this toilet!
Those of you who have been following our blog for a while will know that we have a tendency to ranting and sarcasm. Today, however, the sun is shining, birds are no doubt singing in the pesticide-rich fields, and we are happy to bring you pictures of a lovely toilet!

We had lunch in Gourmet Burger Kitchen the other day. You may imagine our delight when, on opening the door to the conveniences, a motion sensor switched on the light! You may further imagine our joy at spotting two functioning mixer taps! The décor, moreover, was pleasant in every way, and we found hardly anything to complain of. This is such a rare occurrence that we found ourselves momentarily speechless.

Glory, glory, glory: functioning mixer taps!

Is it the Terminator? No, it's a brand-spanking-new, shiny hand-dryer! We still don't approve of this type of hand-dryer, however, considering it unhygienic and energy-wasting, and so the shininess won't earn this toilet any extra points.

Tasteful décor, snazzy lighting and mixer taps! Joy, joy, joy!

Woof! A super-sturdy coat-hanger!!

Nice door handle, but we don't understand the British insistence on making doors
that don't go all the way down to the floor.

What can one say except, in the words of Borat, "Jak se máš? I liiiiike!"

Covered toilet roll holder with plain white bog roll; bin not too close; nice and clean: We love it!

Shame about the air-dryer, but we're awarding an extra point for the motion sensor light, resulting in 10 points out of 17!

Gourmet Burger Kitchen
7 Lendal
York, North Yorkshire YO1 8AQ
01904 639 537

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Bulgaria: An Intellectual Treat

Intellectual Friend, we are sorry to say, keeps stringing us along, promising us pictures of the best toilet in Iceland then buggering off to go camping in some godforsaken corner of Eastern Europe, leaving us cold turkey without so much as a sheet of toilet paper to satisfy our cravings. Some people have very low morals.
But fear not, dear readers, Archaeological Friend has recently returned from a dig in Bulgaria, with this tantalising picture of a Roman drain! It's at Nicopolis ad Istrum and is, so Archeological Friend assures us, "a fine example of sturdy and functional Roman drainage". As regular readers know, nothing gets our juices flowing like a fine piece of Roman plumbing!

Roman plumbing - bring it on!

We are grateful to Archaeological Friend for this metaphorical methadone, and hope to be able to bring you the long-promised Icelandic pictures soon.

You know you're Bulgarian when...

Related Reading
The Best Toilet in Iceland
Despite Negligence, We Forgive Intellectual Friend

Friday, 26 August 2011

We Get Literal: The Privy Counsel Book Club

Oprah has one. The Times has one. Richard and Judy have one. Every respectable institution has a book club. By that logic we figure that the Privy Counsel should have one, too.
We'll start off with some light reading: Outhouses, a postcard book by Londie G. Padelsky (Browntrout Publishers, San Francisco 1997).
This charming publication gives one 21 postcards, featuring outhouses, to send to friends and loved ones. We simply can't think of a better idea for a book!

The tantalising cover

The title page. The gift aid label indicates that the sale of this book earned Oxfam 28 % extra income,
courtesy of HM Government, helping to build toilets in places where they're needed

We particularly liked this privy, tucked away in the woods...

...and this beautiful winter scene. Although we congratulate ourselves on not having to use
this particular one in this particular climate.

O-ho-ho, wait till you see what other books we've got in store!

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Re-Cycling at the Blue Bicycle

We would of course never detract from the intellectual and artistic value of Semi-Intellectual Friend's reportage from the Blue Bicycle, but we were lucky enough to end up there ourselves, after a drink or four, with a very dear friend from Canada (whom we may have mentioned in a previous update), and thought we'd share our increasingly erratic thoughts with those desperate enough to care.
The Blue Bicycle is a gem of a restaurant, bursting with yummy food (especially the bread, which made us erupt into distressingly Homer Simpson-esque behaviour), fantastic staff (who gallantly remained polite and friendly despite our increasingly, erm, jolly behaviour), and delicious soap, but we do wish they'd reconsider the colour of their toilet walls.

Lovely Molton Brown stimulated our soap glands

Sigh. Although we approve of the general layout of the toilet,
we find ourselves unable to approve of either the uncovered toilet rolls
or the unfortunate colour of the walls

An unspeakably vulgar statuette, which we hope and pray is ironic

A perfectly decent bin, sink and second bin, but the taps make us want
to tear our hair out and kill small, fluffy animals slowly

A gratuitous soap-and-lotion glamour shot

Nothing offensive about this tissue shelf

Film icons and ancient fan

Despite the extra point earned for providing lotion as well as soap, and the said soap being extremely luscious and yummy, we can only award 7 points out of 17. Separated taps and uncovered bog roll drag you down, folks.
We cannot speak highly enough of the staff, though, and the food is seriously delicious. Ghhllllllhhhhhlll.

The Blue Bicycle Restaurant
34 Fossgate
York, YO1 9TA.
Tel: 01904 673990

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Fountains Abbey: A Fun Day Out But Dear Oh Dear, Those Taps

Since we've been toiling away and leading a most mundane and ordinary existence recently, we're too knackered to cook up an enraged rant or a fascinating new toilet fact, and so, dear readers, you'll have to make do with leftovers from the archive today.
We made an excursion to Fountains Abbey some time ago, with a dear friend from Canada. It was a most splendid and awesome day: we saw cows, a Saxon arch, wild garlic, and a Georgian folly. Oh, and toilets, of course!

A most admirable and sturdy coat-hook

Clean, but the bin's a bit too close and the flush is a disability-hostile lever

The bog roll is hygienically covered and plain white

Forgive them, for they know not what they do: your average British public toilet taps

A curious arrangement of unhygienic and energy-consuming hand-dryers...

...however, as well as hand-dryers there was some tissue

Fountains Abbey: How it might have looked in days of yore, before the Reformation

Even with an extra point for the spurious claim of providing nice soap, these toilets are positively medieval and gain a meagre 4 points out of 17.

Friday, 12 August 2011


 We mentioned earlier that we ended up in Sweden on our holiday this year. While there we used lots of trains. Lots and lots of trains! Swedish trains of the older variety are lovely; silent, comfortable and functional. Some even have a snow plough at the front, for winter travelling!

(Unfortunately some modern trains are French-made, leak, and get stuck in the snow. Reprehensible. The French may know a thing or two about rioting and revolutions, but trains seem to have them stumped. But that's obviously beside the point. Since we're off on a tangent anyway, we may as well add that we have been complaining about English trains for years. Though clean and usually on time, they tend to have seats designed for people with a posture like Richard III; the curves are in all the wrong places and you end up slumped forward, with a pain in your neck and dribble on your shoes. Also, there's no comfortable way to lean your elbow on the window ledge, and consequently one can't avoid banging one's head against the window. But that's enough of that particular rant. For now. )

Richard III - a frequent traveller on East Coast trains?

We took some pictures from an X2000 train, on which we had a lovely journey. The seats have movable neck-rests, meaning you can have a comfortable journey whatever your height! You may imagine our delight when we discovered a roomy disability toilet - turns out X2000 trains are extra disibility-friendly!

X2000 train: Comfortable seats, a sensible table and a window ledge you can lean your elbow against - bingo!

Luxury: Sweden is less plagued by terrorism paranoia, and consequently Swedish trains have bins!! Hurrah!

The toilet: an excellent coat-hook

Disability toilet

As this train is a bit older there are no motion sensors, and one has to press buttons everywhere,
but apart from that, it is most clean and efficient

The bin is covered and at a most pleasant distance from the user, but alas, no covered loo roll holder!

In short, we had a lovely, comfortable journey and a most enjoyable toilet experience - thumbs up!

 This toilet gets 9 points - not bad for a train toilet!

Related Reading
Trains, Sweat, and Fears
Doing the Locomotion

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Flush Tracker: A Revolting Activity

In these days of political unrest, it helps to take a minute to meditate. And what better topic for meditation than toilets? If you are an angry rioter, might it make you feel better to consider that politicians go to the toilet just like normal people?
The Flush Tracker lets you see where the political turds go to make a stink once they've left the Houses of Parliament.


If you hurry, you could track down one of David Cameron's and set fire to it! Or even better, put in the details of you last toilet visit, then watch the contents of your bog meander their way through the sewage pipes. A most peaceful and relaxing pastime!

History repeats itself. "Liberté, égalité, eaux usées!"
Further reading
Flush with Pleasure: Flush Tracker

Monday, 8 August 2011

The Long Arm of the Loo

A short and sweet update today. A friend shared this delicious joke:
BBC News :
Looters steal toilets from Met headquarters.
Police say they have nothing to go on. 
picture from http://www.guzer.com/pictures/nothing_to_go_on.php

Sunday, 7 August 2011

The Historic Toilet Tour of York

You will find this hard to believe, but the mindboggling fact is that our readership figures go down when we post rants about mixer taps. It's true! To boost our flagging readership, therefore, we thought we'd give you a metaphorical vitamin injection, in the form of a revitalizing history lesson.

We went on a Historic Toilet Tour of York, arranged by a charming and extremely knowledgeable guide from York Walk.  This tour starts with Roman toilets, guides you through Anglo-Saxon and Viking cesspits, continues to medieval garderobes and drains, and finishes up with Victorian toilets (or the lack of them). Most informative and enjoyable - we can't recommend this tour warmly enough!

Here's a picture our guide showed us of a typical Roman latrine, the setup of which we have mentioned before. This cosy arrangement incorporates communal benches with holes atop a drain, flushed by water, often waste water from a bath. Sponges on sticks, soaked in vinegar, were used as hygienic toilet paper (though perhaps uncomfortable if one suffered from piles).

Veni, vidi, cacavi
Being fond of great literature we would like, at this point, to quote some Latin verse.

According to Wikipedia, Catullus 23 contains the lines:
Culus tibi purior salillo est, nec toto decies cacas in anno.
("Your arse is purer than the salt-cellar; you probably only take a dump ten times a year.")
Can't say fairer than that, can you?

York's multangular tower, the base of which is Roman
Next, we were briefly guided through York's Anglo-Saxon and Viking toilet remains. The less said about those the better.

Stones, pottery shards and scallops like these have been found in medieval latrines,
indicating their use as "bottom scrapers"

 At Kings Manor, we had the fascinating fact pointed out to us that this tiny window used to be the outflow of a garderobe, which Henry VIII was too fat to get into! Moreover, we were delighted to be informed that when this solid monarch visited York, he was constipated for two weeks.

Kings Manor garderobe

Henry VIII's excrement never hallowed this wall; he was too fat to get into the bog
At Barley Hall, we stopped to note that at medieval banquets, it was perfectly acceptable to do one's business in a pisspot during dinner.

During the Middle Ages, it was fairly common to stipulate the building of a public privy in your will. Thus, people could sit, shit and pray for your immortal soul. With the Reformation, however, this laudable practice was flushed away, and it wasn't till the 19th century that public lavatories started becoming common again - for men, that is. The assumption was that respectable women didn't roam the streets anyway, and so had no need for public toilets. Also, fashions dictating large skirts may have made it possible for women to do their business without anybody noticing.
However, in 1896 the first public toilet for women was built in York - in Silver Street, where public toilets were reintroduced recently (it costs 40 p to spend a penny). However, this location was not unproblematic - right opposite was a lavatory for men, and there were complaints from the ladies concerning lewd and unsuitable comments from the gentlemen, whose minds were apparently inflamed by the thought of the ladies going to the toilet.

Silver Street, site of inflamed passions

In the Richard III Museum in Monk Bar you can view this garderobe.

This toilet is no longer in use, however inviting it may look
On the outside, you can even see the outside run-off "drain"! (Usually the "product" from medieval garderobes was allowed to accumulate until there was a pile worth carting away.)

Another garderobe remains incorporated into the city wall.

A toilet in the city wall can provide useful ammunition in case of an attack

Cliffords Tower, likewise, had a garderobe

Towards the end of the tour, we went to the archaeological dig at Hungate to peep through the fence at what is being unearthed - Victorian drains! Hungate was a slum in the 19th century, and so there is probably all kinds of crap to be dug up here.

Archaeologists and Victorian plumbing

Hungate: a Victorian sewage pipe

You know you want it: a close-up of the Victorian sewage pipe

Last, but not least, let us tell you about the Lloyd's bank coprolite. This was a 23 cm long Viking turd found in 1972 on the site of Lloyds bank.

Many people had their view of bankers confirmed

That, dear readers, concludes our coprophilic tour of York. However, if you find your appetite irreversibly whetted, we recommend this highly informative book:

We got our copy from the York Walk tour guide.
E-mail info@yorkwalk.co.uk if you feel you can't live another day without one.

Related Reading
Let's Get Medieval: King's Manor Toilet
Revisiting Academia: King's Manor, Main Toilets
The Roman Bath Museum - Crap on a Stick
Nunc Est Lavandum - Bath-Time
Jorvik: In Rude Health
World Toilet Day 2011: Taking Our Baths and Our Women
Saturday on Silver Street
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