Monday, 31 October 2011


 As you no doubt know, the moors are best avoided at moonlight, and at Halloween - shudder, scream and recoil - they are extra dangerous!
We came across this toilet in a car park in the little village of Goathland. As you can see, it is quite full enough of horrors without werewolves creeping about the place and howling at the moon! One particularly evil monster stalking the moors is the creature which, reportedly, has a retractable leg so it "can leap up at you better", has a tremendous fear of stamps, and has no mouth, but instead has four arses.

Very sad sinks, with objectionable separated taps. The sign says, quite reasonably, "Please do not clean muddy boots/shoes in the sinks or toilets".

A very scary air-dryer

A terrifying toilet
  These toilets get, on the Privy Counsel scale, exactly 0 points.

Beware the moon and stay on the path...

Monkey getting a Halloween thrill with separated taps
Related Reading

Sunday, 30 October 2011

A Semi-Intellectual Treat

Semi-Intellectual Friend has been at it again, sending us light-hearted little blog tips that don't strain one's intellect too much. We're immensely grateful for this as we went to an academic event yesterday, and are simply exhausted from being on best behaviour and talking about proper academic subjects, as opposed to toilets. (There's something in it for you though: we received a hot tip about some kick-arse bogs, that we hope to be able to report on in a few days' time.) So today, instead of writing something, we're simply going to be showing this video clip which, we might mention, had Hygeia hopping with glee:

Hot air blowers are incubators and spewers of bacteria and pestilence. Frankly, dears, we couldn't have put it better ourselves.

Monkey, who also hates air-dryers, couldn't agree more about the plague-infested gibbon monkeys

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Privy Counsel Pin-Up - Colin Firth

  Our recent dry, scholarly raid into monastic plumbing has given us an itch to contemplate something slightly more frivolous. Luckily, we had the happy notion of posting a Privy Counsel Pin-Up!

  A vicious and annoying cold has occasioned us to spend a disproportionately large amount of time on the Privy Counsel sofa, enjoying Pride and Prejudice. Mr Darcy, played by Colin Firth, displays an energetic passion for hygiene. The wet shirt scene is, of course, famous, but we happen to also quite enjoy the scene where Mr Darcy has a bath!

Mr Darcy is, it would seem, laudably hygienic. (Image from Austenprose.)

  From what we can conclude from a brief Google trawl, there is a lot to be said on the subject of Georgian hygiene. One woman, foraying into the world of Regency reality dating shows, "washes her hair with a sticky concoction of rum, eggs, and rose water. She brushes her teeth with an ineffective paste that tastes like chalk dust. She unsuccessfully fights body odor with lemon juice. And when it’s time to take a bath, everyone subservient to the highest ranking person in the house has to use cold, dirty bathwater".

  We gather some more information from the Cookit blog:

The Georgians did not have very good personal hygiene.
People started to wash more often by the Regency period. By this time cotton had also become a popular fabric, as it washed more easily than others. However, for most of the period, both rich and poor were much smellier than today, many had rotting teeth and unsanitary habits.

  There were few flushable indoor toilets. After a long dinner, at the point where the ladies withdrew, both sexes would make use of chamber pots, the gentlemen behind a screen in the dining room itself and the ladies behind a screen in the drawing room.  Hygiene was not a great priority for any of the social classes and ladies’ fans were not only to keep them cool. They were also to disperse the odours of their less than fragrant menfolk. George III introduced sea bathing to the gentry as a healthy and pleasurable diversion, but only for the men; it was not deemed suitable for women. Some men took to having a daily dip in a cold plunge pool. This was thought a healthy, rather than hygienic, activity.

  Mrs Bennet, it must be said, attempts to persuade her husband to take the family to Brighton, so that she can go sea-bathing - a most admirable notion. "A little sea-bathing," she tells Mr Bennet, "would set me up forever". He, however, proves unimpressed with the idea, retorting, "And yet, I am unmoved". We believe we can safely say, without giving away the plot, that they don't go to Brighton, and that nobody goes sea-bathing.

Related Reading
Lucy Worsley and Jane Austen: Historical  Toilet Etiquette 
Pride and Prejudice and Plumbing
Privy Counsel Pin-Up: Ablutions with Toby
It Is Tolerable, We Suppose: A Privy Counsel Pick-Me-Up

Monday, 24 October 2011

A Draining Matter

Continuing our efforts not to be unwashed barbarians, The Privy Counsel has been studying monastic drains this weekend, as part of our ceaseless efforts to edify and entertain you.
Monasteries tended to be built over a stream, so that the products of the privy could be carried away, and not linger to cause bad smells and disease. The two monasteries we happened to visit this weekend, Byland and Rievaulx, both in Yorkshire, sport magnificent drains. The art of building hygienic privies rather went downhill after the Reformation and, it could be argued, was not taken up again until well into the Victorian era.

Byland Abbey drain

Rievaulx Abbey: an intriguing drainage structure

A sink or tank of some description, with a hole and a drain underneath

More sink-and-hole action

The main monastic drain
If you happen to know what the large tank actually is, we could welcome an e-mail or a comment! Send us an edifying missive to!

Friday, 21 October 2011

Privy Counsel, Patrons of Art

Here at the Privy Counsel, we are enthusiastic patrons of the arts. Far from being unwashed barbarians, we are in fact highly cultured, and enjoy art at all sorts of eyebrow heights.
An enlightened friend recently went to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. And lo and behold, here is what he beheld:

Trees, by Dennis Oppenheim. Or should that be "toilet trees", as someone wittily suggested?
Well, quite. This remarkable piece of art is called Trees and was created by Dennis Oppenheim. If you've already emptied the privy and cleaned all your chamber pots, and have got nothing better to do this weekend, we suggest you go and goggle at this inspiring piece of art.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Some German Toilet Paper Trivia

Today is one of those days when we shamelessly steal content from another website. We found this amusing titbit on a random blog. What can we say? We continue to be blessed with a lot of German readers, and we find ourselves irrevocably inspired!
Before you write us a fuming e-mail about the sanctity of international copyright, bear with us and you will see that this article is actually relevant to yesterday's toilet paper rant.

German toilet paper. Über-German, even!
Image from deutschland.
According to, German soldiers use 800 million rolls of toilet paper a year. Former soldiers said the number is actually a lot higher. That equals to 10 rolls of toilet paper a day per soldier.

One blogger recalled that elite mountain troops are given a roll a day as part of the basic equipment, as are troops stationed in Afghanistan.

There is a historic precedent for such consumption. German corporals used to drum into their recruits: 

"Wohin und wieweit ich marschier'

ich geh' niemals ohne mein Klopapier".

("Wherever and however I march, I never go without my loo paper.")

Personal hygiene, a problem in the World War I trenches, was given a high priority when the Germans mounted the Blitzkrieg of World War II.

One soldier in an internet chat room revealed, "The grey recycled paper is the best way of cleaning small-calibre weapons - every soldier knows that."

More German toilet paper. For premium small-arms care.
Image from

A guaranteed happy end with German toilet paper!
Image from
Related Reading
A Germane Issue

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Toilet Paper - It's Time to HTFU!

   We have been waxing lyrical about the Forest Stewardship Council label on numerous occasions, even admitting that Andrex toilet paper might not be wholly evil, since it is allowed to carry this prestigious label.
  However, and this is bloody crucial, the FSC label is not the same thing as an eco-label.  In order to be branded with the FSC tick, a product must adhere to regulations governing forestry procedure,ensuring that recycled fibres are used, trees are replanted, and forests generally managed sensibly. So far, so laudable. But it is perfectly possible to fill all the criteria demanded by the Forest Stewardship Council, and then go and treat your toilet tissue with all kinds of horrible and unnecessary chemicals.

So if you insist on buying toilet paper that has been treated with shea butter, or aloe vera, or any other of the countless and evil ingredients that toilet paper companies try to convince you that you need (not that shea butter or aloe vera are evil in themselves, but you didn't seriously think that Andrex put pure, unadulterated-by-chemicals shea butter on their bog roll, did you?), you are contributing to some serious polluting of water and buggering-up of ecosystems.  

Your bum does not need shea butter toilet paper! The human arse has evolved for countless generations to cope just fine without aloe vera.

Image from
  British toilet paper is pretty pathetic, compared to other European brands. On you can search for products and brands, to see which ones have been awarded the EU eco-label. The only British tissue companies featured on the list are Waitrose (whose toilet tissue is made by Georgia-Pacific) and Disposables UK. The Swedish company SCA dominates the list, but other companies, like Celtex from Italy, Novatissue from France, and van Houtum, from the Netherlands, also feature impressively. Clearly, it is not impossible to make toilet paper that doesn't damage the environment. Tork, makers of tissue and hygiene  products, have the EU label on a significant amount of their products, and, what's more, make one of our featured toilet roll holders! Tork are owned by SCA.

The Green Swan is the Nordic eco label. Their criteria for tissue paper are published here. They look pretty hard-core - as they should do!

Image from

  So come on - as Chopper Read would say: Get some unbleached toilet paper and Harden The Fuck Up! And if you're feeling really hardcore, go for some historical toilet paper!

Monday, 10 October 2011

Soaps, Lovely Soaps!

  With autumn comes flu season. Schools coop up children to the comfort and ease of the various germs and viruses they harbour, universities force students to get up early in the morning and breathe on each other in seminars, and the country's work-force succumbs to a violent desire to stay in bed and spend entire days watching The Simpsons.
  Hand hygiene is so important. The most effective way to protect yourself from disease is to wash your hands. Frequently and thoroughly. (You can read about all the reasons why you should wash your hands often here, and how to do it properly here. Or, if the audiovisual is more your thing, here.) We find it helpful and motivational to have lovely soap, and thought we'd share some of our favourites!

The scent from these soaps is truly divine!
  We've been to Oxfam again recently, and picked up this lovely lovely stuff from Bubble & Balm. These soaps tick all the boxes: they are made with fairtrade ingredients, using sustainable palm oil (palm oil plantations do terrible damage to the environment and make orangutans homeless), and come in a box made of recycled card, with no unnecessary plastic wrapping. And they smell delicious! Monkey couldn't wait to get a good lathering with this monkey-friendly soap!

Monkey loves lovely soaps!
  We've got some more favourites: one from Chandrika, a company from Bangalore. This is an Ayurvedic soap, containing among other things coconut oil, sandalwood oil, and orange oil. It is lanolin-free but contains palm oil, and we doubt very much that it is sustainably sourced. However, it smells gorgeous!

Contains all sorts of lovely things, according to the website:
Coconut Oil : it nourishes, moisturises and lightens your skin tan.
Wild Ginger : soothes the skin and helps prevent infections and rashes.
Lime Peel Oil : for a refreshing cooling effect and rich, penetrating lather with an astringent action.
Hydnocarpus Oil : helps prevent skin problems, rashes and outbreaks.
Orange Oil : tightens pores, helps prevent pimples and blackheads.
Sandalwood Oil : to cool, refresh and gently prefume your skin.

We think this writing might be in Kannada, the main language in the state of Karnataka, but then again it might not.

Just lovely

We wish we could send some of the fragrance your way!

  Last, but not least, here is another soap from Bangalore - the Mysore Sandal Soap. This one seems to be quite readily available in the UK, at least in Asian supermarkets - hurrah! It does contain lanolin, so is not free of animal products, but on the other hand it is, apparently, the only soap in the world made from 100% pure sandalwood oil. Then again, that sandalwood is reportedly not sustainably sourced. The commercial website claims that the Mysore Sandalwood Soap was the favourite soap of Queen Victoria, which is interesting as the company was founded in 1916.

A very cheerful-looking box

We LOVE sandalwood...

...and surely everyone loves elephants!
  We hope this abundance of lovely, and sometimes environmentally friendly and ethically sourced, soaps inspires you to keep washing your hands, for health and well-being! Hygeia will bless you!

Wæs hæl!

P.S. If you're Scandiwegian and enjoy reading about beauty products, check out!

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Victorian Servants Have Taken over the Book Club

Victorian servants - a jolly lot!
(Image from Caro Interiors)
We have been reading At Home (Doubleday, London 2010), by Bill Bryson, some more. (Read our previous blog post here.) The question of the relationship between indoor plumbing and the Victorian servant rears its ugly head again, and we feel compelled to quote some more Bill Bryson at you, for your edification and amusement.

  Before the advent of indoor plumbing, water had to be carried to each bedroom and then taken away again once used. As a rule each active bedroom had to be visited and refreshed five times between breakfast and bedtime. And each visit required a complicated array of receptables and cloths so that, for instance, fresh water didn't ever come up in the same receptable that waste water went down in. [...] If a guest or family member wished for a bath the workload rose dramatically. A gallon of water weighs eight pounds and a typical bath held 45 gallons, all of which had to be heated in the kitchen and brought up in special cans - and there might be two dozen or more baths to fill of an evening. (p. 98)

  This business of carrying water and waste up and down the stairs could, apparently, cause embarrassment. Until those enterprising Victorians thought to build separate staircases for servants! Bill Bryson quotes Mark Girouard telling us that,
 The gentry walking up the stairs no longer met their last night's faeces coming down them. (p.105)

  Aren't you glad you live in a house with plumbing, however British, eccentric and decaying?

A cheerful lady using a chamber pot.
(Image from Summertime 75.)

Related Reading
The Privy Counsel Book Club: At Home
Lucy Worsley and Jane Austen: Historical Toilet Etiquette

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Statistical Musings

  A close relative of ours is doing a PhD involving statistics. This may be why we are currently philosophising on this subject quite a lot.
  You may not be aware of this if you are not a blogger yourself, but Blogspot allows you to see statistics of which posts are popular; in which countries people have been reading your blog (hence our recent Germanic outburst); which websites have guided readers to it; and, interestingly, which Google search keywords have directed people to your blog. Mostly, these keywords and search phrases are fairly straightforward: "how to use chamber pots", "did roman soldiers use vinegar and sponge for toilet paper", "viking lavatory", "stages of handwashing", "action soldiers", etc. However, recently we have noticed celebrity culture seeping in, resulting in registered searches involving "celebrity toilet" and "celebrities on the toilet". (This is naturally due to the fact that a dear friend of ours is a real, bona-fide celebrity, who graciously granted us access to her inner sanctum.) While these search phrases perhaps betray a higher than usual interest in the intimate doings of celebrities, they are not as disturbing as the one that has been puzzling us most of all: "celebrity toilet camping". "Celebrity toilet camping" doesn't even yield any results on Google. Nothing. Zilch. And to be honest, we are quite grateful for that - does one want to see pictures of anyone, never mind a celebrity, on a rudimentary camping toilet? No, one doesn't.
  Do not despair, however: if your happiness depends on seeing celebrities on the toilet, the words "celebrity toilet" are most productive as Google search words, generating a wealth of images, from Kate Moss and Elle McPherson literally on the toilet to a toilet that once belonged to John Lennon, and of course the odd image (actually, quite a few images, we note proudly) from this very blog.

  In celebration of statistics and celebrity toilets, here are some of our favourite pictures from our own celebrity toilet Google search!

This type of merchandise if fairly predictable, but still amuses us: a toilet brush in the shape of George W Bush!
Image from

The Toilet of Bathsheba by Rembrandt. In this case, of course, the toilet is in the older sense "the process of dressing, later also of washing oneself" (OED).
Image from

A toilet with a picture of Kate and Wills! Marvellous!
Image from

And, last but not least, a young Prince William cleaning a toilet! Hurrah!
Image from

Friday, 7 October 2011

The Privy Counsel Book Club: At Home

It is time for another Book Club update, and this time we choose a quote from Bill Bryson, that entertaining yet informative author. In his book At Home (Doubleday, London 2010), Bryson devotes a chapter to the history of the bathroom. Explaining the resistance the idea of having a bathroom could sometimes meet in Europe, he writes,

  Until quite late in the nineteenth century many houses had plumbing to their kitchen and perhaps to a downstairs toilet, but lacked a proper bathroom because there wasn't enough pressure in the pipes to get water upstairs. In Europe, even when pressure allowed, the rich proved unexpectedly reluctant to bring bathrooms into their lives. 'Bathrooms are for servants', sniffed one English aristocrat. Or as the Duc de Doudeville responded loftily when asked if he would be putting in plumbing in his new house: 'I am not building a hotel.' Americans, by contrast, were much more attached to the satisfactions of hot water and flushing toilets. When the newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst bought St Donat's, a Welsh castle, the first thing he did was install thirty-two bathrooms. (pp 397-398)

A genuine Crapper toilet at St Donat's castle. (Image from

The reluctance of those able to afford to have their water and bodily excretions carried by servants, to install plumbing, is further described by Judith Flanders in her excellent book The Victorian House, an old favourite of ours which we may have mentioned once or twice before. Does this, in fact, explain some of the many plumbing-related peculiarities still dogging Britain today?

Related Reading:
Victorian Servants Have Taken over the Book Club

Lucy Worsley and Jane Austen: Historical Toilet Etiquette

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Durham Semantics

We went to Durham once, to admire the cathedral and restrain ourselves from kicking the tomb of Bede. Friends of ours, for instance Semi-Intellectual Friend, and also some other people, went to university in Durham. It is nice there. The cathedral, excepting the stomach-turning modern art, is both decorative and soothing. They have their priorities right.

Durham Cathedral: All of life's necessities in one place!

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

A Germane Issue

We are delighted to note that we have had a lot of German readers this week. To make our Teutonic friends feel properly welcome, we thought we'd share some English humour involving hammy German accents and toilets. Alles klar, here's an extract from Blackadder (which, we must not forget, starred Stephen Fry as the unforgettable Colonel Melchett), season 4, episode 4!

(Captain Blackadder and Private Baldrick have been shot down and captured by Manfred von Richthofen, the Red Baron.)
von Richthofen 
So! I am the Red Baron von Richthofen and you are the two English flying aces responsible for the spilling of the precious German blood of many of my finest and my blondest friends. I have waited many months to do this.

[von Richthoven kisses Blackadder on both cheeks.] 

You may have been right, Balders. Looks like we're going to get rogered to death after all. 

Do you want me to go first, sir? 

[von Richthofen laughs.] 

von Richthofen 
You English and your sense of humour. During your brief stay I look forward to learning more of your wit, your punning and your amusing jokes about the breaking of the wind. 

Well, Baldrick's the expert there. 

I certainly am, sir. 

[von Richthofen laughs.] 

von Richthofen 
How lucky you English are to find the toilet so amusing. For us, it is a mundane and functional item. For you, the basis of an entire culture.
Roger that.

For these people the toilet is the basis of an entire culture

Watch Baron von Richthofen strutting his stuff here.

Related Reading
Some German Toilet Paper Trivia
The German Existentialist Toilet Is, Perhaps, Here
Arachne-Philia and German-Induced Euphoria

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

A Matter Not to Be Poo-Pooed

Do you like dogs? We love dogs. We can't get enough of our furry friends with dog breath who scatter hair onto all sorts of incongruous places, like our toothbrush, and expect us to pick up their poo. Yes. The one downside to socialising with dogs is that one ends up picking up fresh, warm excrement with a flimsy plastic bag. Many people, of course, don't bother, cheerfully leaving dog turds for other people to slip on. This is clearly wrong and a morally objectionable practice. While it is not enjoyable to pick up dog poo, neither is it difficult. Especially not in Edinburgh, where we came across this delightful little dog bag dispenser. Hurrah for Edinburgh!

The perfect decorative accessory in a pretty, well-kept park: A dog-poo bag dispenser...

...complete with helpful illustrations

The bags are even biodegradable!

...and here's why picking up after your dog is so important. Though one wonders. Surely one must get VERY up close and personal in order to go blind from dog poo? (This is of course another reason why handwashing is so important.)

Monday, 3 October 2011

Princely Bogs in Princes Street Gardens

  Pretty much everything about Princes Street Gardens, in Edinburgh, is awesome: the Castle Rock overlooking it was, 350 million years ago, an active volcano by a tropical sea; the roses lining it smell gorgeous; and the public toilets are both clean and functional!
  Lest we forget, we should mention that the toilets in the nearby National Gallery of Scotland are clean, modern, functional and very pleasant, too, but unfortunately there were rather a lot of visitors and we were unable to photograph them without attracting the wrong kind of attention; the kind that leads to awkward questions and phone calls to the police by concerned citizens.

Let's start with the scenery: the Castle from Princes Street Gardens (photograph courtesy of Australian Friend)

An exemplary, even admirable, coat-hook; sturdy and functional

The toilet: nothing out of the ordinary, but clean

Very clean sink, but no hot water

An extra-shiny soap dispenser, dispensing nice-smelling soap with estimable efficiency

Huh. A bog-standard air-dryer

Positively bursting with cleanliness and all-round hygiene.

 The points for this Scottish beauty add up to seven.

Princes Street Gardens East and West
Princes Street
Edinburgh EH2 2HG

Related Reading
All Public Toilet Reviews

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Break Like the Wind

Does bending cause you embarrassment?

We spotted this ad in a magazine while on a train, and laughed uncontrollably. We assumed it was a joke, or possibly referring to a product made for people with pathological body odour paranoia.

  However, after viewing the website, we have realised that these products are actually made for people suffering from things like Crohns disease, Dyspepsia, Colitis, IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease), food intolerances and digestive disorders.
  We find this not wildly irrelevant to the topic of this blog, and also, we think the underwear looks quite nice. If you find yourself in need of flatulence-filtering underwear, have a look at

Literary Hotel Toilet Musings

  Observant readers may have noticed that we haven't been updating with our usual brio, zeal and gusto lately, i.e. there hasn't been a bloody peep from us for a whole week. Usually, this state of affairs would be due to us being bogged down in the daily toil and grind; sweating, cursing and generally labouring to earn the daily crust. But this time, it's because we've been too busy having fun! Hurrah! Thanks to Australian Friend who, among other things, treated us to a stay in a luxurious hotel in Edinburgh!
  We are both bemused and amused by the website of these digs, as it claims that "all furniture and antiquities have been specially imported from China". Though we didn't notice any Ming dynasty vases casually scattered around,  the toilet in our hotel room really was fabulous, in the original sense of "having no basis in reality; mythical (...) ORIGIN late Middle English (in the sense 'known through fable': from French fabuleux or Latin fabulosus 'celebrated in fable', from fabula (see FABLE))" (Oxford Dictionary of English, Oxford University Press, Oxford 2003).
  As well as being fabulous, the toilet gives us, joyously, occasion to quote Helen Fielding at you again! In Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination (Picador, London 2004), the heroine claims that, regarding hotels, "The only real criterion of fineness she trusted was whether, on arrival, the toilet paper was folded into a neat point at the end" (p. 8). Personally, we couldn't care less, but in case you find the state of the end of the toilet roll a matter of importance on a par with democracy, world peace and being able to find a really good mojito: Reader, we assure you, the toilet paper in this hotel was folded into a neat point at the end.

Panorama of the fabulous bathroom. If it looks confusing, it is because there were mirrors simply everywhere.

The supersonic bath! Boasting gazillions, literally gazillions, of jet streams!

In the words of Homer Simpson, we don't even believe in Jebus, but find the discovery of a mixer tap in Britain an occasion for the uninhibited thanking of all the gods our imagination can conjure up!
Nice sink, too, if shallow: we had to fill our water bottle in the bath.

A square toilet! Hurrah!

VERY fluffy towels!

Extremely nice-smelling toiletries, though not an eco-label to be seen

Funky taps in the bath

The kind of controls that allow you to pretend, if that's your thing, that you're not having a mundane, ordinary shower but FLYING A SPACESHIP

V. v. funky-looking shower

At the time of taking these photographs we were not yet so drunk we were seeing double.
There's a mirror in the shower, folks.
As an aside, the bed in the hotel room was extremely comfortable. And the staff were very friendly. And Edinburgh is a fantastic city. But the best bit was the toilets.

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