Monday, 30 April 2012

Hurrah! It's Monday!

At the Privy Counsel, we are firm believers in the edict that it's not the chocolate cake you're dealt, but how much rum you have with it that determines how much fun you have in the game of life. At Privy Counsel HQ, it's been absolutely pissing down with rain for weeks on end, we spent most of the weekend wrestling with a sabre-toothed tiger of a hangover that damn near made us go all extinct, and now, to top things off, it's sodding well Monday morning. So we decided to jazz up this hellish state of things with a pair of PINK FLAMINGOES! This is the toilet belonging to Canadian Friend's Canadian friend, in Winnipeg! Canadian Friend's Canadian friend got some plastic flamingoes to brighten up the garden with, and discovered that they worked just as well in the bathroom!

Will this be the hottest interior design trend this year?

We have turned absolutely pink with delight! "Hurrah!", say we, "and bring on the rest of the week!"

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Danger, Danger: Medieval Toilets

After our recent unstructured ranting, we thought it was time for some more intellectual content. Hence we thought we'd have a look at some Viking toilets (or, for those of you who give a damn and want a more accurate description, 10th-11th-century Icelandic toilets). The Hurstwic site provides this fascinating glimpse of a medieval latrine, from the medieval farmstead at Stöng, in Iceland:

Image from Hurstwic

According to Hurstwic,

"The trenches pass through the rear wall of the room to the outside of the house. It seems likely that this room was a latrine. The trenches served as gutters to carry wastes out of the house. It's quite possible that wooden benches with holes cut in them were set over the trenches on which people sat. It's also possible that a simple wooden pole (stöng) was placed above the trenches on which people sat.
Stone slabs set into the floor on either end of the trenches (left and right) in the Stöng farmhouse ruins have notches cut out of them that would nicely hold a pole in such a position.

When the saga literature describes someone relieving himself, that person does so outdoors, or in an outbuilding. For instance, in chapter 47 of Læxdala saga, it is said that at the time of the saga (10th century), it was fashionable to have outdoor toilets some distance from the farmhouse. In addition, it seems unlikely, based on the archaeological remains, that a house like Eiríksstaðir (built in the 10th century) had an indoor lavatory.

The 10th century farm at Hofstaðir in north Iceland had a lavatory in a separate structure a short distance from the longhouse. As at Stöng, a stone-lined trench carried wastes out of the building. Traces of human feces found in the trench make it clear that this structure was a latrine. The building had space for three (and possibly more) people to sit over the trench.
On the other hand, episodes in the sagas show the advantage of an indoor lavatory. Attacks could be made on men making an nighttime visit to an outhouse, such as the attack on Snorri goði described in chapter 26 of Eyrbyggja saga. It's possible that by the time Stöng was built, late in the Viking era, indoor lavatories were more common.

The lavatory at Stöng seems to be an enormous structure for its intended purpose. It almost appears big enough to have permitted every member of the Stöng household to relieve themselves simultaneously. While I make the statement in jest, the sagas suggest that, in fact, groups of men did socialize while in the privy. Chapter 25 of Flóamanna saga says that while some men were sitting in the privy, others stood nearby, and they all talked and compared their accomplishments. The privy might have been a good place to hold a private conversation, something that would have been impossible in the open longhouse.
It's even been suggested that the farm at Stöng took its name from the long poles (stöng) used as seats in its fine and imposing lavatory."

Do you suddenly feel grateful that nobody has as yet taken advantage of your vulnerability while on the bog, and tried to kill you?

For more information on Viking toilets from the archive, have a gander at this.

Related Reading
Who Knew That Going to the Toilet Could Be So Dangerous?

Saturday, 28 April 2012

A Refreshing Rant

Our recent handwashing rant did not, we're sorry to say, scratch our ranting itch. We want more. Hence today's toilet-seat-cover-rant, courtesy of that fine institution of unbiased information, The Oatmeal. No doubt a friend or acquaintance sent this to us an aeon or two ago, but, alas, we don't remember who it might have been. Send us a letter bomb if you want intellectual credit.
Here's the link:

A refreshing toilet rant sets us up for the week

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Salmonella, Hamsters, and Other Animals

A relative of ours is currently recovering from a fairly evil and degraded salmonella infection. We take this opportunity to, yet again, rant about the importance of hand hygiene, in an insufferably smug and repulsive manner.

Look at the salmonella bacteria frolicking!
Picture from
 Let us quote the Ehow website at you:

"Salmonella bacteria live in the intestinal tracts of animals and humans and are spread by contamination from feces. Salmonella can lie dormant on a surface for over a year - then 'wake up' when food comes into contact with it.
(...) Salmonella can spread from person to person when someone with salmonella neglects proper hand-washing, and from animal to human by contact with an animal infected with salmonella. Dogs, cats, birds, reptiles, fish, hamsters and farm animals can be carriers of salmonella, and handling infected animals, their feces or anything contaminated with their feces can spread salmonella.
Proper hand-washing is the first line of defence in preventing salmonella illness. Wash hands thoroughly after toileting or handling animals or any surface that comes into contact with them. Wash hands before handling food-, drink- or smoking materials. Wash hands after handling raw meats or eggs."

Hygeia says, "Hear, hear!"

Read about how to wash hands properly here, here, here and here.
Be careful with hamsters.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Saturday on Silver Street

On Saturdays, York becomes a melée of snotty children, middle-aged bleach-blonde ladies, and slobs in tracksuits, all firmly believing that buying yet another pair of planet-polluting, child-manufactured pair of shoes will bring them happiness, even though the previous 55 times failed. Be that as it may, one thing that many people will be doing today is using the public toilets in Silver Street. As mentioned in a previous update, it costs 40 pence to spend a penny. Here's what you get for your money:

Self-cleaning toilets are brilliant. Unfortunately, this one didn't work.
Also the lack of ventilation meant that the cubicle smelled. We will spare you pain by not telling you what of.

This toilet-roll holder is perfectly fine,
even though the bog roll is, obviously, horrendously bleached.

Hygeia wants to take a sledge-hammer to these contraptions.

As mentioned previously, NHS handwashing guidelines state:

An effective handwashing technique involves three stages: preparation, washing and rinsing, and drying. Preparation requires wetting hands under tepid running water before applying the recommended amount of liquid soap or an antimicrobial preparation. The handwash solution must come into contact with all of the surfaces of the hand. The hands must be rubbed together vigorously for a minimum of 10-15 seconds, paying particular attention to the tips of the fingers, the thumbs and the areas between the fingers. Hands should be rinsed thoroughly prior to drying with good quality paper towels. (Read more here.)

Handwashing facilities like the one above dispense soap first, then water, then air, and the user has no control over which order these elements appear in. Thus, we always end up using two separate ones: ignoring the soap, we wet our hands first, then move onto the next contraption for soap, and then water again for rinsing. We avoid the air from the air-dryer like the plague. (Read all about why air-dryers should be avoided like the plague here.)

Everything else may be dire, but this is bloody fabulous!
When the Silver Street toilets were last renovated, an irate reader wrote to The Press:

A costly call 
As a former York resident who returns from time to time to shop or visit family and friends, I recently discovered the new toilets in Silver Street. While they are an improvement in some ways, and I do not object to paying some charge for this service, I feel 40p was a bit steep, considering there was no hook to hang things from inside the cubicles (standard in most loos), which meant having to put my bag on a floor which was wet. To add insult to injury, the hot air dryer did not work properly so I ended up having to dry my hands on my scarf. (From The Press, 24 November 2010; read more here).

Luckily, this appalling state of affairs has been remedied - and with a vengeance, as you can see!

Although these toilets technically have a photo-cell tap, and although we are awarding a point for that, we are simultaneously deducting one point for the weird, unhygienic hand-washing facilities, and another point for the lack of ventilation, leading to the horrid smell. In total, we award 7 points.

Silver Street Toilets
Silver Street, York YO1 8RY

Related Reading
The Historic Toilet Tour of York
Public Toilets, Exhibition Square (St Leonard's Place), York
Venting Our Spleen (Right Down the Drain)
Sing If You're Glad to Be a Dane
A Note on Useful Gifts
Princely Bogs in Princes Street Gardens

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Pride and Prejudice and Plumbing

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man in possession of a large amount of toilets
must be in want of a plunger. This was especially true of Mr Darcy,
who had constant troubles with the plumbing at his massive house Pemberley.
At their first meeting, at the assembly ball in Meryton, Elizabeth Bennet found Mr Darcy disagreeably proud,
and he found her irritatingly prejudiced. They were both right.
Mr Darcy's friend Mr Bingley fell in love with Elizabeth's sister Jane,
but didn't propose because Mr Darcy, that odious man, dissuaded him

Unfortunately, nobody dissuaded Elizabeth's and Jane's cousin, Mr Collins, from proposing to Elizabeth.
Luckily, he married her best friend instead.

All would have been well if the Bennet sisters hadn't suddenly had a massive attack of heartbreak,  moping and pining - Jane because Mr Bingley had buggered off to London, and Elizabeth because she realised that she fancied the pants off Mr Darcy (especially since seeing his beautiful grounds at Pemberley)

Luckily their stupid sister Lydia a this point decided to run away with Mr Wickham, who used to be Mr Darcy's best friend. Mr Darcy felt responsible for Mr Wickham's dastardly behaviour, and forced him to HTFU and marry Lydia,
thus escaping scandal and ruin for the Bennet family

All was now well, and they had a big double wedding and lived happily ever after. The plumbing worked splendidly,
and they always had an extra-large plunger sitting on a small occasional table, for emergencies.

Related Reading
Privy Counsel Pin-Up (with Colin Firth)
Lucy Worsley and Jane Austen: Historical Toilet Etiquette  
An Article on Regency Plumbing from the Jane Austen Centre

Sunday, 15 April 2012

The Best Urinal View in the World?

Enlightened Friend took this picture outside Courchevel Altiport, labelling it "Possibly the best view from a public toilet urinal in the world". Need we say more?

Words are utterly, utterly superflous

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Goji: Returning to the Scene of the Cake

We've been visiting our second favourite café (our actual favourite café, naturally, is the one that boasts the best toilet in England) a fair amount recently, to enjoy cake, jollity and pleasantness, and even, dare we add, a certain amount of drunkenness, with friends. Goji in Goodramgate really is a lovely, lovely place, and the toilets boast a high level of je ne sais quois, to use our favourite expression of the moment, as well (for our last review of Goji, click here)! The best bit, however, is the handwashing facilities! The reason we are updating our review is that the lovely people at Goji have replaced the previous hot-water contraption, which was leaking, with a new, touch-free one! We can only applaud this move - enthusiastically, at length, and with considerable zest and brio! Considerable!

Touch-free hot-water contraption with lovely soap - Hygeia swoons and gasps!

Oooh, lovely soap!
Continuing the good work: the Tork paper-towel dispenser is doing its thing

The bin is still not necessarily conducive to good hygiene, but the touch-free contraption
has us so dizzy with joy that we forget all about it
 Oooh, guess what, the Goji toilets receive 10 points this time, up from 7!

Goji Vegetarian Cafe & Deli
36 Goodramgate,
York YO1 7LF
Tel: 01904 622614

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Coffing up Flem: So Amused We Can Barely Breathe

As our intelligent readers have no doubt gathered, we at the Privy Counsel are cultured, sophisticated people. We enjoy nothing more than poring over Flemish art, humming appreciatively and emitting the odd stunned gasp. The subtle interplay between light and shade, the funky beards, the obsession with linen - it ticks all the je ne sais quois boxes. Now, thanks to Nina Katchadourian, Flemish art has been combined with toilet paper to form one giant, explosive, post-modern BOMB of amusingness! Careful what you have in your mouth before you set it off:

(More pictures here:

Girl on a plane, staring

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

The Mysterious Forbidden Lavatories of Manchester

Normally we at the Privy Counsel are extremely law-abiding, and would never encourage crime of any kind. However, a friend took an illegal (well, perhaps not strictly illegal. "Forbidden" might be a better, and indeed more exciting, word) picture of the toilets at the John Rylands Library in Manchester. Apparently, for whatever reason, one is not allowed to photograph these bogs. Which is crazy, because they're genuine Victorian toilets! Full of craziness! Our friend (who shall remain anonymous for security reasons) said:

"I also sat on a truly Victorian toilet in the John Rylands Library; OMG, not much has changed in the World of British Lavatories since then. Picture taking was forbidden (as these were WORKING toilets) but I managed a sneaky one."
Anonymous friend also hints that, "
YOU KNOW WHAT?! They have a massive display on toilets, taps, and sewers in the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester. I wanted to get you a postcard, but we almost got locked into this part of the museum as they were closing and kind of forgot about us. But it was all very interesting."

Ta-daa: An exclusive peek at the Forbidden Lavatories at the John Rylands library!
They look well equipped when it comes to coat-hooks, anyway...

Dear readers, go forth into Manchester, with our blessing, and explore the toilets!

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

The Crazy World of Doll's House Toilets

Like doll's houses, anyone? We can't say we do, particularly, but we happened to visit a doll's house shop with a friend recently, and were fairly gobsmacked by the sheer variety of miniature toilets!

The going rate for a two-inch toilet: twenty quid

This looks like a proper Crapper toilet, and we will admit that it's pretty classy

The flush unit is apparently sold separately...
...and has "Hearth and home - the thunderbox" written on it.
We have no idea why.

The bath towel is more affordable

We thought this was pretty,
although one despairs a fairly large amount when one sees the non-mixer taps

Look how happy this man is with his bathroom and his pyjamas!

Monday, 9 April 2012

Toilet-Door Art

Today we thought we'd be a bit postmodern and cool, by posting this piece of toilet-door art from The Tote hotel, Melbourne (many thanks to Australian Friend). It seemed somehow appropriate.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Lighthearted Easter Musings

Since it's Easter, and a lot of people are spending inordinate amounts of time pondering dark and dreary happenings, we thought we'd lighten the mood a bit with a light-hearted comic. Shewee Fiend Friend sent us this; we are grateful as usual.

We're all in favour of a "feelings washroom", and second the motion that somebody invent this. But start on the toilet seat in the shape of a Cylon raider first, please.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

The Disabled Toilet in the Physiotherapy Department at York Hospital

For reasons not unrelated to our recent Italian holiday we're spending rather a lot of time at the physiotherapy department at the hospital these days. The toilets there are a dream of hygiene and efficiency, apart from the flushes, which unfortunately splash toilet water all over the seats. Hygeia sits down and weeps at the very thought!

WOW! Mixer-tap! Paper-towel dispenser from Tork! Since this photo was taken,
the soap dispenser has been replaced with an automatic one,
which you don't have to touch. WOW!

An unfortunate flushing arrangement

Bin and toilet paper perfectly fine, but unfortunately, the seat does get splashed when flushing!

Ooh, we like this coat-hook! Purr, purr, purr!

With the extra point we awarded for the touchless soap dispenser, these hospital conveniences get 8 points, and that's despite not getting a point for being clean! (Of course they are extremely clean, but we just can't get over the yucky, wet toilet seat)!

York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
Wigginton Road
York, YO31 8HE
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