Friday, 31 August 2012

A Handy Tip: Poo Log

Christmas is drawing near again. But don't despair! We have the perfect gift tip! The Poo Log is not only an extremely useful tool for keeping track of your (and your friends') rectal health, but will have everyone giggling happily, from your senile granny to sanitarilly challenged Cousin Chad.
Also available as a Cr-App.

Imagine our delight at finding this dangling in the bathroom of a friend!

Poo Log: An example of the informative content

Our extremely fit friend's bathroom, where one may record one's movements in the Poo Log

So go ahead: don't hold it in, express yourself!

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Potty Putter: Putting Things Into Place

We've always thought golf was a pile of crap, and we've just had our prejudices confirmed. Buttericks, the Swedish joke merchants, stock a product called "potty putter". The set contains one "toilet-adapted green", one hole and flag, one club, and a "do not disturb" sign to hang on the door.
Hole in one, anyone?

Potty putter: very, very disturbing. Image from Buttericks

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Toilet Song: Swooning with Brad

We found a toilet song that made us swoon. Positively swoon!

It's called Ode de Toilet (The Toilet Song), and is sung by Brad Paisley.

Brad Paisley - Ode de Toilet (The Toilet Song)

She says not to buy her flowers
Or big expensive gifts
She says she don't want jewelry
And she doesn't need another dress
If I want to show her how much I adore her
The best way that I've found
Is to make sure when I'm finished
I put that toilet seat down

We've been to counseling

To try and see the ways we could improve
This thing between us
And different ways to show each other "I love you"
Forget about those getaway vacations
To romantic coastal towns
If you want to say "I love you"
Then put that toilet seat down

'Cause in the middle of the night

It's cold and it's dark
And when I hear my name in vain
I know I haven't done my part
She just wants me to support her
And the best way that I've found
So with a gentle hand and a loving touch
I put that toilet seat down

I know it's kind of funny

You can teach a little puppy
But it's very hard to train a grown man
When I'm all about my buisiness
And the path of least resistance
She's the one that suffers in the end

In the middle of the night

It's cold and it's dark
And when I hear my name in vain
I know I haven't done my part
She just wants me to support her
And the best way that I've found

Is with a gentle hand and a loving touch
I put that toilet seat down

Down, down

Brad Paisley: The man with the toilet song that makes us swoon.
We note he's cottoned on to the pink flamingo trend as well.

Related Reading
Toilet Song: Pain Pills
Toilet Song: Harlem River Blues
Handwashing with Elvis

Friday, 24 August 2012

A Calamitous and Inflammatory Blend of Toilet Paper and History

Have family gatherings become boring lately? Everyone being too kind and considerate for comfort? Uncle Lester quit drinking and Cousin Gertrude finally got laid and calmed the fuck down? Well, if that's the case, your problems are finally at an end, thanks to Peta (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). Their toilet paper features information about bacterial contamination in slaughterhouses, guaranteed to get everyone riled up and nervous. Uncle Lester will be reaching for the whisky and making aggressive comments about "those goddamned hippies" in no time, and Cousin Gertrude and Great-Aunt Myrtle are pretty much guaranteed to start a heated discussion about the merits of vegetarianism, reinforcing their arguments with broken bottles. 
Stock up on this for the next family get-together (make sure there's a meat course), aggregate a plentiful supply of booze, and you'll be happily feuding for the next decade at least!

Inflammatory bog roll from Peta. Buy it here. Image from Inhabitat

In other news, Andrex, the toilet paper we love to hate, has launched a new Eco toilet paper, made entirely from recycled paper and featuring bamboo fibres. Bamboo "is one of the fastest growing plants in the world producing significantly more fibre, on less land, than trees traditionally used to make tissue paper" says Tom Berry, head of sustainability at Kimberly-Clark EMEA, interviewed by Businessgreen. Bamboo also consumes relatively little water when growing, which is of course great from an ecological perspective.
Asked why Andrex hasn't produced toilet paper made from 100 % recycled fibres before, they reply, "Until now, we were not able to produce a recycled toilet tissue that we were happy with in terms of the quality and softness consumers would expect from market leaders Andrex". Andrex are also anxious to reassure consumers that bamboo is "safe for use in toilet tissue". Naturally, one would expect people to be worried about the effect of a rough, alien fibre on their soft, pampered bottoms.

We still don't get the obsession with soft toilet paper. We really. Really. Don't get it.
That hateful puppy. Image from The Guardian. Illustration:

 Just thinking about that stupid puppy makes us all irascible. Let's contemplate some soothing historical toilet facts before someone gets hurt!

Blogger Bukisa writes,
The so-called "Room of the Seven Sages", in Ostia (the harbor city of Rome) has painted walls, depicting seven of the greatest Greek philosophers, with ironic texts about their bathroom activities, such as "The cunning Chilon taught how to flatulate unnoticed" and "No one will give you a long lecture, Priscianus, as long as you use the sponge" (the sponge was the Romans’ equivalent for toilet paper).

Roman toilet goers. Image from I.ytimg

 For more information about lavatory sponges, and an unforgettable image of the assistant curator at the Roman Bath Museum in York wielding one, look no further.

John R. Clarke expostulates, in his book Art in the Lives of Ordinary Romans: Visual Representation and Non-elite Viewers in Italy, 100 B.C.-A.D. 315 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003):
The tavern paintings in the Caupona of the Baths of the Seven Sages at Ostia Antica date to about 100. [...] The artist attributes absurd bowel-movement techniques to the venerable voices of wisdom, the Seven Sages of the seventh century B.C., and he pairs their images with those of ordinary men in the act of shitting.
[...] On the right (west) side of the same wall follows Thales of Miletus, framed by the Greek words thales and meilhsios. [...] Here too, the artist has written the joke in Latin above the venerable sage from Miletus: Durum cacantes monuit ut nitant Thales, or “Thales advised those who shit hard to really work at it.” There is a fragmentary inscription below the Sage that includes the words [u]taris xylosphongio, or “use the sponge on wood”; since Romans used sponges to clean themselves after defecation, one scholar proposes that the phrase suggests using the philospher’s staff for this purpose.
(p. 170)
Let's have some proper, scholarly, linguistic musings as well.

We found a pretty hardcore history blog called Laudator Temporis Acti. The author writes, quoting a play by Aristophanes:
XANTHIAS: Hey, what's happened to you?
DIONYSUS: "The bowel is empty [ἐγκέχοδα]: call upon the god!"
XANTHIAS: Get up, won't you, quickly, you ridiculous fool, before anyone else sees you!
DIONYSUS [rising]: I feel I might faint. Give me a sponge [σφογγιάν] for my heart.
XANTHIAS [producing a sponge from the luggage-bundle and offering it to Dionysus]: Here, take it. [Dionysus lifts his clothes with his left hand; his right hand, holding the sponge, disappears behind his back.] Where is it? [Moving round behind Dionysus, and seeing that he is in fact using the sponge to wipe his bottom.] Ye golden gods! is that where you keep your heart?
DIONYSUS: Yes, it was frightened and slunk down into my lower abdomen.
XANTHIAS: You're the most cowardly god or man alive!
DIONYSUS: Me? What do you mean cowardly, when I actually asked you for a sponge? No other man would have done it!
XANTHIAS: What would he have done?
DIONYSUS: If he was really a coward, he'd have just stayed on the ground smelling his own stink. Whereas I, I stood up, and what's more, I wiped myself clean [ἀπεψησάμην].A sponge, when used for this purpose, was sometimes attached to a stick.
The Greek word for a sponge on a stick is ξυλοσπόγγιον (xylospongion), from ξύλον (xylon = wood) and σπόγγιον (spongion = sponge). The Greek lexicon of Liddell, Scott, and Jones gives only a single citation, Hippiatr.69,100. This is a reference to vol. 1, pp. 69 and 100 of E. Oder and C. Hoppe, edd. Corpus Hippiatricorum Graecorum, 2 vols. (1924-1927), which is unavailable to me. According to Herbert Chayyim Youtie and John Garrett Winter, Papyri and Ostraca from Karanis. Second Series (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1951) = Michigan Papyri, Vol. VIII, p. 39, in these veterinary texts the word means 'a sponge attached to a stick for the purpose of applying medicine to open sores.' I do not find this word in the Poorly Attested Words in Ancient Greek project at the Università degli Studi di Genova.

Toilet-scene still from Spartacus, featuring a sponge on a stick. Image from Popclassicsjg.

 We at the Privy Counsel tend to avoid Latin texts like the plague, preferring more unwashed Germanic languages. Luckily, Laudator Temporis Acti satisfies our hunger for dirty barbarians, continuing:
Without using the word xylosphongium, Seneca (Letters to Lucilius 70.20-21, tr. Richard M. Gummere) obviously refers to a sponge on a stick in this gruesome tale of suicide in a latrine: 
For example, there was lately in a training-school for wild-beast gladiators a German, who was making ready for the morning exhibition; he withdrew in order to relieve himself, - the only thing which he was allowed to do in secret and without the presence of a guard. While so engaged, he seized the stick of wood, tipped with a sponge, which was devoted to the vilest uses [lignum id quod ad emundanda obscena adhaerente spongia positum], and stuffed it, just as it was, down his throat; thus he blocked up his windpipe, and choked the breath from his body. That was truly to insult death! Yes, indeed; it was not a very elegant or becoming way to die; but what is more foolish than to be over-nice about dying?
Well, quite.

Dirty Visigoths sacking Rome. Hygeia clears her throat
at the sight of so much naked flesh. Image from the BBC.

Further reading:
The Roman Bath Museum - Crap on a  Stick
Nunc Est Lavandum - Bath-time

Let us Wash, for the Germanic Hordes May Appear at Any Moment
The Finer Points of Roman Hygiene
The Historic Toilet Tour of York  
Our previous post on charity toilet paper
Caroline Lawrence's blog posts about Roman toilets: here and here.

It's not easy being a dirty, filthy barbarian. Image from Chronicle.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Villa Ingrid: Toilet Paper and Loveliness

 As previously mentioned, we went to Öland a little while ago. While there we stayed at an exceptionally charming hotel called Villa Ingrid. Taking a cue from last year's Edinburgh hotel review, it is now necessary for us to quote Helen Fielding at you again. Hell, let's do one better and quote ourselves! Here's what we said in our Edinburgh hotel review last year:
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
(Privy Counsellor)
 Reader, it was the case again: The toilet paper was folded into a neat point at the end!

Olivia Joules: "The only real criterion of fineness she trusted was whether, on arrival,
the toilet paper was folded into a neat point at the end". Phew!

Clean, sparkly and water-saving: we lustily cheer this toilet on

Mixer-tap: check. Nice soap: check. Sturdy hook: check. Electrical socket: check!
Try as we might, we can find nothing to complain of!

If one wanted to be pedantic (which, in all honesty, one usually does) one could point out
that it would be nice to get complimentary conditioner in hotels, as well as shampoo. Because, since one can't wash one's hair anyway without conditioner unless one wants it to dry out, break off and then explode into a million tiny, dysfunctional pieces, they might as well not bother.

An extremely clean and pleasant shower

The little window gives one a charming view of the houses and gardens opposite

Villa Ingrid - Hygeia does a little jump and an energetic high-five!

We had vowed to stop doing the points, since we reckon that our readers 1) don't give a crap, and 2) are aware by now that the points system is completely arbitrary anyway. But we had a drunken conversation with Semi-Intellectual Friend, during which we were persuaded to bring the points back. So we're giving this toilet, oooh, let's see, 13 points.

Further reading:
Common Sense in Spain

Villa Ingrid
Hantverkaregatan 6
387 31 Borgholm

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Lucy Worsley and Jane Austen: Historical Toilet Etiquette

A historian who likes getting under the skin of our dirty, filthy ancestors - what's not to like! We just adore Lucy Worsley, who we may have mentioned once or twice before. Her blog features a survival guide for Georgian courtiers, including some pretty fascinating toilet-related information. We're taking the liberty of reproducing a section of the update:
1. What should you wear at court? Ladies have to wear the court uniform: the ‘mantua’. A coat-like dress spread out sideways over immensely wide hoops, this formal court dress has become trapped in a fashion time warp. Tightly-laced, uncomfortable, and immensely heavy because of the silver in the weave, its skirts get wider and wider as the eighteenth century progresses. Your arms descend from a requisite three rows of frills. (‘I am so incommoded with these nasty ruffles!’ says Fanny Burney.) You should wear your best jewels, and carry a fan.

Gentlemen should wear a wig, an embroidered suit and a sword, and under their elbows they carry a flat, unwearable version of a hat. Because you have to bare your head in front of the king, no one wears real hats at court. However, you can gate-crash a court party quite easily if you borrow the right clothes and slip a shilling to the footman on the door. You can even hire a sword from a booth at the entrance. ‘Dress is a very foolish thing’, declares the arch-courtier Lord Chesterfield, and yet, at the same [time], ‘it is a very foolish thing for a man not to be well dressed’.

Tip: you can’t be overdressed.

2. How do you walk in a dress like that?
It’s quite hard to walk in a mantua, and only grand palace doorways have the width to accommodate the hooped skirts without turning sideways. The whalebone hoops force you to take tiny steps, so court ladies are described as looking like they roll along on wheels. Ladies-in-waiting aren’t allowed to sit down, or to fold their arms. Before exiting the royal presence they have to curtsey three times, then back out of the room. But don’t worry: your dancing master will train you in how to do all this.

Tip: take tiny, elegant steps, and practice beforehand.

3. How on earth does one relieve oneself in such a dress?
It’s easier than it looks, as you won’t be wearing knickers (not invented yet). You may squat over a chamberpot, or else you use a ‘bourdaloue’. This is a little jug like a gravy boat that you clench between your thighs. Privacy is not essential, and the French ambassador’s wife annoys everyone with ‘frequency and quantity of her pissing which she does not fail to do at least ten times a day amongst a cloud of witnesses’.

However, if the queen doesn’t grant you permission to go, you just have to try to hold on. One of Queen Caroline’s ladies was once defeated by a bursting bladder. A humiliating pool of urine crept out from under her skirt and ‘threatened the shoes of bystanders’.

Tip: take a ‘bourdaloue’ with you.

(from Lucy Worsley's blog)
A very elegant early-19th-century bourdaloue. Image from Jane Austen's World

Our ancestors weren't as uptight about privacy and hygiene as we are. Generally, it seems as though prudery started sometime in the early Victorian era. Before then, it was considered perfectly acceptable to relieve oneself during dinner. And why not? Lavatories were generally situated outside, and were consequently often cold, dark and smelly. Much more conventient to bring the toilet to you!

18th-century lady showing how to use a bourdaloue. Image from Jane Austen's World

A gentleman demonstrating correct etiquette at an 18th-century English dinner party.
Image from Jane Austen's World

The Jane Austen's World blog explains,

[...] It was [the lady's] maid who brought the vessel in, for bourdaloues were compact and came with a cover. When a lady had to relieve herself she would, I imagine, retreat discreetly to a private corner [...] Her maid would then hand the vessel over to her mistress, who took care not to spill any liquid on her skirts. When the lady was finished, she would hand the bourdaloue to her maid to empty its contents.  When attending a play or opera at the theatre, I imagine she would again retreat to a darker more private corner of the box to urinate. Designed only for women, these bourdalous are quite beautiful. Made of faience or porcelain, they are decorated with flowers or painted scenes. Many are gilded. The portable pots, or coach pots as they were known in England, could be decorated inside as well.  They were quite small and compact, designed for travel, which made it easy to carry them and pack them for coach trips. They were also taken to long banquets, where ladies would scurry behind curtains when they needed to go. Bourdaloues were used throughout the 18th and for most of the 19th century. As water closets began to be built inside homes and buildings, the use of these chamber pots began to be reduced dramatically.

Watch Lucy Worsley demonstrating how to use a bourdaloue here:

Festive video: Lucy Worsley, Bathroom - History of the Home (1/4)

Related reading
Privy Counsel Pin-Up - Colin Firth
Pride and Prejudice and Plumbing
The Shewee.
Women's toilet troubles: The Historical Toilet Tour of York
Victorian Servants Have Taken over the Book Club
Victorian Morality
An impartial view of the Victorians.
A selection of bourdaloues and chamberpots can be seen at Christinehof Castle.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Who Gives a Crap - Because Shit Happens

One of our many trawls through the murkier ends (also known as the arse ends) of the internet yielded interesting results. We learned that there is a charity toilet paper called Who Gives a Crap! Far from being a bog-standard toilet paper company, this one gives half the proceeds to Wateraid, a charity which we have mentioned once or twice before. The social entrepreneurs behind the project have so far raised AU$ 50,000. Long-term goals include convincing Australian supermarkets to stock the product, and developing a Who Gives A Cr-app for mobile sales.

Taking a seat for sanitation

So far so good. But what of the ecological properties of the product itself? It is advertised as being recycled, and has been described as "environmentally sustainable". But, trawl as we might, we can find no information regarding chemicals and carbon dioxide emissions related to production - the squelching bog that is Google offers not even a whiff of information! We think Who Gives a Crap should get their shit together and publish some information on their eco credentials.

Related reading:

The Ghanasan sanitation project in Ghana.
Toilet Paper - It's Time to HTFU!
If you live in the EU, find out how environmentally friendly your bog roll is.
And, last but not least, an amusing comic about toilet paper.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Feeling Single, Seeing Double: Sct. Clemens Brewery, Aarhus

 Our recent sojourn in Aarhus included a visit to Sct. Clemens brewery, an excellent establishment rich in delicious beer and excellent toilets. We spent a convivial evening here involving, as far as we can remember, medieval-oriented intellectual conversation, beer, and nachos.

Sct. Clemens brewery, Aarhus. Image from Scoopergen.

 You'd have to be exceptionally thick to go to the wrong toilet. We approve of clear signage!

Feeling single, seeing double: mixer-taps, o glorious mixer-taps!

Berendsen: According to the Swedish website, they use Tork products. Tork is part of SCA,
which is one of the more environmentally friendly tissue companies. Hurrah, hurrah!

No complaints here

We naturally don't approve of the airdryer, but everything else
makes us skip and jump a fair amount

Due to consuming an excessive amount of beer with Semi-Intellectual Friend last night, we're not feeling quite inspired enough to produce high-quality, amusing content of our usual standard. If you feel cheated and crave some fun and games, take the Berendsen virtual washroom tour.

Related Reading
Medieval fun and games, and enforced baths in the form of baptisms: Read Clemens saga here.
More medieval reading here.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Toilet Song: Johnny Cash

It's Sunday. Let's do a quick one today. We know you've been craving a Toilet Song!
We're pretty pleased with this one, actually. Who'd've thunk it - there's a Johnny Cash song called "I've been flushed from the bathroom of your heart"!

Image from Tumblr
Johnny Cash - I've Been Flushed from the Bathroom of Your Heart

From the backdoor of your life you swept me out, dear
In the breadline of your dreams I lost my place
At the table of your love I got the brush-off
At the Indianapolis of your heart I lost the race

I’ve been washed down the sink of your conscience

In the theater of your love I lost my part
And now you say you’ve got me out of your conscience
I’ve been flushed from the bathroom of your heart

In the garbage disposal of you dreams I’ve been ground up, dear

On the river of your plans I’m up the creek
Up the elevator of your future I’ve been shafted
On the calendar of your events I’m last week

I’ve been washed down the sink of your conscience

In the theater of your love I lost my part
And now you say you’ve got me out of your conscience

I’ve been flushed from the bathroom of your heart

Urban Dictionary, of course, have a take entirely of their own on this subject.

Image from My3gb

Friday, 17 August 2012

Syphilis, Bathing, and Dentures. You Know It Makes Sense.

We have written before about Lucy Worsley, a British curator and historian, and her bathroom-related tv programme. Recently we happened, for reasons perhaps best left undisclosed, to be doing some research on syphilis, and found some rather fascinating information on this topic by the same Lucy Worsley. We believe we may also have mentioned the decline of bathing in post-medieval Europe on a previous occasion. Or perhaps not. Either way, here's what Worsley has to say on the subject:
"People often use the word 'medieval' to mean something horrible and dirty, but those at the top of medieval society actually kept their bodies very clean. Medieval London contained numerous communal, mixed-sex bathhouses, with single tubs and communal tubs, steam baths and herbal potions. You could spend the whole day and even have a meal, like a modern spa.
Around 1500, though, bathing entered upon two hundred years - the 'dirty centuries' - of decline and neglect. This was partly because many bathhouses had become brothels, and partly because of fears that water spread illness, especially the new and frightening Tudor affliction of syphilis. People were concerned that polluted bath water might penetrate their skin."
(From the BBC website)

Water and syphilis: a dangerous combination. Image from CBC

Worsley further says, of doing an experiment involving a week of Tudor hygiene:
"Denied the use of my bathroom, I ended up washing my face in the kitchen, and I discovered just how people managed without baths. It was actually very convenient, being able to wash in any room of the house, and I can see the advantage of having your maid bring an empty chamberpot to your bedroom and to take it away when full. Why would you want to walk to the loo when the loo could come to you? No one would see you en route to the bathroom, and you’d never have to queue. I began to appreciate why, even though Queen Elizabeth I had a flushing toilet (the technology was known) it didn’t catch on until the nineteenth century."
(From the Lucy Worsley blog.)
 Well, quite. Believe us, if we could persuade someone to empty chamber pots for us, we'd get one before you could say "empty your own goddamn chamber pot"!

We can't get enough of these little critters, from Giant Microbes!

The thrills don't end there: we even found a not-as-spurious-as-you'd-think connection between dental hygiene and our favourite disease, syphilis! Read all about it on Lucy Worsley's blog.

If you find yourself craving more information on the fascinating topic of syphilis, you can get some at this fun and informative website, called Disease of the Week!

Related reading
The History of Plumbing in the British Isles
The Post in Which We Finally Manage to Combine Our Two Favourite Topics Ever, Toilets and Syphilis!

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Gärdslösa: Runes and Royalty

It's time for some culture. We don't know about you, but after yesterday's frivolous post we at the Privy Counsel yearn for some intellectual content. Let's get medieval!
We happened to visit the church of Gärdslösa on Öland, an island off the east coast of Sweden.  Gärdslösa is the best preserved medieval church on Öland, and boasts possession of two runic inscriptions. One is on the wall near the door, and reads, "Jón/Jónn has crafted" (read all about it at the University of Aberdeen's Scaldic Poetry Project site).  The other is on a fragmented stone, and says, teasingly, "Gunnbjǫrn and Sveinn ... and Jóhan ... Thorkell(?), their very(?) good father, ... Oddvarr(?) carved the runes ... stone ... " (details here or, if you're so inclined, here).

The runes that Jón carved. Image from Schleugerhard.

Gärdslösa Church. Image from Wikipedia.

Now for the toilets. Gärdslösa Church generously provides hygiene facilities in a charming little building in a corner of the graveyard. The whole ensemble is exceptionally neat and charming, if slightly '70s in design.

Note the wheelchair ramp: disability-friendly as well as decorative!

The soap smelled extremely nice

Disability-friendly and clean

Funky seventies tile-lookalike linoleum

To continue the royalist content of a previous post (we're telling you this because we know you secretly love royalty), we may mention in passing that Margaretha, sister of the King of Sweden, Carl XVI Gustaf, was married in Gärdslösa. Wikipedia, informative as ever, tells us that Margaretha is number 196 in the British royal succession. We imagine her sitting at home in a  dark room, dabbling in voodoo to set off a plague epidemic. As another aside, here's a charming rendition of a song mentioning the King of Sweden:

Festive video: Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry, Minnie the Moocher

Related Reading
Some of our favourite royal-themed posts:
By the Sea - A Toilet Blogger's Holiday
Toilet Hurling - the Sport of Kings
The Royal toilet at Kronborg - "A Fould and Pestilent Congregation of Vapours"
Blogging Something Rotten
Waltzing Around Amalienborg

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Tømmermænd at Café Jorden, or, Sleepless in Aarhus, or, Fear and Loathing in Jutland

Since we happened to mention old-fashioned French taps the other day, we thought we might follow up with more of the same. We spent an entertaining weekend in the charming Danish town of Aarhus recently, with various mad-as-spanners academics of our acquaintance (among others, Danish Friend, Intellectual Friend, Norwegian Friend, Quasi-Intellectual Friend, and Semi-Intellectual Friend). In all honesty, we were hungover most of the time, and completely failed to do or see anything noteworthy. But it was worth the tømmermænd: in our opinion there is nothing more amusing than watching academics get drunk and sexually harass each other!
Be that as it may, we spent a fair part of Saturday afternoon at a place called Café Jorden, consuming beer and nachos at a leisurely pace, in order not to upset our aggrieved stomach lining more than necessary. Café Jorden is situated in a most picturesque location on Badstuegade, and offers beer, nachos, and perfectly decent toilets.

We happened not to throw up in this particular toilet,
but it was clean enough to indulge, should the urge come upon one

Unfortunately only cold water is available, but we were too hungover to care, and anyway,
this tap is decorative enough for the sin to be forgiven

We thought this was rather lovely, in a fin-de-siècle France kind of way

Café Jorden exterior, complete with rude statue of Apollo or similar. Image from Aarhus Guide.

We're not bothering with points anymore. Instead, for those requiring intellectual stimulus, we highly recommend the kamelåså video for an accurate and up-to-date description of the Danish language.

Related Reading
Waltzing Around Amalienborg
Sing If You're Glad to Be a Dane
Blogging Something Rotten
Cowering in Copenhagen

Café Jorden
Badstuegade 3
Midtjylland 8000
No website; check it out on Google Plus

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Pestilence and Hygiene

We may have mentioned the odd disease in previous posts (for instance here, and here. Then there is, of course, our favourite disease ever). Disease and hygiene are intricately linked - the goddess of health and disease prevention is, after all, called Hygeia (by the way, here's how to pronounce her name). We happened, for nefarious reasons of our own, to be skimming through a cracking work called Svenska folkets underbara öden by Carl Grimberg ("The Wonderful Story of the Swedish People"; full text here), a history book from 1922. This smashing read contains an elucidating passage on the spread of disease. We reproduce it here for your edification and delight.

Hygeia and her father, Asklepios.
They like to hang out, semi-nude, in the Vatican Museum. Image from Theoi

Grimberg writes (translation below),
Alltsedan digerdödens härjningar hörde den orientaliska böldpesten till vårt folks värsta plågoris. Under mer än två och ett halvt århundrade gick man här i landet nästan aldrig säker för att den fruktade gästen ej skulle sticka upp sitt hemska anlete och utandas död och förstörelse. En ansedd forskare från karolinska tiden uppräknar ett tjugutal dylika epidemier.

[...] Varpå berodde det, att det på den tiden var så lönlöst att försöka hejda detta mänsklighetens plågoris på dess väg från land till land? Till stor del därpå, att man hade så ofullkomliga begrepp om hygienens betydelse. Folk levde ganska allmänt i snusk och orenlighet till den grad, att vi skulle må illa bara av de erfarenheter, luktsinnet skulle ge oss i en dylik omgivning. Men framför allt berodde människornas vanmakt i kampen mot den fruktansvärde fienden därpå, att man ej visste, hur det tillgick, när smittan fördes över från ett land till ett annat, och följaktligen ej kunde vidtaga några effektiva skyddsåtgärder. Först genom våra dagars forskningar, framför allt av pestkommissionerna i Indien, har man kommit på det klara med hur pestbacillerna över- föras till nya offer. Det har då visat sig, att största rollen som smittospridare spela två otrevliga smådjur, råttor och loppor.
[...] Här ha vi alltså ett nytt exempel till många andra på hur insekterna behärska världen. Det är myggorna, som sprida frossa, malaria och gula febern. Det är löss och fästingar, som utbreda fläcktyfus. Med sömnsjuka och en hel del andra fruktade tropiska sjukdomar bekriga insektsvärldens små myriader oss människor — för att nu ej tala om allt det elände, som flugorna sprida omkring sig genom att med sina exkrementer överföra tarmtyfus, kolera, dysenteri, mjältbrand och tuberkulos.

Carl Grimberg. Let's hope he'd washed his hands before touching his wife. Image from Wikipedia.

Here's a translation, kindly provided by the Privy Counsellor.

Ever since the ravages of the Black Death, the oriental bubonic plague has been one of the worst scourges of our people. During more than two and a half centuries people lived in constant threat of this fearful guest turning up and breathing death and destruction. An eminent physician in the 18th century counts about twenty such epidemics in his time.

[...] Why was that it seemed so futile to try to hold back this scourge? Largely it was due to the fact that people had an imperfect understanding of the significance of hygiene. People generally lived in filth and squalor, the very smell of which would  make us nauseous. But above all, mankind's powerlessness in the battle against this fearsome enemy was due to the fact that people didn't know how the contagion was spread, and were therefore unable to adopt effective protective measures. Only in our own time, mainly thanks to the work of the plague commissions in India, has it been discovered how plague germs are transmitted to new victims. It has been proved that two unpleasant pests, the rat and the flea, are the main source of infection.

[...] Here is, in another words, yet another example of how insects rule the world. Mosquitoes spread shivering, malaria and yellow fever. Lice and ticks spread typhus. The hordes of the insect world make war on us humans with sleeping sickness and other fearful tropical diseases - not to mention the misery caused by flies, which spread typhoid fever, cholera, dysentery, anthrax and tuberculosis via their fecal matter.
 If you don't already suffer from OCD, try this exercise: imagine all the millions of tiny creatures crawling around on your skin, swirling through the air, and cruising through your blood vessels, all devoted to getting inside your body and buggering up your health and wellbeing. Imagine all the millions of people who regularly sneeze drops of germ-riddled snot into their hands, and don't bother washing their hands after going to the toilet. Feel your eyes beginning to itch, and refrain from rubbing them.

Cute but deadly: germs from Giant Microbes. Image from Firebox.

Moral of the story?

Wash your hands.
Wash your hands.
Wash your hands.

Further reading: A 1911 article, from Scientific American, on plague.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Happy Birthday, Australian Friend!

Because it is Australian Friend's birthday (and because today's post about the lavoire was technical to the point of being impenetrable, and left us exhausted and nauseous), we're doing a bonus post on Australian toilets!

Let's start with the Australian Toilet Organisation. Yes! There is such a thing! "The purpose of the Australian Toilet Organisation is to create better communities through better toilets," says the website. We say hurrah to that!

Providing relief. Image from the Australian Toilet Organisation

We found a picture of this amusing souvenir: an Australian toilet ashtray! While we don't condone smoking at the Privy Counsel (especially not on the toilet: too much flammable matter around!), we nonetheless find this diverting.
The Australia Souvenir site says:
"Complement your smoking with family and friends by using this amazing Australian toilet ashtray! You and your friends will be amused by the rare design of this souvenir ashtray as it is designed to the likeness of a toilet bowl with the Australian map on the front lid and a 3D kangaroo on the inside of the ashtray. This comes with a slot to hold your cigarette."
Marvellous, marvellous!

Toilet ashtray. Image from Australia Souvenir

One cannot write anything about Australia without mentioning huge, hairy spiders. Behold, the Australian toilet spider!!
View it here.

Toilet spider. Image from Sydney Emerald City.
Caption: "Yes it is real. Luckily its is harmless but not to other spiders.The Huntsman spider is common around Sydney houses and is not usually found on the toilet seat. I like them because it is said they kill the more deadly Sydney Funnel Web Spider - which we have plenty of where we live. A tip - always shake out your boots before inserting your foot!"

To continue the fauna theme, here's an article about a giant snake found in an Australian toilet.

Toilet snake. Image from The Telegraph

We must of course also mention the Australian dunny. Read all about it on Wikipedia.

Dunny. Image from Wikipedia

Last, but not least, here's a picture of what is, apparently, a typical Australian toilet.

Australian toilets. Image from Shomuni

 Happy birthday, Australian Friend!
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