Wednesday, 31 October 2012

It's Halloween - Time for Some Spine-Chilling Horror!

As previously mentioned, nobody quite knows where Semi-Intellectual Friend is, geographically, intellectually, or spiritually. Having gone to a tropical country to find himself, he seems instead to have got lost in a hideous morass of odorous, horror-filled drains and incurable skin diseases. Since it's Halloween, we're sharing some of the horror with you, gentle reader. Behold, the description of Semi-Intellectual Friend's shower - a tale to freeze the blood and addle the brain (or what's left of it once the zombie apocalypse has kicked in).
There was an eggy smell coming from the water in our shower. I was grateful. It wasn’t even close to the worst thing that I’d smelled in the shower up until then, and I thought that it would go well with the smells I was about to slather on myself to cover up the fact that when I hosed myself off in that shower I spent most of my time trying not to get any of the damn Siberian water actually on me.
We had left Koh Samui a few showers before and joined up with two other guys at a collection of beach huts on Koh Tao called Saithong Resort. It had a number of selling points:
  • Electricity is supplied to rooms between 6pm and 6am.
  • No aircon.
  • The rooms have holes in the walls and floor. Probably the roof too but you can’t always tell because in some a floral blanket is stapled to all four walls to cover the ceiling.
  • It is inaccessible by car. Either a 25 minute trek from the pier is necessary or you can catch a boat taxi.
  • Cold showers. So, when people are looking into your bathroom through your mostly-curtain- and completely-glass-free windows/the holes in your bathroom’s walls, you always look your best.
  • No wifi. Obviously.
  • It has bugs. Many, many bugs.
  • It might be the best hotel-resort thing I’ve ever stayed at.
  This is not the authentic Thai experience, or even just an authentic Thai experience. Thai people have ipads and kindles, electricity, hot and cold running water, and houses without holes in the walls. It’s a country that has made remarkable strides in the last twenty years in terms of overcoming poverty, putting its children in education and offering healthcare, despite a number of natural disasters. And the 10% of the country who do remain in poverty don’t compensate for not having electricity by snorkelling or playing pool.

 What can one say, except "Haaarrrrrgghh"? Well, quite. Having one's brains eaten by zombies does tend to impede one's speech capacity.

Happy Halloween!

Monkey lost in an improving book. A hideous morass of images
from New Scientist, Anglopole, and Inriodulce
Further reading:

See photos of this shower here (if you dare):
Brownian Motion, or, Brownout, or, A Brown Study - Semi-Intellectual Friend's Shower
More general horror:
A Note on Desperate Measures
Are You British? Does Tap Sanity Elude You?
Tap into Pain

Monday, 29 October 2012

Ladies, Don't Take Life Sitting Down

Happy news today! In addition to having found its spiritual home, as reported yesterday, the Privy Counsel has found a soul mate! The Norwegian site is at least as paranoid as we are when it comes to bacteria, if not more! We find this immensely encouraging and vow to redouble our efforts to develop the worst case of OCD since the dawn of psychoanalysis.
 However, that's not the main news. Norwegian Friend sent us a link describing this nifty gadget. Regular readers may recall our update about the Shewee, saviour of needy women everywhere, but especially in cold places with a biting wind. The Gogirl contraption, however, is made of flexible silicone with a splash guard, which makes us think that it's easier and more comfortable to use than the Shewee. On the other hand, the Shewee is made from polypropylene, which is recyclable and therefore potentially environmentally friendly, which we like.

The Gogirl female urination device. Image from Cleanseat UK
  The Gogirl, unlike the Shewee, does not appear to be machine washable. It is, however, washable with soap and water and can withstand boiling water.
Our friend at the Roman Bath Museum claims to have invented a similar contraption with "accordion plastic attachments [and] calligraphy heads for fancy snow writing, too". However, laments Roman Bath Friend, "No one wanted it. [...] I don't understand women, clearly". We sympathise.

Anyone who's used this gadget, with or without an accordion attachment for snow writing, please feel free to share your experience. Leave a comment or email us at

Related Reading:
Toilet etiquette for ladies (in Norwegian)
Far From the Madding Crowd: A Walker's Dilemma

Roman Bath Museum - Crap on a Stick

Sunday, 28 October 2012

In Good Spirits: Börje's House

Here's a bit of an announcement: The Privy Counsel has found its spiritual home! We like wine, we adore whisky, and we have an unhealthy interest in toilets. Turns out there's a conference hotel that supplies liberal amounts of all of the above! If ever you can't find us, we've most likely been spirited away there!
Yesterday we did a report on the toilets at Bykrogen, a cosy inn enveloped in the muddy fields of Scania. Today we're taking a closer look at the bathrooms in next-door neighbour Börje's house, which has been converted into a conference hotel, with a and wine- and whisky-tasting venue in the workshop next door. There are a number of rooms, all with very classy bathrooms. These pictures, however, are all from the grandest bedchamber on the top floor, known as Maria's Room.

Wouldn't you love to get your hands on some of this loveliness?

This bathroom has been showered with attractive features

That's the spirit: There's a bath as well as a shower!
We just flipping love claw-foot bath tubs!

What can one say, except "Ooooh"?

Hot dog! Check out the wrought-iron bog-roll holder!

Getting into the spirit of the thing: Wine-tasting sessions in Börje's carpentry workshop
are immensely popular. Image from Bykrogen

Now, the spirit moves us to stop bottling things up before we pop our cork and really let the genie out of the bottle.

Bykrogen Österslöv
Lövens väg 30
291 94 Kristianstad
+46 (0)44 226000

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Bykrogen: Rustic Cheer

 One of our favourite haunts ever is situated right in the middle of the mud-rich void that is north-eastern Scania, in southern Sweden. The muddy fields in this part of the world are conducive to potato-growing, and the little village of Österslöv was once home to a starch factory. However, luckily for us, the factory is now an inn, known as Bykrogen. This cosy joint, rich in good food and hearty cheer, offers the stuffed-to-bursting-point guest very enjoyable toilets in which to take momentary refuge from frantic eating, drinking, and insane-relatives-endurance. There are two different toilets, one of which is disability-adapted; here's a happy jumble of pictures from both. (N.b. We have also procured pictures, at a hideous price, from the highly snazzy conference hotel next door. Visit us tomorrow for a gander!)

Mixer-taps, cleanliness and paper towels: we like everything

How funky is the colour of this soap!

Bykrogen thoughtfully supplies toilet-related literature for their guests
to peruse while enjoying the toilets

One feels completely safe and at ease knowing there is an emergency button within easy reach

The disabled toilet: How comfy does this look!

At Bykrogen, they are quite keen on friendly, cosy graffitti

Haaargh! We like!

Everyone likes elephants, right?

More friendly graffitti

A muddy void: You'll find Bykrogen in the middle of this. Image from Bykrogen
 We were far too muddled by drink to worry about points. Here's how to get to this excellent place:

Bykrogen Österslöv
Lövens väg 30
291 94 Kristianstad
+46 (0)44 226000
How to get there by bus

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Sixteenth-Century Handwashing

The light of zealous intellectualism is burning so brightly at Privy Counsel HQ this week that we have been receiving complaints from people we can only assume must be actual vampires, so acute is their photophobia. Far from spending our time looking up Toilet Songs and vulgar pictures on Google, we have been reading. Like, proper intellectual, you know, books. Here’s a passage we have, so to speak, perused. It’s from William Ian Miller’s book The Anatomy of Disgust (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1997).
People were plainly not as circumspect about excretion as we are. Some five hundred years after [Guibert of Nogent's description of a monk with lethal dysentery] we see that delicacy regarding excretion had a somewhat uneven progress. Elias, quoting passages from handbooks on manners, shows that even sixteenth-century people were tempted not to take great care about such matters. From 1589:
Let no one, whoever he may be, before, at, or after meals, early or late, foul the staircases, corridors, or closets with urine or other filth, but go to suitable, prescribed places for such relief.
Most surprisingly from 1558:
It does not befit a modest, honorable man to prepare to relieve nature in the presence of other people nor to do up his clothes afterward in their presence. Similarly, he will not wash his hands on returning to decent society from private places, as the reason for his washing will arouse disagreeable thoughts in people. For the same reason it is not a refined habit, when coming across something disgusting in the street, as sometimes happens, to run at once to one’s companion and point it out to him. It is far less proper to hold out the stinking thing for the other to smell, as some are wont, who even urge the other to do so, lifting the foul-smelling thing to his nostrils and saying, “I should like to know how much that stinks,” when it would be better to say, “Because it stinks do not smell it.”
 This is not the behavior of eleventh-century gothic benightedness, but takes place in the brilliant lighting of the Italian Renaissance. [...] The sixteenth-century instances reveal that there were proper places to go to do one's duty, even if people occasionally had to be prodded to undertake the inconvenience of finding them and accepting them as the only permissible indoor places for it. The second passage reveals remarkable warrings of sensibilities. We have people so fastidious that it was better not to wash one's hands after excretion than to remind such people of what one had just been doing by washing them. But we also have people actually picking up disgusting things, presumably turds, in the street and thrusting them under their friends' noses. This behavior already has the air of studied ironical boorishness, parasitical on prior notions of its social unacceptability. The person doing this is trying to shock and he succeeds, shocking the author of the tract and us too who find such facts illusion-shattering about ages romanticized for us in novels and film. (p. 153)

No bloody wonder people didn't want to use them:
16th-century toilet according to Mexicowood
For the diehard OCD cases out there, here's what William Ian Miller has to say on handwashing in a footnote: "Those who will cling hard to the indefensible view that norms of disgust are matters of hygiene and disease avoidance should take note that it is better to suffer dirty hands than to remind the company of what had dirtied them by washing.” Now, if you'll excuse us, Hygeia is showing symptoms of what is either a nervous breakdown or a heart attack. Either way we should probably take her to the emergency room.

Let's all vow to do our best not to arouse disagreeable thoughts in people, shall we?

The sixteenth-century hygienic ideal: so very hard to live up to. Image from Shafe.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

A Note on Desperate Measures

We had planned a tasteful update with stunning pictures of beautiful toilets with mixer-taps and wrought-iron toilet-roll holders, of such refinement and allure that it brought actual tears to our eyes. But it will have to wait. Something came up.
A friend's announcement that she's considering moving to London, exposing herself, her husband, and their small child to the dangers of non-integrated taps, reminded us of the need for public information on this subject. Luckily, there is an excellent public information video available. Seriously, people. This information could save your life.

Armed and dangerous. Do not approach. Image from Youtube
 Also, as our friend the Assistant Curator at the Roman Bath Museum in York (see all posts related to this friend here) never tires of saying, there are solutions involving soda bottles. It's a desperate measure, but has been known to work.

Mixer tap made from plastic bottle. Image from Persistent Inappeasable Mind
View more solutions here. Do try this at home if circumstances require it, but be careful, and remember the advice from the video above.

Further reading: 
Are You British? Does Tap Sanity Elude You?
Tap into Pain
The History of Plumbing: A Recap
The Roman Bath Museum - Crap on a Stick
Nunc Est Lavandum - Bath-time!
Hypocausts - A Hot Topic!

Friday, 19 October 2012

Pure of Heart and Hand: Lund Cathedral

At the Privy Counsel, we tend to stick to plumbing-related activities, but there are roughly six billion people out there with other interests. For instance there are people who fight for their right to an education, and people who like jumping from space. This picture, comprising a summing-up of the two spheres of interest mentioned, has turned up in all kinds of contexts this week. We're hereby adding one more context.

Ricky Gervais on Twitter. Image from Tumblr.

Personally we usually favour science over religion - it seems to be more efficient when it comes to hygiene (although ritual hygiene, too, has its uses) - but we will acknowledge that it's not unknown for religious people to try to be helpful. Like the friendly souls at Lund Cathedral in Sweden, for instance. They reassure the potential visitor by pointing out, on their website, that there are public toilets available for the needy, near the cathedral.
"Lund Cathedral lies right in the centre of Lund. There is thus easy access to vehicle (bus) parking, cafés and public toilets. [...] Public toilets are available near the bus stop on the main road just north of the Cathedral main entrance."
 Ah. The weather may be chilly, but that warmed a gnarled old toilet blogger right to the heart! So come, all ye faithful - at Lund Cathedral, you can exercise religious purification and wash your hands!

Lund Cathedral. Image from Lundsdomkyrka.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

The Ackhorne: A Balm for Aching Cheeks

Bless our soul but it is frigid out there! Are your rosy cheeks being pestered by the frosty fingers of that hoary old North wind as well? On days like today (and yesterday, and tomorrow, and the day after that), one should round up a gaggle of sane and merry friends (unless, like us, you don't have any sane ones left, in which case you have to make do with the barmy ones), retire to the pub, AND STAY THERE. Keep knocking back the reviving fluids for as long as you retain the power to stay in your chair!
Here's a pub that we quite like. The staff are nice, the beer refreshing, and the carpets satisfactorily swirly.

Ah. The classic pub toilet! If you're looking at one of these,
you know you've followed the instructions above to the full. Well done.

The rude, healthy British tap, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Erm...
Bin in corner: tick. Tissue lying around: tick.
A very sturdy plastic hand-dryer.
A pub toilet without a carpet isn't a pub toilet.

The Ackhorne: achingly cosy. Image from Beoir

Let's round up a gaggle of points, shall we? Let us count the ways ... that's exactly 0 points.

Further Reading:
A Toilet Mystery
A Roaring Good Bog
Well, the Beer Is Good
Jorvik: In Rude Health

The Ackhorne
St. Martins Lane
York, North Yorkshire, YO1 6LN

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Blogging Something Rotten

Phew! What a week it's been! You must be fed up with staring at Eminem's face (or rather arse) from the last post, a whole week ago! We've got good news for you, though. It seems everyone's favourite toilet country, Denmark, has discovered the Privy Counsel! Those great Danes have, according to our readership statistics, spent the last few weeks doing very little else but reading your darling toilet blog! So we thought we'd reward them with a feature on a historical toilet from their own dear country. Voilà, here's Christian IV's toilet from Rosenborg Castle!

Christian IV's toilet. Image from Free City Guides

According to,
This room, formerly known as “The Secret", is the lowest of three toilets, each with its own disposal chute. Originally it had a door in the wall to the left leading to the bathroom (where the Garden Room is now situated).

There was a water cistern in the room used for flushing. The drain led to the moat which surrounds the Palace. During drier periods it was difficult to get water circulation into the moat, resulting in an unpleasant smell from below.

The stucco ceiling dates from the time of Christian IV and was probably made by Valentin Dresler. The blue and white tiles on the walls were put up in connection with Frederik IV's refurbishing of Rosenborg in 1705. The original tiles were Dutch and were delivered in 1706; some of them are still on the walls. Later – in the 19th century – they were supplemented with tiles originally made in 1736, in a factory in Store Kongensgade in Copenhagen for the "Dutch Kitchen" in the Hermitage Palace.
Christian IV, as Australian Friend knows, was a busy man. Not only did he have toilets installed, he founded cities and pawned royal jewellery left, right and centre, too!

Close-up of the beautiful Dutch-made tiles. Image from Our Travel Pics
Australian Friend spent a memorable day investigating the ins and outs of Rosenborg Castle, in the company of friends.


Further Reading:
We Receive a Postcard
Waltzing around Amalienborg
Sing If you're Glad to Be a Dane
Cowering in Copenhagen
On the Tiles
Christinehof: A Woman's Er, Bog Is Her, Er, Castle?
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