Sunday, 29 November 2015

Advent Musings: In Which We Rant and Ramble Aimlessly, and Don't Even Mention the Word "Toilet"

[content note: extensive vulgarity and exaggerated use of dependent clauses]

We are feeling rather smugger than usual at the moment. Today is, we have been informed by reliable sources, the first of advent, which word, as our sanest and most normal friend, the OED, informs us, means, basically, "arrival".

Here's a magnificently unhelpful and unreadable screenshot from the OED, of questionable legal status.

This has nothing in particular to do with anything, except that the Privy Counsel is rather more fragrant and attractively lit than usual, being resplendent with various lights and varieties of pine needles. Also we find ourselves marvelling at the sheer HELPFULNESS of PEOPLE, to the point where our eyes are shining with joy and appreciation in a rather sickening and repugnant manner.

Not just any people, obviously. Not the bickering couple behind us in the supermarket queue earlier today, or Australian Friend's psychotic boss, or the gobsmackingly rude people who daily congregate on Swedish trains. But for instance all the people who rallied round when we had to write an insanely boring essay on organisational theory. 

It strikes us as surreal that one can send a whingeing message to, say, Sheewee Fiend Friend, complaining about the indignity of having to write a boring essay on organisational theory, and wondering if she might know of any good books offering a feminist critique of neo-liberal politics*, and receiving, on the very same day, a whole damn reading list! We would like to extend our thanks to Shewee Fiend Friend, Shewee Fiend Friend's list-compiling friend, and all the other friends and relatives who gathered round and offered support and drinks during this difficult time.

Some attractive lighting at the Privy Counsel, representing the unholy trinity 
of intellectualism, alcoholism, and hardening the fuck up.

Apart from all the usual friendly encouragements like the sending of pictures of Elvis, the advocation of alcoholism as a way forward with academic writing, the exhortations to calm the fuck down, etc, we have had some rather marvellous news** from Australian Friend, who writes:

LOLL my cousin told me there's this expression in Australia I haven't heard before wherein if someone is whingeing you suggest that they take a 'concrete pill' - so that you can HTFU

HTFU, as all educated people know, is a delightful concept encompassing brio, zest, and chutzpah. The acronym stands for Harden The Fuck Up, and was popularised by Heath Franklin in his legendary imitation of the Australian gangster Chopper Read. Concrete pill! Hurrah!

Speaking of hardening the fuck up, we have a delightful message from Jonny. That loveable young idiot writes:
Decided to smash some gender stereotype barriers with this rather lovely bath.
Rain is pounding on the window and I have to say I'm relaxed as f*ck.
[Not pictured: massive lob-on]

Jonny being relaxed as fuck.

*The essay was supposed to be about organisational theory, but we reckoned we would end up decidedly less likely to throw ourselves out of the window in a desperate fit of depression and despair if we instead decided to engage in feminist critique of neo-liberal politics. If you can't laugh, what can you do?

**We believe we had, when setting out to write this blog post, an idea of linking this news to the concept of advent, remembering, from far-off school days, that "advent" was supposed to mean "good news" or similar. According to the OED, however, it doesn't, and we must conclude that our teachers were heartless harpies who lied to us to serve their own selfish ends.

We meant to post, for our Festive Video, The Beatles' With a Little Help from My Friends, but then we remembered that the Beatles of that phase were rather smug, repulsive people, and so we decided on this delightful Swedish Christmas song from the early '90s, that pinnacle era of culture and refinement, instead.

Festive Video - Lars Vegas Trio, Varje Dag Är Jul

Related Reading

All posts featuring Sheewee Fiend Friend
All posts featuring  Australian Friend
All posts featuring Jonny
All posts featuring the concept of HTFU
By the way, as far as we know, Jonny is still on the market

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Captivating Pictures

Tally-ho and a jolly good International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women to you! In case you are currently scratching your armpits, wondering what the hell such a day is in aid of, ponder the fact that one in three women worldwide has been subjected to physical or sexual violence. We have lit a candle for the survivors of domestic violence - and those who have died.

Gender roles may make people fucked up beyond belief, but we continue our quest, at the Privy Counsel, to highlight how awesome people can be. Mr Smith, for instance, sent us a message that made us laugh so loud we worried the window panes might shatter! That estimable and ventilation-aware gentleman writes:

A selection of toilet facilities courtesy of the state of California's federal penitentiary: Alcatraz

Alcatraz! Toilets! Alcatraz toilets!!!

 Dragon-Hunter Friend, also, has been busy on the epistolary front. She writes:

In Malaysia, I've discovered that you have to hope you end up with this...

Malaysian toilet
...and not this.

Malaysian squat toilet.

When I landed, the first toilet I found at the airport was the latter kind...looked all new and shiny, but was hiding the scary truth behind closed doors
 Because we happened to be quite drunk when the missive arrived, we replied enthusiastically:

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Asian toilets are AWESOME! So much more hygienic, when you think about it, than sitting on a seat that thousands of people have sat on! And you get a free Pilates workout! 

Dragon-Hunter Friend replied: 

Haha maybe so, but when you're carrying luggage around, and there's just a hole in the ground....lets just say my aim is not so true  ;)

We retorted with:

Eh. I used one in Italy, wearing ski boots, with a recently-torn-to-shreds knee ligament. It's all a matter of determination. 

Dragon-Hunter Friend's final reply was:

I think I've just got too many memories from French motorway stations when I was little, and getting my socks wet

Which is totally fair enough. NO TO WET SOCKS!

Just say no!
Finally, we have received a letter asking for advice. It says:

Dear Privy Counsel 
I have recently become a manager for the first time, and one of my subordinates is spending an inordinate amount of time on the toilet. How do I broach the subject? I mean, it could be anything from an unputdownable novel, to Chrohn's disease! Then again, perhaps this person has, at almost middle age, still not learnt to regulate his bowels. Please help.

We're fucked if we know. Thoughts? Any advice from our estimable and intelligent readers?

We've got a special treat in honour of
International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women - a kick-arse song from a kick-arse Australian metal band called The Amazons! This band doesn't exist any more, alas, but from what we've heard they took a lot of shit, while they were around, from men who felt threatened by their kick-arseness. So let's play this video, while snarling like the unapologetically awesome, lip-glossed drummer, and vow to SMASH THE PATRIARCHY YEAH. 

All posts featuring Mr Smith

All posts featuring Dragon-Hunting Friend

Laura Bates on violence against women:
Women are being assaulted, abused and murdered in a sea of misogyny 

An awesome movement: The White Ribbon Campaign

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Poetry in Motion - We Visit a Sewage Treatment Plant! | World Toilet Day 2015

We trust you've had your Thursday afternoon pub session and are ready to get it on with World Toilet Day without further preamble. Indeed, as Kick-Arse Suffragette Friend pointed out, today is not only World Toilet Day, but also International Men's Day! As we all know, it is important to give International Men's Day the attention it deserves. All that business of getting higher wages, getting promoted without any extra effort, and dominating leading positions in politics and finance worldwide must be EXHAUSTING. Give it up for the world's men, everyone!

Joking aside, more people have a mobile phone, these days, than a toilet. Not having access to a toilet leads, as regular readers should be well aware of by now, to a high risk of contracting several very unpleasant and dangerous diseases. For women, not having access to a toilet can also mean being at greater risk of being raped. As if that risk weren't great enough already.
As Jezebel writer Jia Tolentino says:

I spent a year living with a cell phone but no toilet once. Coincidentally—as coincidentally as the coincidence of [World Toilet Day and International Men's Day]—that was also a year in which I became extremely afraid of men.

In other words, the causes of hygiene and gender equality are intertwined - both are vital to human health and happiness!

In the interest of highlighting World Toilet Day, two of our intrepid correspondents braved the inclement weather and went to the sewage treatment plant in Källby, outside Lund, today! They were treated to an excellent and highly informative tour by a rampantly intellectual guide called Hanna! Hurrah!

No trip to the sewage treatment plant is complete without getting lost in the wild and savage woods surrounding Lund. Here's how happy our brave contributors were to find a sign saying "Reningsverket"!

The first part of the sewage treatment is getting rid of large objects by letting the sewage pass through a three-millimetre grid. After that, the sewage runs into these tanks, where grit is allowed to sink to the bottom and eventually get carted away and used for construction.

Things you should never, ever flush down the toilet include pantyliners. Like the one seen in this positively poetic picture showing November sunlight reflecting off some sewage!

Other things you should definitely not be putting down the bog are condoms. Apparently the inhabitants of Lund are more than averagely festive, and discard a fair few this way! (Don't get us wrong - condoms are an important tool in the battle against venereal disease. Like for instance our favourite disease syphilis or, to pluck a disease at random, genital herpes. But don't flush them down the damn toilet!)

More poetic sunlight reflecting off the tanks. We might have remembered what happens in these ones three hours ago, pre-pub, but now we're pretty much fucked, memory-wise. (At some point iron (III) chloride is added to the proceedings, which makes for a festive atmosphere down at the sewage treatment plant. It is definitely not here, however.)

Woof! "What happens here?" you might be asking yourself. A more adequate question would be, "What DOESN'T HAPPEN?" As far as we remember, bacteria live in these aerated tanks, and do unspeakably exciting things to phosphorus! WOOF!!!

Something else happens here. Possibly a certain amount of litres of water pass through this bit of the plant per minute. There was a mighty roar!

This is the final product and, if we remember what our knowledgeable and rampantly intellectual guide Hanna told us, this sludge is Revaq certified and can be used as fertiliser. The tank itself looks like something out of Dante's Inferno. (DON'T DROP YOUR PHONE HERE.)


Somewhere in the vicinity of this giant white cylinder, biogas is extracted. For instance, many of Lund's festive green buses run on biogas.

A Privy Counsel representative with our knowledgeable and rampantly intellectual guide, Hanna!

It seems wrong to NOT put rum in this mug!
In semi-related news, here's how one Privy Counsel member saw fit to celebrate World Toilet Day - with rum, and Caitlin Moran merchandise, in a glorious combination! Right on, sistah!
(As many of you know, Caitlin Moran sells awesome stuff for the benefit of Refuge, one of the many women's shelter organisations. (If you're feeling intellectually motivated, ponder for a moment why it is that there are so, so many women's shelters in this world.))

We spent a long time trying to think of a suitable Festive Video, possibly one illustrating a concept such as sanitation, handwashing, or non-violence. Unfortunately, however, we preceded our visit to the pub with a visit to the blood donation centre at the hospital (this is a Very Bad Idea, by the way - one should never, ever consume alcoholic beverages after giving blood), and we've been a bit unfocused ever since. So we're going to go with this song, simply because we think it's awesome. We could all do with some Marvin Gaye getting it on - just DON'T FLUSH CONDOMS DOWN THE TOILET! And remember that no means no! (And an absence of a rampantly enthusiastic YES! also means no.)

Festive video - Charlie Puth, Marvin Gaye

Related Reading
All posts featuring World Toilet Day

One of our favourite Toilet Day posts ever, featuring a rampant Australian talking passionately about methane gas

Information about World Toilet Day from Water Aid

If you have access to clean water, celebrate by joining the conga line in the Cholera Babe Parade!

Caitlin Moran's merchandise for the benefit of Refuge

The Refuge webiste

The sewage treatment plant in Källby

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Caitlin Moran Really Does Make Everything Better

It seems to us that we've spent a lot of time and energy bitching and moaning recently. We consider bitching and moaning an essential part of being human and will not apologise for it, though perhaps one day we will do some kind of linguistic analysis to determine if our propensity to bitch and moan increases during October and November (we suspect very much that it does).

However, good things do occasionally happen. (No, really. They do.) And when good things happen - listen carefully now, because we are about to impart an important piece of wisdom - it is important to celebrate! (As someone said, if you don't celebrate too soon, when will you ever get to celebrate? [This joke works better in Scandiwegian.])

For instance, we recently went to Copenhagen with two of our favourite Privy Counsel Friends* TO HEAR CAITLIN MORAN TALK ABOUT THE DANISH TRANSLATION OF HER BOOK HOW TO BUILD A GIRL. AND THEN WE DRANK SOME BEER, TO CELEBRATE.

Regular readers may think to themselves that we do little else at the Privy Counsel than go hear Caitlin Moran talk about Danish translations of books**. However, that would be an exaggeration. We have done many things recently, including, but not limited to:

- drinking too much beer
- setting out to have "just one drink" (hair of the dog), and actually having just one drink (hair of the dog)
- eating garlicky food
- teaching
- plotting the destruction of the patriarchy
- buying a new toner for the printer

But yes, we have also been to the Bella Center (to the amusingly named BogForum, in fact) in Copenhagen to hear Caitlin Moran, look at Caitlin Moran, and be made happy by being in the vicinity of Caitlin Moran!*** We have argued many times (for instance here, and here) that looking at pictures of Caitlin Moran can brighten a dark moment. The only thing better than looking at pictures of Caitlin Moran, obviously, is hearing Caitlin Moran speak.

Here's how happy some of the Privy Counsel Friends were to meet Caitlin Moran!
(There was a group hug. A GROUP HUG.)

This was the first toilet we acquainted ourselves with on our CatMo Oddyssey: in a portakabin outsdide the conference centre. This was a unisex toilet, and while we approve of the egalitarian efforts that have resulted in a spate of mixed-sex toilets in recent years, can we just say HOW MUCH WE HATE UNISEX TOILETS? Nobody wants to elbow their way through a sea of bearded hipsters to get to the sink. We cannot stress this enough.

The toilet inside the conference centre: clean and pleasant!
And entirely free of bearded hipsters!

The coat-hook was highly satisfactory.

The best feature of this toilet, however, was the bin!

Look! Cannily acknowledging that women do not have three hands, the designer of this bin has made it foot-operable! This simple move makes it approximately 180 % easier to not smear blood on everything in one's vicinity.
Can we have more women designers, please?

Having listened to Caitlin Moran talk about How to build a girl on two different stages (yes! We got to hear her twice! Hurrah for Denmark!), we moved on to get some food and Danish beer at Copenhagen Street Food. We have stated, in our manifesto against unisex toilets, our objection towards bearded hipsters. If you belong to the puzzlingly large portion of the population that LIKES bearded hipsters, then Copenhagen Street Food is the place for you! Indulge your sickest fantasies of being surrounded by bearded hipsters while eating hipster food and drinking hipster beer! Go for it! Do not, under any circumstances, restrain yourself! Hipster-fy yourself!

We can only conclude that hipsters like corrugated iron.

We'll leave it to the many cunning linguists among our readers to translate this.

Everyone likes graffiti! Especially, apparently, Danish hipsters.

*ok, that's actually a contradiction in terms - naturally ALL our Privy Counsel Friends are our favourite Friends. Though let us not forget that Bogsley Hansson Friend sent us Elvis stamps a little while ago, and is therefore slightly more of a favourite Friend than all our other favourite Friends, at the moment. (We accept presents of all shapes and sizes.)

**Last time we went to hear Caitlin Moran talk about the Danish translation of a book of hers was in September two years ago, and the ensuing blog post was called Caitlin Moran: Our Favourite Non-Toilet-Related Person!.

***Did that sound really creepy? Sorry.

We ought to have a festive video! Because we all need reminding that good things really do happen sometimes (Caitlin Moran might come to a conference centre near you!), and because Caitlin Moran notoriously likes Bruce Springsteen rather a lot, let's have some Bruce.

Festive video - Bruce Springsteen, Waitin' on a Sunny Day

Related Reading
Why we hate unisex toilets: Unisex Toilets -This Shit Gets Political
All posts featuring unisex toilets
All posts featuring Caitlin Moran

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

A Ray of Light From Spain

Quite possibly nobody noticed - at least we haven't received any emails from desperate, traumatised people* - but actually something weird and ominous happened recently.

We never wrote a Halloween blog post.

Regular readers will be aware that we have written a Halloween post every year since the very beginning of this blog. (If you're not quite as regular as other readers, by the way, you may have missed our recent post on the origins of the Privy Counsel - a tale of passion, violent struggle, and genital herpes!) But this year, there was no screaming bloody horror, no non-mixer taps, no weird fungal infections, no creepy dolls' eyes, no stuffed animals, no scary home-made alcohol, no blood-spattered home decorations, no meat-cleavers, no weird bits of garden hose, no electric water heaters, or any of the other traditional features of our Halloween posts.

We just thought the world was horror-filled enough as it is, and preferred to spend Halloween getting shitfaced and ranting about the patriarchy, rather than focusing on the un-dead, the un-plumbed, and the un-mixed.

To make up for our negligence, we have a special treat for you today - pictures from Audiologist Friend's trip to Spain! (Spain, by the way, as regular readers will also be aware, is on the record as being a SANE AND NORMAL COUNTRY THAT HAS ELECTRIC SOCKETS IN BATHROOMS.)

Audiologist Friend has been on a bit of a roll recently - she strolled into the Privy Counsel HQ kitchen just now looking suspiciously happy. When asked what the hell was wrong with her - sudden bursts of glee being grounds for distrust at the Privy Counsel - Audiologist Friend explained that her supervisor had tried his damnedest to find a weak spot in her work, and failed.
This is what is so great about our friends - their rampant intelligence and arse-kicking make the world a decidedly better place, despite all the horror!
We offer Audiologist Friend our sincerest contrafibularities, and hope that she will radiate smugness in the kitchen on many, many occasions.

Audiologist Friend writes:

Airb'n'b i Toledo, Spanien:
Fantastisk entré, badkar till höger som inte var något speciellt, en liten värmelampa ovanför toalettstolen - mycket uppskattat eftersom golvet var av sten och jättekallt. 
(Airb'n'b in Toledo, Spain:
Fantastic entrance, bath-tub on the right that was nothing special, a small heat lamp above the toilet - very appreciated since the floor was stone and really cold.)

We enjoy this blue shutter and the sunlight streaming in,
choosing to see it as a reminder that there are rays of light in this world.

Our eyes spy a mixer tap! And a rampantly intelligent Audiologist Friend!

We cannot, unfortunately, see the heater, but we feel better knowing that it is there.

*or indeed any emails at all, ever, from anyone. Except, obviously, spam.

After this welcome breeze of sanity from Audiologist Friend, we feel ready for a festive video. What's that? You want a rampant feminist mantra? Let's do it.

Festive video - Queen Latifah, U.N.I.T.Y.

Related Reading

All Halloween posts, ever:

Our groundbreaking report on the toilets of the British workplace:

The story of the origins of the Privy Counsel:
Five Fabulous (And Frightening) Years: The Story of the Privy Counsel

Our previous post on Spain, proving it to be  a SANE AND NORMAL COUNTRY THAT HAS ELECTRIC SOCKETS IN BATHROOMS
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