Saturday, 28 May 2016

If You Can Meet with Triumph and Disaster

We like, at the Privy Counsel, to be seen as competent people. When you are a self-professed intellectual, you set your standards high. As we mentioned the other week, we did battle with a circuit breaker and came out of it covered in dust and spitting teeth. However, in most areas of life we like to think of ourselves as clued-up and capable. Our source criticism is rigid, our soap is the monkey-friendly kind, and we wouldn't dream of using a semi-colon where a colon is clearly indicated.

But sometimes you fail. Sometimes, you find yourself - to borrow a story from Caitlin Moran to furnish us with a metaphor - in a taxi, having accidentally poured neat clove oil into the eye of a celebrity, and trying to rinse it out with a can of lukewarm Lilt. It happens. Sometimes, no matter how competent you are generally, you will fuck up royally, and your cheeks will burn with shame. And that's ok. As we never tire of saying at the Privy Counsel, we are only human - and some of us barely that. It's totally fine to embarrass yourself and make people angry with your half-arsed blundering. As Our Favourite Aunt pointed out, you might even be doing them a favour - a brief cease-fire in your ordinary barrage of breathtaking skill and flair might be a nice break for everyone else, who has been feeling quietly inadequate in the light of your dazzling sufficiency.

We received a message from Tudor Friend, that purveyor of toilet news good and bad, accompanied by a link to this article about a brewery that has revolutionary toilets.  The toilets mentioned embody, we think, the trope of the high ambition sadly trampled by an utter failure to achieve high standards. Tudor Friend said:

God, would you ever have thought, when you started your blog/fascination, that TOILETS would suddenly become an issue on everyone's lips?* (That... that sounds wrong, now that I read it again. But I'm leaving it because maybe you need a giggle.) Anyway, curious about your thoughts on this- it doesn't solve the horrible-hipster-at-the-sink problem, but it does seem to offer everyone a modicum of privacy in a fairly equitable fashion (I have never understood how guys can stand next to one another and wee!!). 
It's not quite the Eden of actual separate fully-plumbed gender-neutral toilet rooms, and it would be a lot better if the stalls ran right up to the roof to create something closer to separate space, but I have to give them credit for trying to find a fix, as I fear individual complete bathrooms are never going to catch on financially. (I also rather like that it doesn't appear to have mirrors. I'm kind of okay with de-primpifying bathrooms and making us think less about how we look all the time, but that might just be me.)

The toilets in the Optimism Brewery, in Seattle

Although we revere Tudor Friend's opinions to the the point of near-idolatry, in this matter, we don't agree. The story of the above brewery toilet has been bandied about on social media as the dernier cri in inclusive toilet-related equality of late. However, we have several reservations.

First of all, why bother with urinals at all? If one of the reasons for having a gender-integrated bathroom was that guys have more stalls than girls, why then make half the stalls in said gender-integrated bathroom unavailable to women? (Unless of course all the womenfolk are packing a shewee. We really hope they are.) We frankly don't see the point.

Secondly, the stalls, although seemingly made of sturdy, noise-insulating wood, don't, as Tudor Friend points out, go all the way to the ceiling. Can this horror cease now, please? Bathroom stalls need to ensure privacy, and that includes being noise-insulating.

Thirdly - and we can't believe we are still having to point this out - NOBODY WANTS TO ELBOW THEIR WAY THROUGH A SEA OF BEARDED HIPSTERS TO GET TO THE SINK. We cannot stress this enough.

Regarding the mirror issue, we see the sense of Tudor Friend's stance and would dearly love to be able to agree, but being fanatic wearers of eyeliner and obsessors of hair, we really, really, really want a mirror available in the bathroom.

In conclusion: No to non-noise-insulating stalls. No to bearded hipsters. Yes to safe spaces and mirrors. Full points to the owners of the Optimism Brewing Company for wanting to provide toilets that are safe for everyone, and friendly to trans people. We really, really appreciate it. But alas, we cannot bring ourselves to approve.

We move, now, into the realm of poetry. Readers, brace yourselves.

Quite a useful poem to remember odd snippets of when you are flailing wildly, making odd squeaking noises and spectacularly failing to impress people is Rudyard Kipling's "If". This poem was written by Kipling in 1910, and made popular by Helen Fielding in Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, from 1999. Bridget Jones finds comfort in this poem when in a very sticky situation indeed, musing:
Poem is good. Very good, almost like self-help book. Maybe that is why Mark Darcy gave it to me! Maybe he sensed I might get into danger! Or maybe he was just trying to tell me something about my attitude. Bloody cheek. Not sure about sixty seconds' worth of distance run anyway, or if actually want to be man. Also is a bit hard to treat this disaster the same as triumphs as have not had any triumphs that can think of, but still. Will force heart and nerve and sinew to serve turn, etc. in manner of First World War or jungle soldier or whatever Rudyard Kipling was and just hold on. 
(Helen Fielding, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. London: Picador, 1999) 
The poem itself, in all its "lip stiff and upper" glory, goes like this:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings—not lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a man, my son!

As Caitlin Moran pointed out, this is a very useful poem - if you are a man. If you happen not to be a man (a calamity affecting roughly 50 % of the population), there is no poem specifically designed to make you feel better when you are panicking about a press release you wrote that contained factual errors. There is no poem to calm you down when you've spilled mayonnaise AND red wine on a yellow satin skirt. There is no poem containing guidance on how to change your tampon in the toilet of a moving train. However, Caitlin Moran has changed all that! Here, for your delight and edification, is Caitlin Moran's "The Woman's If".

Festive Video - Caitlin Moran, "If" I Were a Woman

Now, we recommend that you all chill the fuck down, stop worrying about that time when you accidentally poured boiling water on someone's foot, and spend the weekend watching Outlander and drinking whisky.

*We can't remember having any thoughts at all around the time we started this bog blog, but no, as far as we remember, we were the only people in the entire world, at the time, who cared about the quality of toilets. We certainly didn't expect transphobia to make toilets an international news item.

Related Reading
All posts featuring Tudor Friend
All posts featuring unisex toilets
All posts featuring gender equality
All posts featuring Caitlin Moran
All posts featuring Our Favourite Aunt

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Medievalist Musings

We are not fond, as regular readers are aware, of religion at the Privy Counsel. We do however like churches, provided they are old and of historic interest.
Neither are we fans of the institution of marriage, but we do acknowledge that many people consider lurching down the aisle to be a reasonable use of their time. We are therefore happy to announce that a member of the Privy Counsel has gone and got hitched - congratulations, Medievalist (With a Side-Interest in Roman Archaeology) Friend! From what we can tell from the photos, this Roman archaeology enthusiast looked, on her wedding day, as beautiful as the dawn breaking over Istanbul, and radiated intellectualism!

One church we have mixed feelings about is the one in Uppåkra, outside Lund. We like that it is situated on the site of the ancient pagan centre of what was once part of a Danish kingdom, and which is today the site of extensive archaeological excavations. However, we are distressed that the church was built in the 1860s, replacing the previous church from the Middle Ages. Brutal 19th-century cultural vandalism aside, one thing speaking in Uppåkra church's favour is its toilet. It is very, very clean, and is open to visitors, whether they are into invisible sky beings or not.

A no-nonsense tap, soap, and paper-towel dispenser combo.

The toilet is also straightforward and to the point, with a water-saving flush and easy-access cleaning products.

This sign uses the first line of a well-known prayer for children and other gullible people,
to politely remind persons using the facilities to close the lid. We approve!

We enthused last week about it being the season for bird cherry. The wonderful white blooms have now nearly all gone, but instead lilac season has kicked off! Let us enjoy some pictures of these sweet tokens of spring, while it bloody lasts.


Lilacs by night!

Cherry blossoms are also happening.

There has been a lot of sexism this week. Can we all please agree that in order to do anything - anything - to another person or one of their body parts, one must have their permission?! If you are one of the many people who apparently find consent a difficult idea to get your head round, try watching this video.

The rest of us, meanwhile, will get on with today's Festive Video. This song has been playing on repeat at Privy Counsel HQ this week. It explores a familiar concept - that of the dude who WILL. NOT. TAKE. A. FUCKING. HINT. If you have ever restrained yourself, despite grave aggravation, from pushing a mansplainer into a lake, out of a window, or over a cliff - you have our admiration and respect.

Festive Video - Maddie & Tae, Shut Up and Fish

Related Reading

The festschrift we wrote to Medievalist (With a Side-Interest in Roman Archaeology) Friend 
when she finished her PhD:
Hungover Ranting: Festschrift to Medievalist (With a Side-Interest in Roman Archaeology) Friend

All posts featuring Medievalist (With a Side-Interest in Roman Archaeology) Friend

All posts featuring Weddings

Our classic post about the dawn breaking over Istanbul: 
Rosy-Fingered Dawn (But No Bloody Lock on the Door) in Istanbul

Another church we visited semi-recently:

Saturday, 7 May 2016

In Which We Express Our Gratitude to Electricians Springing Into Action

YES! That is right - that is indeed the scent of bird cherry in full bloom!

As regular readers are aware, we have a thing about bird cherry. We would even go so far as to claim that the brief period when the delightful Prunus padus is in bloom is the best time of the year!

All the signs that summer might return and that we might - at least on a philosophical plane - not be completely fucked, have been making themselves manifest in a joyfully unrestrained manner! After many days of rain (of both the physical and the metaphorical kind) the sun has been making up for all the bullshit by burning our skin until it really hurts, blackbirds have been tooting and doing rude things to each other in the shrubberies in order to ensure the continuation of the species, and the big creepy wasps have started worming their way in through the ventilation system and buzzing angrily around while we have been trying to work. (As anyone who knows us is aware, we are only too happy to get an excuse to procrastinate, even if it means running the risk of getting a wasp sting in the neck and slowly suffocating to death.)

In short, spring is definitely here! Let us celebrate by pondering some light-hearted pictures!

First out is a hope-inspiring message from Shewee Fiend Friend, who writes:
Public message on New York subway.

The message reads:
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze
  • Cough or sneeze into the bend of your arm if you don't have a tissue
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • If you think you have the flu, stay home until your fever is gone at least 24 hours without a fever reducer 

We of course have some criticism to offer here, the main thrust of which is this:
As demonstrated by Mythbusters, sneezing into a tissue is basically no better than sneezing directly into your hand. (Please, for the love of God, don't sneeze into your hand. Thank you.) SNEEZE INTO YOUR GODDAMN ELBOW.

That ended up not being very light-hearted. Let's try these delightful pictures from Bogsley Hansson Friend.


Is this a sign pointing out where the spare loo roll is kept? If so, we approve!

For anyone who finds the intersection between toilet-related matters and feminism as fascinating as we do, there is this article on the 1970s fight against pay toilets, sent to us by Tudor Friend, to ponder in a haze of happiness this weekend.

We also received a link to a fantastic article from Australian Friend called Fantastic invention stops men weeing in the streets. It's a toilet. Really, the title says it all.

Speaking of feminism, we had a situation recently which set us thinking. We have been pondering fuse boxes, and wondering why we have never been forced to take a crash course in fuse box management. We like to think that we are reasonably competent, at the Privy Counsel, when it comes to practical things - changing a blown fuse, reversing accidental use of Caps Lock, persuading a reluctant horse to take the bit into its mouth - things like that. However, nobody ever told us how to identify a circuit breaker in a really old building. And, though we like to think that we are experts at finding things on the internet, this is rather challenging when your computer is slowly dying of old age and can only handle 20 minutes without electricity, and your phone is also caving in to dementia, and refuses to show you pictures of fuse boxes or in any other way communicate with you. We won't bore you with the details, but we would like to thank the friendly electrician who drove 40 kilometres on his night off just to flick our circuit breaker (not a euphemism).

We would also like to thank the friends who reassured us that just because you don't know something about a traditional male field doesn't make you a bad woman/feminist. On that note, let us have a festive video! Today's festive video comes to us courtesy of Tudor Friend, and we have no idea if it is ironic or not. What do you think?

Tudor Friend says:
This is hilarious, brilliant, and I bet at least ten eejits out there fall for it and go out to find this product. May they experience all the joy of bum-splinters!

Festive video - Quilted Northern Rustic Weave, Artisanal Toilet Paper

Related Reading

Previous posts featuring bird cherry:
In Which We Indulge in Poetry and Out-of-Context French Expressions
Cracking Some Suds in Kreuzberg

Jezebel pictorial on the 1970s feminist fight against pay toilets:
The 1970s Feminist Fight Against Pay Toilets

An excellent article on the fantastic invention that stops men weeing in the streets:
Fantastic invention stops men weeing in the streets. It's a toilet.

Another message that started with an enthusiastic "yes"

All posts featuring Shewee Fiend Friend
All posts featuring Bogsley Hansson Friend
All posts featuring Tudor Friend
All posts featuring Australian Friend

Don't miss our most popular Friend Quote ever, Semi-Intellectual Friend's take on the concept of irony - available in the post Foul Play, also Fowl Issues.

Also, everyone keeps telling us to Get Yer Bags Together, Channing Tatum Has Announced a Live Magic Mike Show in Vegas, so we might as well share it here, too.
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