Tuesday, 28 June 2016

We Don't Want to Foist Our Opinions on Anyone, But

You know how sometimes you end up drinking schnapps with three young men from the navy on Midsummer's Eve? And it turns out they know an astonishing amount of drinking songs? And then, soon after that, somebody invites you to have a look at their archive? (Not a euphemism.) And how sometimes, even after that, other good things keep happening? To the point where you start to feel paranoid, and your eyes dart back and forth crazily while your mouth forms itself into a lopsided demented grin whenever you talk to someone? Well, that is what life is like at Privy Counsel HQ at the moment.

Also, have you noticed that the lime trees are in bloom? If you haven't, don't worry - we have done it for you! Lime trees, as we all know, have a delightful scent when in bloom and have inspired Germany's most poetic street name, Unter den Linden.

Lime trees in their most rampant phase of loveliness.
Image from deboragarden.

Other flowers that are in bloom at the moment are honeysuckle, roses, and elderflower. Our friend Maureen Helen frequently blogs about flowers and other mindfulness-inducing phenomena, and we don't see why we should lag behind. Thus we are now going to talk at you about flowers, whether you want us to or not.

We exhort you to get a snootful of honeysuckle as soon as possible,
for the sake of your health and relative sanity.

If at all possible we should all be stopping to smell the roses.
We simply cannot think of anything more enjoyable (especially on a day when one's drinking-schnapps-with-three-young-men-from-the-navy quota has already been filled).

Elderflower is supremely useful. Not only is it an effective medicinal herb, but elderflower cordial goes superbly with all kinds of alcohol, and makes for a jovial evening and cordial relations.

An elderflower tree in the vicinity of Privy Counsel HQ. We didn't actually know it was there until a friend kindly pointed it out, which is somewhat embarrassing, but in our defense it is too dark to see anything for nine months of the year where we are, and also we spend most of our time at a computer ranting about toilets and sexism, not  in the wild outdoors staring at trees.

We suspect that our intelligent readers are now extremely impatient for some toilet pictures. We seldom, in our own humble opinion, disappoint, so here you are! Our Mum, who hates football, sent us a message last night announcing her defiant intention of watching the Iceland-England game, hoping to see "Iceland beat the crap out of England". Those who voted pro-Brexit, thereby risking the political and economic stability of the entire European Union, are presumably not aware of the fury they have unleashed. Let us hope, for their sake, that they don't run into Our Mum when she is in a fuming rage ranting about the idiocy of Brexit!

Iceland, as we all know by now, did beat the crap out of England, which led to a certain grim satisfaction in the Bremain camp, though ultimately a football victory does little to undo the political chaos and rampant racism of recent days. But still. The people of Iceland are our heroes today, and what better way to celebrate than by enjoying pictures from the toilets in Reykjavík's Hallgrímskirkja? Well, quite. We ventured into our archive (which, as regular and perhaps semi-regular readers are aware, we imagine as a crypt out of The Monk, no doubt for sane and normal reasons) to retrieve these specially. Verði ykkur að góðu!

Sturdy, functional and very, very clean - just what you'd expect of a church in Reykjavík.

We cannot applaud this simplicity and cleanliness enough.

Words cannot describe how much we love this sturdy coat-hook.

We do not love this kind of scented soap, but it does the job and we will not rant needlessly.

We couldn't help but feel very, very smug when spotting this Swedish Mora tap.

Since we're on the topic of politics, may we suggest, if anyone with any influence in the Labour party happens to be reading, that you put a woman (if you are unsure what this is, see a helpful definition here) forward for leadership? We are not huge fans of party politics, but clearly the Tory party consists entirely of lunatics, and a change of government now seems indicated, both in terms of political spectrum, and in terms of sex. We don't want to foist our opinions on anyone, but CAITLIN MORAN FOR PRIME MINISTER!!!

Before we move on to today's festive video, here is a delightful postcard that we received from Tudor Friend, who has been to Haworth to visit the Brontë museum. As regular readers are aware, the Brontës are our heroes, and we think that the below quote by Charlotte Brontë adequately summarises the raison d'être of this blog.

Charlotte Brontë was a woman who wrote books. Yes, really.
Reinforcing our point that Caitlin Moran should be the next prime minister of Britain (or whatever the hell we should now call this country), here is her "advice to creatives".

Festive Video - Caitlin Moran, Inappropriate Advice for Creatives

Related Reading
Our friend Maureen Helen's philosophical blog

All posts featuring Our Mum

All posts featuring rants

All posts featuring Iceland

Not forgetting, of course, The Best Toilet in Iceland

All posts featuring churches

We once created a helpful abridged version of Jane Eyre

All posts featuring Tudor Friend

All posts featuring Caitlin Moran, whom we love to distraction

We actually get political surprisingly often for a toilet blog. For instance we once wrote a post called Love, Politics and the Revolution.

Friday, 24 June 2016

International Musings

Well, today is a sad day. Today, we found out the result of the Brexit referendum. Still. An upper lip as stiff as one's whisky, what?

The Privy Counsel is an international community of intellectuals (with emphasis, sometimes, on "international" rather than "intellectuals"). Our contributors and friends come from all sorts of countries, and all sorts of backgrounds. If it were not for the EU, the Privy Counsel would not exist.

And international we shall remain. And also inclusive, open-minded, and determined to fight hate with the weapons available to us - our humour, our intellects, and our hearts.

Here's how we actually feel. Or, as Laurie Penny put it, "All I can think of is: I will love fiercer, I will work harder, I will write faster, I will not give in to fear".

We have some delightful inclusive and international toilets to admire today, courtesy of Audiologist Friend, who writes:
Tror inte jag besökt en mindre toalett än denna! Lite utedass-känsla när en inte får spola ner pappret (servetter?!) i toan. Danmarks hippaste grød-matställe. Det heter Grød!
(Don't think I have visited a smaller toilet than this one! Kind of an outdoor-privy kind of feeling, when one can't flush the toilet paper (napkins?!) down the toilet. Denmark's hippest grød eatery. It's called Grød!)

A polite sign, representing the courtesy we strive towards encouraging at the Privy Counsel.

A seriously shit tap, highly reminiscent of the kind of typical British tap that makes all right-thinking people gnash their teeth in frustration and nourish fervent hopes that British people would a) travel more widely in countries that have functioning plumbing - perhaps even work or study in one, thanks to the EU's facilitation of work migration, and b) adopt functioning plumbing in their own country.

Another polite - and urgent - sign. This reminds us of toilets in countries like India, or Greece.
where one often can't flush toilet paper.

A sad receptable of refuse, shoved into a corner - a metaphor for Britain's political future?

We have heard of establishments serving porridge taking over London's gentrified areas, and are of course delighted that they now fortify and sustain the hard-working hipsters of Copenhagen, too.

Staying with today's focus on internationalism, here is a message from Semi-Intellectual Friend:

How have you not got a hand on this article?

That is of course a very good question, and one that we are woefully ill-equipped to answer. We are pleased, however, to note that the toilet in Þórsmörk, Iceland, mentioned in the article, is one that Audiologist Friend has kindly sent us pictures from in the past.

Let's finish off with an international greeting from German Friend, who kindly sent us a useful yet decorative (one of our favourite combinations!) calendar featuring toilets from around the world last Christmas:

"A clean bathroom speaks well of its user."

People seem to have been posting rather a lot of Sex Pistols videos on social media today, leading us to select one for today's Festive Video, primarily due to the words "There is no future, and England's dreaming". Still, let's remember those other words as well.

We're off now, to drink ourselves into a stupor for the rest of the afternoon. Happy midsummer's eve!

Festive Video - The Sex Pistols, God Save the Queen

Related Reading
Audiologist Friend's report from Þórsmörk: Þórsmörk, Iceland: Some Light Relief
All posts featuring Audiologist Friend
All posts featuring Semi-Intellectual Friend
All posts featuring German Friend

Saturday, 18 June 2016

To Fire with Enthusiasm - On Sexual Harassment

Things are  dark. The problem with following mainly feminists on Twitter is you get a LOT of depressing news stories about rapes, and the reasons given for not punishing a perpetrator found guilty. Every thirty seconds spent scrolling through one's Twitter feed is another story of a criminal being let off pushed into one's face. The reasons for not punishing men who commit violence against women are usually something along the lines of, "Because he has a job", "Because he is really, really good at swimming", or "Whatever. The four guys raping a terrified girl in a ship's cabin didn't technically prevent her from leaving, so it wasn't a real rape".

We are illustrating this post with consent images.
All consent images from the awesome Föreningen Tillsammans Twitter account, unless otherwise stated.

Sometimes one has to work very hard to see the bright spots. But they tend to be there, if you squint hard enough. Friends, fortunately, are good sources of light.

As Shewee Fiend Friend said, "But there was this success story this morning! It's not all bad! We will win!" Or, as another friend of ours remarked, "One has to be happy just to be alive". (This is a person who has left everything behind to flee a war zone, so she must know what she's talking about.) Also, our friend Rebecca Nice started talking very loudly about the sexual harassment she was subjected to by her History Programme Leader at Winchester University, which is awesome on so many levels.

"Consent - it's simple as tea." You can make someone a cup of tea, but if they don't want it, or if they're unconscious or asleep, you can't force them to drink.
Image from rockstardinosaurpirateprincess

And we went to Copenhagen Airport to talk to one of the managers about the steps they have taken to prevent sexual harassment from happening in the security check ever again!

You may remember us venting our fury at reporting sexual harassment at the airport, and having absolutely sod-all happen, back in October. The internal inquiry took so long that, by the time we got around to making a police report, the CCTV footage had already been deleted, leading to the police investigation being closed due to a lack of evidence.

The customer service team sent us an apology, which we found woefully inadequate. We weren't interested in being apologised to - we wanted the airport to bloody well prevent its staff from harassing women!

Harassment is intended to intimidate. According to a study conducted by the FRA, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, in 2014, over 50 % of Danish women have been subjected to physical or sexual violence, and between 70 and 80 % have been sexually harassed. The Everyday Sexism Project Denmark bears witness to the physical, sexual and verbal violence that women in Denmark are subjected to, every day. The constant exposure to threats and violence means that women's freedom of movement is reduced, and thus constitutes a threat to democracy. Basically, if you're scared to step out the door, or voice your opinion, or get on a plane, due to a fear of being harassed, you may find it challenging to exercise your democratic rights and duties.

Physical and sexual violence is not a women's problem. It is a human rights problem. The UN recognises sexual harassment as a form of violence against women. The EU recognises the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of sex (according to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union), and further demands that its member states ensure the right to equal treatment between men and women in all areas, including employment, work and pay, vocational training, and access to goods and services. This means that all forms of sexual harassment are a breach of human rights as defined by the EU and the UN.

However, it seemed to us that Copenhagen Airport were perfectly happy to let their staff sexually harass women with impunity.

Kick-arse quote by Maisie Williams

But. The article in Politiken by Anne Lea Landsted, and the subsequent flood of complaints from other women claiming to have been sexually harassed, did cause the airport to review its routines.

A friend of ours, who works at Copenhagen Airport, got us a meeting with one of the managers. The manager in question explained that the airport has implemented three changes to its procedures, intended to protect customers from sexual harassment, and make sure that it is enquired into properly if a complaint is made. The changes are:

1) Only female staff will conduct body searches on female passengers. Copenhagen Airport formerly had a policy of letting both male and female officers search both male and female passengers. We think it would be wonderful if such a policy were possible, as it would mean that men and women were able to interact without harassment happening. However, due to there being an uneven power balance between staff and passengers (most people are not very likely to react when sexually harassed, and especially not when they've just handed their passport over and are being subjected to a humiliating ritual involving strangers touching their armpits), we don't think that kind of arrangement is feasible. So well done, Copenhagen Airport, for facing the facts and not letting male staff do body searches on women!*

2) The airport is storing CCTV footage for a month, not two weeks as previously. The airport recognises that a person subjected to sexual harassment in the security control may wait until he or she gets home before filing a complaint. This means that by the time you do, the footage may already have been deleted, or will be by the time the police get around to investigating. Storing the footage for longer means that inquiries will be facilitated, and that police investigations will hopefully not be closed due to lack of evidence.

3) An amendment has been made to the internal notification system, to ensure that a complaint made isn't lost in a sea of messages on a busy day.

Also, we have been assured that if a member of staff is found to have harassed someone, they will be fired immediately. Obviously, keeping CCTV footage for  longer will help in this matter.

We find the procedural changes at Copenhagen Airport to be hope-inspiring. As we commented to Tudor Friend,

"If nothing else they have an economic incentive to prevent harassment - they don't want to be known as the pervy airport!"

Tudor Friend promptly replied,

"Yes, 'Welcome to Denmark, home of the PervPort' doesn't really encourage tourism."

Going off on a bit of a tangent, she continued,

"'PervWorld Airlines: Come Fly the Friendly Skies. And we really mean the Friendly'."

At this point we felt the need to interrupt Tudor Friend before we both suffered irreparable damage to our respective psyches.

Hell, this is supposed to be a bog blog - let's have some toilets! Some hope-inspiring toilets!

The below pictures are from one of the restaurants at the Tivoli in Copenhagen, the capital of what used to be everyone's favourite toilet country, Denmark. One used to be able to access these fancy toilets through the café opposite the central train station, which we have enjoyed gorging on cakes in on many occasions, for instance with Intellectual Friend and Danish Friend. However these bombastic bogs have, we discovered on a subsequent visit, been made inaccessible to hoi polloi. One can no longer just stroll down from the café to use the loo - one has to be a guest at the actual Tivoli restaurant. Access denied. The way is shut. Bugger off.

Let us think of the Tivoli restaurant toilets as a metaphor for women's bodies - ACCESS DENIED UNLESS YOU HAVE BEEN GRANTED ENTHUSIASTIC PERMISSION.

Mere consent is not enough - don't settle for less than rampant enthusiasm!
Image from Buzzfeed
Right? Let's move on.

These toilets are so fancy we die a little inside. (But not before huffing at the subjunctive tap.)

We note the spare bog roll with approval, but scorn the non-covered toilet roll holder.

A flush button console doubling as a mirror - what's not to like?

Only two words cover this situation, and those words are HUBBA! HUBBA!

A stylish and functional coat-hook - our favourite kind!

A soap promising actual resurrection? A bit too high-brow for us.


We had intended to make today's Festive Video a feminist anthem. But then we came across this absolutely kick-arse video of Dolly Parton imitating Elvis, and lost all sense of proportion. We have realised that THIS IS WHAT WE HAVE ALWAYS WANTED TO DO. HOW CAN WE FIND A WAY TO MAKE A LIVING DOING ELVIS COVERS - WHILE DRESSED AS DOLLY PARTON?

(Do drop us a line if you figure out a way.)

Festive Video - Dolly Parton, All Shook Up

Australian Friend came to visit us recently, and passed safely through the Copenhagen Airport security check, without being harassed. Hurrah!

*In case you feel inclined to go off on one of the highly unproductive and short-sighted "not all men" rants: 98 % of all acts of sexual violence are committed by men. Most of these acts of violence are directed at women, some at men. But only 2 % are committed by women.

Related Reading
Our account of the struggle to get sexual harassment investigated: On Violence Against Women

A follow-up post, where we were still waiting to hear from the police, and were applauding Shewee Fiend Friend's kick-arse antics: One Battle Won, But the War Ain't Over

Anne Lea Landsted's leader article in Politiken, about being fed up with being sexually harassed in the airport security check: Er Københavns Lufthavn ude i sikkerhedstjek eller sexchikane

Rebecca Nice's public Instagram post announcing her intention to talk loudly about sexual harassment: I WAS SEXUALLY HARASSED

An awesome blog about sexual harassment: Feminist Killjoys

An excellent article on sexual entitlement from Everyday Feminism:  How Male Sexual Entitlement Hurts Everyone

Another rant of ours about the patriarchy: Love, Politics and the Revolution

A post about one time when we visited the Tivoli wih Australian Friend: Sing If You're Glad to Be a Dane

All posts featuring Shewee Fiend Friend

All posts featuring Tudor Friend

All posts featuring Intellectual Friend

All posts featuring Danish Friend

The problem with Subjunctive Taps

We usually feel compelled, when ranting about the patriarchy, to point out that we have many male friends who would never dream of acting in a sexist or boorish manner. Some of them may be found featured under the following labels (in alphabetical order):

Bogsley Hansson Friend
Czech Mate
German Friend
Intellectual Friend
Mr Smith
Obsessive Emmerdale Fan Friend
Semi-Intellectual Friend
Uncle Sean

Monday, 6 June 2016

In a Pretty Pickle

We're not saying we haven't been productive today. We're just saying we have spent most of the day carpeing the diem in no uncertain manner, and, having wrapped ourselves round a bottle of cava, a bottle of rosé, and some beer we forgot to pay for, we are now rather woozy and inclined to sentimentality.

We may or may not have mentioned Lunds studentskegård in a previous post. This Lund institution has provided accommodation for women students of limited means since 1938. A donation had originally been made to erect a building to provide accommodation for male students, but Lunds Kvinnliga Studentförening, the women students' society, entered on a campaign of petitioning to make the accommodation one for women students instead.

The reason for the women students' society's energetic campaigning was, simply, that there was no accommodation available for women students in Sweden in the 1920s and 1930s. Women had gained the right to study at university (except of course law and theology, because God forbid women should end up in positions of authority) in Sweden round about the 1870s, but women students were still viewed with suspicion. A woman living on her own must, according to the mores of the day, be promiscuous and immoral, and the city's landladies hesitated to take women lodgers.

To make a long story short, a university lecturer called Asta Kihlbom, who was chairwoman of the women students' society, took it upon herself to make accommodation for women students become a reality. Thanks to Kihlbom's unremitting arse-kicking, Lunds studentskegård was built in 1937, and the first tenants moved in during 1938. Women students now had a safe and clean environment, with mixer taps, in which to live and study.

A collaborative, democratic spirit reigned from the outset, and still does. Solidarity was an important concept to the early women students, and arrangements were made for visiting scholars to stay at Studentskegården for a modest fee. Indeed, simple but clean accommodation is still available to friends and fellow academics.

We learned today (before we got drunk, and while we were still academically productive) that the green-tiled shower room in the basement at Studentskegården was in fact made available, in the early days, to women students who were in accommodation elsewhere in the city, but whose landladies wouldn't let them hang up their washing (as we all know, female undergarments are inherently shameful, if not downright dangerous) or even use the bath. We have no citeable source on this information, but Audiologist Friend heard it from somebody whose name we can't remember, so we are taking it as gospel. Anyway, look how pretty and clean the shower room is! The mixer tap inspires such confidence, don't you think? Woof!

The stylish green-tiled shower room at Lunds studentskegård, made available to women students who had no access to washing facilities.
An unintentionally hilarious newspaper article about Lunds studentskegård from 1941 bears the headline "While the Bachelor of Arts irons, the Bachelor of Medicine pickles eggs". The notion of women academics living together and cooking their own food was hugely confusing to almost everyone in the 1930s and '40s.

Women were classified as either housewife material, in which case ironing and pickling eggs were suitable activities, or as society hostess material, in which case they were not. Women students, who would potentially make careers and earn their own keep (although the article, mentioned above and pictured below, cites the women students saying coyly that "the sewing machine has been made to make several trousseaus - the girls are busy getting married at this place!"), transcended the traditional classifications, which is why this newspaper felt the need to explain their activities to its readers.

When Studentskegården was still in the planning stages, the issue of whether to install kitchens caused an actual, bona-fide furore, with one phalanx arguing that students, even if they happened to be female, had no business in a kitchen, and another phalanx retorting that women of limited means, even if they happened to be students, might find it useful to have access to a kitchen and not have to eat every meal out. In the end the pro-kitchen party won.

An unintentionally hilarious newspaper article from 1941

Students in the communal kitchen they almost didn't get, in 1941

Students enjoying the lush garden surrounding Studentskegården, in the spring of 1943.
We might have spent the afternoon in this garden, drinking wine like there is no tomorrow.

The article reproduced (in very poor quality - our apologies) above ends by wondering whether, if Studentskegården were ever to produce a Great Woman, she would be "a Madame Curie or a Cajsa Warg" (a legendary cook - like a Swedish Mrs Beeton but a century earlier).
In the end it turned out she was a historian. Birgitta Odén, Sweden's first female history professor and Lund University's first female professor, lived at Lunds studentskegård in the 1940s. If Odén hadn't had access to safe, intellectually inspiring accommodation, Sweden would probably have had to wait a couple of decades longer before it got a female history professor.

Time for a Festive Video! Our day has basically been like this, except we weren't at the beach, and our friends wore more clothes.

Festive Video - Little Big Town, Day Drinking

Related Reading
All posts featuring Lund
All posts featuring Audiologist Friend
Posts featuring tiles

Friday, 3 June 2016

Kicking the Ass of Ignorance

The popularity of Jane Eyre is spreading faster than the clap in a Renaissance coastal town. A friend of ours (who shall remain mercifully anonymous) turned out to have never read this respected work of literature, "because she doesn't like Jane Austen".
You see, readers, what truly hellish depths of ignorance we do battle with here at the Privy Counsel? Nevertheless, it seems said friend was inspired by our Toilet Tale version of Jane Eyre - indeed, how could she not be? - and went to the book shop to rectify the grave deficiencies of her education. We received the picture below yesterday, reassuring us that ignorance and illiteracy are soon to be hurled back into the sulphurous darkness from which they came. Begone!

Mmmm, Bailey's!

In another instance of heartwarming human decency, two strangers offered to help a friend of ours with her fucked suitcase the other day. She had made an 8-hour train journey with a broken and very much overflowing suitcase and was not enjoying the sensation of having her private possessions leaking into the ether. We were on our way to the station to assist with duct tape and spare bags, when the two would-be Samaritans offered our friend their services. Hurrah for kind strangers!

Let's do a rough about-turn, and move on to Audiologist Friend's fantastic photos from Denmark! This audiogram obsessive wrote (as usual, an English translation follows for the linguistically challenged, but do take the opportunity of enjoying this fine example of early-21st centuy colloquial Swedish) as follows:

Var ju i Danmark igår och såg till att skaffa bevis till dig.
Nån bar som låg nära Istedgade, vi ville vila lite från Distorsionfestivalen och satt där och drack happy hour-drinkar! Extra festligt var det ju när dambadrummet levererade :) frågade Paul om det fanns liknande målningar på herrtoan men icke!
(So I was in Denmark yesterday, and made sure I got you proof.  
Some bar near Istedgade, we wanted to get a rest from the Distortion festival, so we sat there drinking happy hour drinks! It was extra festive when it turned out the ladies' room delivered! :) Asked Paul if there were similar paintings in the gents' loo but alas!)

What a bunch of cunts!
Strike us pink with a selection of recycled hand towels if this isn't the most laudable toilet illustration we have ever seen!

A somewhat primitive but clean-looking sink, with soap, paper towels and a mirror. Huzzah!

Plenty of bog roll!!!
It is student graduation day round our way today. This is possibly the most festive day of the year! As if to prove the point, a lorryful of teenagers playing The Final Countdown on full blast, and tooting little horns, just went past Privy Counsel HQ. We are seized by an urge to go out and join the festivities! But first, a Festive Video.

The most festive day of the year!
Image from sverigesradio.se.

When one is beleaguered by a heatwave of Biblical proportions which for some reason started weeks ago and is showing no sign of abating, and which is (presumably, though we can't remember the last time we actually spoke to a farmer) doing great damage to potatoes and other useful crops, one prepares to kick ass wearing shades.

Festive Video - Fry and Laurie, There Ain't the One Way (Kickin' Ass)

(If the video above is looking a bit funny, here is a link.)
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