Saturday, 19 November 2016

Good Times, Good Friends, Good People

You know how you spend some days wishing you lived in the same country as your friends, so you could take diclofenac and eat cheesy popcorn together? The world got a lot darker last week, and it looks like it will continue getting darker for the foreseeable future. It feels more important than ever to stay close to, and drink alcohol with, those friends that light up the darkness with their wit and their kindness. Many of our friends live in a different country or even a different continent from us, which means that we spend a disproportionate amount of our time being sober, and hanging out on social media at odd times of the day, ranting about the patriarchy with equal parts belligerence and sleepy-eyed incoherence. It is a good thing that we have the internet, and the Privy Counsel, to keep us connected! As you all know, the Privy Counsel is an international community of intellectuals, giving counsel, advice and information on toilet-related topics. We also care deeply about human rights, and will continue bellowing about the equal value of all human beings, regardless of sex, colour, and sexuality. (Though we draw the line at hanging out with people who listen to Coldplay.)

Today is the 19th of November which, as all regular readers are aware, is World Toilet Day! Hurrah! It is surely no coincidence that the birthday of the person who suggested we start this blog, in order to get all the toilet whingeing out of our system and stop annoying our friends with it, falls on WORLD TOILET DAY? We think not! Happy birthday, Enlightened Friend! These past six years of delightful ranting would never have happened without you! It is actually also our own birthday - we turn six years, one month and one day today! Hurrah!

Also, we received a message from Shewee Fiend Friend this afternoon! That fierce feminist is presently in Canada, and writes thusly:

I was in a delightful bathroom today!
We went to a Cajun themed restaurant
Bon temps
Which locals pronounce 'bone tempts'
Because they are ignorant farmers who think 'French' is a strange illness
Anyway, we had awesome brunch
You know my feelings about brunch
Crayfish eggs Benedict
With a morning cocktail
Here's the bathroom

 Lousy blurry picture for the men's
Because who cares about them

We love almost seeing people!
Obviously there's mixer taps. It is a developed country
I love the mirrors everywhere
We once spent a very memorable evening - in the sense that we can't remember very much of it - with Shewee Fiend Friend in a pub with an awesome ceiling in Winchester.
 Awesome roof

Both stalls wheelchair accessible

I suppose the coat hook was so cool someone was inspired to tear it off and take it home
That's all I got for you

 Woof! Many thanks to Shewee Fiend Friend! Another friend, who we know through Shewee Fiend Friend, sent us this festive link to celebrate World Toilet Day! The link leads to a site that - how fabulous is this! - tells you how to review a toilet from a disability perspective! Said friend says:

It's world toilet day! We were sent an email at work about accessible loos! I thought of you...
As you know we care deeply about disability friendliness at the Privy Counsel, and not only because, in that vast and inhospitable desert of fucked-up toilets known as Britain, the disabled toilet is usually much cleaner and has a much better tap than the ordinary toilets. Certain members of the Privy Counsel suffer from a chronic RSI which has at times been so crippling that they have been unable to turn flush handles or taps, and we thus tend to note whether a toilet is disability friendly or not.

Before we break off to go ogle pictures of Justin Trudeau - so lithe! and so deliciously feminist! - let's have a festive video that reminds us of our friends! Hurrah!

Festive Video - Little Big Town, Good People

Related Reading
A pub in Winchester with a very creepy ceiling, where we went once with Shewee Fiend Friend: Hallowen Horror - Drunken Graffiti and Mindless Lurching in Winchester
All posts featuring Enlightened Friend
All posts featuring Shewee Fiend Friend
All posts featuring Canada

Saturday, 12 November 2016

A Friendly French Toilet - Bordering on the Boisterous in Bordeaux

You know when you start the weekend with a breakfast of the strongest painkillers you can lay your hands on, and all of the leftover nachos from last night, because what the hell - we're all fucked anyway. The most powerful nation in the world decided it couldn't handle the idea of a woman for president, and instead elected a racist, sexist, hate-mongering horror clown. The way things are looking, we're all going to hell in a handcart.

Here's a bright spot, though: According to Australian Friend, monosodium glutamate turned out not to be so dangerous after all! Apparently, the whole scare originated with the fear of the Asian "other" in the 1980s. There is now no impediment to eating sickening amounts of supermarket-own-brand nachos - yay! (We have no verifiable source on this factoid about monosodium glutamate, but we are happy to take Australian Friend's word for it. We have been taking this amazonean antipodean's advice since about 2007, and she has never steered us wrong yet!)

If there is one thing that makes us feel marginally less bewildered in a dark and terrifying world full of bigots and non-mixer taps, it is looking at toilet pictures from happier times. Here are Australian Friend's photos from her roadtrip through Europe this summer!

Australian Friend writes:
L'Autre Petit Bois in Bordeaux

 Excuse the blurriness but I was acting fast!

This picture reminds us of a favourite quote from Caitlin Moran:
"Just resolve to shine, constantly and steadily, like a warm lamp in the corner, and people will want to move towards you in order to feel happy, and to read things more clearly. You will be bright and constant in a world of dark and flux, and this will save you the anxiety of other, ultimately less satisfying things like ‘being cool’, ‘being more successful than everyone else’ and ‘being very thin’."

We might as well continue with the CatMo quotes. Because we can (almost) see one of our best friends in this picture, this one feels relevant:
"Choose your friends because you feel most like yourself around them, because the jokes are easy and you feel like you’re in your best outfit when you’re with them, even though you’re just in a T-shirt. Never love someone whom you think you need to mend – or who makes you feel like you should be mended. There are boys out there who look for shining girls; they will stand next to you and say quiet things in your ear that only you can hear and that will slowly drain the joy out of your heart. The books about vampires are true, baby. Drive a stake through their hearts and run away."

This picture in particular makes us feel safe and loved.

This is also very comforting.

We're not sure about the gunk on this tap. But, come the zombie apocalypse, we will all be grateful just to have running water at all!

Caitlin Moran:
"Babyiest, see as many sunrises and sunsets as you can. Run across roads to smell fat roses. Always believe you can change the world – even if it’s only a tiny bit, because every tiny bit needed someone who changed it."

Caitlin Moran again:
"Think of yourself as a silver rocket – use loud music as your fuel; books like maps and co-ordinates for how to get there."

More Caitlin Moran:
"Life divides into AMAZING ENJOYABLE TIMES and APPALLING EXPERIENCES THAT WILL MAKE FUTURE AMAZING ANECDOTES. However awful, you can get through any experience if you imagine yourself, in the future, telling your friends about it as they scream, with increasing disbelief, ‘NO! NO!’"

Another lamp in a corner! And our last CatMo quote for today:
"Always remember that, nine times out of ten, you probably aren’t having a full-on nervous breakdown – you just need a cup of tea and a biscuit. You’d be amazed how easily and repeatedly you can confuse the two. Get a big biscuit tin."
I think you can see the key points
Surplus pink toilet paper
Mixer taps
A chandelier
At this point we replied:
These are what we would call the themes of the toilet #englishteacheroverload

After making the appropriate chortling noises, Australian Friend continued:
The pic with the candles is outside the door
There was only one toilet and due to etiquette I had to move fast so as not to hold any other patrons up
Also note the magazines
The food was good!
I had a Sicilian tartine

I had to visit twice
(8 hours in the car)
Many, many thanks to Australian Friend! Friends really are amazing. It's when you have the kind of friends who message you, just as you are tearing your hair trying to think what to make for dessert, saying "Shall we bring dessert?", that you know that, although the road may be long and weary, full of sharp rocks and occasionally bordered by insane horror clowns, you will ultimately be alright.

Let's finish with a Festive Video.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Stockholm Central Station: The Trauma Is So Great We Are Brought To Quoting Cicero

Quousque tandem abutere, Stockholm Central, patientia nostra?

 We were invited to celebrate the birthday of a very dear friend of ours, and for this reason got the sleeper train to Stockholm, a place we normally go to great lengths to avoid. All our worst paranoid fears were justified when we, having staggered off the train at 6:16 a.m., bleary-eyed and with the bonhomie of a gouty grizzly bear, went in search of the ladies', in order to tend to our personal hygiene and apply some make-up, only to find that the toilets were BLOODY UNISEX.

Now, we agree with you that it would be vastly preferable if we lived in a world where women weren't judged more on appearance than competence. We would totally fucking love it if a woman weren't 2.6 times more likely to be interrupted than a man, if women aspiring to any kind of authority didn't receive death- and rape threats as a matter of course, and if every time we appeared in public with no make-up on, people didn't flock around us asking if we're alright, as we look so tired. We would be thrilled if make-up weren't a prerequisite to women being taken seriously. Unfortunately, we have have grown up in a world where the foremost measure of a woman's worth is her appearance, and, thanks to this early socialisation, we are rather prone to slapping on some foundation and eyeliner before even attempting to interact with our fellow human beings.

The application of make-up requires solitude. It is a very private ritual, designed to provide an armour to mask one's inherent vulnerability in a man's world. A ritual that one certainly doesn't want some random person, cushioned by male privilege, to come and gawk at. This is why we are appalled every time we need to adjust our make-up and the toilets are unisex.

As we have stated before, we are all in favour of unisex toilets - as long as they don't leave women vulnerable to the male gaze, and the potential of male violence that it entails. We're aware that going to a public toilet is awkward for many trans people, and would cheer on a constructive solution to this problem. We simply fail to fathom why "inclusivity" appears to mean reducing women's safety. If having only men's and women's toilets means that some people feel unsafe, then for fuck's sake either introduce a third category, or make sure that any unisex toilets offer a safe space for women!

Here's what happened when we got to the toilets at Stockholm Central train station:

We paid our ten kronor to the friendly attendant.

We went into an uncomfortable and not overly clean cubicle. We have ranted on the vileness of cubicles many times before, and do not need to further expostulate on this subject.
We despaired at the sound of a creepy middle-aged man trying to chat up two teenage girls right outside our cubicle, and deplored a world that allows him access to them in this despicable hell-hole of a restroom.
We washed our hands in the none-too-clean trough-like sinks. (What is this modern obsession with sinks in the shape of troughs? Is this a conspiracy by hipsters wanting everything to look like 19th-century farm equipment?)

We despaired at the absence of mirrors, and muttered the filthiest medieval curse we could think of, wishing warts and a wasting disease on the person who decided it was a good idea to install vaguely reflective black panels instead of mirrors.

We scowled at the pathetic "footage-of-a-fireplace-on-a-loop" installation, and wished, in a fit of petulance, that we had brought our shewee so we could piss disdainfully all over it.

We sent death rays of hatred in the direction of the person who decided to install air dryers instead of proper paper towels.

We washed our face, drying it with a tissue we had luckily brought with us, and wished that someone had had the forethought to predict that people would want to tend to their ablutions when getting off the sleeper train, and would require a more comfortable and hygienic option than sticking their face under the air dryer.

We scowled at the man unabashedly staring at us while we applied our make-up. We restrained ourselves from punching said man in the face.

We moved to a different sink.

The man followed us, and kept staring.

Dear Stockholm Central, would it be too hard to install a space where women can escape from the male gaze for just a few minutes, and actually feel safe? Would it not be possible to rip out the awful cubicles - that everyone hates anyway - and install proper toilets, with a proper sink and mirror in each one?

Even the famed Swedish blogger Blondinbella, who is not someone we would normally identify with, has expressed her disgust at the cringe-worthy awkwardness of mixed-sex toilets, and the traumatising experience of trying to apply make-up with a man staring at one.

Jernhusen, meanwhile - the company that owns all of Sweden's train stations - claim in a mindbogglingly imbecilic press release that the toilets at Stockholm Central "have been designed with inspiration from several natural elements, such as fire and water [how about wind?] and with aspects which attract [sic] several of visitors' senses [which ones, exactly?].

Despite this rampant hyperbole from Jernhusen, we felt uncomfortable and downright unsafe while visiting their toilets at Stockholm Central. We urge our readers to continue to avoid going to Stockholm, or, if you must go there, to avoid using the toilets at the central station.

Thankfully, once we arrived a our destination for the weekend, Mora Hotell in Mora, our senses were soothed and our spirit revived by a truly excellent toilet!

Isn't this hygienic, copper-coloured toilet-roll holder just beautiful?

An excellent, excellent sink. It truly restored our equilibrium after the cattle-trough trauma at Stockholm Central!

Everything in this toilet is beautiful and works well - from the toilet to the ventilation!

A sturdy bin, at a comfortable distance from the truly, truly excellent toilet. And there's that copper-coloured toilet-roll holder again! Woof!

A festive copper-coloured lamp, lighting up some festive locally sourced art.

We give this toilet two very enthusiastic thumbs up! (We are confident that, if Leslie Knope had been with us, she would also have loved this toilet.)

We have, actually, a whole hoard of fantastic photos from Australian Friend, Audiologist Friend, and Meandering Friend, but right now we have an urgent appointment with a gin and tonic. Let's finish with a festive video, shall we? Except let us first wish Maureen Helen - a fine, upstanding Australian and one of our favourite bloggers ever - a happy birthday!

Today's Festive Video carries a message which we rather think we could all do with hearing, but perhaps especially the teachers among us: You may feel like you're orienteering in the dark, with your feet bound and a pack of wolves howling just across that field full of landmines and clowns, and like your lesson planning is haphazard to the point of endangering your students' actual mental health. But actually, you're DOING JUST FINE.

Festive Video - Rodney Atkins, Doin' It Right

Related Reading
Another rather lengthy rant on unisex toilets: Love, Politics and the Revolution
The best unisex toilets we have ever come across are at the Bee Bar in Malmö
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