Sunday, 26 November 2017

What a Thing Is and What It Is Not Are Identical In Form. Or So We've Been Told.

Every now and then, one finds oneself waxing philosophical, whether one wants to or not. We are not overly prone to philosophy at the Privy Counsel, veering more in the direction of getting blind drunk and ranting about the shittiness of everything. However, there have been occasions when we have surprised ourselves. For instance, there was the time, quite recently, when we pondered whether a North American airport toilet could be considered the Platonic ideal of a really great bog, but then came to the conclusion that it couldn't, being heinously lacking in coat hooks. There was the time when we had a hangover so bad it qualified as a near-death experience (it was the heat), and consequently grew reflective. There was also, once upon a time, the existential toilet.

Forcing us to ponder the nature of things, Shewee Fiend Friend sent us these images, from the Remai Museum in Saskatoon:

Flip-flops! Remember when Monkey hoisted a pair of flip-flops to show his support for Australian inventions?

A leg in a very fetching display cabinet. Also flip-flop.
(No, we don't know what's going on, either.)

This is where it gets exciting! A urinal!
This we can relate to, and understand! (You wee into it.)

Was en Ding ist, und was es nicht ist, sind, in der Form, identisch gleich.
It is at this point that we at the Privy Counsel get confused and angry,
and storm off in search of an alcoholic beverage.

We exhort our readers to remember that, if they are considering visiting a museum this year, the Tyrrell Museum in Alberta is - and we have this on good authority - the best part of Canada! Apparently, the dinosaurs are to die for, and you can confidently skip the rest of the country.

We have received indications that our readership is getting restless, having noticed that there haven't been any pictures of Jonny in quite a while. Bravely venturing into the scary place we call our archive, we found the following pictures, sent to us in July. On the French independence day, no less! Liberté, égalité, sororité! Hurrah!

Unfortunately, we were drunk at the time of receiving the images, and didn't have the wits to ask where they were from. Perhaps that's all for the best?

Something is happening with the décor, but we're not sure what.

We know exactly what's happening here, and we approve.



These stalls don't pass muster, having flimsy doors that don't go all the way down to the floor or all the way up to the ceiling, thus failing in their primary object: TO FUCKING WELL SHIELD THE TOILET-GOER'S PRIVACY. #YouHadOneJob

This is magic. Now there's white wine... there's red wine. Anyway, if what a thing is and what a thing is not are identical in form, then it doesn't matter whether the bottle contains red or white wine, right? As, indeed, anyone who has ever been this pissed knows instinctively. Is philosophy, in fact, exactly like drunkenness, except without any of the fun?

Our communication at the time was limited to this business-like exchange:

Privy Counsellor:
Did you carry that bottle of wine with you?

Privy Counsellor:


Also, let's have a Festive Video. Here's one that we just know will cause both Shewee Fiend Friend and Jonny to scream very loudly and jump up and down - in sheer delight, of course. Also, considering that yesterday was the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, we find it suitable.

Festive Video: Pistol Annies, Don't Talk About Him, Tina

Related Reading

In which we ponder whether a North American airport toilet could be considered the Platonic ideal of a really great bog

All posts featuring Shewee Fiend Friend

All posts featuring Jonny

Actually, grasping our candelabra with a somewhat shaky grip and venturing down the ancient granite stairs, past the oaken door with the rusty lock, into our archive, we found a shitload of posts arranged under the label Philosophy. Perhaps we philosophise more than we are aware of.  Be that as it may, here are the highlights:

The German Existential Toilet Is, Perhaps, Here

To Be or Not to Be - A Loo So Existential It Doesn't Even Exist

In Which We Introduce the Concept of the Vulture of Doom 

Some Thoughts on Internet Vitriol. And a Gorgeous, Rose-Scented Toilet

A Blog Post of Astonishing Clarity

A Life-Affirming Experience

The Royal Toilet at Kronborg: "A Foul and Pestilent Congregation of Vapours"

Cuteness, Intellectual Solace, and a Correction

What Goes Around, Comes Around (trigger warning: Jonny's knees) 

De Consolatio Philosophiae

Monday, 13 November 2017

Athens: Vacillating with Vespasian

It's a funny thing, running an intellectual bog blog. Most people quite rightly don't give a crap and would rather chew off their own arm than read a single word of an obscure and ranty site about toilets, but every now and then one receives feedback from unlikely quarters. It turns out, for instance, that Our Mum has turned quite evangelical, and spends her time, when she isn't pissing off to Perugia on a whim to take photos of al fresco dining areas, informing people of the existence of our blog and exhorting them to read it. Consequently, we received a tip about an intriguing TV programme chronicling the history of toilets from a friend of Our Mum called Elena, which you can view below, as we have made it this post's Festive Video. We would like to extend our most gracious thanks to Elena; it was a spiffing and most invigorating video!

Since the programme in question starts off with a review of toilets in the classical world, we were reminded of some rather exciting bogs that we encountered in Greece last summer. Ergo:

Strolling around the Roman Agora in Athens with Our Mum, enjoying the unidentified pieces of marble (here is a question for everyone but especially Medievalist (With a Side Interest in Roman Archaeology) Friend: We have an app that can identify plants from just a photo. Where is the app that will identify random bits of Roman marble? How hard can it be to create a database of images of cornices, sarcophagi and columns and make it into an app so that lazy people on holiday can pronounce expert opinions on bits of marble rubble without having to learn anything or do any work?) and trying not to dwell on the sensation of sweat running down literally every crevice of our body, we stumbled across a Roman latrine! We happened to note the seat in the picture below and, eagerly scanning the horizon for an informative sign (we really do love clear signage), had our hunch confirmed! We had sauntered into the Vespasian latrines without even trying! As so eloquently puts it,

Entering from the marketplace through an antechamber, the lucky Athenians discovered elegantly raised seats over a deep channel lined with marble. Athens surely touched Vespasian in a way that cold Britain failed to, judging from this simple yet endearing monument to his largesse. 

This is an intriguing theory. Does the internationally recognised crapness of British plumbing in fact hail back to the era of Vespasian? At any rate, it seems that Vespasian was a solid dude when it comes to sanitation; regular readers will remember Exuberant Archaeologist Friend's account of Vespasian-era lead pipes in Rome.

You may imagine our happiness when suddenly clapping eyes on this toilet seat
in a far corner of the Roman Agora! On a totally unrelated note, there is a terrific restaurant just on the other side of that fence, on the corner, with very friendly waiters and excellent coffee.

A clear and informative, if somewhat dull, sign
Next up, we have pictures of the public baths by the Temple of Zeus! We spent an unreasonable amount of time, as Our Mum will verify, rambling round this area and taking toilet selfies with the ruins. What can we say? We were on holiday, and that is our idea of fun. (If you enjoy this kind of activity, do get in touch. We are finding it increasingly challenging to find people willing to go on holiday with us. We can't think why this might be.)

We are not, as a rule, excited-jumpers-up-and-down at the Privy Counsel,
considering such behaviour to be annoying to the point of being morally wrong,
but we jumped up and down with excitement when spotting these hypocausts!

A soothing circular pool

A comfortable seat for chatting to a friend?

The remains of many, many pillars

A helpful and informative sign

We went, of course, to the Acropolis, where we marvelled at the view and admired the diligent Athenian workmen restoring the ancient ruins. We also came across this random structure, near the entrance. We have no idea what it is, but took a photo on the off-chance that it is anything to do with water or sanitation (is that some kind of duct in the centre?). If any of our readers - including, but not limited to, Medieval (With a Side Interest in Roman Archaeology) Friend - has information about what this might be, don't be shy, send us an email or carrier pigeon!

An unidentified Athenian structure. THERE WAS NO SIGN!!!

No bog blogger worthy of the name would fail to take a picture of the public toilets below the Acropolis. You're welcome.

The sewage pipes in Athens are somewhat delicate,
and quite often one is requested to put toilet paper into a bin, thus.

A helpful sign instructs one not to put paper anywhere near the pipes.

Regular readers will recall our exuberant account of the toilets in the Acropolis Museum a few years ago. Readers, we went back!

As you can see, everything looks exactly the same,
which we find hugely reassuring. Also, the korai were still magnificent.

One of our favourite pastimes when in Athens, apart from staring dreamily at objects in museums, deciphering Greek signage, using the relatively-free-of-sexual-harassment public transport (we were on the tram one day, marvelling at the fact that we hadn't been sexually harassed yet, when some dude decided to harass us, showing yet again that patriarchy never sleeps), drinking Greek coffee, and buying cheap wine in the supermarket, is wandering round Syntagma Square, imbibing the atmosphere and enjoying the shade cast by the lemon trees. Imagine our delight when we discovered that this historic place boasts public toilets! They are tucked away in a corner and are very hard to find, but they are bona fide public loos, staffed by very friendly toilet attendants.

We cannot fault this door, its lock, or its coat hook.

This is not an ideal toilet, considering the fact that there is no toilet roll
and the flush mechanism has been mended using duct tape. Still. Like the Greek economy,
this toilet just about works, and the staff were super friendly.
Is this, in fact, a metaphor for the Greek economy?
We're never sure how interesting our readers find random pictures of hotel room toilets. To be on the safe side, here are some potentially thrilling images from the Oasis hotel in the Glyfada area of Athens. It's a very nice hotel, with very friendly staff, and we enjoyed many splendid evenings drinking the local wine on the balcony of our hotel room, but wished there had been fewer children, and also fewer Italians, in the pool. (We adore Italians at the Privy Counsel, but for some reason Italians in swimming pools are considerably less charming than Italians who are not in swimming pools. No doubt science will one day find an explanation for this phenomenon.)

No problems with the plumbing here! You can shove virtually unlimited amounts of toilet paper down the bog with no repercussions whatsoever. Also, you will notice that the toilet roll has been folded into a neat point at the end, which is the golden standard of the Olivia Joules Hotel Critera, and which is bound to give you a positive toilet experience if you give a crap about such things (we don't).

We are rather fond of this seventies symphony of pastels.

Assuming that you have even read this far, we congratulate you on your stamina and vow to let everyone rest before we post this many photos in one go again. If you have an hour to spare, please enjoy the Festive Video below! We found the toilet humour deplorable, and advise you to skip that bit, but the rest was both informative and edifying.

As you were. (If you weren't, why not?)

Festive Video: Ifor ap Glyn / Cwmni Da / Western Front Films / BBC 4, The Toilet: An Unspoken History

Related Reading:

All posts featuring Our Mum

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

An intriguing post featuring Vespasian-era lead pipes:
Lead Pipe Dreams

All previous posts featuring Greece:

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Lofty Airs

Shewee Fiend Friend sent us photos from an airport toilet, intriguingly omitting to tell us which airport. At first we were vastly curious, but then we thought, what does it matter? Let these toilets be anonymous! Let them represent a higher plane of being than the mere physical shell that encumbers our would-be-soaring souls. Let them epitomise the ur-toilet, the Platonic ideal of a Really Great Bog! Let them, with their cleanliness, disability-friendliness, mixer taps, and general high standard, be a beacon of hope to plumbing despairers the world over.

If our first thought was "Where the flying fuck is this, then?", our second thought was "That is like the level of niceness that the airport in Istanbul aspired, yet so dismally failed, to reach", and our third "Also it falls under the label 'Almost seeing people', which is one of our favourite labels". In short, we took this toilet to our hearts. 

The failure of the toilet seat to go all the way round tells us that this toilet is most likely located in the US, or at least in North America. The disability friendliness is rampant: there are bars to grip, and the flush mechanism looks easy to operate, not requiring mechanical strength.
It looks like the floor has been recently cleaned, which is of course a good thing, but rather reminds us, unfortunately, of the Horror of the British Workplace. Should this blog employ trigger warnings?
Luckily, the sign also reminds us of something happier: Australian Friend's report from the Pirate's Tavern in Melbourne.

Enjoy Almost Seeing Shewee Fiend Friend! Woof! Also, that is a motion-sensor tap! Hubba!

Now then, now then, what's all this? No coat hook from which to hang one's rucksack? In an airport? Perhaps this is not the ideal toilet after all.

We shall stay in the realm of the fabulous (in the original sense), making a metaphorical journey with Meandering Friend to the legendary Höga Kusten. Meandering Friend's message, which we received not long ago, read:

[The Privy Counsellor]!!! Jag har varit på toa (utedass) men utsikt över högakusten-bron idag
([The Privy Counsellor]!!! I have been to a toilet (outdoor privy) with a view of the Höga Kusten bridge today)

What a friendly, welcoming sight! This reminds us, naturally, of the Swiss toilet Dragon-Hunting Friend sent us pictures of many years ago!

This also reminds us of German Friend's Alpine delight

One questions the need for a Wunderbaum in this naturally forest-fresh environment, but since this is our favourite type of coat hook, we won't rant needlessly.

Hello! You can almost see Meandering Friend! What a delightful picture!

Cleaning facilities AND ventilation! Does the heart race just a little...?

What a marvellous view!

Meandering Friend's message continued:
God ventilation (se 2*vent-system), goda rengöringsmöjlighteter och övrig konventionell doftprevention 😅
(Good ventilation (see 2-vent system), good cleaning facilities and other conventional smell prevention)
 Do you feel refreshed and invigorated? We certainly do!

Before we move on to the Festive Video, let us remind you that you - yes, you! - have the chance to win a signed photograph of Jonny. (In case you're struggling to remember, Jonny counts as a Privy Counsel Friend for administrative reasons, and we once wrote him a lonely hearts ad which, by the way, worked. (Well, we're assuming it did - it was a great ad.)) A signed! Photograph! Of Jonny! All you have to do is send in your best photos of toilet graffiti. Good luck!

Since Shewee Fiend Friend and Meandering Friend are both people with whom we are prone to end up discussing the gender wage gap (yesterday was (Un)equal pay day in the UK, by the way - women now work for free for the rest of the year), let's have a Festive Video about the considerable levels of HTFU that are required just to get through the day, if you happen to be a woman (a calamity affecting roughly 50 percent of the world's population).

Festive Video: Sister C, Faint of Heart
(Or listen to the audio version here)

Related Reading: 

Rosy-Fingered Dawn (But No Bloody Lock on the Door) in Istanbul

All posts featuring Almost Seeing People

All posts featuring airports

All posts featuring toilets in mountains:
Norwegian Wood
Alpine Escapism
Remembering to Breathe

A rather splendid post about the massive fucked-up-ness of being a woman:
If You Can Meet with Triumph and Disaster

All posts featuring Shewee Fiend Friend

All posts featuring Meandering Friend

All posts featuring Australian Friend

All posts featuring German Friend 

All posts featuring Intellectual Friend

All posts featuring Dragon-Hunting Friend

All posts featuring Jonny

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Lithuania, Land of Luscious Loos

Woof! Welcome back to your favourite intellectual bog blog! We have some rather exciting pictures for you, from our recent sojourn to Lithuania, land of luscious loos. Our whirlwind tour of Vilnius took us to some of the city's best bars, and also a spiffing museum with - wait for it - 16th-century sewage pipes!

Let us start without further ado, as there is a fuckload of photos to get through, and also a rather exciting message from Jonny, that dapper young scallywag!

Here, for your delight and edification, is a virtual tour of the bogs of Vilnius:

Meandering Friend gets the credit for finding a guesthouse in the centre of town with functioning plumbing and friendly staff. As you can see, the toilet is clean and cosy, with bright, positively festive, colours.

Lithuania manages with ease and elegance what so many countries don't manage at all - to install electric sockets in bathrooms! However, we found that most Lithuanian light switches are placed, illogically, outside the bathroom. As Meandering Friend discovered, much to her dismay, even the Air Baltic planes have light switches outside the toilet, making it impossible to, as she so eloquently put it, maintain control over one's sanitary visibility.

After dropping off our luggage and wandering round the local cemetery, imbibing the atmosphere, Lithuanian Friend took us to a restaurant where we indulged in some truly excellent Lithuanian ale, then to a bar where we were sexually harassed. Distressed and annoyed, we headed out in search of a safe space, and found one, in the shape of a brand new bar called Kitsch! The staff were super friendly, there was music and art, and the toilet, tucked under the stairs, was both hygienic and charming. We cannot recommend Kitsch enough, and urge you to make your way there at your earliest convenience.

One feels safe and warm, both inside and out, in the presence of the boiler.
Literally everything you want in a toilet: mixer tap, soap, Smart One toilet roll dispenser, and not one but two sockets!

 The day after our exploratory bar round, we conducted a more thorough reconnoitre of the city, starting with the Palace of the Grand Dukes. This is a wonderful museum - not only does it have fascinating artefacts ranging from 15th-century stove tiles, locks, shoes and ceremonial rods, it also boasts some truly amazing wooden water- and sewage pipes!

The toilets, as evidenced below, are also of the highest standard. We were very near bursting with happiness when ensconced in the rarefied, intellectually stimulating and utterly hygienic air in this beautiful former palace!

Truly a scene of beauty!

We don't think a toilet can get better than this, and dare you to prove the opposite!

Just looking at the picture of this pair of sturdy coat hooks (a feature throughout the museum toilets) gives us a shiver of pleasure.

Here's where the real fun starts: 16th- to 17th-century sewage pipes! From the mid-16th century the palace also had, one of the many informative signs in the museum informed us, an underground brick sewage canal.

There were indoor latrines, indoor collectors for sewage, rain water, and a water supply system. The first water pipeline to the palace was completed around 1530.

After all the intellectualism we felt the need for a refreshing beverage or two, and headed to a most festive shots bar called Shots & Shprots. The toilets were cheery and, we think, clean; however, the dark rock'n'roll décor made it hard to see.

A helpful and informative sign

Yes! The soap dispenser is a skull!

Another friendly and festive place to visit in Lithuania is the famed Alaus Biblioteka, or beer library. There is an endless supply of beer, and the toilets are both clean and humorous! Woof!

One feels safe knowing that the risk of the toilet roll running out is extremely low

A super excellent combination of mixer tap, nice soap, and paper towels.

The day after our exuberant city tour we recovered from our various hangovers in a restaurant called Leičiai Aline, where we unfortunately did not indulge in any of the many types of home-brewed beer, being in a rather delicate state, but instead enthusiastically ingested a vast amount of food.

We cannot fault this toilet, but unfortunately one of the guests exited without washing his hands in this beautiful basin. The horror! The copper detail reminded us of Mora Hotell.

After an excursion to the historic town of Trakai and a wander round the castle - as Meandering Friend so wisely asked herself, "why go inside when I can circle it?" - we headed to yet another excellent Lithuanian restaurant, which featured, in addition to rustic wooden walls, this festive and friendly sign and an intellectually satisfying artisanal coat hook.

Our virtual journey through the toilets of Vilnius and its surroundings is nearly at an end. However, we have a treat for you before we finish - the facilities in a wine bar which serves excellent wine and cheese and displays a sense of humour throughout! We'd totally recommend it if we could remember the name. (Actually, thinking about it, it was probably this place.)

The toilets were organised according to size: there was XS, S, and M, and also "dicks only". Helpful.

A thoroughly satisfactory coat hook!

Unfortunately the plumbing of central Vilnius is not always as sturdy as one would like, and sometimes one has to discard toilet paper into a bin, thusly.

A helpful sign reminds one not to throw bog roll into the toilet, and warns of the dire consequences if one's memory should slip. We are reminded, of course, of the Mexican Toilet Horror.

A friendly and helpful sticker.

We summarise Vilnius thus:

Varieties of delicious beer: Endless
Number of bars: Countless
Friendliness of people: As far as we could tell in our largely inebriated state, massive
Instances of sexual harassment: Three

We have, finally, a festive, thrilling, and intellectually stimulating idea from Jonny. That enterprising young whippersnapper, brimming over with creative juices, writes:

I have another idea
As a New Years competition
From now until New Year people have to submit their ‘best toilet graffiti’
I don’t know if you get as much in the ladies as I’ve never been in there (well, once in high school) but it’s rife in the gents.
Prize is a signed photo of me?

We stopped doing competitions after we announced a New Year's event a few years back, where one could vote for one's favourite bog blog post, and were humiliated to find, on the day of the deadline, that there were only two votes, both from Australian Friend. However, this idea from Jonny is the kind that makes us go HUBBA HUBBA! and we urge you to start sending us pictures of your best toilet graffiti INSTANTLY!

We are of course not going to leave you without a Festive Video - we know that this is one of few highlights of a dreary existence for many people. We found ourselves reflecting recently on the ability to travel and visit friends, and get smashed on Lithuanian alcohol.

Festive Video - Nashville, A Life That's Good

Related Reading
All posts featuring Meandering Friend
All posts featuring Lithuanian Friend
All posts featuring Jonny
Toilet roll holders - do they even matter?

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