Sunday, 1 November 2020

Ten-Year Jubilee Extravaganza: A Decade of Enlightenment!

 Time, allegedly, flies. We're not personally convinced that this is the correct verb to attach to the fourth dimension of the universe, but we really, really, really don't have the energy to argue with anyone over anything. (It seems, for instance, that we have entered an uneasy peace with Shewee Fiend Friend on the subject of toilet roll orientation.) Whatever means of transport you choose to ascribe to time, however, it is an inescapable fact that this bog blog has been a vehicle for ranting on the internet for ten years. Readers who are perhaps not as regular as they would like might appreciate an explanation of how this came about.

Once upon a time, in a pub far, far away (Micklegate, in York, arguably counts as pretty far away for most people), we were ranting. Memory is a fickle mistress and Yorkshire ale is a potent brew, and thus details are hazy, but we’re reasonably certain that we were gesticulating, possibly even raising our voice to a far from genteel pitch. What were we ranting about? you wonder. World poverty? Slave labour in sweatshops? The utter, unforgivable shitness of the Eurovision Song Contest? No. We were ranting about British plumbing.

 

Scandinavia has many advantages. The twentieth century played the part of fairy godmother to this portion of the world, blessing it with democracy, universal healthcare, and excellent sanitation. As a result, its inhabitants are prone to exhibiting exorbitant, overwhelming smugness. Send an unsuspecting Scandi out in the world and they are susceptible to criticise other nations’ sanitary arrangements in an insufferably rude manner. Not because they wish to insult, you understand, but because they are flabbergasted. When it is demonstrably possible to construct toilets and pipes that work well, a Dane, Norwegian or Swede might reason, why on earth would you deliberately choose to make a cackhanded job of your bogs? Said Scandiwegians are perhaps particularly prone to ask this far-from-rhetorical question when in the British Isles, which, though rich in culture and steeped in history of the most exciting kind, are deplorably lacking in logical plumbing. Friendship with such a Dane, Norwegian, or Swede can often be challenging to a native of the misty isles in the West. Whatever laudable qualities such persons may possess, they are prone to being overshadowed by the Scandiwegian propensity to rant about mixer-taps. It is not what your average Brit appreciates, when in the pub, trying to maintain an enjoyable conversation. Such a Brit, who is likely to be a cultured, refined and well-travelled person, is not to be blamed for exclaiming, in an exasperated manner, for the love of God, why don’t you start a blog? (For this was the year of our Lord 2010, and blogs were still a thing.)

 

Our exasperated friend, whom we have referred to ever since as Enlightened Friend, uttered this impassioned plea not due to his belief in our writing skills or ability to turn an interesting tale, but due to his intense irritation with our constant complaints about British plumbing. Enlightened Friend’s hope was that, in writing down our criticisms of British taps on the internet and perhaps striking up friendships with other weirdoes there, we would cease to complain about them to him, and he would in future be able to drink his pint in peace. Being easily influenced, we happily took Enlightened Friend at his word, and started a toilet blog (or, as it soon became known, the intellectual bog blog). Indeed, so excited were we by the prospect of pontificating to, if not the world at large, then at least a certain small portion of our acquaintance, that we wrote three posts on the same day. The very first one, published on 18 October 2010, said, simply and perhaps ominously,

 

Most British people see no need for mixer taps, as when they do exist, they don't work anyway.  The rest of the world disagrees.  The controversy continues.

 

This was followed by some reflections on toilet paper, and our first review – of the toilets in the Yorkshire Museum. There was also the legendary review of the disabled toilet at the Centre for Medieval Studies in York, which gave us much solace during the year we spent drinking with weird medievalists and perhaps doing the odd stint of studying. For a long time we stuck to a bewildering and illogical points system for reviews, which was satirized to great effect by Semi-Intellectual Friend when he devised a toilet duck-based scoring system.

 As we have often had occasion to mention, we are grateful for all the friends (including Jonny, who counts as a friend for administrative reasons) and family who send us interesting toilet pictures from around the world. Due to our hectic lifestyle, commitment to watching Toby Stephens wearing pirate trousers, and unreasonably lengthy hangovers, these pictures tend to not be put to profitable use by means of toilet blogging, but congregate in weird corners of the internet, tucked away in a multitude of apps and accounts, where they languish due to lack of light. (We have, for years, envisaged our archive as a dark crypt peopled by ghosts, dead nuns, and pheasants, such as described in the 1796 horror classic The Monk. You may read increasingly incoherent references to said archive here, here, here, here, and here.) Our Mum reminded us recently of some photos she sent us two years ago, which we thought we'd publish in this, our ten-year-anniversay bog blog post. We've also got pictures from other favourite contributors, such as Our Favourite Aunt, Intellectual Friend, and, last but definitely not least, Jonny. The fact that we thusly have pictures from Sweden, Denmark, Norway and the UK is no doubt a coincidence.

We decided, in a moment of unrestrained nostalgia, to return to the points system. It took a while before we could even find it, but it turns out we'd preserved it and we have inserted it at the bottom of this post for the benefit of scientifically-minded readers. Below is a picture sent to us by Our Mum from the Martini restaurant in Kristianstad, Sweden. According to what you might call, for convenience, the logic of our points system, these facilities get 9 points. We couldn't tell from the photo whether the soap was pleasantly scented or whether there was a coat-hook sturdy enough for  a rucksack, so we had to restrain ourselves somewhat in our scoring. Nonetheless, it looks like an excellent, comfortable and laudably hygienic toilet.

Martini, in Kristianstad: 9 points

Next up is an amusing photo, also from Our Mum, of a helpful sign at the airport in Bergen, Norway.

We hope, for the sake of humanity, that these are not unisex toilets. We have mentioned, on occasion, how much we loathe unisex toilets.

 

Our Favourite Aunt is a faithful correspondent and sent us, in 2016, the following photos from the porcelain museum in Gustavsberg, Sweden.

An exciting glimpse of hygienic porcelain from times past

We are nearly always reminded of something, and this obviously reminds us of the historical toilets exhibition at the Castle Museum, in York!

This is a toilet quote by August Strindberg. Not being fans of Strindberg, we're not going to bother translating it. Nonetheless, we appreciate Our Favourite Aunt's contribution.

We mentioned earlier our conception of our toilet photo archive as a dark, dripping crypt. Perhaps in the light of that metaphor, these pictures, from Intellectual Friend, are rather apt. They depict the gents' toilets at the Peder Oxe tavern in Copenhagen, where we seem to remember brandishing a flagon of ale with Intellectual Friend in 2017. Are the toilets in the cellar? We can't remember, but it looks as though they are rich in old stone and some eccentricity - both things that we love.

Danes are depressingly apt to install what we call the subjunctive mixer tap, but here it seems they have actually hardened the fuck up and got it right.

We're fairly sure that we have, at one or more points during the past ten years, expressed an opinion about urinals. Potentially we approve.

Intellectual Friend referred to this as a "tapestried toilet pic". It is perhaps fitting in light of our history of drinking in medieval milieus.

Ahh. Nothing warms the cockles like correctly hung toilet paper!

We're reaching the end of this blast from the past. How about some hyper-modernity, for the sake of contrast? Here's a photo of Jonny, in 2020, adhering to corona regulations.


Our spontaneous reaction to this photo was:

Plus points for the clear, helpful and polite signage, not sure about the mask. On the one hand the Counsel is all in favour of hygiene and adequate protection, on the other hand it doesn't like restrictions on perving. We shall leave it to the fans to decide!

Jonny argued that the mask is in contrast to his top, calling the look "street thug's soft side". Ever striving for fairness, we promised to take his argument under consideration.

Reader, it is time for a Festive Video. What's more suitable than this favourite, which has given us intellectual solace on many an occasion! (Blogger have changed their layout and we have no idea how to intelligently insert videos any more, so to be on the safe side here's the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lv-Pi3RKY68)



 Festive Video: Public Information Film - UK Separate Taps


Related Reading

All posts featuring Sheewee Fiend Friend

All posts featuring Enlightened Friend

Our very first blog post: Mixer Taps - the Controversy

Our first review, of the toilets in the Yorkshire Museum: The Yorkshire Museum

The legendary post in which Semi-Intellectual Friend launched his alternative scoring system: Rampant Titillation - Basically, a Real-Life Epistolary Novel!

A reminiscent blog post, from a time when we still had hangovers that ended: In Which the Privy Counsel Goes Ballistic

The commemorative post we wrote after five years of toilet-blogging, which seemed coherent and reasonable at the time: Five Fabulous (and Frightening) Years: The Story of the Privy Counsel

We're far from lacking in horrors at the moment, but somehow we never got around to writing a Halloween blog post this year. However, here is our very first Halloween post: Oh! the horror! SCREAMING BLOODY HORROR HALLOWEEN SPECIAL: The British Workplace

All posts featuring Halloween 

THE POINTS SYSTEM

We gave up all belief in the logic of our points system long ago. But sometimes we use it just for kicks, and when we do, the points awarded are as follows:

* Covered loo roll holder: +1
* Loo roll lying loose: -1
* Normal white loo roll: +1
* Unbleached: +2
* Quilted or coloured: -1

* Bin in stall covered: +1
*Bin not pushing unpleasantly against user: +2

* Easy-to-use flush, not requiring great mechanical strength: +1
* Water-saving: +2
* Hard to use: -1

* Toilets clean: +1
* Toilets dirty: -1

* Revolving towel: +1
* Air dryer: -1
* Hygienic air dryer: +1
* Normal towel (unless clean and displaying evidence of being frequently changed): -1

* Push lever or other easy-to-use tap: +1
* Photo-cell tap: +2
* Lack of hot water: -1
* Unpleasant, separated taps: -1

*Pleasant soap: +1
* Also handlotion: +2
* No soap: -1

*Coat hook: +1
* Coat hook sturdy enough for rucksack or other large bag: +2
* No coat hook: -1

* Possibility of opening door without touching handle on exit: +1 bonus point.

* Toilets with noise-insulating cubicles (or no cubicle): +1 bonus point. 
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