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When Nature Calls

When Nature Calls

The year 1998 saw the publication of my third book. Of all my books this remains unrelated to any of my 70-odd others, all of which have some link to others – etymology, travel, the paranormal, photography may not seem related but in some way each subject led to the next. This was not the case with number three.

My Staffordshire Privies had been commissioned by the publisher and an idea from another author which proved so popular it was decided to produce as many county or regional volumes as humanly possible. Not only did they succeed but managed to achieve some excellent sales per book and even resulted in an award nomination or two.

That is why I penned Staffordshire Privies and I am still quite proud of the finished book even though twenty years have elapsed since I wrote the book. Although the book is now out of print, some second-hand copies are to be found at a well-known online retailer. I recently checked to find someone selling this book for an astonishing £134.13 plus post and packing, almost twenty times the original RRP – but then we have to take inflation into consideration and, as already noted, it is out of print and seemingly quite popular.

Not that I manage to earn a brass farthing from these inflated prices, however, I am still promoting the subject by way of a number of talks. In fact this particular subject is among the most popular of my talks. I should also add that most of the talks see me as the only male in the room. This can prove most embarrassing as I do have a tendency to gesticulate and even point while speaking. Hence if you do book me for the talk and wonder why I either clasp my hands behind my back or thrust them firmly into pockets, it is not because I lack any decorum.

During these talks there are some facts and examples not given during my histories of the humble privy. Thinking some of these are certainly worthwhile covering I have itemised these below. Note they are no particular order so you can read them anyway you desire, even starting at the bottom (pun intended).

When on their way to the rocket to take them into space, all cosmonauts stop the vehicle and urinate against the rear right tyre of the bus. This is to commemorate the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin, who did just that when making his way to the rocket and his historic flight. Now Yuri did so to answer a call of nature, others simply copy him.

Since Gagarin’s flight there have been a number of females in space. Now I have it good authority that women have different plumbing - this apparently is one of the more certain, if hidden, signs she is not a man – which makes aiming a difficult problem (oh the irony!). Whilst they are not obliged to take part in this ritual they do bring along a vial with filled with urine (presumably their own) which is ceremoniously poured over the tyre. Never would I suggest that the female version is cheating, nor indeed would I state urine deposited on a tyre should be at body temperature – but if you are about to boldly go …… ?

And whilst we are on the subject of ladies, they do seem to have something of an advantage over the men when it comes to urinating in public. For example right here in the good old United Kingdom a woman is legally entitled to relieve herself anywhere she desires, including a policeman’s helmet – although she will have to prove she is pregnant. Perhaps policemen should carry the testing kit at all times to plunge into their headwear immediately afterwards and then wait the requisite number of minutes.

North of the border in the United Kingdom, a place the locals like to call Scotland, if someone knocks on a door and asks to use the toilet the owner is obliged to co-operate.

Meanwhile back in England the company responsible for taking good care of the sewage in West Yorkshire reported 2004 as one of the oddest years for finding the ‘unexpected’ in their sewers. Among the items retrieved were the expected false teeth and mobile phones, along with a space hopper, a number of sofas, a fridge freezer, and some army-issue ammunition.

The toilet roll hat was invented and really is wat it sounds like. Effectively a toilet roll holder, a single roll only, worn on the head to allow anyone to have a ready supply of toilet paper at all times. Yet surely it is not paper but finding a toilet which is the problem when out and about. Try wearing one of those as a hat!

One toilet which could be found easily enough was that placed outside the Tate Museum in 2003. Although whether it attracted any visitors is another matter for outside it appeared to have walls constructed entirely of mirrors. Yet when entering users discovered these were one-way mirrors and they could quite clearly see everything on the other side of the glass.

In a public house in the Cotswolds the urinals were marked by a football goal complete with net. No question of poor aim here.

In Iceland urinals hit the headlines, or perhaps that should be heads hit the urinals for the faces of a number of bankers and financiers, those identified as responsible for the world’s financial crisis during the early years of the 21st century, were depicted at a very obvious point on the back wall of the urinal. Personally I would much prefer to visit that with a goalmouth rather than a person’s mouth.

Silly laws are found elsewhere in the world, too. For example in Switzerland a man could find himself in trouble if discovered relieving himself while standing after 10pm. Neither is it permitted to flush the toilet after 10pm. This is a noise problem and neither are laws on the statute books but are recommendations by the Swiss Homeowners Society.

Singapore is a little more sensible in being able to levy heavy fines for those found guilty of failing to flush a public toilet. A little more odd is that lifts are fitted with UDDs, that is Urine Detection Devices, which will set off an alarm and keep the occupant(s) locked in until the police arrive.

Urine was once used by physicians as a diagnostic tool, not tested as it is today, but tasted – modern doctors will be glad of that single letter change. It was also used as a mouthwash – and why not, what self-respecting bacterium would ever be seen bathing in someone else’s piss! We also find urine in old wives tales such as when pregnant if the urine is bright yellow it will be a boy, if dull yellow then a girl should be expected.

According to the World Health Organization more than 2.4 billion of the world’s 7 billion have no proper toilet facilities. Nepal seems to be the worst place to relieve oneself as 48% of the population do not have any toilet facilities.

November 19th 2016 was World Toilet Day – I’m assuming this was marked (if that’s the right word) by everyone reading this? Good. This has been an annual celebration (certainly not the right word) since 2001, albeit not recognised by the United Nations until 2013.

In 1981 the courts of South Carolina sentenced Michael Anderson Godwin to death for sexual assault and murder. A appeal saved him from the electric chair but in March 1989 he was perched on the toilet while trying to fix the headphones attached to his television. For reasons unknown he bit into the wire, electrocuted himself and died.

Think that is a little unusual? Forget it, the USA has a long line of silly toilet stories. Although Americans would never use ‘toilet’ but something like ‘bathroom’ or ‘head’ or ‘rest room’. This last example is quite appropriate in the story of Kory McFarren of Kansas who, in February 2008, was arrested and subsequently charged with failing to take adequate care of a dependent adult and received a suspended six-month sentence. He had asked his girlfriend Pam Babcock if she was coming out of the toilet (sorry ‘restroom’) but every day she answered ‘maybe tomorrow’. Tomorrow never came and she spent some two years on the seat, so long her skin had grown around the seat and had to be removed along with her and surgically parted from her in hospital.

Shocking, yes? Well not as shocking or as long as a Singapore woman who spent six months longer on the toilet seat than Miss Babcock, although she claimed it was an unseen force which prevented her from rising from the throne.

Toilet paper is a very new invention. In parts of Asia it was always one’s left hand which was employed, the user bringing a jug of water with him or her to the toilet to wash both hand and soiled area. This did lead to a terrible distrust of people who were left-handed.

Nairobi is one of the fastest growing cities in the world. As with many large cities this means there are areas where little progress is made and thus some of the poorer parts have had to stick with the flying toilet. No, not what it seems but a plastic bag used to collect the waste and then thrown as far away as possible. Bags of human waste are not known for being aerodynamic and thus they don’t get too far away and are soon washed back into the homes and the drinking supply in the rainy season.

Some German toilets include an inspection shelf. Here solid waste collects and can be inspected to check on the health of the visitor, it showing whether worms or other parasites are present. Toilet cleaners sell remarkably well in Germany.

And before I take a well-deserved comfort break, let’s dispel one myth. Thomas Crapper did not invent crap, I suppose that should be crap was not named after the man whose name is associated with the flush toilet. I’m told the word ‘crap’ had been used for rubbish in many places many years before it was used to refer to defecation – although that may be a load of …….. rubbish.

Anyone who would like to hear more of this could always contact me via my website of www.poultonsmith.co.uk and email me from the link found there.


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