Friday, 8 December 2017

Random Glimmers of Light

Do you ever find yourself hunkering down with an unreasonable amount of tea, vowing to stay put next to the teapot either until everything gets better or the zombie apocalypse arrives to end everyone's misery (whichever comes first)? We do, more often than we should probably own in a public forum. However, no matter how deep the darkness, there are always glimmers of light. For instance, nobody has yet sent a contribution to the New Year's competition, meaning that anyone who actually sends us a photo of toilet graffiti is guaranteed to win an autographed photo of Jonny. Guaranteed. Think about it.

There has been some confusion about the rules of the competition; rampant readers of our intellectual toilet blog have given us feedback via social media saying they have no idea what the hell is going on. We would like to reassure those persons that the rules are very simple:

1) Send pictures of toilet graffiti
2) Win a signed picture of Jonny
3) Live happily forever after, having gained your heart's desire

Or, in Jonny's own words:
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?
 Jonny also sent us this teaser photo, to whet everybody's appetite. We have blurred it, to tantalise and entrance you:

We knowwwwww. WOOF!

If you weren't already fervently scouring your neighbourhood for toilet graffiti, remember the lonely hearts ad we wrote for Jonny back in 2014 which has, as far as we can tell, been reasonably effective (apart from all those nights spent crying into a ham sandwich which, we hasten to point out, are hearsay only - no conclusive proof of said sandwich-related activity taking place has ever been presented in a peer-reviewed forum): Jonny and a Public Toilet - A Treat for Single Ladies. Woof! Go forth and photograph graffiti!

In order to fill this blog post with content other than us semi-ironically perving on Jonny, we delved deep, deep into the dark and scary place we call our toilet-photo archive. What we found reminded us that there is, to get distastefully sentimental, a wide, beautiful world out there. Said world is profoundly problematic, unjust, and rampantly racist, but still. It does contain the occasional blue sky, lemon tree, and gorgeous bottle of wine. If one takes an interest in furthering the interests of women academics (here's a fun challenge: try googling "sexism in academia" without sighing wearily and turning to drink!), one may end up getting the benefit of a free trip to South Africa to attend a feminist conference. Sometimes, for the briefest of moments, life doesn't suck at all. It is our pleasure to present a rambling stroll through the toilets of Cape Town and its surrounding vineyards:

Hurrah! A toilet in South Africa!

At some point in 2016, we enjoyed some rather lovely wine and toilets at the Boschendal vineyard

Woof! What does this remind us of? That toilet in a hotel in Mora that comforted us when we were sad and tired and fed up with the patriarchy! Which, actually, we went to after we went to South Africa. To lessen the mindfuck, the copper sink also reminds us of one of the luscious loos we utilised when in Lithuania.

Our correspondent showing signs of rampant happiness in the toilet at the Babylonstoren vineyard.

Mixer tap! Of the subjunctive variety, popular in Denmark.

Some kind of charming farmhouse sink at Babylonstoren. Does it remind us of something? But naturally: the 1940s sink at the Castle Museum in York.

The charming farmhouse sink in context: next to a big fuck-off oven. Note rustic roof beams.

The South African wine inspires bonhomie and bonanza in even the most cynical toilet blogger. Hurrah!

Our correspondent's reaction on finding an excellent hotel bathroom at the Protea Hotel in Cape Town. The staff were super friendly, and we really can't recommend this place warmly enough.

This is probably the airport toilet in Cape Town. It could also be anywhere else in South Africa. The wine was REALLY good.

It does rather look like an airport toilet. Or does it? We're fucked if we know.

Look! We're back at Babylonstoren!

We enjoyed the friendly sunshine and the subjunctive mixer taps.

An ideal toilet in every way. Many, many points.

A charming Dutch Colonial window.

Nothing warms a hoary old toilet blogger's soul like warm African sunshine.

A breathtaking view of a South African orchard.

300 years of Delftware, found in the ground at Babylonstoren. We are, of course rather familiar with Delft tiles at the Privy Counsel. For instance, we came across it in that amazing toilet in Warwickshire that we visited with Tudor Friend, and also in a royal loo in Copenhagen.

This could potentially be an airport toilet in Dubai, that we potentially visited en route to Cape Town.
We note that we wrote to Shewee Fiend Friend at the time:
"Dubai airport, apart from being spectacularly vulgar, is creepy. The women are dressed in tents and one half expects the bearded airport staff in their Bedouin headgear and white pyjamas to call one a slut and insist that one cover one's hair".
Travel, like so many other things in the patriarchy, can be a profoundly disturbing experience if one is a woman - a calamity affecting roughly fifty per cent of the population. 

We can't remember where we drank this, but both the wine and the party were excellent. Now you know.

Close-up of the hotel room mixer tap. It worked flawlessly.

Another nice wine.

This is where it gets exciting! The conference centre toilets! Here some admirable paper towels.


A contender for the "Platonic Ideal of a Toilet" title. Shewee Fiend Friend's North American airport toilet would do well to start getting its game face on.

Our correspondent displaying signs of being pleased with the toilets and the 10 am conference champagne. If memory serves us the staff in the coffee shop on the ground floor of the Cape Town International Conference Centre were extremely friendly.

You know how sometimes you get drunk on mulled wine, sing cheesy country songs in the bath and realise you have no idea whether the neighbours can hear you, then write a bog blog post while still woozy? Today's Festive Video reflects that, and also reminds us that non-mixer taps are the Devil's work and one always works better than two.

Festive Video: Nashville, One Works Better

Related Reading

Jonny once went to a conference centre, and very exciting it was, too
One other time he went to an executive gents' toilet
Another time when Jonny was unreasonably dapper
All posts featuring Jonny
All posts featuring Shewee Fiend Friend

Posts featuring charming Delft tiles:
We Receive a Postcard
Blogging Something Rotten

A bog post featuring a list of Danish places that have what we have just termed subjunctive mixer taps, just to prove we're not crazy:
The Hirschprung Museum, or Revising the Status of Denmark, or, Feverish Paranoia

All posts featuring conference centres

All posts featuring airports

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 is, 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:
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