The Thing Is with Steve Canavan - September 10,. 2015

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A quick disclaimer. If you are reading while munching on a sandwich, wait till you’ve polished it off before proceeding.

This column is, at the risk of receiving a bucketful of complaints from more sensitive readers, about wiping one’s behind.

I’m not being frivolous or crude here, I am raising the matter because the makers of Andrex toilet tissue have printed instructions on their packets about how we should go about it.

I noticed them the other day as I was, well, sat on the toilet, idly scanning the packet.

I was reading the labelling because Mrs Canavan, who had obviously been feeling flush (or, put another way, she had in her possession my credit card), had purchased a roll of Andrex which had been, apparently, “enriched with aloe vera and vitamin E”.

Just what benefit the aloe vera and vitamin A is I haven’t the foggiest – and ditto the folk at Andrex because they don’t clarify it at all on their packaging.

But what they do have – astonishingly – is a five-step guide about how to go about it.

Now, in all my 39 years on this planet, I have never, not even at my lowest ebb, given any possible thought about such a technique.

My usual toilet procedure goes like this: do my business, quick glance between the legs, then I rip some toilet paper from the roll and tackle the task in a random fashion.

But according to the folk at Andrex, for the last 30-odd years I – and I suspect many others – have been doing it wrong.

The instructions they have printed on the side of the packet (and I quote word for word) are:

1. Use three to four sheets per wipe of good quality toilet paper.

2. Wipe from front to back.

3. Use one to two sheets of moist toilet tissue.

4. Finish by patting dry with toilet papers.

5. Always wash hands with soap.

I was so shocked I had to read it twice more to check I’d not misunderstood.

It raises so many questions.

Firstly, why are we not allowed to do it how we want?

These three to four sheets, are we allowed to fold them, or scrunch them, or perhaps – for those into origami – make a swan before wiping?

Then there’s the direction of the wipe.

Why, I wonder, is it so important to go front to back?

Yesterday, living life on the edge, I experimented by going back to front and nothing bad at all happened.

As for the guidance about using that moist toilet tissue, I ran the toilet paper under the tap to dampen it but then it disintegrated and for several days afterwards I was picking small wet bits of paper out of my underpants.

The kindly people at Andrex even have a website offering more information about what they term the Andrex Clean Routine.

Are they being serious? Surely there is not a couple anywhere in Britain at this very moment having the exchange: “Derek, I’m just going to the toilet – last night’s lasagne is sitting a bit heavy.”

“Well hang on Linda love, I’ll just nip on the internet and find the best way for you to go about things – front to back remember.”

Then again, I speak too soon, for it turns out – and I stumbled upon this in the name of research I hasten to add – an internet chat forum where people discuss their toilet habits.

Janet, from Mansfield – and I’m not making this up – wrote: “I’ve been wiping so horribly wrong this whole time.

“Normally I use two sheets and go back to front. I don’t use wipes and I sometimes carefully fold if I don’t have much left.”

Meanwhile, a clearly concerned Dave from Nottingham chipped in with: “Wait, do people actually refold toilet paper after using it?

“ Like, on a regular basis, not just in emergency almost-out-of-paper situations?”, to which Clive in Aberdeen responded: “Yes? Wipe, fold, wipe, fold. It ensures the best paper-to-wipes ratio.”

It was at this point I wondered whether I had entered a parallel universe.

Just as I was wavering and giving serious thought to changing technique, sanity kicked in.

And so, I have decided to continue the same as I always have and Andrex, and the rest of you, can stick your advice where the sun don’t shine.