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The Thing Is with Steve Canavan

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Apart from the fact you always get that incredibly cheap, thin loo roll that large companies seem to think it’s OK to supply to their employees – you know, the stuff that’s so much like sandpaper it leaves scratch marks – I enjoy going to the toilet at work.

It’s a chance, once that cubicle door is closed and you’re in your own little world of privacy, to sit in peace and reflect for a few minutes, maybe mull over where to go on holiday or ponder just who cuts Boris Johnson’s hair.

Then I started thinking about socks.

It isn’t unusual for my mind to wander while in the lavatory, indeed I find being on the loo is one of the finest places in the world to stop and think.

I remember back in 2003 it was on the toilet that I came up with the idea of Facebook. I wrote it on the back of a cigarette packet which unfortunately I lost on holiday in America later that year.

Blow me, a couple of years later some kid called Zuckerberg came up with the same thing.

I took the matter to court but it got thrown out, something about lack of evidence, which clearly demonstrates the failings of the British legal system.

People ask if I’m bitter. Well, no. Sure he’s worth a billion quid, has an incredible looking wife, and lives in a 106-bedroom mansion but would he cut it as a semi-successful writer on a regional newspaper? I doubt it.

But back to socks.

I wondered, as I perched on the lavatory, why we wear them and what they are for. And what came first - the shoe or the sock? (before you ask I’m not on any medication; this is just how my mind works).

I mentioned this to my colleagues on returning to my desk, but they all seemed strangely disinterested and said ‘there’s no way you can write a column about that – it will be rubbish and boring’.

While the second half of that statement is most certainly true, the first part not so, as, in a very roundabout way, I’m proving here.

I have undertaken some research on socks and have some findings I’d like to share.

Firstly, and something I never knew, the foot, it turns out, is one of the heaviest producers of sweat in the body. The average foot will sweat more than a pint of perspiration per day – and presumably a good deal more if you’re a postman or Mo Farah.

Socks help to absorb all this sweat and draw it to areas where air can evaporate the perspiration.

But when did we first wear socks, I hear you cry? Well, a lot earlier than I’d thought.

In 8th century BC (to jog your memory, Jesus was 800 years from being born and Sheffield Wednesday were third top in Division Two), the Ancient Greeks, who were obviously starting to get cheesed off with the amount of blisters they were picking up, began wearing matted animal hair around their feet and ankles.

The Romans followed suit, using leather or woven fabrics.

Fast forward a few centuries and by the 5th century AD socks called ‘puttees’ were worn by holy people in Europe to symbolise purity. By the 10th century they were a symbol of wealth among the nobility. In the 16th century socks started to have ornamental designs on the side, and by the 21st century you could find big baskets of them by the tills in Sports Direct priced £1.99 for five pairs.

The invention of a knitting machine in 1589 meant socks could be knitted six times faster than by hand, and the next big revolution in sock production (not a sentence I think I’ve ever written before) was the introduction of nylon in 1938. Until then socks were made from silk, cotton and wool.

The actual word sock by the way, derives from the Old English word socc, meaning ‘light slipper’. And there’s a town in China (Zhuji) known as Sock City, because it produces eight billion pairs of socks each year (a third of the world’s entire sock production), which is effectively a pair for every person on the planet (there are 7.4 billion people living on earth).

I’ve got more clothes facts for you, such as how tights were originally designed for men of nobility for practical reasons when horse-riding, or that in 1913 a New York socialite named Mary Phelps Jacob changed women’s fashion forever when she created the first bra by tying two handkerchiefs together with ribbon.

But there’s only so much excitement you readers can take, so until next week...

Blow me that dryer is rubbish

I have – and I believe this is a sign of my age and my increasing frustration with life and everything about it – emailed a complaint to my work bosses about the hand-dryer in the gents.

It is – and this is the technical term – rubbish.

After washing my hands I place them under the dryer, which, after around a three-second delay, whirrs half-heartedly into life and emits a wheezing sound like a 30-stone man trying to climb a hill.

The faintest hint of hot air touches your hand and does absolutely nothing to remove any water, instead it just kind of gently pushes one drop of water to another area of your palm. The dryer automatically stops after about six seconds, at which point you must move your hands away, then move them back underneath to reactivate the sensor. The sensor is clearly knackered, though, for this rarely works, so you must move your hand back and forth frantically about six or seven times before the dryer may or may not spark back into life.

I have timed how long it takes to get one’s hands completely dry at three minutes 14 seconds – which, if, say you go the toilet five times in one day, is more than 16 minutes worth – and that’s before you take into account how much time you’ve actually spent on the loo in the first place.

All in all I reckon we’re losing half an hour a day in the toilet, as I pointed out in my email.

I’ve yet to receive a reply to my email but have been sent my P45.