This is the final column before Christmas, so naturally I’ve decided to write about toilets.
Why, I hear you shriek?
Because let’s face it, everyone else this time of year is banging on about tinsel, or turkey, or the true meaning of Christmas – spoilt brats asking for every toy under the sun (I base this on the behaviour of my own children) – and I don’t know about you but I’m already sick of it and it hasn’t even happened yet.
The reason I’m suffering Christmas fatigue is because Christmas now begins in early September.
Sure we have a bit of a break towards the end of October when we have Halloween and Bonfire Night, the latter of which I still don’t get. It never ceases to amaze me how many middle-aged men genuinely get excited by setting off a rocket. Men do very little for 12 months, then, when it comes to Bonfire Night, suddenly leap into life. They purchase the fireworks, then let absolutely no one else near when it comes to lighting them, as if it’s a job only a man can do. ‘Stand back everyone,’ a very over-enthusiastic male neighbour bellowed at the women and children when we gathered as a street to let ours off this year. ‘This is going to be huge so be careful,’ he shouted, before letting off a rocket the size of his right leg which went so high and exploded with such force it destroyed a US satellite mid-orbit (Trump was not happy). ‘Fantastic,’ said our neighbour, while all the children on the street had to be rushed to hospital with perforated eardrums. It’s the one time of year I believe men feel really useful, as if they have found a purpose in life. Their only other skill, as far as I can make out, is getting the tops off jars. If I had a pound for every time Mrs Canavan has run into the lounge holding a jar of mint sauce and asked me to take the lid off, I’d be a billionaire (unfortunately, in my case, I’m not actually strong enough to do it – I’ve always had weak wrists; it’s why I never fulfilled my ambition of becoming England’s leading leg-spinner – so she has to ask our hunky neighbour instead. In fact thinking about it, last time she went next door to get a lid off she spent 45 minutes in there with him. “You look awfully flushed,” I observed on her return. ‘It was a tough lid,’ she replied, then she lit a cigarette and went for a lie down).
As soon as November 5 is out of the way, though, it’s back to Christmas and all the naff adverts on TV, all the decorations in shops, all the terrible music playing in cafes (I had a coffee in a café in mid-November and heard Last Christmas by Wham three times in 40 minutes, which is at least three times too many).
So all of the above is why I’m refusing to write about that day next Wednesday and am instead talking about toilets.
This is because – as you may have seen –a new toilet with what’s described as an ‘inconvenient seat’ has been developed. The seat slopes down, so it’s not comfy to sit on, and the whole point is to ensure employees don’t spend too much time during the working day skiving on the loo.
This seems a great shame as I don’t know about you but – and I suppose this speaks volumes about how much I enjoy my job – sitting on the toilet is the highlight of my day.
I treat going to the work toilet like a mini-holiday. I recline on the seat, stretch out my legs as if settling on a sun lounger, take a deep contented breath and then crack open a small beer and read The Guardian from front to back (as opposed to back to front, which would be weird). Those precious solitary relaxing few minutes are a pleasure, so news of this new uncomfortable loo – which apparently ‘has a 13 degree sloped seat to increase strain on the legs’, making sitting there for more than five minutes virtually impossible - is rather disturbing.
But what caught my eye regards this story wasn’t really news of the loo, but the line, ‘the design has been approved by the BTA (British Toilet Association)’.
The what? I had no idea such an organisation existed. How marvellous. Imagine being the chief executive and describing your job at a dinner party. ‘Colin, what do you do for living?’ ‘Well, Malcolm, keep it under your hat but I’m chief exec of the British Toilet Association. Could you pass the foie gras?’
I spent a very happy half hour on the BTA’s website and learned some fascinating things. Did you know, for example, they produce a Truckers Toilets Newsletter? It’s true. A recent edition contained an article which read: ‘The Around the Toilet team from Sheffield Hallam University had two adjoining stands at Utopia Fair at Somerset House where there were opportunities to listen to people’s stories and design a loo. To crown a successful weekend, the taxi driver Gill (the editor) hailed promised to distribute our Lorry Drivers Need Loos handout to colleagues. Very encouraging!’
As you can see it’s fascinating stuff.
I assumed the BTA is just a British thing but it turns out loads of countries have a national toilet association and there’s even – hold on to your hats (or perhaps trousers) - an annual World Toilet Summit, this year’s taking place in Brazil.
Forget the Olympics or the World Cup, I would love to go to a World Toilet Summit where I imagine there are heated discussions about ballcock design, and perhaps the chance to sit on the latest lavatories and rate them out of 10.
On closer inspection, disappointingly it turns out the summit is actually about more serious issues, like trying to ensure people worldwide have better access to toilets and that every household is given a free nine-pack of Andrex Extra Quilted with added Aloe Vera (I may have made that last bit up).
But I still fancy going, which brings me full circle back to Christmas.
If anyone wants to get me a gift as a token of thanks for the last 12 months of these non-award winning columns, a ticket for next year’s World Toilet Summit would be terrific.
Thanks in advance and happy Christmas to one and all.