I realise that I have not yet shared one of the great idiosyncracies of the house we have bought, namely “the room with a view!”. No, this picture does not lie, the en-suite toilet of the main bedroom is positioned so that you can sit on the loo and survey the view below simultaneously! In fact the previous occupier was renowned for greeting his guests whilst perched on the toilet!
This post put me in mind of various toilets I have frequented over the years… Ranging from long-drops in remote Pacific islands that you used to have to bang with a stick before sitting down to dislodge any undesirable visitors that might be lurking close to the seat; to the all singing all dancing toilets in Tokyo that warmed the seat and gave you a shampoo and set below whilst you were in situ. Not something that I would necessarily recommend but they have their advocates.
However the most entertaining not to mention social toilets I have come across must be in China. The first experience was when attending a VSO conference in Beijing. We all went out to a Chinese night club one evening and during the course of the night nature called. As this club was in a fairly reputable hotel there were facilities on site (more of that later) so I duly trotted along to join the inevitable queue for the ladies. On getting to the head of the queue I was welcomed by a beaming middle- aged Chinese lady who kindly escorted me into the cubicle. All fine I thought, she clearly was concerned that I did not understand the symbols for men and women. However she then began to try to assist me in preparing myself for using the facilities and a slight struggle ensued as she attempted to pull down my trousers whilst I tried to uphold my dignity! In the end I had to give in as she clearly was not going to leave me alone until she was satisfied I was firmly ensconced on the throne (unusually it was a Western style toilet in that hotel). So I finally complied, thinking that would be the end of it, but far from it. She then tried to give me a neck massage to “relax me” whilst I was engaged in what nature required. Well not surprisingly I found that this made any resolution of my state impossible – and finally with much bowing of heads on my side and some consternation on hers, I was able to eject her from the cubicle and complete my ablutions in private.
However I was soon to learn that this was just a foretaste of further lavatory adventures to come.
Following the conference my colleague Morgan, who was Field Officer in the Solomon Islands, and I decided to spend a week exploring China. This was in the late 80s so there was not a lot of tourist traffic (particularly post Tiananmen ) and we soon realised that outside of the major conurbations we were somewhat of a novelty. However we were young, full of confidence and with some degree of travel experience so we gamely set forth on our travels round the country.
One evening found us searching for an alcoholic refreshment following yet another entertaining meal (for another time). We wandered into what we thought was a bar to be greeted with great warmth by the people there (staff and customers). We were escorted to a table and immediately were offered an abundance of delectable Chinese savouries and a bottle of beer. As we relaxed we suddenly realised that we had inadvertently wandered into a Karaoke Ballroom bar!! Where you either sang or danced (or ideally both) for the entertainment of others, an interesting time ensued. Needless to say after a period I felt the call of nature and so through hand signals and much head nodding and smiling managed to communicate my needs. A charming Chinese girl took my hand and escorted me. Out of the club we went, into the back streets and after several minutes of cutting through ever smaller and darker alleyways we arrived at a smallish hut set slightly away from the other buildings. We entered this and there was a hole which my kind escort then enthusiastically demonstrated the use of to me by divesting her trousers and squatting down. I therefore did the same, not wanting to seem standoffish or prudish, however unbeknown to me my progress through the backstreets of the town had not gone unnoticed and as I got myself into a reasonably comfortable, and more importantly reasonably balanced squat, into the toilet came another dozen or so Chinese ladies of various ages. Who severally either joined us in squatting over the hole or simply took delight in squatting on their haunches and giggling and pointing at the big nose in front of them!! It was a moment never to be forgotten, but to be honest once the initial shock and consternation of being so publicly displayed had passed I relaxed and enjoyed the warmth of this sisterhood – a never to be forgotten experience which gives another meaning to the tune: “sisters are doing it for themselves….”
Having said that we are not going to stay with the toilet with a view as we renovate our home, nor are we planning a long drop in the garden, but we are going to put Aisan douche sprays in each of the toilets (despite having been told these could devalue the house!) and we will have a bath with a view.