Friday, 1 February 2008
Loos I have known . . .
I tried to think of a different title, I really did, but somehow Lavatorial experiences sounds a shade too close to the mark; the Toilets of Hampshire and Dorset a little too staid and not quite geographically broad enough and Pass the Toilet Roll please bound to put people off. If you are of a sensitive nature, perhaps it is best not to read on . . .
Many of us, in desperation, will resort to going behind a bush when out in the middle of nowhere - providing, of course, that the bush isn't a) smaller than you; b) next to a bull, or c) capable of being overlooked from every angle, especially from higher ground nearby . . . Come to think of it, I should add d) next to an electric fence. I have also found that e) by a patch of stinging nettles, has been the only option on far too many occasions, especially in my childhood when I drank squash like it was going out of style, and was forever in search of that elusive bush . . . My late ma-in-law, bless her multi-layered tights, would NEVER have even remotely considered this option and would have just gone puce . . .
No, what I am going share with you today - that is, if you are still reading my blog, and haven't hurriedly clicked on "Botox in your lunch-hour" or "How to chop onions fast without losing your fingernails", is my experiences of the sort of loos provided at - usually - horse-shows, though there are some notable exceptions (but I shall leave the best till last . . .) When I was young, I was undaunted by the "long drop" sanitation provided at major horse shows - in other words, the facilities were put in place over a recently-excavated ditch. Mind you, this was the best part of 50 years ago, so things were a little primitive then. At smaller shows, the "facilities" were sometimes a little more basic. At one show, the organizers had seen fit to put the ablutions inside a borrowed tent - you had to zip yourself into the "bedroom" and hold your breath against the chemical pong. All I can say is we had record temperatures that day, and whoever loaned the tent, probably never EVER used it to go camping in again . . .
Then there were the "worked out on the back of a postage stamp" style toilets. Whoever thought that a canvas barrier at shoulder height (for the gents) and a similar height of canvas with a piece draped over the top (for the ladies) would be sufficient, was a few sandwiches short of a picnic. In fact, I think they shouldn't have been allowed out on their own, as the actual, erhmmm, container provided for the ladies was a 40 gallon oil drum with a loo-seat somehow tied to the top. Imagine, if you will, the full array of toiletry facilities once the men had been to the beer tent - a long line of somewhat self-conscious blokes, pretending they were looking at the view, and whistling all the while . . . whilst the poor women were obvious by a canvas-draped figure and the fact that they could be heard clear across the showground and easily mistaken for a visiting Steel Band!
When helping a friend with her show horses, we could always pop inside the lorry if sufficiently desperate, though the chap we had showing with us did this one day and found himself being watched by a skinny lady wearing a long calf-length knitted jacket, who then, hands in pockets, threw her arms open wide and he was horrified to find his admirer was stark naked beneath! She took quite a shine to ***, and was most upset when she was led back to the local asylum, from whence she had managed to wander . . .
Wandering further afield, to Wales in fact, on a coach trip, I was surprised to find that the further we proceeded from home, the worse the facilities became until, upon reaching Ab**ga*v*n*y (which I'm sure now has super toilets at their bus station), there was not only no toilet paper, and no catch on the door, so that you had to jam it shut with one foot, but most of the loos didn't even have a toilet seat! But these were luxury, compared to my experiences the one time I went to Glastonbury Festival - perhaps the 2nd or 3rd year it was ever held. By day two, all the wooden doors had been removed to use as firewood by the people camping there and so you were in full view of whoever passed. I couldn't wait to get home again!
However, the red rosette for worst-planned inconveniences, must go to a reasonably civilized portaloo at Braishfield Country Fair, or rather, at the Barndance and shindig in the evening. There was only one portaloo, if my memory serves me correctly, and it had unfortunately been placed on a slight incline. By 10.30p.m., there was a permanent queue for it. As I drew closer, I became aware of the unfortunate position of the portaloo, as it would rock dementedly every time a woman went in. The very act of struggling with tights sent it tipping first one way and then the other, threatening to upend entirely, with obvious dire consequences. When it was my turn, I went inside and began to giggle, in fact I struggled not to laugh out loud, as it began to emulate a rocking horse, and I struggled to move my feet to stabilise it. From outside I heard guffaws of laughter and when I finally emerged, scarlet in the face from embarassment, I vowed never again - next time I would go behind a bush!