Flush with ideas

Anne Goodwin started it with her post on World Toilet Day. A serious topic that is reeks of humour. Charli Mills, never one to keep the lid on a  good idea, has now prompted us thus:

November 19, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes the toilet. You can be funny, serious or prim-and-proper. Any variation of toilet is fair fodder (loo, privy, outhouse, shitter, porcelain throne, potty, latrine, necessarium, little girl’s room, the water closet, powder room, comfort station, etc.).

Toilets. Really? For me? The man described by a colleague as having the epitome of a scatological sense of humour (I had to look it up – new word learnt). Toilets are the centrepieces of our lives. How long do we spend there, I wonder. Someone must have undertaken a PhD on the subject.

For me toilets loom large in the memory bank. The huge high cistern at my grandma’s that, when flushed emptied like the hounds of hell going out to party. I was so traumatised that mum attached string to the chain to enable me to pull it from outside the toilet.

In our toilet in Surrey – I would be about 8 –  we had a card saying ‘Wash your hands NOW’ I stared at that NOW, knowing it meant, if I didn’t, Mum would somehow know.  I was fastidious through fear ( a theme developing you might think?)

The availability of soft paper for the masses came, like votes for women as something begrudged by the ruling patriarchy. When was that I wonder? Before this giant leap for the rights of man, we were challenged to clean ourselves with this grease proofed rubbish manufactured by Izal. It was even scented to smell like a freshly  laundered turd. The sole plus was you never needed more than a sheet at a time – no errant finger poking through – Amongst the many minuses was that it had the absorbant qualities of sealskin. I thought it had died out completely by the mid 80s until, sometime in the 90s I played rugby somewhere near Isleworth and in the corner of the loo stood a veritable Izal mountain – the remaining supplies. It felt like squatting next to an archaeological dig. Or taking part in some bizarre piece of performance art.

At 13 I was dragged into the girls toilets by two girls who terrorised me. I kind of loved it looking back though the memory of the fear-induced sweats still remains fresh (if that isn’t oxymoronic). The sister of the hero in my book, Dina, is named after the chief protagonist.

At uni I shared a flat that had been a squat before I moved in – we had fun trying to find all the hypodermic needles as we cleaned up. My flat mate and I had our 21sts there. About 1am a piece of porcelain fell out of the bowl. ‘Gentlemen are asked to aim left’ read the sign someone wrote. So sophisticated.

I’ve been locked in loos and trapped in toilets. I’ve dropped into the bowl, in no particular order – a watch, three pairs of glasses (not at the same time), a paperback book, two mobile phones, in excess of thirteen pens and pencils, enough newsprint to repaper our house, a packet of mints, four handkerchiefs and a shoe. I’ve watched the water in the bowl drain away unexpectedly and, more worryingly keep filling before overflowing. I’ve stood at gentlemen’s urinals and been propositioned, asked for directions to Rome, questioned about the existence of God, and had my penis unfavourably compared to a gherkin.

My father, from whom I acquired my latrinal fascination told many toilet related tales. I share two. In the army he watched as someone ignored the warning sign saying ‘no smoking, paraffin’ and light up, blowing the latrines and themselves into orbit. Paraffin was used to kill the wildlife that thrived in the open pit. At the other end of the spectrum, he was dining in the House of Lords and went to use the gents. They are, appropriately over the top with velvet walls, deep pile carpets, flunkies to offer you every assistance from the reluctant fly to the resilient drip and brass everything else. An old boy staggered in from some other do and stood next to Dad. He looked around. ‘Never seen the like.’ ‘Dad acknowledged the truth of this assertion. The old boy shook his head. ‘It’s all very well, this opulence but it really does make one’s prick look really shabby.’

And so to the flash.

Mary has decided she will find out who her mother really is but Rupert has teased her with the idea he knows more than she.  Will she ask him? Or will she go it alone? And whichever route she goes will she regret her actions?

 Toilet break

 Mary hesitated before opening the email. Dare she look? She’d had enough shocks already. She regretted rising to Rupert’s jibes. Her bloody half-brother.

‘Mandy Johns is your mum, right? Well she’s also my mum’s cousin.’

He told Mary. ‘She died of eclampsia hours after you were born.’

He showed her a photo; Angela and Mandy were almost identical.

‘There’s more,’ he’d said but she’d thought, ‘Sod you, I’ll not rely on you anymore.’

It had taken her weeks. She scanned the email.

….our records show in 1967 Amanda Johns gave birth to twin girls….

Mary ran for the toilet.

Here’s the link to the rest of Mary’s story so far.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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16 Responses to Flush with ideas

  1. willowdot21 says:

    Great post as ever!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Annecdotist says:

    What a fabulous post, reads as if it’s been waiting in the wings for years for Charli’s prompt. I could even see extending into another novel!
    I’m amazed how much stuff you’ve lost down the toilet – these things are sacred, you know!
    Why is it that kids don’t want to wash their hands? I remember going through the motions (I know) at the top of the stairs so I’d know I’d been up there long enough that my mother would assume I’d washed my hands. Seems to me my few acts of rebellion were all self-defeating.
    Nice to see where your character of Dina comes from, and so to Mary – lovely, yet another relative for you and her to discover

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      I didn’t post on which ones I fished out! Grim. Somehow my mother brainwashed me young into believing she just KNEW when I hadn’t done what I should have. Gullible or what. And my parents used to laugh at my rebellions which was plain infuriating.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I tell my 10-yr-old that if he doesn’t wash his hands properly, I will march upstairs and sing him a baby song while he washes. He washes them.


      • TanGental says:

        Mum was happy to recall, many years after the event how I told her she was easily the toughest mum in school. Not for her the nicest or the most thoughtful. Best cook she would have taken but that would have been a second place. She had many ways to terrorize me into doing her bidding without ever resorting to the tried and tested ‘wait till your father gets home’. I sense you might fall into the same self categorisation. Tell your offspring from me ‘it doesn’t get any better – they don’t mellow, they mature, like cheese, developing a thicker skin and more powerful inner core.’


  3. Izal…ahhhhh… the dread of every school child in the 1970’s. I reckon every kid had a phobia about needing a crap at school. You’d pull out 100 sheets in the hope of being able to do something useful with it. I’m pretty sure they still sell it here on Shetland, but then we are 50 years behind in almost everything!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. There is so much of the funny here. So much.

    I’m thrilled Anne introduced us all to World Toilet Day and Charli blasted the lid off it, using as the prompt this week. Now that you mention it, I’ll be there is a thesis or dissertation on the subject.

    Haha! Your mom is awesome! Attaching a string for you. I love that. But I’m sorry about your experience of being terrorized at school — especially since my flash was about that. And the smoking story… O_o

    Oh, dear. What is going to happen to Mary?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Charli Mills says:

    You are flush with toilet stories! Instead of the proverbial water cooler that people gather around to chit chat, we have the water closet gathering this week! Hand washing brings up an interesting point of sanitation, too because I grew up very lapse in that habit due to outhouses that have toilets but no sinks! Now days, the porta-potties at concerts and events are all equipped with sani-gels for hands. They say that the sites of old outhouses are great places to treasure hunt for old coins and often men hid their whiskey bottles there!

    You are really tossing in some fabulous twists! Now we have a twin and poor Mary is even more closely related to Rupert! Thanks for reminding us of another need for the porcelain bowl. 😉


    • TanGental says:

      We didn’t have many outhouses to experience our way but one was in a little cottage in Oxford which wold freeze over. First job in the morning was to boil a kettle, half for a pot of tea and half poured down the bowl and into the cistern to melt the water.


  6. Pingback: Tales of Toilets « Carrot Ranch Communications

  7. What wonderful toilet humour. Yes I think we are on a par with the toilet fascination. You reminded me of that thankfully long forgotten shiny paper which I think is still available as for some reason it is better suited to septic systems than many of the modern, soft papers, probably only because as you say, you only need to use one sheet.
    Mary is gaining relatives by the week. She reminds me of an Englishman I met out here whose mother was the last woman hung in England. He had been fostered as a child and somehow came out here. He started returning to England looking for relatives and each time would come back with a new brother or sister.


    • TanGental says:

      Ruth Ellis! I remember the scandal when a book came out essentially saying she was driven to the killing because of the abuse. They made a TV drama about ehr and the hangman Arthur Pierrepoint. And you met her son? Poor lad.


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