My Dad was a tough West End bloke, ex Forces, spent his life on building sites as a bricklayer, or digging holes for the Northern Gas Board. Hands the size of shovels that I felt on my backside more than once. So when I was a kid you did what he said, with my Mam you had a better chance of getting away with the standard behavior for a little street waif. Once we visited Eyemouth, my folks and their two best friends and the baggage, me! They parked in that little car park facing the sea, next to a tiny shop selling ice cream. We all went for a walk along the nearby beach, when my very first unpleasantry regarding toiletry matters. I was about 6 and wearing a new pair of Wrangler jeans. Suddenly my innards declared that they urgently needed to go to the toilet and not just for a wee! At this point we were about a mile from the car park and the scruffy public netty. I told my Dad that I needed to go. “You’ll wait until we get back, it’ll only be another hour, because we are going to get some chips!” he barked. Normally the bribe of chips would work, but to use an awful adage, the turtle’s head was literally threatening to pop out. I tried again, as best I good as a tot, to explain that my tummy was telling me in no uncertain terms that I needed a toilet NOW! Once again he barked another order, and we kept walking away from my cubicle salvation. I knew I was wasting my breath, yet my guts were in agony, like a writhing snake squeezing my bowels. I was crying a bit, trying to hold it together, when in a split second I felt remarkably better. I thought, surely I have weathered the storm, and got over the urge, until I felt this warmth running down the back of both of my thighs. “Dad” I shouted this time, he fired me a look like the ones he gave the Germans in World War Two. He could see from my face that something had happened, and then the smell hit him, my Mam and their friends were in the fall out zone and started laughing. I was humiliated and disgusted with myself. The phrase, ‘when you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go’ is entirely accurate. Yet what happened next was equally unpleasant. My Mam grabbed my hand and dragged me back along the beach, me walking tight cheeked, trying to hold the unwanted package in my soiled Y fronts. On reaching the busy loo’s she took me into the ladies, stripped me in front of other Mums and their daughters, and started cleaning me up, Dumping my pants and it’s contest down a toilet, that would inevitably block once she flushed, and it did. She towelled the poo off me, and left me in a locked cubicle, whilst she turned my new jeans inside out at a sink, using the soap at the sink to wash them. All the while other Mothers were all recoiling at the horrific stink that the loo was experiencing, some discussing my ‘accident’ with all and sundry. Some were mortified, others supportive of her and disgusted at me. My Mam ordered my Dad to get a towel out of the car, and it was wrapped around me, and with wringing wet jeans in one hand, my hand in the other she pulled me back to the car. On getting there, she put me in the back, took my soaking, partially cleansed jeans and hung them on the metal fence in front of the car to dry in the breezy Summer afternoon. My Dad returned to tell me that it was my fault, so I would have to spend the rest of the trip in the car. I was given a mint Yo-Yo biscuit and a packet of Tudor ready salted crisps. They said they were going to the fish and chip shop in the village for dinner, and obviously I couldn’t go. My Dad said he could not bring any back because they were heading up to a pub on the outskirts of Eyemouth for a drink afterwards. . I was so upset, I sobbed and sobbed finally falling to sleep along the back seat. A few hours later, just as it was beginning to get dark the door jerked open, they were all back and wanted to head home. My Mam asked me where I had put the jeans? I had not touched the jeans, but they were not there on the fence. Whilst I snoozed the wind had picked up and was blowing out to sea, and we all realised that my twice worn new Wranglers were now heading towards Belgium. I was blamed for that, for ruining everyone’s day, for spoiling lunch and for bringing the trip to an end far earlier than it would have. This made me realise that toilet matters would become as issue again in years to come.
Like many of you I have visited a friends house and needed to go. Then you flush and the monster you have delivered will not flush away! Once I had to break it up with a coat hanger, then cleaned it and threw it out of the window (the coat hanger that is).
On another occasion at a girlfriends house I needed to go, but discovered as soon as my mission was accomplished that there was no toilet paper! It was very early in the relationship so you couldn’t give her a shout, not with the strong ‘atmosphere’; in that little room. So I opened the window, hoping it was a windy day, and scan the room for anything I could use. Do you have any idea how tricky it is, cleaning yourself with a sharp plastic shower curtain? Then spending a good twenty minutes boiling the curtain clean in the bath. Fortunately there were bath cleaning products in there, and I left it cleaner than when I entered. Unfortunately when you spend almost half an hour in a toilet, there is no disguising what you have been doing.
I am not being gratuitous over our ablutions, I just find it fascinating the problems that simple bodily functions cause us. One of my friends, a theatre stage manager, told me a story about the TV and stage star from Scotland Stanley Baxter. Apparently he was in panto playing a dame, as only he could, when disaster struck. Just before the half, the intermission in the middle of a pantomime, Stanley realised that he needed to go. He knew that there was only five minutes to go, he also knew that he was in the middle of a comedy monologue that took the show to the end of the first half. If he walked out, no one would know what to do. They say the show must go on and that was in Stanley’s bones, and bowels, as whilst he delivered his hilarious speech, he let it all go underneath his long dames gown. No one in the audience had a clue what happened. During the half numerous air sprays were dispatched audience side and onstage, as the crew mopped and dried the floor. In part two Stanley had a different outfit, but the panto was a huge success. Super classy under the circumstances.
There is a Hollywood story about this type of thing. A very rich and well known superstar was caught short, and raced into a hotel toilet. She suffered the runs, and felt weakened by the evacuation, just sitting there in relief. Just then she looked and to her horror there was no toilet tissue. She went through her tiny hand bag hoping for tissues, but only found a lipstick and her purse. Just then she heard another cubicle next to hers being occupied, and heard it being used. As the lady finished she said “Excuse me but there is no tissue in this booth, would you be kind enough to pass me some under the cubicle?”. The lady then said “Oh no, there isn’t any in here either!”. At that the star pushed her hand under the cubicle waving a hundred dollar bill saying “Have you got five twenties for this?”.
The reason I featured this as a topic was because on the news last week they told us that there is a syndrome that affects 15% of people, ‘Shy Bowel’ syndrome. Meaning people can’t poo in public netties. I understands this. I was once a bit like it, but after the amount of travelling across the globe I’ve been lucky to do, I’ve had to go in some downright peculiar places. Challenging excretions in the jungle, in a sand dune in the desert, in the terrifying Paris catacombs (made even scarier after what I left behind), on a mountain in Peru, in a snowstorm in Tibet and even into a carrier bag in a small plane! So now I would go anywhere I needed too, even if other people were listening the the ‘orchestra’.
We should open a page for you guys to list your great netty adventures! We’ve all had them!