Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Thursday, 10 April 2014
The Edwardians were fabulously inventive when naming their patent ceramic lavatory bowls, and I really do not know what spurred them to outdo each other to come up with even more inappropriate titles than their competitor's latest.
This one caught my eye at last week's flea-market, and - I promise you - that toy bear flew off a nearby table in the strong breeze, and landed in the bowl the second before I pressed the shutter. I almost pulled it out before taking the picture, and then I thought that God might have a sense of humour after all.
The "KEN" - aside from the sheer incongruity of that banal name attached to a toilet, I am deeply impressed with the generous use of quotation marks, as if Ken himself had uttered his own name when inventing a slightly different shaped bog.
The makers were also keen to point out that the glaze used in the firing was lead-free, as if you had intended to drink out of it.
There must be - somewhere out there on the net - a comprehensive list of ludicrous toilet-bowl names, and I know that one of them is 'The Krakatoa', with all the connotations that volcanoes and curries conjure up.
The king of all water closet manufacturers has to be Thomas Crapper, whose name is now generically incorporated into the slang dictionary for the act of using one of his appliances. I don't know when Crapper went out of business, but his name will live forever, and the antique bowls fetch high prices at reclamation yards.
In one way, I am surprised that Thomas Crapper was never knighted for his service to industry, but then again it is hard to imagine him kneeling before a sword-wielding Queen Victoria and arising as 'Sir Thomas' - or "Sir Thomas", as it would have been stencilled on the edge of the bowl.
I started to write a children's ghost story once called 'The Haunted Toilet'. I thought - and still think - that the very concept contained in the title would appeal to most children, whose sense of humour is almost as basic as my own.
In it, a boy walks home one winter's dusk and sees a skip at the side of the road, next to an old deserted house which is finally being restored by builders. In the skip he sees a heavy, old, hardwood lavatory seat with brass fittings, and he takes it home with him.
His mother is horrified and tells him to take it out to the shed. Eventually he persuades his father to recondition it for him, and then it is allowed back into the house to hang on his bedroom wall.
One night when he is in bed with a strong fever, he hears voices and children's laughter coming from it, and takes it off the wall to - for some reason - put it over his head. He finds himself upside-down in a strange bathroom, with a young girl dressed in a Victorian night-dress looking at him. He visits her regularly until, one day, he returns home from school to find that his father has fitted the seat to their own bowl, and actually used it to replace their old defective one.
In desperation, he squeezes himself through the seat and pops up in the bathroom of the ghostly child, finding himself stuck - both on the other side of the toilet and in the past, with only the girl and her dog as his friend and guide back to his house in the 21st century.
I do hope that the Hattatts will forgive me for the repeated use of the word 'toilet' for the much more genteel 'lavatory'. Or should I have said, "toilet"?