Thursday, 10 April 2014

Toilet humour


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"?

28 comments:

  1. I am surprised you didn't buy it. I doubt I could have resisted.
    If there is one called a "Cameron" it would be a sore temptation.

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  2. There MUST be one called "The Blair"; surely!

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    Replies
    1. Cro, no I don't think there is it would backfire and bury you in effluent.
      There is one called the "Miller" but you wouldn't want to afford the cost of sitting on it.

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    2. If there isn't a "Miller"; there soon will be. One of the biggest shits of recent times!

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    3. Chuck her in the midden.

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    4. Here, here but the size of the bloater it could possibly overflow.

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    5. I'll leave you lot to it, I think.

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  3. I thought the father had taken it so he could have a bit of the girl in the Victorian nighty too. When this transpired to not be the case I grew bored with story.

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    Replies
    1. You haven't heard the end yet. If it runs the same length as all the Potters, then this could happen but - for now - it is out of bounds.

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  4. I read in the Internet (after your informative post) that there is a Dr. Andy Gibbons, historian of the International Thomas Crapper Society.(Shouldn't we all apply? Bloggers of the Thomas Crapper Society, wow) And though T.C was not knighted, Ken Grabowski, a researcher and author is writing a book on Crapper's life.

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  5. I really do not know where you dig up your stories from Tom! As to gentility - I have always called it the lavatory - does that make me genteel? I hope not - I do not wish to be genteel and never use the word 'lounge', always calling it the sitting room. Oh dear I am totally confused now.

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    Replies
    1. Don't worry, ladies can still be genteel, even if they use the crapper.

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  6. PS: If the Thomas Crapper Society sponsors me, I might do my PH.D. about an absolute new angle of interpreting "Pooh's Corner".

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    Replies
    1. What about those German inspection toilets with the separate viewing platforms?

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  7. How rude …. My Dad's name was Ken and he would have LOVED that toilet….. also, I think there is a bit of plagiarism going on with your story as, I am sure that I watched a film where a child stepped through a toilet seat and entered the Victorian age.
    I do have a teensy weensy fear when doing my abloutions that a rat might be in the toilet bowl and bite my ' lady garden ' !!!! XXXX

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    Replies
    1. Please let me know about anything called, "The Lion, the Witch and the Crapper' before I embarrass myself. (Lady garden my arse...)

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  8. If there is a "Ken", a "Barbie" must be around somewhere. Keep your eyes peeled for a bright pink model.

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    Replies
    1. It could offer a Brazilian as ''any other business. Great idea.

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  9. I was brought up with 'lavatory' but OB was getting the piss taken out of him and had to start saying 'toilet'.

    In out last house, built in 1949, we had a bog with a great name which escapes me.....something like 'Endeavour'.....I'll get back to you on that......

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    Replies
    1. Endeavour smacks of heroic constipation to me. How about, 'Dreadnought'?

      I was brought up to say 'shit-house', but I was educated out of it by Eton.

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  10. Replies
    1. Sounds like a song from the 1950s.

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