The following essay was written by Cloudeight reader, Libby R. Libby shared this essay with us and we found ourselves laughing all the way trough it, so we asked Libby for permission to post it here to share it with you. She graciously agreed. So here it is, the unabridged version of Libby’s essay… “Toilets I Have Known”.
Toilets I Have Known
Written by Libby R.
Naturally, I had illusions of grandeur at the thought of a suite in one of London’s finest hotels, situated across from Green Park.
Upon arrival, we were shown up to our suites. Mine had a little balcony looking out on the park. the reception hall was adequate; the drawing-room, filled with red roses was small; the bedroom, with twin beds, was much larger. And then there was the bathroom!
This was my first introduction to a long line of bathrooms and toilets, both in London and on the Continent.
The English accuse the Americans and Canadians of worshiping lares and penates in the form of central heating and bathrooms. No American in his wildest dreams could have conceived of one like this. The room was as large as the drawing – room. the bathtub was simply huge, sitting well out from the wall in all its glory, supported by four large, ornate claws. As I am one of those indolent people who like to lie in a tub with toes touching the faucet and, misjudging the size of this tub, I nearly drowned as I stretched out to touch the end and went completely under water.
The heated towel rack should be introduced to North America.
But, overshadowing all else, was the throne. To reach it you ascended two steps to a raised dais where it stood, solid, impressive and majestic. It almost filled the four by four dais. It was most luxurious of the luxurious. It lacked the fur covered seat which a friend of mine enjoyed at one of the stately homes of England, but to say that I was impressed would be the understatement of all time. Once I discovered the hidden mechanism to flush it, all was well. I never expect to sit in such regal elegance again.
From London, off to Portsmouth where I was told I was very fortunate to have such a flat. The bathroom, containing a hand basin, jug and a small tin tub were at the foot of the stairs down in what had been the servant’s quarters in the time when the house had known better days. To reach the W.C., as it was called in England, you had to go down a long narrow passage toward the back door. The passage was unlighted, as was the actual W.C.—except for a dim, candle like flashlight on a small jerry- built shelf. There, tucked away and so difficult to find, was one small, round pudding-like piece of sanitary equipment with a small round seat. I would say it might have measured one foot in diameter, from outside edge to outside edge. Fortunately, I was slight and often wondered how larger people coped but never dared to ask. Nobody ever commented on it so either the English are all extremely polite or they just considered it normal.
I am perfectly sincere in my suggestion that all English toilets have attached to them written instructions with regard to flushing. For example; “Pull smartly and release”, or “Pull down slowly and then let up equally slowly”. This, of course, refers to the chain which you pull to release the water from the tank which is usually situated above your head. It is only in the most modern of homes that you find a tank on the back of the toilet as is the usual form at home. It is not only the uninitiated who cannot flush strange toilets in England. The English can’t either, except their own whose peculiarities they know.
My next long sit was in an American block of flats with an American toilet with an American flush. No temperament here.
But visiting friends or places in London or elsewhere, I was continually bedeviled by the dreadful doubt that I would be unable to master the monster.
In passing, have you ever used a toilet, referred to as the head, in a small submarine? Flushing this has to be done by one au fait as the system on which it operates is a blower. I heard a story of one female visitor who was too shy to ask for help and pushed a button only to find that the draft was inward instead of outward. It spoiled her whole afternoon.
In one small Italian town I stood guard while a fellow traveler placed her feet in the iron foot-steps and balanced precariously over the hole in the ground. She also stood guard for me as the only concession to privacy was an open lattice on one side.
Other places only had the hole in the ground. They didn’t boast foot-steps in which to stand to judge your distance.
There were, of course, in large hotels in the cities, modern bathrooms. They put less of a strain on the nervous system but somehow lacked the challenge of letting nature take its course while nervously poised like a gazelle ready for flight.
I still look back at my first night in London in 1965 and remember the throne with respectful awe.
And then there are the pissiors
And French bath towels
And breakfast served in bathtubs