8 August 2018

Unmentionable

Kirkmaiden Church before being "blessed"
One of the nice things about having a blog is that you can more or less write about anything you want to. Today, I shall approach a subject that is almost taboo - bottom wiping. Yes - bottom wiping. And having uttered that term I can already see blog visitors from across the world clicking away and grumbling, "That's the last time I visit Yorkshire Pudding!"  So be it.

When Shirley and I were at Monreith  in south west Scotland just last month, she opted to sit on the beach one afternoon reading her novel while I went off to find a church that I had spotted on my map. It's called Kirkmaiden Church and it is no longer in use. Built into the cliffside amidst woods, it overlooks Front Bay in sight of The Mull of Galloway.

Along the beach then up into the woods and there it was with its magnifient red sandstone doorway. Adjacent to it there was the ruin of a much older church but I had a problem. A personal problem and it was becoming quite urgent. I needed to defecate. There was no time to get back to the car park where Clint was parked. I remembered there was a blue council porta-loo there.

No. This business needed  to be settled and settled quickly or the consequences would be dire. I'd be walking back to her ladyship like a waddling duck, smelling like a Danish pig farmer. Action was vital but I had no toilet paper on me. I grabbed a couple of handfuls of dried summer grasses from the recently mown churchyard and headed for a shady corner.

There relief was duly obtained. I shall not go in to the fine details of this evacuation but the dried grasses were successfully utilised and a measure of rear cleanliness was achieved. Fortunately there were no thistles or creepy crawlies in the dried vegetation I had requisitioned for this intimate occasion.
Doorway at Kirkmaiden Church
Back on the beach I washed my hands in the sea and built another tower of beach cobbles. I got to thinking about toilet paper and what people did before it was manufactured. Mass production of toilet paper in the western world did not begin until 1857 though wealthy Chinese families had been using paper to wipe their bottoms for many centuries before that.

It was common in the Roman world to use sponges on sticks (tersorium) that were kept in vinegar containers. And in India today, the majority of  people in both country or city simply use their hands with water. Imagine rural scenes in India if every Indian peasant used toilet paper after squatting in the fields. After a few weeks it would look as if the country had been hit by a massive snowstorm.
Izal toilet paper was non-absorbent
Used widely in English schools in
the 50's and 60's

Historically, in England, what you used to wipe your bottom often depended on your location and social status. You might use seaweed, sheep's wool, dried leaves, pebbles, sea shells, dock leaves, fur or yes - like me at Kirkmaiden - handfuls of dried grasses. Incidentally, those ancient methods were surely more kind to our environment. We take toilet paper for granted these days but it hasn't always been with us. 

My grandmother ran away with with my step grandfather in the 1930's. They ended up living in humble social housing in Newcastle with a lavatory in their yard. As a boy I was always  delighted to see newspaper squares on a nail in there. You could read before putting these squares to a more basic use.

Have you got any bottom wiping tales or information you would like to share dear reader? Don't be shy.
Xylospongium (Greek) or tersorium (Roman) - Replica

37 comments:

  1. HA! OMG, you really will write about anything. Fortunately, I was a Peace Corps volunteer, so I am not queasy about these matters. In rural Morocco, where I lived, and where even water was sometimes hard to come by, I was told that people often used rocks. Fortunately I never got that desperate myself. I think historically the water/hand method was used in Morocco, which is why in that country you always eat with your right hand -- the left being the one used for that other function.

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    1. Rocks? Is that where the term "getting your rocks off" comes from?...Scotch on the rocks? Rock music?

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    2. Using your left hand is the rule in all Muslim countries. A rule. And, when a person is sentenced to have his hand cut off for theft, the right one is cut off. Basically, it is a death sentence as the subject cannot eat with the left hand.

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  2. I thought I was reading John Gray's blog for a minute there!

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    1. You are right. It's his kind of topic.

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    2. how VERY dare you

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    3. Yes, Jennifer. That subject is right up John's flip flops.

      Some years ago he and I compared notes. It's been mentioned on our respective air waves before, so it's no secret and John won't mind my mentioning it. We established that whereas he doesn't mind dealing with poo (that of others) he finds other people's vomit a real challenge. I am the opposite. Vomit all you like - I'll clear up after you without so much as retching myself. Just don't ask me to wipe your bottom, unless you are a baby/toddler/child.

      U

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  3. I'm glad you mentione the newspaper. It was one of the things I used to do at home, tear the squares and thread them with string when we had run out of the shiny izal stuff. Actually the newspaper was a lot easier to use, I seem to recall that the izal stuff used to slip about. lol
    One memory that we in the family used to laugh about was when I was a small child and just had to go, my Mum perched me behind a car and used a couple of bus tickets to do the cleaning up.
    Briony
    x

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    1. Ha-ha! Thanks for sharing the bus ticket tale! I guess that when The Queen gets caught out she just uses banknotes.

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  4. What a load of crap!

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    1. I admit - it is a crap blogpost Lee.

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  5. Defecation must be in the air. I am tempted to shoehorn Brexshit in here but it won't flush.

    You may like to look not so much at my last post on "evolution and the chair" as the brief exchange in the comment section between Magpie and myself. It's amazing the confidences we'll exchange among old friends in the privacy of the world wide web.

    There is a school of thought whereby if you eat the "right" things you won't need to wipe. The sphincter effectively making a clean cut. No left overs. No smears. A bit like animals.

    Anyway, you, as befits a brave Yorkshire man, have left your mark near that lovely church - and you washed your hands afterwards (call me anal - but that was the first thought that popped into my mind: How did he wash his hands afterwards?)

    U

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    1. You are right to remind us that one's diet will greatly affect the consistency of one's stools. Clearly you are an authority on this subject Ursula and I appreciate your academic input... or should it be output?

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  6. The sandstone doorway is indeed, magnificent.

    As for the rest, well......what do I say to a story like that?

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    1. Well - you could have told us how Australians clean up back there. Do you use marsupials?

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    2. Are you trying to flush out a tall tale?

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    3. Don't you mean "tail" Pipi?

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  7. On my first trip to England in 1975 I was astonished by two things: that English people used a knife and fork to eat pizza, and that they all seemed to use the very weirdest toilet paper. Now I know that that T.P. was actually a name brand: Izal. You could use that stuff for writing paper, it was so stiff. In fact, I took some from the British Museum and DID write home on it.

    It's true. Meat-eaters have the most disgusting poo. I don't eat meat. Ergo. . .

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    1. Not many pizzas were eaten in England in 1975. Nowadays they are everywhere. How come your parents allowed a tiny, tiny little girl to travel over to England in the mid-seventies?
      By the way, as I recall, Izal was good to use as tracing paper.

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  8. I personally have never used anything but "toilet tissue" as some people call it, even when as a child we had four rooms and a path to an outhouse. But I have heard stories about from older folks about a Sears Roebuck catalogue being kept in the outhouse so that pages could be torn out of it and also about a bushel basket of corncobs. My stepmother once kept the grandkids transfixed with describing how when she lived on the farm in her youth they kept two baskets of corncobs outside the privy, one containing white corncobs and one containing red corncobs. A person entering the privy would take three white corncobs and one red one. The children were wide-eyed at this point. Then, said my stepmother, the person would use one or two of the white corncobs for wiping, and then would use a red one. "But why would they do something like that?" the children asked, and my stepmother replied, "To see if they needed to use another white one."

    This is a true story and has been certified to be authentic by the Privy & Loo Historical Society of America and Great Britain, of which I am the sole member.

    Let us not speak on this subject again. Ever.

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    1. Thank you for making this fascinating contribution Professor Brague. I shall never look at corncobs in the same way. Let us not speak of corncobs again. Ever.

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    2. Forgive me for speaking of it again but I must agree with rhymeswithplague's story of corn cobs. Not that I have any personal experience of course - I could not survive without our modern day bath tissue. However, my father grew up in the 20's & 30's on a farm with an outhouse. He said it was very common to use newspaper, catalogs and corn cobs.

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    3. I thought that bath tissue was for cleaning baths Bonnie!

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  9. For about 5 years, when I was a little girl living in Pennsylvania, we had an outhouse and, yes, we used newspaper while visiting there. When we went to Brooklyn, we were blessed with a proper bathroom and toilet paper.

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    1. I have heard that Trump uses "The New York Times".

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  10. I did not know about the Roman method. That is equal parts interesting and gag-inducing. (Can you tell I am a delicate flower? lol) I am SO FRIGGING GLAD I live where I do, in the time in history I do.

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    1. Do they have toilet tissue in Canada?

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    2. I thought that was self-evident by my last sentence!

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    3. Romans might have also said, "I am so frigging glad I live where I do, in the time in history I do" before reaching for the tersorium.

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  11. I will be shy and not share my experiences. Well, okay there is one. In the back country ( a long hike into the Rocky Mountains) they have sturdy logs conveniently placed over a pit...what comfort after a long day's hike.

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    1. Don't you mean that you dropped "logs" into the pit?

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  12. Bidet after wiping with toilet paper.
    Greetings Maria x

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    1. I thought the bidet was for one's feet. They are very rarely found in England.

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  13. I am sorry but I must speak again on the dreaded subject in order to correct an egregious error I made in the telling. One did not use two whites and then a red. One used two reds and then a white. The reason should be obvious. I do beg your forgiveness.

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    1. I happily grant forgiveness. As Alexander Pope said, "To err is human, to forgive divine. All people commit sins and make mistakes." I understand that he used chicken feathers.

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    2. Probably still attached to the chickens.

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    3. He was probably hen-pecked.

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Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.