Perchance, I’ve just discovered there’s such a thing as a British Toilet Association. I’m not taking the piss. Google it. Its logo is “For Your Convenience,” it has an Honorary President, a Managing Director, a Chairman and five committee members on its Management Advisory Committee.

Its expressed goal is “to promote the highest standards of hygiene and overall provision in “away from home” toilet facilities across the UK.” All of this is straight out of the Richard Briers handbook on English wetness.

Of course these objectives are worthy but the mind neverless boggles that such a body exists. There’s a comic novella in this with wet buggers vying to get on the committee or behind the scenes plotting to replace the chairman.

Mind you a truly wonderful comic novella on a London men’s public toilets has already been produced back in 1997, namely the much acclaimed “GENTS” by Warwick Collins. Humour aside it’s the best exposition I’ve ever read on how people’s moral stance changes in line with their fortunes. Get on to Amazon and buy a copy. You’ll thank me.

There’s been recent years’ comments in Auckland and Wellington on the alleged declining number of public toilets. On my observation that’s a male problem. Every woman I’ve known has no hesitation in barging into shops and demanding to use their toilet.

Men, myself included, will go in and buy something they don’t want first, before tentatively making the request.

Some of my managers tease me as New Zealand’s toilet king, conceivably owning more than any other individual, namely several thousand in our buildings. I’m now an authority on the subject. For example, women’s toilets maintenance costs us over $500,000 annually for reasons you don’t want to hear. Men’s cost nothing.

Reading the Wellington office monthly report about 5 years ago, I noted a large expenditure item for a Government department, namely the replacement of the cubicle door and construction of a special large steel women’s toilet bowl. Enquiry revealed the Department was reimbursing us.

Further investigation proved amusing. It transpired that a very large female (guess the race?) had gone into the cubicle, locked it, pulled up her dress and down her pants, sat down and the toilet bowl had crumbled under her.

Her cries eventually saw help arrive, the door smashed in and there she faced them, knees and legs in the air, unable to move. She was far too heavy for women to pull her up so eventually a couple of burly blokes, who I imagine needed no instruction to avert their eyes, came in and eventually managed to get her upright.

As I said, toilets offer rich pickings for comic writing, particularly with females, who from childhood, go to great lengths to hide the fact, like cats, that they ever do anything but urinate.

My mother, who before deciding at 93 she’d like a Jaguar sports car (she wrote it off within half an hour, was cut out of it by the Fire Brigade, and soon after had a stroke which led to her demise) was never known to go to the toilet.

I noted all of this behaviour at an early age. Growing up in a small state house and after telephones arrived, any phone conversations could be heard all over the house.

One Saturday, my mother had spent the day cutting and sewing a dress for my older sister for the school ball that night. She was rather pleased with herself having snared the school’s fanciest bloke. About 5pm the phone rang. It was the beau. “She’s in the lavatory,” I told him.

The reaction was terrifying screams from the toilet, mother and sisters, the sound of galloping feet down the hall, and I was knocked sideways with a swipe over the head. My mother took the phone and explained to the beau why my sister could no longer go to the ball as she was now ill. And so she was, mentally, and I was a bewildered pariah.

Many years later a woman primary school teacher I was chatting to told me that research had attributed some women’s bladder problems to their childhood refusal in the classroom to putting their hand up to ask to go to the toilet. Is this still the case, I wonder? I suspect so.



Hello Bob, excellent lift to the day. Two things come to mind. The first is that there is such a body, I do remember at one time NZ had a raspberry board, not for blowing but for the consumption of. The second, when I lived in the UK (30 years ago now) there was the annual list of funding awards for PHd students by the University Grants council (or somesuch), And I’m not making this up. One was for studies into the placement of fittings within lavatories in offices and public buildings. the aim was to make the ‘visit’ efficient so that the users wanted to use the facilities but not linger as it was too comfortable. (apropos of nothing, another one was on the cooking of lamb chops).
We live in exciting times

    Not quite on the toilet theme but cleanliness Before we were banned from travel we visited UK , Europe and USA. What I nominated in charge of laundry – in France the laundromat had two driers out and four days later a washing machine was added – but my word French women know how to dress to do the washing. In Scotland, Edinburgh, laundromat run by Morag the machines were 500 years old but they all worked! In the USA San Francisco, the machines were all brand new. Shining and working – would like starch with that?
    Lindsay Hay

The book sounds intriguing- I went onto Amazon site, and there was a copy at US $6.94, but by checkout with taxes and postage that had become NZ $73.24, so sadly I will not be buying this book! I’ll have a look in the local library.

I thought that book sounded intriguing, but the US$6.94 book became less desirable to buy by the time post and taxes added up to NZ$73.24 from Amazon! I’ll look in the library.

Sir Bob, your example highlights not just your point but its opposite too, perhaps? (notably the point about humiliation and dignity, line 3 in the link below). A few months back an architect on the radio spoke to her Masters thesis, on public toilets in New Zealand. She was interesting/engaging, and it opened my eyes to things I’d not considered before, on a topic I know very little. She’s now WLG based. With your toilet dominion (and, I believe, open and curious mind alongside strong opinions, a seemingly rare combination in public discourse these days), it might be time well spent to chat with and perhaps even engage someone young, smart, with perhaps a different/complementary perspective, and who has perhaps thought more deeply even than you – all within a broader (architectural) context where you both have shared interest/expertise amidst very different lived experiences. Here’s a link to her thesis outline, if it’s of any interest:

One of the reasons men’s costs less to run is that most don’t wash afterwards but when they’re in school they don’t even flush.And then there’s the American euphemism of “the bathroom” when there’s not a bath in sight! Bowels are an interesting subject at the dinner table.I have a grandson who won’t use a public-tricky for road trips!

My niece had bladder problems when she was 4. The reason? She refused to use the toilets at daycare because there were no partitions between the toilets – no privacy. It’s funny how adults can think kids are another species that don’t have their needs. They’re good at not going out of their way to ask how they feel, either.

Try :
You can land the book [used] for about $10.00

When you’re a bloke, the world is your urinal.
Also, women have a mind-blowing ability to “hold on” rather than use a public dunny.
“Ewww no, I’m not using that disgusting toilet. I’ll wait until we’re home”
“But honey, we’ve still got 8 hours drive ahead of us”
“Don’t worry, I’ll be fine”
There should be a Guinness record for this.

    A line I remember from the late lamented Ewen Gilmour went like this – when you have a girl in your car on a road trip and she asks if you’re stopping to use the toilet somewhere, whatever place you mention, she’ll say oh, I won’t need to go until someplace hours further on than that. But a guy in your car says hey bro, I need to go, you get straight onto it, there’s some bushes here, bro, I’m stopping – and he says “too late bro, I’ve just been”……

Then here is the ARA –

Men probably use less water in toilets and showers (I have on evidence yet on this,as one could be arrested ) and are saving the planet!
Men are essential he cried, as he was beaten down by a load of angry burly Green women etc …

For toilet humour you have to see “Kenny” one of the all time great Australian movies. Based around the life of Melbourne plumber Kenny Smyth who works for a portable toilet rental company and is described as the “Dalai-Lama of waste management”

Sir Bob – you remind me of the story of the old lady on a cruise who always ordered a number of double whiskies every night, with just two drops of water. After a few nights, the barman summed up the courage to ask her why she only added two drops of water. She responded, “young man, at my age I can hold my grog but I have trouble with the water”.

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