"..a bardy view!"

Just a Bog Standard Post…….

I have two toilets in my home. One in the upstairs bathroom sharing its porcelain with the ubiquitous bath, shower, sink, and stainless steel taps (faucets for the non-Brits) and the other one in less grand company downstairs. It's just a bog standard loo.

When I was a wee sprog the outside toilet was the norm. My maternal grandparents had theirs at the end of a long garden next to the coalhouse, and my paternal grandmother had hers at the rear of a yard, again next to the coalhouse.

All lived in typical late Victorian terraced houses built for the industrial working masses of North-East England. Its just that one was considerably bigger than the other. One had a good size garden, the other a concrete oblong excuse for one. Yet both houses had a cobbled back alley where the coalmen would deliver their essential fuel, and where everyone hung out their washing in the hope that all the kids wouldn't spoil them with their games, which generally revolved around cavaliers and roundheads, World War II, football and cricket. The latter were of particular concern to the neighbours, because wayward dirty balls invariably resulted in wayward dirty washing.

I was lucky because my parents were rather flush and had an indoor toilet. Unlike my friends and relations.

However, when I was a kid I thought nothing about making my way to these remote sanctums of relief with musty smells and dim light and finding the only wiping facility available to be the previous day's newspaper (actually there was a large collection of old newspapers, which would be worth alot now, assuming they weren't used).

But I also remember other very comforting smells from those distant times. My grandfather served in the Royal Navy in both world wars, so by time he had retired to his armchair by the hearth in the early 1960's he was fairly knackered. The wars had taken their toll, but naval paraphernalia decked out the walls, with old photographs, ship memorabilia and traditional but practical furniture.

Alongside his chair beside the fireplace was a pipe rack. There must have been a dozen different shaped pipes, together with a pot of tapers for lighting. A selection of tobacco would be in small tins beside them. Depending on his mood, he would select carefully his pipe and tobacco. He would light them with a taper lit directly from the fire. Yet the smell of tobacco was not the odious and obnoxious smell of the chemically manufactured filtered cigarette that is prominent today. These smells invoked comfort and character. They pervaded his house and were very aromatic.

I also remember that he had several tattoos on his arms, which were more cherished than his medals. He would take great joy in showing them, so long as his wife wasn't around. How many ports he sailed into, and what mischief he got into will remain unknown forever.

By the end of the decade the world was changing and he was bedridden. I had not quite reached the teenage years and recall spending much time with him playing dominoes – a game he was especially good at.

Yet even in his dotage he would not want to be beaten. Indeed he took great pride in beating me. Of course, by then I knew he was cheating, but I didn't make a fuss.

I said to my mother "do you know Granddad cheats at dominoes?"

"Yes son" she said bemused "And thanks for not telling him!"

He used to keep his medals in a box under the bed and never allowed them to escape. He was a gentle, charming man who never discussed his war years. He was from a different age. A different time.

Along with all of his generation he is long dead. Dead and departed along with his beloved wife, and dead and departed along with his beloved children. There are many grandchildren, of which I am one.

We are the ones with the on-suite bathrooms, the de rigueur brass Victorian taps, the bidets, the heated towel rails and the power showers. We are the ones with the children who have never experienced an outside loo.

Thats progress I suppose.


July 23, 2010 - Posted by | Cricket, Culture, Education, General, History, United Kingdom | , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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