Books and toilets. Do they go together?
I’m kind of thinking they do, judging by the amount of books I get to half-read while other parts of my body do different things. If it’s not too much information, it’s through having a healthy digestive system that lately I’ve managed to cover whole chunks of the Morrissey Autobiography, Bill Bryson’s ‘Little Dribbling’ and ‘Going To Sea In A Sieve’ by Danny Baker. All out of sequence, though – ends before beginnings, forewords halfway through and simultaneous middle chapters – I’ll never be able to enter Mastermind with any of the above as a chosen specialist subject because I’d get all muddled up. Fortunately Mastermind isn’t on my bucket list but I still fantasise about specialist subjects – don’t we all? Anyway, like a disjointed dream, somewhere in the back of my mind Bill Bryson and Morrissey have morphed into one and are travelling around Britain writing a fanzine.
Our books tend to migrate to the bathroom (where our only toilet is) in almost ghostly ways. I’m not sure quite how they end up there, on the windowsill, on the little wobbly stool or tucked in among the towels – some books that I hardly remember even owning in the first place. I thought we’d got rid of the Doctor Who hardback ages ago; I’d forgotten all about Kraals and Mechonoids - now I’m up to speed.
So visiting our loo is like visiting a library with random shuffle. One week The Doctor, next week The Haynes Manual for the Fender Stratocaster. That one didn’t hold my interest so much but for a while Mr SDS could regularly leave the smallest room with some new nugget of info about the floating tremolo or whatever. I’m afraid I could only give a Gallic shrug in response, still, at least he was happy.
Anyway, I wonder how widespread the books and toilet combo is. I grew up in a house full of books, although they weren’t upstairs in the bathroom where the pink suite was grounded by deep purple carpet tiles - deep purple! - carpet tiles! - and we had goldfish to entertain us instead. (The goldfish must’ve found us entertaining too - what a view they had from their thigh-level tank at the end of the bath.) However, the downstairs loo (or 'cloakroom' as it was politely called) - little more than a cupboard really - provided plenty of light reading including this:
and sometimes my Mum's John Noble mail order catalogue.
That was a little too heavy and floppy to handle easily, especially when otherwise occupied, but my Mum’s logic could be questionable at the best of times. (She once cast a replica of my Dad’s head in bronze, actual size and complete with his short-lived beard, and displayed it on the sideboard. All I can say is thank god it wasn't in the loo).
Not my Dad's head
When clearing out my Aunt and Uncle’s house last year I was happy just to browse the spines of the old paperbacks on their own designated shelf in the loo – poetry books, classics, Penguins – the tiny room had become a place of learning and escape, a tranquil retreat, even if the seating choice was limited. It was nice to think of them being avid loo-readers, and she a retired GP too. Which leads me to wondering if there is ever a question of hygiene? According to the Director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, there is what you might call a ‘theoretical’ risk but it’s not very big - just don’t forget to wash your hands. And so I've concluded: yes, it’s okay to read books in the loo.
But probably not okay to take a dump in the library.