Part Three of a Four-Part special. Here goes:
In my last post I was babbling on about the distinct lack of public toilets, not just in the UK but everywhere. I would say picture this, but it’s better if you don’t: I was on a long car journey through France a few months ago. I was wearing brand new 1940s style dungarees (bit weird, I know) and we stopped at a picnic site so that I could use the facilities, and the husband and father-in-law could smoke strong cigarettes (driving cross-country is hard work, you know).
I walked in and my heart sank. It was a ceramic hole. The floor was wet (with water, from the flush, not wee). I really, really needed to go and couldn’t just turn back to the car, legs crossed, hoping for the best. Suffice to say, it didn’t go well. My lovely dungarees were so baggy that they fell around my shoes and got wet immediately. I did my wee, trying desperately not to actually wee all over said already-wet dungarees, also trying so hard not to set my J-pouch off because that would mean – and I’m sorry, but you need to know this – that would mean literally spraying my breakfast all over the place, including upon myself. I do not have the luxury of doing a pooh as most of you do. I expel water, air and bits of salad and olives, usually, so yeah, a hole in the ground is my absolute worst nightmare.
How did I manage? Well, I had to hold the straps with one hand and the toilet paper with another. I then had to manouvre myself into position so I could stand up without falling backwards into the hole I’d just peed in, whilst simultaneously hauling up my soaked-with-the-previous-occupant’s-flush-water-dungarees and knickers which, of course, were all tangled together. Oh, and doing that balancing act with Ankylosing Spondylitis to boot? Yes, you hear me. To this day I have no idea how I didn’t fall backwards, forwards, sideways or any other way. My balance was somewhat compromised, to say the least. I came out of there in a state of shock and almost asked for a strong cigarette myself. ‘You look a bit traumatised,’ noticed Gautier. ‘You don’t say!’ I croaked, pointing to my wet ankles.
It’s safe to say that it was the most treacherous, stressful and exhausting five minutes of my adult life. I got back into the car. I was almost in tears. ‘Next time we stop, let’s find a McDonald’s’, I suggested. We found one. We stopped. The toilets were proper, and I was ecstatic. I celebrated with a Happy Meal; it seemed appropriate, as I was happy.
People wonder why I don’t want to visit China or India when I have this kind of trouble in ruddy Europe. ‘I’d like to go to China,’ says Gautier, forgetting that he is such a private person he has never even done a wee with the bathroom door open, let alone experienced a Chinese toilet situation. ‘Send me a postcard,’ I scoff, ‘and I’ll read it on my pedestal toilet.’