Vive la Difference

On the Radio 4 news I hear that Bruce Springsteen has cancelled a concert in solidarity with objections to a new law in North Carolina which insists that public toilets are used by people following their birth gender identity, and not from their life choice one.  This is a neat segue worth following from the themes of recent chapters.  

Public toilets are of course a matter of particular concern to any itinerant such as myself.  I have an almost professional interest in them and a fascination about them ever since I can remember.  Living peripatetically has definite implications for defecation.  That’s not a sentence you read often. Cassette toilets are wonderful and if serviced and maintained properly are perfectly proprietous, hygienic and wholesome. However the emptying of them is a challenge and there are etiquettes, rules and laws about how this is done. On showgrounds it’s not a problem as the organisers usually provide suitable facilities.  Elsewhere is more difficult as, completely understandably, most people don’t like cassette toilets being emptied in public (or private) loos. British public loos are not equipped for the process (unlike the wonderfully sensible French equivalent; the aires) The issue is off-season and between stands, and in order to ration the use of the cassette loo, I use public toilets as often as possible. (My poor Mum will be turning in her grave as she had a complete anathema about them. She felt the same about fairgrounds and circuses.  You do the maths.)

As I said I have a fascination about toilets. I often visit them, especially in places I haven’t visited previously, even if I don’t actually need to do so.  I know that some people might find this strange, but surely no stranger than any of my recent revelations.  It’s not about anything other than curiosity about the spaces and facilities provided, though their use historically for illegal assignations has given them, and possibly my fascination, an very unfair connotation. Please don't make assumptions. I love vintage ceramics as much as I am fascinated by the latest toilet technology.  I do wish for more of a multi-gender approach to public toileting but I can’t see it happening for a few generations, if ever.

On the other issue though, I did recently come across a consenting male sex act in a public loo in a layby in Oxfordshire. It’s not something that happens every day. Anyway back to the thrust (perhaps the wrong noun here) I almost literally bumped into one man giving another a blow job and found myself freezing in shock then apologising for interrupting before making a sharp exit. I used the cassette toilet that night. I’m not sure why I apologised.  My natural British instinct to apologise first and think afterwards I guess. On thinking afterwards and trying, with some difficulty, to wipe the immediate visual memory from my mind, it made me smile that only one of them could have apologised anyway as the other had his mouth full. I also wondered whether they had chosen that spot with a desire to increase the excitement with the possibility of me (or anyone) discovering them in flagrente. Perhaps that’s what the teaparty makers of that North Carolina law have in the back of their minds too.  Evolution’s cruel dirty joke to make our sex organs double up as waste disposal units has a lot to answer for.

On the fascinating subject of the difference in male/female loos and their relevance to gender difference and sense of humour the wonderful (and my total heroine) Sandy Toxvig was interviewed by my almost equal other female idol Victoria Coran on Radio 4's lovely Chain Reaction - catch it before it's gone. It's an absolute gem. In fact here's the link so you have no excuse. I promise you won't regret it. I've saved it and have listened three times already. The section on her marriage at the Royal Festival Hall is worth the license fee alone. As is her definition of the difference between male and female humour as exemplified by an observation about separate gender toilets. For that reason alone, maybe there’s an argument for keeping them separate.

All the best from a road, if not a public toilet, near you,

Mr Alexander

Mr Alexander