People often think I’m joking when I mention World Toilet Day every 19th November. But 3.6 billion people living with inadequate sanitation is no laughing matter. Unsafe and unsanitary toilets can damage people’s health and inhibit access to education. They also pollute the environment.
The theme for World Toilet Day 2022 was making the invisible visible. Although the invisible in question is the human waste leaching into rivers, lakes and soil, it could also refer to a pet project of mine.
It would be wrong to assume authors avoid toilets because they’re not interesting. Or simply too sordid. In a recent batch, I found toilet inequalities, cultural differences and toilets in a Nazi concentration camp, a jihadi training camp in Afghanistan and a summer residence in Cape Cod. You can read about them here:
With the publication of my novella Stolen Summers, I can bring that total to 19. But perhaps you can help me add a few more? If you’ve read any novels that acknowledge that people use toilets, perhaps you could let me know.
Doris tutted. “We seem to be out of parchment, madam. You’ll have to make do with bog roll.” She handed her a few more sheets of Izal and a pin.
Suddenly self-conscious, Matilda hunched over the paper, like a schoolgirl in an exam. Its smell, although unpleasant, partly neutralised the odour in the air. Unfortunately, whether she tried scratching the rough side or the smooth side, it was hopeless: the pin either tore the paper or left no mark.
“You’ll be popular the morrow when they’ve nowt to wipe their bums with.” Doris snatched the pin and pierced Matilda’s thumb, releasing a tiny red bauble from her skin. “Was you never blood-sisters in them posh houses? Now, get writing! Nurse Ninny won’t keep her eyes shut for ever and I want my bed.”
How else was I going to respond to the 99-word story prompt this week? Although “Oh my!” isn’t an expression Matty would use in the books, she has kindly agreed to say it to help me meet the challenge. And there’s an extra connection, albeit not spelt out here, in that she refers to Clementine, her favourite care assistant, as Oh My Darling.
“Oh my!” said Matty, gripping the Zimmer with both hands.
Clementine’s smile faded. “Don’t you like it, my lovely? We could get it redecorated if it’s not right.”
Matty loved the barley-twist wallpaper. She loved the sea view. The sparkling tiles in the bathroom. The single bed. “Would men use it?”
Clementine laughed. “Only if you invite them.”
Ladies could be equally messy. Failing to flush. Tinkling on the floor. Would they be noisy passing through her bedroom? Would they steal her shampoo? “How many is it for?”
“The bathroom? It’s an ensuite, my lovely. Your very own room.”