Why toilets drive me round the bend

Jewish Chronicle Online, 31/01/2014

The news last week that millions of Flushmate (model 111 ) toilets in the US are being recalled because they can explode, not only sent tremors down the toilet world but it’s also worrying for the 300 million Americans who go to the toilet.

Toilets create deep-seated anxieties; this goes back to Neanderthal times when after a hard day out gathering nuts and berries you were back in your cave, sitting on the loo, and out of the blue a brontosaurus dropped in. To this day I still have nightmares about the baby crocodile that leapt out of the bowl when a guy was on the loo in NY in 1989.

So when I heard this week that visitors to the Winter Olympics in Sochi will have to share a toilet, I panicked. I later discovered that two toilets are placed side by side, but I’ve cancelled my Olympic ticket; I was going alone. I don’t care how close your relationship is. How many people want to sit next to their loved ones on the loo, let alone total strangers? I don’t even like to stand next to people in the Gents. Last week at football, the man standing at the next urinal recognised me and wanted to shake hands. It could have been worse.

I only pray that Prince Charles has checked to see if he has a Flushmate 111 in Clarence House, because the very last thing we need is to have HRH blown up after waiting all those years to sit on the throne (I’m sorry).

He collects lavatories. He has the greatest collection in the world: okay, this is only because nobody else in the world collects them. He got bored with stamps.

I have to declare a personal interest here; I gave him a lavatory for his 33rd birthday in November 1981. He wrote me a very nice thank-you letter; that’s what you get if you really think before giving someone you’ve never met, something that they might use.

Did you know that whenever royals pay a visit to a factory, or a hospital, a new lavatory is installed? Readers over 110 will recall King George V’s visit to Nepal in 1911 (he shot 39 tigers). Hundreds of men toiled for weeks to construct the huge royal encampment in the jungle, just for an overnight visit. A royal toilet flown out via Katmandu was installed on a dais in the specially-constructed bathroom. There was just one problem — they didn’t have a water supply. All day long a man stood on a ladder behind the bathroom partition, looking through a peephole for the king —and at exactly the moment that the king pulled the chain, he emptied a bucket of water into the tank.

Israel’s own exploding toilet story happened in 1988. A wife’s fight with a cockroach ended badly: she’d sprayed an entire can of insecticide on it in the loo as the roach had refused to be flushed away. Later her husband sat on the loo and lit up a cigarette. Boom! As the ambulance men carried him out she told them what happened. They laughed so hard that they dropped the stretcher, breaking his ribs. It really does illustrate the dangers of smoking.