Readers’ wildlife photos

December 12, 2022 • 8:15 am

Well, this doesn’t count as wildlife, but it does refer to the excretory habits of one species of primate. As contributor Athayde Tonhasca Júnior notes, ” I strongly suspect that this subject has not been approached before in your website. . . ” Indeed!  Apparently these are loo-related photos from his travels.Athayde’s notes are indented, and you can click on the photos to enlarge them.

A visit to the toilet (room), bathroom, restroom, washroom, or lavatory, is an opportunity for reflection and introspection, or to seek refuge, peace and quiet. Indeed, British men allegedly spend seven hours per year in the toilet hiding from their wives and children (according to “research” commissioned by a bathroom furniture company). But the loo – or bog, can, head, john, or latrine – can also be a place of amusement and learning.

A flamingo on duty to check your hand-washing technique in Bologna, Italy.

Unfortunately this educative and lyrical message was removed from a dentistry practice in Perth, UK:

A health warning in Scots, which is a language, a dialect or bad English, depending on who you ask (and their political views). The UK government and the European Union recognise Scots as a minority language, but many linguists place it somewhere on a dialect continuum. To the chagrin of nationalists, Scottish heavyweights Adam Smith and David Hume considered the use of Scots as an indication of poor education.

An emergency cord is great, but what if you want to order a pizza or dry your hair while bombing the bowl? (Hotel in Padua, Italy):

My travelling companion was displeased with the facilities in a Padua cafe. Squat toilets are terrible for the elderly or disabled, but they have a great advantage: you don’t need to touch anything. You learn to appreciate them when you hear the call of nature in the back of beyond. They are also better for your health, supposedly:

A latrine in the Housesteads Roman Fort, Britain, on the northernmost edge of the Roman Empire. Year 200 AC:

Marcus: Salve, Quintus.
Quintus: Ave, Marcus. Are you well? You look a bit green around the gills.
Marcus: Tell me about it. I think that batch of garum from Rome was off.
Quintus: I hear you.
Cornelius: I hear you too, Marcus. Loud and clear! Ha-ha! Say, chaps, wouldn’t you have a spare sponge on you?

A tersorium (a sea sponge on a stick) supposedly used by the Romans to wipe themselves after using the latrine. The sponge may have been washed in a gutter with running water, or in a bucket of water, salt and vinegar. But not everyone agrees with this popular tale (kids love it). According to Gilbert Wiplinger (Austrian Archaeological Institute), the tersorium may have been nothing more than a toilet brush. Read his gripping account in the Proceedings of the International Frontinus-Symposium on the Technical and Cultural History of Ancient Baths, Aachen, Germany, 2009.

Sign in a loo in an antechamber of Perth’s Sheriff Court House. One must be at rock bottom to shoot up before facing a sheriff (a Scottish judge with powers to fine or lock you up for up to five years). For the last seven years, Scotland has maintained the unenviable first place in Europe for drug-related deaths; drugs in Scotland have a death rate almost four times the rate in the UK as a whole. These figures – together with failing education, economy and health indicators – are secondary for people in power. The one-track-mind Scottish National Party cares for little else besides breaking up the union:

Epiphany inside a loo in Perth, UK:

The facilities in the family home (today a museum) of Brazilian painter Cândido Portinari (1903-1962) in the town of Brodowski, São Paulo State, illustrate a time when homes were not cluttered with stuff and had plenty of space to spare:

Collector, philanthropist and extremely rich Ema Klabin (1907–1994) needed the loo to store some of her many priceless pieces of art. Her house in São Paulo is a museum (Fundação Cultural Ema Gordon Klabin) well worth visiting. Entrance is free:

A replica of a once common warning to men in public urinals, hotels and railroad stations in the UK. Not doing-up all the buttons of your trousers (no zippers then) was a grave indiscretion:

That’s not nice. At all:

Able young non-pregnant adults can use the loo in the petrol station across the road:

In a cafe in the Brazilian coastal city of Ubatuba, you are not allowed to flush yourself. Presumably to prevent polluting the sea:

“Use the toilet as you have committed a crime: don’t leave clues behind” (loo in a São Paulo bookshop):

14 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. I have had the discussion about Roman auxiliaries (they weren’t citizens unlike legionaries, and manned the Wall) using sponges as something to wipe their arses with other people. To me the idea that expensive sponges would be harvested from the Med, lugged half way across the Empire to the wilds of Northumberland so to be used as a backside wipe is just bonkers, especially as the pay rate of the auxiliary was about 1/3 of that of a legionary.

    It is much more likely that local moss or something like it would have been used.

    1. The Romans definitely didn’t wipe their arses with other people.

      There isn’t much evidence for the sponges, but the idea is not farfetched at all. In the Vindolanda museum (Newcastle), there is a full dinner set brought in from the other edge of the empire. Unsurprisingly considering the road conditions, it arrived in pieces. The whole set was thrown away without ever been used. Roman museums are full of of icons, amulets, toys, vases and assorted tat from provinces far away. Commerce and goods exchange were practiced vigorously, and there’s plenty of evidence for that. So an item so essential (it would be for me) and easy to transport could make its way cheaply to the frozen north.

  2. In our old house we installed a macerating toilet in the basement that would grind up what it received and then pump the result uphill to the soil pipe leaving the house, which was around the height of the basement ceiling. It was very important not to wreck the mechanism by flushing stuff that would jam it, so I wrote a poem to alert visitors to be cautious. It’s probably still pinned to the door, unless the new owners regard it as tasteless:

    A Word of Caution
    or, The Mighty Macerating Toilet is Actually Very Sensitive.

    Behold the mighty electric throne
    Costly to buy, a joy to own.
    There are some things I must advise,
    Just some rules; a word to the wise.
    When you flush, it makes quite a din,
    Most of all, watch what you throw in!
    Toilet paper goes down a treat,
    Bodily wastes it loves to eat.
    But all else will jam its rotors,
    Clog its guts and strain its motors.

    Unhappy they, who fail to heed
    This simple rule, this easy creed.
    A thousand bucks would be the bill
    for those who make this toilet ill!
    Delicate things you should not flush
    (I won’t say which as I might blush)
    Go in the nifty paper bags
    Thence to the trash, there’ll be no snags.
    Then you’ll recall with fervid joy
    The toilet’s motto, rather coy:

    Use me well
    and keep me clean
    then I’ll not tell
    what I have seen.

  3. And two traditional tongue in cheek signs from British toilets.
    For urinals:
    “We aim to please.
    Will you aim too, please?”

    And a unisex one:
    “Do not throw fag ends in the toilet.
    It makes them wet, soggy and hard to light.”

  4. Anyone who has travelled in Latin America learned pretty quickly that toilets in these countries may flush well but the pipes and larger sewage systems are very old, primitive and narrow, and not built for anything but excreted matter (which dissolves better than even cheap toilet paper which just accumulates in the pipes). As a result flushing toilet paper is prohibited; you will see a waste basket next to the toilet and that is where you are expected to put your used toilet paper. No Polish jokes please.

    1. You need to update your file on South America because this information is not correct. Not for every country, and not for everywhere in a given nation. Your referral to “these countries”, as if South America was a bunch of indistinct nations, was misguided. Could anyone make a sweeping generalisation about toilets in Asia? How about Europe?
      Cheers.

  5. Any visitors to the UK should make time for Hadrian’s Wall in their itinerary. Go to Housesteads Fort, marvel at the loos, visit the museum, and walk the Wall westward along the Whin Sill for a couple of miles. And, on the way, enjoy the wonderful Sycamore Gap Tree: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sycamore_Gap_Tree

    And if you have time, drop into the Roman village at Corbridge: another astonishing site, with another great museum.

  6. Now that was an entertaining set of photos! I’ll have to remember my iphone when I enter restrooms. Obviously a great place for photos. I can think of some restrooms I’ve visited that I’d like photos of…

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