"Well, there is only one piece of advice I can give you," said the wisest of wise men. "The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world and never to forget the drops of oil on the spoon."

('The Alchemist' Paulo Coelho)

Sunday, September 19, 2004

A French bog blog!

I could hardly let our French holiday go by without making some observations on 'toilet experiences' now could I?
During my holidays here in my youth, I was periodically horrified by French toilet arrangements. Whenever we ventured into the countryside, there was a choice between stopping by the roadside and venturing into thick undergrowth or being faced with a delapidated shed somewhere in the wilds containing nothing more than a very smelly hole in the ground. In towns or villages, we would have to go into the local bar and run the gauntlet of passing through the men's toilet to reach the ladies' - yes really!

So, what has changed in 2004? The phrase ' from the sublime to the ridiculous' springs immediately to mind! There have been the occasional holes in the ground, but cleaner these days and better maintained and the old pavement 'pissoirs' have undergone a dramatic transformation. These days, you insert 20 or 30c, the door opens and you step into a newly cleaned and disinfected toilet heaven, with a proper toilet and one of those all in one wash basins which shoot out soap and water and then dry your hands afterwards. Some of them have instructions in French, English and braille and even a sound recording, should you wish to be so entertained. Once you emerge into the sunlight, the whole thing is cleaned and disinfected ready for the next occupant. However, the king of all bogs was to be found in a ChampionU supermarket just on the outskirts of Vire. There, the toilet seat was wrapped in a tube of plastic. Before you sit down, you press a button and the plastic moves on to be replaced by a fresh length just for you! Technology gone mad or wot!! Unfortunately, I didn't read the instructions until after I had finished, so inadvertently missed out on the benefits!

But the real piece de resistance is obviously linked to the French sense of humour. I have lost count of the number of times I have searched desperately for a toilet during our holiday, only to be gladdened by the sight of a notice advertising the existence and location of one and subsequently to have my hopes dashed because either there was no sign of it or, worse, it was locked! Now I know why it is regarded as quite normal to stop at the roadside and plunge into the undergrowth!


gemmak said...

Welcome back! have loved your French blogs but it's good to be back to a normal connection:o)

I have only been to France once and when I was 5......to this day I can still recall the 'holes in the ground'. I evidently wasn't impressed even at that tender age!lol

Shrub said...

I haven't been to France for nearly 20 years. I recall stopping at a motorway service station and being very surprised to find that the queue for the women's toilets went right past the urinals in the men's toilets. No-one seemed to be at all bothered - the men did what they had to do, despite having a female audience!

Dale said...

Oh well. As the French say, "C'est la pee."

Welcome home, Jenny. Sounds like you had a brilliant holiday!

Tony said...

One change in recent years has been the virtual disappearance of those dreadful old women in black who used to sit at the entrance to the more palatial establishments, doing nothing at all, and snarl "merci" nastily at you if you didn't put a coin in their saucer.
As a young man in Paris I once went into a portal labelled "Hommes" while my girl friend took the "Dames" route. We met at the bottom of our respective flights of stairs in front of one of those women, who clearly expected a contribution from both of us.


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