Or ‘Privies I have known and and loved’.
On second thoughts, there was not much love lost on life without plumbing.
Following on from my last post I went outside to take a photo of our family two-holer: you can see the passage outside between the loo and the next building, which in this part of the country we call a ‘ginnel’ with a hard G: thirty miles away it is called a ‘jennel’! These passages often led from road to road between houses, urban footpaths I suppose one could call them, but is also applied to shorter passages between buildings, as here.
The outside does not look bad, we pass it every day and any gross deterioration would catch our attention, but I was shocked when I looked inside and am ashamed to show you what it looks like! I had forgotten that as our flock of hens gradually died down to just two, then one, we had moved them in here for the winter to be more cosy than in a large hen house. The last hen of all ended her days in the house, in the bathroom to be exact, sitting happily in a box, (see an earlier post for her story), and after her death I had been too upset to immediately clear out the loo: well I feel a ‘right’ slut now!!
You will not want to know me from here on in, but here I am baring my ‘all’ for public humiliation: the hole in the wall on the right is for the lavatory paper to sit in: the seat lids are down and still covered with straw from the previous occupants!
As you can see, the old lime wash is peeling off revealing previous layers of creamy yellow: we must clean it out, rub off the old paint and give it a nice new coat of white, then I will feel slightly more civilised once again. I hasten to add that the black colour is dust caught in spiders webs rather than anything more nasty! To finish the job, here is the disgraceful window and aperture:
For my self-respect I shall have to post photos of the cleaned, painted loo, when it is done. But that will have to wait until I finish this course – I have been glued to my books at every possible opportunity over the last few days, and until I get back from Paris.
In London we had a nice, flushing, indoor loo. When I was eight years old we moved to the country where we had a wooden hut up at the end of the orchard, but with only one seat! My mother did not believe in the pot-under- the-bed (or gazunda) system so we had to trek up the garden and orchard every time we needed to go to the loo, whatever the time of day, or night, or the state of the weather. The stumbling up the path in the pitch black of night with a torch, or a candle, or paraffin lamp, through hail, rain, snow or thunder and lightning will never be forgotten. It was such bliss to finally reach harbour and sit down on the comfy wooden seat: only, first I had to make sure there were none of the huge, long legged spiders anywhere near me. On a few occasions I dropped the light just after I had noticed a spider, and then it could rush me, get me, and I would be done for, just because I was already ensconced on the loo mid-flow so to speak, and could not move. Not being able to see the spider of course gave it the ultimate advantage. This privy was not an earth closed like the one pictured above, but was a chemical loo, in other words an open bucket with some chemicals in the bottom. It was my father’s job every Saturday to empty this noisome stuff in a trench where we grew raspberries. We had wonderful raspberries!
Still, at least it was buried. Some friends of mine used to have theirs spread on the surface of their vegetable garden. Ugh.
By the time I was about ten the chemical loo had moved into the coal house at the back of the garage beside the house. We still had to go out of doors but hardly any distance. But there were still spiders and it was cold, with a hard concrete floor. Not nearly as warm as the wooden hut. Still it had electric light!
When I was sixteen mains drainage came to our village and we had a bathroom for the first time instead of washing in the kitchen, and a flushing loo. Wonderful. Also a radiator!! So in winter, you could sit on the loo, hugging the radiator, and listen for the church clock to tell you it was time to rush off to catch the coach to school.
My cousins in Sweden who live near Stockholm have a country house further north where the earth closet is considered a privilege, the ownership of which is a badge to be worn with pride! It is sweet smelling and fresh. There is a bucket of wood bark and chips of some lovely smelling softwood tree and a bucket of dry earth, both of which you sprinkle down the loo once you have ‘been’ and which renders the whole atmosphere clean and aromatic. This was a revelation to me. So much, much nicer than the horrible, sloppy chemical bucket.
Since my teens all the places I lived in had internal flushing lavatories until we moved to this cottage: here we had a chemical loo in the outhouse in the yard where the coal was kept. Familiar territory! Plus of course the family two-holer earth closet, up the steps, along the path and down the ginnel. Quite a trek.
One of the first things we did was to install a septic tank and internal plumbing. But that is another story!! And quite a dramatic one too.