Tuesday, November 19, 2013

World Toilet Day


french village diaries world toilet day france cognac
A decorated public toilet in Cognac, France
Today is World Toilet Day and so a perfect day to talk about toilets in France, from the nicely decorated one we found in Cognac this summer to the still popular hole in the ground toilet. I have a confession; it has taken many years, but I can now admit to quite liking them.

However there is a serious message to today. World Toilet Day has been organised to raise awareness of the fact that one third of humanity (2.5 billion people) do not have access to proper sanitation, including toilets or latrines. This contributes to the fact that almost 2000 children die every day from preventable diarrhoeal diseases. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says:
“By working together – and having an open and frank discussion on the importance of toilets and sanitation – we can improve the health and well-being of one-third of the human family”
For more information please see the UN World Toilet Day page here.

I am privileged that I live in a house with three flushing toilets, all connected to the village mains drainage system. In rural France it is still very common for many villages not to have mains drainage, but an individual fosse septique or cesspit. Reading the information on the UN page has certainly made me think and I now feel guilty that I sometimes resent the fact that having three toilets means more toilet cleaning. I remember my first visit to my eighty-year-old Great-Grandmother’s farmhouse in Co Cork, Ireland when I was in my teens. Although they had installed electricity there was no mains water or toilet, just a patch of land out back.

french village diaries world toilet day france hole in the ground
The French hole in the ground toilet
My first encounter with the French hole in the ground toilet was when I was about 15 and on my French exchange visit to Annecy. My friend Gillian and I really had no idea what to do, or how to do it, so just turned our backs and left. Other memorable encounters have been in ski resorts, and they weren’t very successful either. I still do not know how with ski boots and an all in one ski suit it is possible to pee in one, and I have tried, believe me I’ve tried! I will add here that my Mother-in-law seemed to manage OK, but as Ade and I hadn’t been married very long at the time I didn’t have the courage to a) ask her how or b) ask for help, but boy was I glad to return to the hotel room at the end of the day.

I first cracked them the summer I was pregnant, as then when you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go, and sitting in the car driving from the Morvan to Calais seemed to make me want to go a lot. I did find wearing a dress made it a bit easier.

I guess swapping a desk job and a 2 hour commute morning and evening for a life of veggie gardening, cycling and dog walking has helped my fitness. One thing I was lacking in my younger days was leg muscles strong enough to support the body when held in the squat position (maybe this was my Mother-in-laws secret and also why I was crap at skiing). What with the improved leg muscles and increased exposure to these toilets from living in France I can now even manage them wearing jeans. I also quite like the fact that there is nothing to touch, so no possibility (unless you have a major mis-balance) of any bits of mine touching anything somebody else's dirty bits have touched. The one in the  picture above was even playing the radio to me when I used it and as I unlocked the door it flushed the whole floor area clean - how clever. Have you come across any unusual toilets in France? What do you think of the hole in the ground toilet?