The third in an occasional series about necessary houses, bogs, WCs, comfort stations, garderobes, heads, johns, ladies' rooms, latrines, lavatories, outhouses, potties, powder rooms, cloakrooms, restrooms, thrones, washrooms, and bathrooms.
Answering a comment from JCB on Friday's post I had one of those paralyzing moments when the eye turns inwards, reality is berthed, and the topography of the past is the byway one takes - the kind of situation when on a too-familiar journey in the automobile there's little recollection of how one arrived at the destination - the body on one journey, the mind on another.
JCB had written that she was comforted to know someone else's reading list is just as randomly diverse as her own, and in reply I was going to mention how I'd grown up in a house devoid of books and there I was, back in my grandparent's living room seeing my grandfather, a fag between his lips, reading the local newspaper - "the pink" as it was known. And pink it was, the paper of that daily with its list of football league scores - vital information in a Lancashire cotton and coal town where winning the pools was an undying hope - a town, deep in a valley, where "thee" and "thou" were still used in its dialect, as were Norwegian words left over from the Viking raids of the 8th century. A town where working men's clubs, nonconformist chapels, darts and dominos, whippet racing, pigeon fancying, growing sweetpeas, joining brass bands and coal miner's choirs that sent Jerusalem, the Hallelujah Chorus and Abide With Me thundering out over the cobblestones, enriched the lives of those staunchly socialist men and women - lives that had been portrayed a generation earlier in Orwell's The Road to Wigan Pier, and in my youth in the films of the 1960s.
In this slide down the valley slopes of memory I have come a long way from my original intention of post about bathrooms so let me give you one more memory. My grandfather had cousins in the next town, who lived in a terraced (row) house without an internal bathroom. In the paved, walled area - the backyard - behind the house were two stone-built outhouses. One held coal, the other, the long-drop, or privy. I had never seen a water closet without a flushing mechanism and was totally charmed by the idea that not only was there a slate slab where wood should have been (hell-on-earth to sit on in winter, I would think), but also that the only way to flush it was to wait for the kitchen sink to be drained into it. I say I was charmed, but I waited till I got home, I seem to remember!
So via the flushing mechanism of my mind, I offer you the bathroom belonging to this house - I'm not necessarily continuing my theme of blue in decorating but I couldn't not show it.
Photographs by James Mortimer from article written by Elspeth Thompson for The World of Interiors, March 1994.