Monday 19 May 2014



Don’t want to put you off your cuppa by describing in any detail my deliberations and deliveries on the loo, so suffice to say I like a good selection of reading material in there.

One book above all others is a permanent fixture: Mark Forsyth’s Etymologicon is a toilet treat. The brilliant and hilarious Inky Fool blogger takes a circular journey around the English language, allowing the passing visitor (pun intended) to dip in and out of his book and forever be at least interested; sometimes amazed.

Then there’s the weekend tabloid TV magazines and The Guardian’s ‘Guide’, with which I make a half-hearted attempt to stay in touch with popular culture. Throughout the course of the week I read about all the films, plays and exhibitions that I’m missing, give a glance to the TV soaps to see if anything vaguely interesting is happening in them, so that I can better make small talk with the stranger at the bus stop.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not looking down my nose at the soaps. Decades ago I used to be addicted to Corrie and Eastenders, and Brookside before that. Who couldn’t love Jimmy Corkhill?

Then, when I lived in a quiet farmhouse in north Mayo, I stopped watching all of them, completely. There I was, surrounded by ancient trees, with a heron on the rock by the river, and here were all these vile people shouting at each other on my TV screen. Why would I want to listen to them?

When the stress levels are high or the IBS is kicking in, I can require fairly lengthy visits to the loo library. For such sessions there is more meaningful reading matter available. Arthur Schopenhauer’s ‘The Horrors and Absurdities of Religion’ might not sound like it’s a laugh a minute book, but the pure authority of the 19th century philosopher’s voice rarely fails to make me giggle.

Unshackled as he is by the political correctness of our 21st century liberal agenda, he feels neither shame nor guilt in dismissing everyone’s religious faith. Where any writer would today have to declare their respect for the rights of others to believe in what they wish, brazen as a battering ram Schopenhauer suggests on the very first page:

“I can’t see why, because other people are simple-minded, I should respect a pack of lies. What I respect is truth, therefore I can’t respect what opposes truth.”

It’s immaterial whether I agree with him or not. I simply envy his arrogance.

Sometimes a trip to the loo library requires a little light reading, so equally important yet just a smidgeon less intellectually demanding than philosophy, I might pick up a tiny tome called:

‘I Could Chew On This’ and other poems by dogs.’

 Writer Francesco Marciuliano has somehow managed to persuade our furry four-legged friends to dabble in poetry, with remarkably successful results. My personal favourite is entitled ‘Unleashed’ which goes like this:

‘I’m free, I’m free, I’m free, I’m free, I’m free, I’m free, I’m free. I’m lost.’

Always, without fail there will be a couple of ancient National Geographic magazines available, for those middle-of-the-night missions when reading is out of the question. 

Beautiful vistas of soaring mountain peaks; fascinating close-ups of microscopic viruses and a good long look down the gaping jaws of a Great White Shark, flush, wash hands, return to bed.

Works a treat.

Occasionally there's a guest appearance made in the loo library by one of those brochures that try to sell you things you never knew you wanted. For some reason I find them fascinating, even though I have not the slightest inclination to buy bed-sheet suspenders, or a gadget that’ll warm the inside of my car by draining its battery. I don’t need 8 chopping boards in different colours and cannot imagine why anyone might, but by virtue of their presence in the little catalogue, many people will feel the need to own them

Lurking on the windowsill behind the reading area are various guide books to nerdy subjects such as stars and planets, rocky seashores and weather, as well as more mainstream topics like scandal and food. As with any good library, there must be sufficient choice so that there’s always something to match my mood.

Sometimes however there comes an interloper. A few weeks ago there was inserted in The Guardian newspaper what they described as a free supplement called “Appetite for Life”. It was packed with hot tips about how to beat stress and live a long, joyful and healthy life.

Filled as it was with lots of lists, tiny paragraphs under bold headings and fun photos, it looked interesting enough to qualify for a place in the loo library. However it turned out to be nothing more than a corporate wolf in altruistic clothing.

Purporting to care for our collective health, it advised that:

“Doing a simple thing like reading a book actually reduces stress levels by 68%, beating listening to music, having a cup of tea and taking a walk.”

Fascinating. Who'd have thought it? Then my eye wandered a mere two inches to the right, where another item declared:

“You've heard it before, but we’ll say it again. Exercise is the ultimate stress-busting endorphin-releasing prescription, .”

Oh for goodness sake. You’re pretending to help us, yet offering conflicting advice on the same page. Who put this load of tosh together?

Further careful scanning revealed that the entire supplement was in fact an extended advertisement for Shredded Wheat. They didn’t want me to live longer. They just wanted to flog me their bloomin’  breakfast cereal.

Such devious double-standardry has no place in my loo library. As the Snapper suggested, the only time we might have a use for that kind of rubbish is if we ran out of toilet paper.

©Charlie Adley

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