Sunday, September 23, 2007

With A Paper Folded Outside The Loo

The loo, the bog, the crapper, the pit, the dunny. Powder my nose, point Percy at the porcelain, visit the little boys’ room.

The toilet is an institution in British and Anglo-Saxon consciousness. Different parts of Britain offer different motifs for the place and the act, as do different parts of the US and Australia. The toilet for all that it represents, at its base level, merely defecation and micturition, is democracy in action, or perhaps in motion. It is a symbol of equality, founded on bodily function. The toilet, especially the public toilet, is engrained into British culture and British psyche. The late Marcus Merriman, an ebullient history professor at my Alma Mater, wrote about the public toilet. More noted for his work on Mary Queen of Scots, this Anglophile American was nonetheless impressed enough by the English (and British) affinity with the public loo and its architecture to direct research into such a study. And rightly so. Though the magnificent glazed tiling of, for instance, London’s old Victorian stations, has been widely vandalised by the arrival of sanitised whitewash and aluminium, the WC remains a visible sign of a history of public hygiene. But more than just a symbol, the public loo is a Briton’s right. Even if no relief is consciously required, a public toilet suddenly evokes a brain-to-bladder-or-bowel reaction that demands one “just nips to the loo”.

In Mallorca, there is no such heritage. If a national emblem of Great Britain were to be a public privy, the Mallorcan equivalent would be a tree or a wooded place, adorned preferably with an abundance of dock leaves. Or alternatively, it would be a bar or restaurant.

Need a public loo in Mallorca? Generally impossible. List three of the most frequent questions asked of tourist information offices, and among them will be “where’s the loo?”. The absence causes disorientation for the British tourist, used to getting a spatial bearing through the location of the nearest lav. For some, the non-availability is a sign of backwardness. Forget the preserved and restored historical monuments, the well-constructed and attractive marinas and promenades. These are nought in terms of achievement when set against the lack of a public pisser.

While many bars will happily oblige gratis someone with cross-legged desperation, not all do. Some charge. Some even require that one asks for a key, and then charge. Except of course if one stops for a drink, which means that in some short future while the whole exercise has to be repeated. Go for a day out, and it is an endless round of drink-now, pee-a-bit-later. The best solution, and the one with more luxury than the average bar, is the hotel, unless one is in the old towns of Alcúdia and Pollensa where the “petit” hotels don’t afford the level of anonymity that a large one of some 900 guests might. It is not that there are no public toilets, just that they are rare and situated in the most unlikely places. Go for a ramble through the forest between Playa de Muro and Can Picafort, and you will stumble across a two-cubicled hut that only those with a most pressing requirement would entertain.

For restaurants in Mallorca, the toilet is usually a purely functional necessity. It is uncommon for it to be a thing of beauty. One particular restaurant’s loos have received critical remarks - I haven’t yet published them and probably won’t. But this is not always so. On a first visit to Can Costa in Pollensa after William had taken it on, he was keen to point out the splendour of the WCs. And they were just that, in keeping with the fineness of the restaurant itself. But there again he’s British. Natch. A less-resplendent but still welcoming toilet is that at L’Ombra, also in Pollensa, also run by Brits.

Which all leads me to believe that here is a rich vein of research. In honour of Marcus Merriman, the search is on for the finest lavatories in northern Mallorca. Anyone with any nominations are welcome to email me.

And somewhat in keeping with today’s theme ... It duly peed it down yesterday, especially in the south where, once more, the new metro was flooded (see previous 22 August: It’s August, Jim, But Not As We Know It).

Yesterday - Manic Street Preachers. Today’s title - struggled a bit to think of a toilet reference, but here’s a corker, which also features the line “Rain falls like Elvis tears”.


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