Flushed with initiative on the throne

St Francis Bay freelance journalist Beth Cooper Howell takes a look at why people need to read in the bathroom in Woman on Top today.


I am not a loo reader and don’t fully comprehend why some guest bathrooms offer magazines – even top-grade fiction – next to the seat.

Anybody visiting the ablution block of my home will be provided with a tap, hand towel, soap and double-ply toilet paper. I’d rather have my guests talking to me than flipping through a Reader’s Digest behind closed doors.

Reading material, hand cream and even mint sweeties would simply keep them in there longer (I’ve seen actual sweeties in a toilet before – not a bad idea, as long as they’re pinched after hand-washing and not before).

We’ve recently moved to a new house with many, many bathrooms. This may sound as though I’ve made it big and thus am worthy of envy, but that’s not the case. The architect probably came from a very large family; it’s understandable that she, or he, visited upon the house plans a childhood memory of waiting to go, standing in queues and slipping on showery tiles.

I have never had more than one-and-a-bit bathrooms, which puts me in the top percentage of people who have any clean, running water at all and so, sharing this intimate space is a norm for me and something I don’t take for granted.

Being faced with a smorgasbord of cisterns, bespoke taps and designer flush knobs is therefore a novelty. It’s also hell to decorate – I’ve only ever needed a Mr Price bath mat plus potty rug, for winter days and cold feet.

My husband is a loo reader and also doesn’t really know which throne to claim as his own, so now we have computer, gaming and historical magazines and books spread between four toilets, which is what got me thinking about why this private, clinical space is such an interesting, paradoxical place in the home.

It’s been said that our best ideas come at the strangest times and in the oddest places – the bathroom and shower being two of the best known. Probably the reason why I don’t read there, since staring into space is the best way to generate light bulb moments – not digesting other people’s ideas on the printed page.

In fact, an American graduate student invented a fantastic portable loo – a Dungaroo – thanks to a little thought about how toilets function and why we need to take them to the people who need them most.

The Dungaroo is waterless, odourless and completely hygienic. It also becomes part of the recycling chain, thanks to engineering genius. None of this would have happened had Liz Morris spent her ablution times reading the comedy sections of Reader’s Digest.

I also have noticed a typically modern trend emerging – we’re using our mobile phones on the toilet, too. Understandable, for moms who are trapped by toddlers who won’t let them pee in peace, but this is multi-tasking gone super-sized.
What next? Pay-As-You-Go phones for a fee next to loo seats?

I may have many more surfaces for times of need now, but my modus operandi remains – when you’re emptying bladders or similar at my house, you’ll be forced to spend time with your own thoughts while you do it.

Because I’m convinced that one day, someone will emerge from one of my many pretty bathrooms, flushed with initiative, and carrying the germ of an idea that will end poverty, reverse ageing and make me happy.

And I don’t mind telling the media that it started in my toilet.


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