Just flush it down the drain!

Incipient note: People have complained about my toilet humour before. Now at least they’ve got a point.


Last Thursday we came back from a one-week holiday. We touched down in Gatwick and, being the good female that I am, I was bursting for a pee. I mean, I had to strap myself into a seat for all of landing and taxiing and then there was a queue to get off the plane at that, so it was almost 30 minutes without access to a loo. That’s just inhumane! But I digress.

The real horror came when I finally reached the first lavatory in the airport building.

On this planet, toilet designs with questionable aesthetics abound, and I’m afraid I have seen (and used) them all: Squat toilets, latrines, port-a-potties, outhouses, German dry pan toilets (they are great because your bottom stays dry but they smell like… well, potty), toilets that clog up so easily that you can’t throw the toilet paper in but have to toss it into a basket next to the loo instead…

The shocking part about British toilets, however, is not the bowl design, it’s the flushing system. Every time I am at a restaurant, cinema, supermarket, pub, park, swimming pool, mall, airport or other public place and need to take a leak, I tremble with anticipation of what I might find.

Unfortunately, in an estimated 90 % of all public powder rooms, I am greeted by The Handle.



Note that The Handle is inevitably attached to a humongous cistern


This sight instantly triggers an imaginary sound in my auditory cortex, namely the signature screech from ‘Psycho’. That’s when I know I will speedily have to don my mental Kevlar vest to protect myself from getting too worked up about two things:

1. I will probably have to push down the lever several times with all my might in order to pump up enough water and get the flushing in motion. I try to see this part as a challenge. One can never get too much exercise.

2. Once the flushing has started, the complete tank contents will empty into the bowl and drown my modest number one in insane amounts of unnecessarily wasted drinking water. This part never fails to piss me off, no matter how thick the Kevlar.

I am frequently tempted to not flush at all, especially if the culprit isn’t me but my little monster with his *wee* bladder. But then I figure that I wouldn’t like that very much if I was the next person to use this particular cubby hole. So I flush. And try not to scream.


We had a toilet like that in the early 70ies. Sooo last millennium! (Image: Wikipedia)

True, we are on an island here which, by all accounts, is haunted by copious amounts of precipitation. That’s actually a myth. As a matter of fact, East Anglia, which is the part of the country I live in, gets less annual rainfall than my home town Berlin which itself lies in one of the driest areas in Germany.

So why on earth are you insisting on using flushing mechanisms like in the times of the invention of WCs?!

Where I come from, it has been the standard for decades to equip toilets with start/stop devices. Depending on the degree of soiling you just push the stop button or tip the rocker switch back into its original position as soon as the bowl is clean. Easy.


German flushing systems rock! (Image: Wikipedia)





I have never seen this logical and simple solution anywhere in the UK. That frankly baffles me.

Granted, once in a while I come across a rather modern cistern here with a dual flush system. These will allow you to choose between two different flush volumes. If you’re lucky, the right amount for your needs is among them.


Thankfully, the loos in our house are fitted with this nifty system. Otherwise I would probably just stop eating and drinking altogether.

I mean, you don’t have to be a quantum physicist to figure out that even in a normal household, with East Anglian water prices, the installation of a water-wise flushing mechanism is an investment that pays off before you can say “economic crisis”. Seeing how much more often public conveniences are used compared to my humble home, upgrading them might just *pan* out nicely from a financial point of view.


Now, please don’t get me started on the environmental aspect of wasting water!


I’ve lost a stone!

If my son was going to say that to me it would be something that he would feel kind of sad about. He loves collecting stones. In fact, he loves collecting a lot of things.

If, on the other hand, I heard this sentence from anyone else around here it would probably be followed by cheers, congratulations and ‘way to go’s.

I confess that I find that confusing.

metric 1

Which one do you prefer?

Why on earth can’t you island monkeys use the normal metric measures that everyone else in the world is using? Ehem. The normal metric measures that everyone else in the world but the US of A is using?

Sure, I am a reasonably bright girl, I can figure it out.

But why?! I mean, don’t you know that the metric system is actually your official system of measurement? You should have thought of the consequences before you joined the European Community in 1973. For crying out loud, British scientists like Joule and Lord Kelvin used to be pioneers in metrication in the 19th century! What happened? Did you just want to be different from everybody else?

What’s worse, you guys just take our universally recognised unit symbols and employ them for your own purposes.


16 metres? How on earth am I gonna brake quickly enough to pull into this service station?!

metric 2

See, even the Chinese get it right! (Image: Wikipedia)

Admittedly, the metric system is not free of faults and hiccups. But adhering to a set of units that are not immediately understood by most other people in the world and very impractical to boot seems a bit… excuse me, obstinate and childish to me!

I can somehow relate to your resistance to joining the majority when considering the recent misery of the Euro currency. But in the case of measurements, going metric would actually make sense because it does make everyday life simpler. What is easier to calculate: the number of metres in a kilometre or the number of feet in a mile? And how many inches are in a yard again? What if a measurement is smaller than 1/2 inch?

Or, coming back to my initial example, how heavy is a stone? How many ounces in a pound? Can ounces have babies with fluid ounces?

And why the hell is a British pint that much bigger than an American pint? Questions upon questions.

You see, metrication is not really the same as Europeanisation. And while it takes a bit of effort, it’s also not that painful, promise! Take temperatures, for instance. While the Fahrenheit scale is still sometimes used as supplementary indication, you are mainly dealing in °Celsius now. Way to go! So much more intuitive: everything below 0 °C means you are freezing your appendages off.

If you could now convert in the remaining areas, too, that would be just swell. Would have saved us some trouble, you know? Here’s why:

When we got a new bed for the little monster who had outgrown his cot bed, it was an IKEA hand-me-down loft bed and we needed to buy a new mattress for it. So we went and got a bunk bed mattress at the friendly mattress store across the road. Standard length, we were assured, 6 ft. Rattle, rattle, went my poor, continental brain before spitting out an answer: that’s pretty much 2 metres, in other words, standard length. Result!


Well, until we put the mattress into the bed frame and… Surprise! The mattress was too short. Some 17 cm too short, because that is the difference between a Swedish 2 m bed and a British 6 ft mattress. Dang!

Mind you, I consider myself a bit of a maths wiz (please don’t shun me!), but even I don’t generally have the completely random conversion factors to 4 decimal places ready for retrieval. So much for being reasonably bright.

But the worst thing was that I couldn’t even blame hubby for the calculation fail. He couldn’t have known either because he grew up in South Africa. Make an educated guess which system they are using down there!

Let your children off the leash!


If you have to put her on a leash, at least use it to keep her off the cycling lane!

This is what I saw the other day on my way home from the supermarket. Yeah, look closer. And don’t let her atrocious boots distract you from the even more heinous lapse of having her child on a leash!

The appalling bit is, here in the UK, I see this all the time! When I last visited Germany, I specifically paid attention to how often I would see parents with their kids on a lead. Well, yes, there is the odd occurrence, but it doesn’t even remotely compare to how frequently the average island monkey does it.

I was curious whether I would be able to unearth more facts to back up my observations. So I typed into Amazon.co.uk ‘harness and reins’ and was ‘rewarded’ with a horrifying number of 95 different products. Type the German equivalent search term into Amazon.de, you get 30 results! What does that tell you? That’s right, we Germans don’t care about our kids. We want to see them in pain and unsafe.

Sure, I could, with a lot of imagination, conceive of situations where a rein might possibly be useful. Like when you are at the airport, trying to check in your bag and therefore waiting in the slowest ever queue, and your little monster is convinced that running around and challenging the definition of ‘authorised personnel’ is way more fun than standing in line with Mommy. Or when you are at a busy supermarket and the beckoning of the muffin aisle is so much more enticing for your offspring than your pleading to stay with you.

But in the pictured situation? Just walking down the road, hardly any other people around, and not even any hands occupied by lugging grocery bags/pushing pushchairs/holding siblings in check? To what purpose does this little girl have to walk on a leash? Is she prone to run away? Fall over? Bump into other pedestrians? Pass on the germs from her grubby hands to her moms’ clinically clean ones? I’ll never know.

My other ‘favourite’ observation of this kind happened at the park and I didn’t dare take a photograph lest the lens burst with indignation. Or maybe I just didn’t have my camera on me that day. In any case you will just have to take my word for it: it was disgraceful!

Another lady, another little girl on a leash. But this time not next to a road with all its terrible dangers but – you might want to sit down or hold onto something – on a PLAYGROUND! The little one, probably about 2, tried to use the slide but that would have meant that said lady would have had to get up onto that thing as well, which of course she didn’t.

OK, in this case it was clearly not the little girl’s mother, but her grandmother, on the reigning end of the rein. And she was probably just uncertain how best to rein in a dinky, shy 2-year-old other than with a, well, rein. Mind you, here in the UK, the average mother is probably about 19 years old, so this granny was not that much older than myself and would have been able to keep up with her granddaughter. But what if, god forbid, the girl would have fallen over and possibly ended up with a bruise (cue shocked outcry, preferably with your hands on your cheeks)? Mommy might have gotten so angry that gran would have been forbidden to ever again take her granddaughter to the playground. Ever!

I mean, children running around freely on a playground? Without the safety of a Safety 1st Safety Harness that “Comes complete with walking rein to give your child the freedom to walk around safely”?! Whatever next?!

Eventually the girl had to climb down the stairs again because granny just wouldn’t let go of the bloody reins! I would have laughed at the ridiculousness of the scene if it wouldn’t have been so sad!

Again, I confess that I have been in situations where I wished I had one of these things to keep my little monster in check. However, both times I made the conscious decision not to buy one. I feel that putting a child on a leash lacks the dignity and respect I wish to concede to any person, regardless of their age.

monkey harness

Hey, you've got a monkey on your back. Erm... Never mind, my bad, it's just a DOG LEASH!

Oh, and making them pink for girls, camouflage them as little backpacks or use stuffed animals for the extra cuteness factor doesn’t change the fact that your child would be happier without it!

By the way, if you were wondering whether there is anything that could take the concept of leashes for children over the top, yes, there is! The newest must-have is apparently a retractable rein. Yeah, you’re reading correctly, just like the ones for doggies!

Newsflash, people: Your little one is not a dog that needs reining in! So, you claim it’s all about your child’s safety? Sorry, but I don’t buy it. Because in this case you would be saying that all the parents that don’t use them don’t give a rat’s arse about their kids’ wellbeing. Not the case! To be honest, to me it just looks like you are trying to dodge one of your responsibilities as a parent.

Granted, I am by no definition an expert in this field, but common sense sounds pretty convincing to me when it argues that holding your child’s hand, talking to him, giving him reasons why he can’t do certain things, explaining situations and dangers to him and – please don’t stab me for this one – letting him actually run around as long as you can keep an eye on him seems to be a much more sensible way of raising him to become an independent, responsible, self-reliant person who can confidently assess risks and judge situations.

Also, you don’t do your little one a favour by shielding her from each and every possible danger, imagined or real. I read the other day that empowerment is the freedom to fail. So, please, let your child make their own experiences. Yes, falling down does hurt, but it also teaches them valuable lessons that will reduce the likelihood of them falling again the next time.

And if you absolutely have to use a rein in certain, particularly dangerous situations, please make sure you restrict its use to these instances. And please, don’t forget that you have your child on a leash, it could look funny…