a toilet

The Latitude Festival is apparently not what it was but I wouldn’t know. I was there when it is what it is. That was a few days’ ago. I still have my bracelet because Jonathan promised he could get it off with a tool he has – then he went to Liverpool and I don’t want to chisel a hole in my wrist while he is not here to look after the kids so it is still on my wrist.

I have cleaned it.

This is the first time I have been to a Festival with no children. This is the second time I have been to a Festival.

I did not pay £120 to go – I went with the Factory. I was a Performer. (Actually I stood around taking a lot of notes.) So my wrist band was yellow and I was allowed anywhere I wanted. In theory. I found out moments before I left that the Performer’s toilets were the only toilets on the entire site that were not… what is the word? …let’s say confronting.

Although the toilets are not a headline attraction and we are a very laid back and hip band of theatre people who are happy in our bodies and everyone here at this Festival is here to let it all hang out and pursue both relaxation and stimulation on a level not possible in normal life, we are all a bit obsessed with Festival toileting issues.

The festival latrines are basically troughs with benches suspended over them. Being entirely made of metal they ring. Yes: every step, every door slam, every shift of weight, every event that occurs on or in them is accompanied by some level of chime. This adds a certain level of Wagnerian drama to the moment.

A relative of mine by marriage (I’m being coy on her behalf) tells me that where she grew up, toilet paper was rare. Let’s just say it was East of Dresden. Her grandmother would tear up strips of newspaper and hang them near the loo. When you went to the toilet you would use as few of these as you could, obviously as they were not in great supply. She describes how you would roll them into a ball and spit on them and them rub a lot, unravelling them then screwing them up again repeatedly to make the paper as soft as possible.

Another conversation I had recently, and this was quite a posh conversation, veered suddenly into the fascinating territory of the Loss of the Squat. We are designed, it is asserted by those who know, to squat. In those areas of the world where toilets require squatting (or indeed, those areas that are toiletless and therefore demand squatting) heamorrhoids are rare. As are other related bowel and digestive issues.

There is also the matter of the flush. Toilets should not require water. The world is short of water. We use an awful lot. Yet we insist on flushing rather than composting toilets, even though the composting toilet is superior, does not smell, and is also immeasurably less wasteful.

A friend of mine, let’s call him Jethro but he might also be called Jesus, was listening to a lot of us actor’s thinly disguised uptight conversation about the toilets at Latitude. He said: ‘I was at Glastonbury a few years ago. I’d done a lot of mushrooms. I don’t know how I got there but I came to one night in the latrines. I was on the floor with all this mud and poo,’ he describes great slow circles with his arms so we can see just how vast and deep was the sea in which he sat, ‘and I decided to accept it. Just become one with the poo.’

He takes a drag and when he speaks again he tries not to lose too much smoke.

‘I’ve never had a problem with it since.’

Alan Morrissey atop the Lats @ Lat

Alan Morrissey atop the Lats @ Lat


3 thoughts on “TheCat@Lat

  1. It’s weird isn’t it, how nervous we are around poo. I was only thinking yesterday as I trudged across the dying straw on bald Clapham Common, how it could do with all that nice dog manure wrapped tight in non-bio-degradable plastic bags and stuffed into the bin. In the olden days, the place was covered in cowpats – now what nourishment does it ever get? In Germinal by Zola, the peasants put their own poo on their land.

    • It’s true Bobbie – we are an exceptionally precious animal. Now. Not in Zola’s time, obviously. I often think how our sensual tolerance must have changed beyond measure form a time not long ago when, to our noses, everything must have stunk to the highest of heavens…
      I went to a great chat at Latitude by a guy who has just finished a book on John Clare… your ref to Zola reminded me. Actually, I must work it up into a blog… erm – and get on with The Book, too.

  2. On the subject of the squat.

    I was in Venice briefly this summer. A day in fact.

    I was entertained by a lovely girl who had agreed via mutual friend to be my guide for the day.

    The city is beautiful, elegant and oh-so-refined.

    We met some of her girl-friends and sat in the square sipping on cold Italian beers, smoking thin cigarettes and passionately pondering on our role as artists.

    This is the life. The paradigm of the civilised.

    I excused myself to go to the toilet in the cafe of where we were sat, only to find what was literally a hole in the floor – albeit a hole that was lined with white ceramic, with bits of damp stepped-on bog roll next to it.

    My paradigm was shattered.

    I returned only to struggle deeply with the friction of my surroundings and the inevitable realities of what was happening when my friends excused themselves as the afternoon went on.

    They went from epitomes civilised cosmopolitans to squatting-like-peasants-in-a-hedge only meters away from our table behind some concrete.

    And quite right too.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s