A chain reaction in the ladies' lavatory

She had problems with her waterworks: she could only go if she heard running water

ON WEDNESDAY I went to a conference in Cheshire and sat next to a man who makes toothpaste for dogs. There was only one flavour at the moment, marrowbone, but he said they were testing new varieties. "What about postman's leg," I said. "Or cat?" He pursed his lips and said thoughtfully: "Mmm, well we're open to all suggestions."

That's the way with conferences. They generate gravitas even when you're off duty eating deep-fried breaded Camembert with a light raspberry and balsamic vinegar dressing, in a room which a month ago was a student canteen. That's the other thing about conferences these days. The catering has become incredibly fancy. I missed lunch, but at least five delegates told me about the starter over pre-dinner drinks. "It was unusual, certainly, but most refreshing," said a woman in pink with beads, from the Isle of Wight. "Light summer fruits, well strawberries really, with cucumber and mint. It was delicious." It was bloody awful," said a big man in shirtsleeves, from Newcastle. "Whoever heard of strawberries with cucumber? It's not natural. As for the mint, it tasted like toothpaste." Which is where we came in.

The other thing everyone talked about was the plumbing. Last year the delegates complained because they didn't have their own bathrooms. "People expect to be en suite these days," said the conference organiser. "This year they put us in the refurbished room, all en suite, and everyone's pleased." Yes and no. It was nice to have the en-suite facilities but the noise was dreadful. "That's what happens when you go en suite as an afterthought," said a man with rimless glasses, who clearly knew about such things. "Tell me about it," said a women delegate. "I was woken up at three this morning by the man next door going for - well, you know. Of course, it was a man. Women don't make that racket; they sit down, for a start. And then when he pulled the - well, you know, it was jut like Niagara Falls."

People are curiously sensitive about natural functions. No one mentioned anything as rude as a lavatory chain or even a tap. As for men making more noise than women when they pee, sorry, how crude of me, when they, you know - a friend told me that a notice in the bathroom of the Singapore hotel he stayed in recently said: "After 10pm gentlemen are requested to sit down when using the toilet in order not to disturb fellow hotel guests." A Japanese friend told me that just as we teach children road manners and road sense, in Japan girls are advised to turn the taps of the washbasin on before they, you know, so that any indelicate sound can be masked.

That reminds me of my ex-step-grandmother-in-law (work that one out) who in her declining years had problems with what she called her waterworks. She could only go if she could hear running water. That was fine at home, but I once took her to the theatre, and escorting her to the lavatory in the interval was a nightmare that I continue to relive to this day.

You know how it works in theatres - two tiny loos and 100 frantic women queuing for them. We were roughly half-way along the line and my ex-step- grandmother-in-law said ominously that she did not know if she could hold out but at least, I thought, we'd be spared the running water scenario. Not a bit of it. "It's no good, I can't go. You'll have to turn on the taps Susan," she called from the cubicle. Apologising miserably to the waiting women, I turned on the cold tap. "Susan, are you there? I can't hear a thing; put both taps on full," commanded the voice from the cubicle. The twin jets spluttered, hit the enamel like pressurised fire hoses and sprayed the entire room. The women at the front sprang back to avoid being soaked.

"For God's sake, what's happening?" came the frightened, muffled voices of the unfortunates at the back who were being pressed against the walls and were in danger of suffocation. "Are you there Susan? I can't hear the taps. Have you turned them on? There's so much noise going on, you'll just have to open the door or I'll be here all night."

I hesitated, but the matter was out of my hands. "Open the door, for God's sake. Open the door or we'll all be here all night," yelled 40 frantic, wet, cowering women in the powder room of the Haymarket theatre. At a stroke my ex-step-grandmother-in-law, voluminous denture, pink winceyette knickers round her ankles, was revealed. "That's better; now we're in business." she said. I tell you the spontaneous applause that broke out when she finally stood up and pulled the chain would have gratified Dame Edith herself. And if the woman delegate next to Niagara Falls had been there, I bet she'd have joined in too.

Arts and Entertainment
Will there ever be a Friends reunion?
TV
News
Harry Hill plays the Professor in the show and hopes it will help boost interest in science among young people
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A Van Gogh sold at Sotheby’s earlier this month
art
Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
'Africa' will be Angelina Jolie's fifth film as a director

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Len Goodman appeared to mutter the F-word after Simon Webbe's Strictly performance

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T makes his long-awaited return to the London stage
musicReview: Alexandra Palace, London
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 back in 2001 when they also supported 'Children in Need'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth rejoins Tess Daly to host the Strictly Come Dancing Children in Need special
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan plays Christian Grey getting ready for work

Film More romcom than S&M

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

Review: The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
The comedian Daniel O'Reilly appeared contrite on BBC Newsnight last night

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
The American stand-up Tig Notaro, who performed topless this week

Comedy...to show her mastectomy scars

Arts and Entertainment

TVNetflix gets cryptic

Arts and Entertainment
Claudia Winkleman is having another week off Strictly to care for her daughter
TV
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Children in Need is the BBC's UK charity. Since 1980 it has raised over £600 million to change the lives of disabled children and young people in the UK

TV review A moving film showing kids too busy to enjoy their youth

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his winning novel

Books Not even a Man Booker prize could save Richard Flanagan from a nomination

Arts and Entertainment
Bryan Cranston will play federal agent Robert Mazur in The Infiltrator

Books
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

    Immigration: Obama's final frontier

    The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
    Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

    Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

    Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
    Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

    You know that headache you’ve got?

    Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
    Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

    Scoot commute

    Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
    Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

    The Paul Robeson story

    How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
    10 best satellite navigation systems

    Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

    Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
    Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

    Paul Scholes column

    England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
    Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

    Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

    Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
    Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

    Frank Warren column

    Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
    Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

    Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

    Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
    Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

    'How do you carry on? You have to...'

    The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
    Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

    Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

    Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

    'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

    Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
    Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

    Sir John Major hits out at theatres

    Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
    Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

    Kicking Barbie's butt

    How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines