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Nothing makes you appreciate home more than being away from it. I have met several travellers who, after spending months abroad, agree that the one thing they have learnt while broadening their horizons is how much they value the old green and pleasant land. You can understand the language, and more importantly the humour, buy your undies from Marks and Spencer, and are never more than a few yards away from a pint and a curry. Personally, it was Britain's porcelain I missed during my recent foray to foreign parts - not Wedgwood or Royal Doulton, but a much more important maker: Armitage Shanks. You can't beat Blighty when it comes to bogs.

You only need to shoot three hours across to Paris to see what's wrong with Europe: go into any little bar-tabac, say in the 7th arrondissement (which is a smart district), visit les toilettes and bang, there it is, at your feet, the hole in the floor, aka the elephant's foot. I spent four months in a flat in Paris, with a view of the Eiffel tower, which sounds very glamorous until you needed to visit my salle de bain with its very own pied d'elephant. Boy, did it improve my skiing muscles.

Travel guidebooks dedicate whole sections to the art of defecating in a foreign country. In Turkey we are told not to expect Andrex, but a "spigot and can on the floor nearby, or, much more conveniently, a little copper tube snaking up the back to the spot where it's needed". I suppose this could double up as colonic irrigation if you were agile and handy with pipes.

There is no doubt that the countries benefiting from the hard currency of tourism are also benefiting from a by-product of tourism - diarrhoea - or, as it is more politely described, traveller's tummy. While travelling with my tummy in India, I arrived in Pushkar and instead of being greeted by locals with interesting ethnic crafts for sale, I was met by a flock of little boys chanting "Toilet paper! Toilet paper!" as they waved the rolls above their heads like football banners. It was also in Pushkar that I was confronted with an elephant's foot that looked like the elephant had just used it.

Anyway, since I have been back on my own patch I have been visiting my own powder room with a vengeance, smiling down at the old wooden seat and sparkling white bowl, and feeling contented when I pull the chain and hear that familiar flush. I never knew sanitary ware could give so much pleasure to a girl.

Lindsay Calder

King johns: The National Liberal Club, 1 Whitehall Place, London SW1, has a jockey's weighing scale outside the loos, so you can decide if you deserve that plum duff; The Ladies at the ballroom of the Grosvenor House Hotel, Park Lane, London W1, has individual hand towels and lots of mirrors.

Hell holes: The loo in `Trainspotting' by Irvine Welsh, p24; Belgo Central restaurant, Earlham Street, London WC2 (too much metal, semi-unisex and extremely confusing).

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