Brian Viner: ‘I don’t know why reading on the loo is a solely male practice, but it is’

Home And Away

Related Topics

Awhile ago in this space I related the marvellous and true story of a literate, middle-class audience settling down to watch a performance of Equus, featuring the Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe, in the West End. Apparently there was a palpable satisfaction among those present that the prospect of seeing Radcliffe naked did not appear to have attracted people who wouldn’t normally go to the theatre – but then, just before the curtain rose, three young women made their way into their seats in the upper circle and one was heard to complain vehemently, “How are we going to see his todger from here?”

Anyway, I credited this anecdote to an illustrious writer, mistakenly thinking that I’d heard it on a television chat show, only to receive an email pointing out that actually I had inadvertently lifted it from a |letter written by a Mr Luke Barclay and published in this very newspaper. The email came from his father, Paul Barclay, who had also been at Equus that evening and could verify the “todger” complaint.

He added that Luke would be |flattered to be called an illustrious writer, a description which wasn’t wholly merited, although he had written a well-received book, published in 2008, called A Loo with A View. Mr Barclay Snr said he’d send me a copy, and I’m pleased to report that A Loo With A View is now a firm family favourite in the lavatorial browsing department. With me and my sons, anyway. I don’t know why reading on the loo is overwhelmingly a male practice, but it is. Once, during a discussion between my wife, Jane, and her friends Liz and Ali about multi-tasking, Ali ventured the opinion that men can’t do two things at the same time. “Yes they can, they can poo and read,” said Liz waspishly, giving vent to years of pent-up irritation.

Whatever, A Loo With A View is a splendid little book, featuring lavs around the world that are blessed with spectacular outlooks, from the top of the Alcatraz guard tower overlooking San Francisco Bay, to a bamboo hut said to be the best place to enjoy the sunrise over Mount Sinai. It’s nice to think that there might still be tablets at the top of Mount Sinai, albeit bearing the words Neutradol Toilet Cleaner, rather than the Ten |Commandments.

Mr Barclay Jnr, I hasten to add, has not visited each of the 40 panoramic loos pictured in the book, but he’s been to quite a few of them, and suggests in his introduction that it’s a miracle he hasn’t ended up in prison, considering how much loitering he’s done in and around conveniences wielding a camera. Even if that had happened, however, I could still give him a run for his money in the area of lavatorial misunderstandings. When my daughter Eleanor was only a few weeks old, I carried her in her |car-seat into a cubicle at a service station on the M6. She was fast asleep, but as I sat there, gazing |lovingly at her, she began to open her eyes. “Hello little sausage, have you woken up?” I cooed, and only later realised why the person in the cubicle next to mine seemed to leave in such an unseemly rush.

The little sausage described above is now a whopping 15-year-old frankfurter, who on Tuesday night had seven schoolfriends to stay following a party at the village hall. Three of these friends were boys, which meant a rolling of the eyes when Jane insisted that the boys, while welcome to stay, would not be permitted to doss down in Eleanor’s room. As parents we are stumbling through the dreaded teenage years making rules up as we go along, and trying to navigate a course between unreasonable firmness and excessive liberalism. Yesterday morning, Eleanor’s friend Chris, a lad in the upper-sixth, arrived to give her and two of her mates a lift into Hereford, 15 miles away. I discussed with Jane whether I should have a little chat with him about safety on the roads, teenage accident statistics being rather horrifyingly high round here. In the end we decided I shouldn’t, and Eleanor assures us that Chris is a highly responsible fellow, but all the same, I was sorely tempted to subject him to a 30-minute private driving test before my daughter stepped into his car. She wouldn’t have spoken to me until next Tuesday, but it would have been worth it.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page


In Sickness and in Health: 'I'm really happy to be alive and to see Rebecca'

Rebecca Armstrong
Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine