Brian Viner: This throne is the greatest leveller

Related Topics

On Monday it will be 250 years since King George II died on the toilet. It is not what he would have wished to be remembered for a quarter of a millennium after his death, for he also spoke six languages, and was the last British monarch to lead his troops into battle. That was during the War of the Austrian Succession, at Dettingen in Bavaria in 1743, an eventful year for the king. A few months earlier he had been present at the inaugural London performance of Handel's Messiah.

His was an indubitably interesting and accomplished life, and yet I prefer to celebrate his memory for the rather undignified way it ended. When I pull the other kind of handle on Monday morning, he will be in my thoughts, because he reminds us that toilets are a great leveller. After all, another king, Elvis Presley, also died on the loo. He was actually found on the floor, but in the curiously old-fashioned phrasing of one of his biographers, Peter Guralnick, "It was certainly possible that he had been taken while straining at stool".

Whatever, it is easy to understand why the image of someone on the toilet is often deployed to diffuse anxiety before an encounter with someone forbidding. How many people, stricken with nerves, have been sent off to a meeting or interview with the reminder that, "he goes to the toilet just like you do"?

In the United States, this brand of encouragement would be framed differently. Nobody goes to the toilet there, only to "the bathroom". Maybe that's why Guralnick was so sensitive with the details of Elvis's untimely passing, but we British are a less fastidious lot, and of course we have a famously lavatorial sense of humour.

I know an English family with a rambling house in France that has five toilets, and they duly named the place St Cloud. A toilet-themed pun that also pokes gentle fun at the French language, it is practically the definitive British joke.

Toilets, though, deserve our esteem as well as our humour, as a fellow called Luke Barclay well knows. He has just compiled a book called Good Loo Hunting, the splendid sequel to his 2008 masterpiece A Loo With A View, which featured marvellously appointed lavs from around the world. And I'm sure he was as intrigued as I was to read the news earlier this week that there is to be no Glastonbury Festival the year after next, for the simple reason that the cost of portable toilets will be prohibitive. Michael Eavis, the Somerset farmer who founded the festival, has realised that the Olympics will make 2012 a bumper year for toilet-suppliers, who are certain to jack up rental prices. As poor old King George II found, spending a penny can be a terribly costly business.

Acts of selflessness are arare thing in Wayne's world

Job remuneration is what it is, and in a way it is pointless to measure salaries in one sphere of employment with those in another, but everyone does it, and of all people it was Kevin Keegan who once said to me that, "I find it incredible that a doctor can train for eight years to earn in a year half of what a footballer earns in a week".

There's no arguing with that, and if it is true that Wayne Rooney wants to leave Manchester United because he doesn't consider £150,000 a week to be a fair reflection of his worth, then old football men should weep for what the game has become.

This is also the week, however, in which Gordon Strachan resigned as manager of the Championship club Middlesbrough by tearing up his contract, and renouncing his right to a pay-off he felt he didn't deserve, and knew the club couldn't really afford. Examples of such nobility are scarcely more common in modern football than snowdrifts in the desert, but when they do happen they make the heart sing, as in 2002 when the Irishman Niall Quinn, recognising the absurdity of a millionaire footballer being granted a money-raising testimonial match, gave the proceeds of his to charity.

As for Rooney, he could now do something extraordinary, something that would raise his standing in football, and football's standing in the public eye. He could buy out his own contract and join Everton, the club he grew up supporting and claims to love still. He knows they need a striker, and he also knows that they couldn't afford to pay him much more than a pittance, about £50,000 a week. But what respect he would earn. It's a pleasing fantasy, and not just because I'm an Evertonian.

How to get by in France

Speaking of strikers, I recently went to France to conduct a sports interview. I flew to Nice then had to get to Monte Carlo, which was rendered much trickier than it should have been because of a rail strike. My flight back to Birmingham was then imperilled by striking French air traffic controllers, who were responsible a week later for my daughter's school trip to Spain being cancelled, although not before she had spent two hours getting to Bristol Airport. Now it is industrial unrest at oil refineries that is crippling France. As a boy the two most important words of French I knew were "en garde", the preface to any mock sword fight. Now, I know them to be "en greve" – on strike.

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Thousands of Russian troops marched on Red Square in the annual Victory Day parade in a proud display of the nation's military might amid escalating tensions over Ukraine  

Once again, the West fails to understand Russia

Mary Dejevsky
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before