Sunday, 28 October 2012

Taking the Piss.

 She-Pee link

Through most  of humanity's existence, the act of voiding waste was far less secret than it is now. A hundred and fifty years ago, most streets were pretty much open sewers running with stinking waste. It was relatively recent that privacy became a general requirement. 
The rapid expansion of cities during the 1800s brought the problems greatly to the fore. London had sewers long before that, but they were..... inadequate. 
Paris and London had 'cloak-men' plying their trades. For a half-penny, the cloakman would shield you from view, whilst you did what you had to do, upon the street.
Then came the great reformers of plumbing, Joseph Bazalgette, the man who designed a totally new sewer system for London saved more lives than all the medical pioneers of his age put together. 
That aside, our cities are still under-served by public sanitation. And people still pee in the streets. Men are the worst offenders, after a few drinks too many, but women are not blameless, by any means. The problem? Alcohol makes you pee copiously, but often the desire to do so does not occur until you've left the premises, and then, no business welcomes people who just come in to use the toilets, public facilities are frequently vandalised, filthy, and abused, so maintenance costs are high, and cities close them rather than shoulder the running costs.
Some cities have tried to address the problem with these portable urinal stalls. The ones here are deployed in Amsterdam, but cities around the world now use similar ones, especially in the peak tourism/festival season.
(On a personal note? Argh! No way would I, could I use one. Gak! Put a wall around it!)....

However, a couple of weeks ago, I visited the railway museum in Darlington, which makes a museum exhibit of its old toilets. And I found Victorian forbears of these modern devices, which are uncannily similar, just not moulded out of plastics.

(The Stockton-Darlington Railway was the first public passenger-carrying railway in the world, though my home town was ahead of it when it came to shifting coal.)
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  1. What happens in Amsterdam if it starts to pour down rain while you are standing there pissing down? Just keep pissing down while it's pissing down?

  2. If it's pissing down when you're pissing, you might as well keep pissing down...

    We piss more when we're pissed.
    But of course, you're using the american 'pissed' which means 'annoyed, whereas in Britain it means pissed.... drunk.
    Not to be pissy, of course.

  3. I forgot the drunk one and the picky one. Y'all are obsessed with piss things.

  4. We, here, have girls who can go standing up!
    This saves on the redesigns.

  5. Goatman: It's said that in the days of Queen Elizabeth the first.. ladies, in their voluminous dresses, would just pause in conversation... squint a little in concentration, maybe rip a little fart, and stroll on, leaving their flunkies to spread a little fresh straw over a newly steaming puddle.
    Underwear had yet to become de-rigeur, it's just a matter of societal conditioning.
    In Germany, they're trying to force men to sit down to pee! Good grief, whatever next?

  6. Max, I've just been reading a long and learned tome on the history of bathing and sanitation.
    As my day job includes plumbing, drains and so on, it's not surprising that I muse on such topics.

    And it fits in with my interest in energy efficiency. Processing water to clean drinkable standards, and then using that pure water to flush excrement toward our rivers and the ocean makes little sense. Much of the world has no toilets or sewers. It's true that simply providing clean water to drink and carrying the waste away safely is a far more effective, and lasting way to reduce disease in a population than is the administration of medicines.

    I might, one day write a post about alternative toilets, and you might find it interesting to read up on the toshers of old London.

    As a person with some knowledge of the drainage systems, I'm perennially amazed to find how little most people know about drains, and thus, how willing they are to hire a person from some expensive franchise, to do, expensively, something they could fix themselves, in moments, with a cheap plunger. I was a bad plumber, in the eyes of some of my colleagues, because I always was happy to explain to my customers how to fix it themselves, next time. That's probably why all that effluent never made me affluent.

  7. I am wondering how they handle the sewerage in Venice?

  8. I read somewhere that plumbing is taught in prisons, no wonder so many crooks look into the drains.
    My daily wanderings in times past often took me past Mr Bazalgette's house.
    He would not live there today I bet, it's the beginning of the westway!


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