Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.







**You may contact me by e-mail at livinginbarbados[at]gmail[dot]com**

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Holy Holey, Batman!

A friend, vacationing in the south of France, saw that I was online and told me to go to sleep. I explained to her that I write early in the morning. Rain is falling. Crickets chirping. Fan whirling. Fridge humming. My mind is open to ideas. She got back to telling me about the next leg of the family holiday, and playing her turn at Scrabble.

I occasionally have breakfast early on a Saturday morning with one of Lowdown Hoad's brothers. A few weeks ago, his wife and I had got into a spat about books and how best to read them. Now, I love words, but I am less of an avid reader these days--at least of fiction. I have turned the page, so to speak, and write a lot. Anyway, we got onto the matter of electronic reading devices, such as Amazon's Kindle. I do not have one, but some friends do, and I had tried using one over a weekend. I was impressed. But Mr. Hoad put everything in its place. "Look. If you go to the toilet and find there's no paper, what would you rather have in your hand, a Kindle or a book?" For him, case closed, or put a lid on it. I have yet to buy a Kindle.

So, yesterday, when I heard a news report about a certain crisis in Cuba, I was almost doubled up laughing with the recollection of Hoadie's question.Read for yourself how a toilet paper shortage is the latest thing to knock the bottom out of Cuba (see Sky News report). Cubans have been very resourceful to survive under the Castro regime, but could this crisis lead to an outbreak of loo-ting? While Fidel fumes on another cigar, and Raul wonders whither socialism, their compatriots are about to live through Hell. You have to go. Sharing in this case is not caring. Who will be the first to suggest using both sides of the paper? If the problems are not solved we will soon have to get used to chants in Havana of "No more Socialism. Down with the cistern!"

Women are more cautious than men, and carry tissues around; men carry cloth hankies. We have never been in those moments of distress, clearly. We teach our children to be resourceful, and learn that sometimes you just have to go. So, jump out of the car, cuppy down between the doors, and make sure that your feet don't get wet. Or, go and find a bush and just hide behind that. "But there's no paper!" screams an all-too-well-brought-up toddler. "I know, Sweetie. Use some leaves." replies an all-you-have-to-do-is-listen Dad. "Will you come and wipe my bottom now?" comes the plea, a few minutes later. Touché, Papa!

Well, as if Cuba's cubicle crisis was not bad enough, England has to go one better. The Times reports that "As a grand huzzah for its 175th anniversary, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has asked five of Britain’s most celebrated architects to design a public convenience." Now, their efforts are being pushed out, so to speak. None has gone back to basics, and emulated the squat box--famed in France, eastern Europe, and Africa, in my experience. Where, all one has to do is point and shoot, or face backward and drop anchor. Just be careful that there is no wallet in the back trouser pocket because that may soon be money down the drain. The Times reporters are diligent and flushed out literary works about the history of the public loo. I'm sure they will make good reading. If not, then let the English be noble and donate them to Cuba.

Had it been left to me, I would not have sought to re-invent the wheel, again so to speak. I would have found a better use for the London Eye. It might have lacked a bit of privacy, but it would have given you privy-see. If one wanted to get all ecological, it could have been designed to work better by lowering it a few feet so that as it makes its downward sweep, a person's bottom could pass through the water of The Thames. The open design would, I think, be too much temptation for those naughty boys who only want to see how high they can pee, but without much thought for those down below or even down wind. Perhaps, the judging is still open, and as they say what goes around, comes around.

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