I’ve just checked out the top ten phobias. Spiders are number one, shortly followed by snakes and heights.
Can’t see ‘unreliable flush’ on the list, but that is what I fear most of all.
Is it a Catholic thing? The terror of the turd bobbing about in the pan? The all-too-real evidence of one’s earthly being… No mention of Jesus nipping to the little boys’ room in the bible, after all.
A class thing? The uptight middle classes simply unable to let go without fear of judgement?
A combination of the traditional tight British sphincter and a Victorian sense of shame about bodily emissions perhaps?
The thing is, the thought of an unreliable flush, or, worse still, no flush at all, has me in a state of near panic. I can’t even bring myself to say the word ‘toilet’ out loud.
But Executive Youth is a time to face one’s fears and in that spirit I agreed to join a party of seven other women on a trip to Indonesia kayaking from island to island and wild camping on beaches.
I haven’t been camping since 1983. Back then, it was a trip to the Norfolk Broads organised by the Church Youth Fellowship Association. The tents were of the traditional canvas variety that let in both the weather and the local wildlife.
Some people love that sort of thing. Not me.
I hate tents.
So, when I read the itinerary for this trip of a lifetime upon which I was embarking with my friends, you can imagine how my stomach turned at the sight of the words ‘Toilet Tent.’
While my father worried about Islamic terrorism, my mother fretted about Dengue Fever, Malaria and Rabies and my husband questioned my kayak-roll credentials (he was right to; my kayaking experience amounts to one afternoon on the Dordogne), uppermost in my mind was the lavatory issue.
Once aboard the support boat from which we launched our kayaks and to which we would return during the day, the horror doubled.
A squat toilet. Shared with my seven female companions and five Indonesian male crew.
With a bucket of sea water and a scoop to flush.
Paul McKenna has not yet written ‘I Can Stop You Going’ but as soon as he does, I’m buying.
I had hoped to will myself into a state of constipation but it seems my bowels are more dominant than my brain.
They kept to their regular routine, betraying me with their confounded regularity.
There was nothing for it. I had to talk shit with my pals.
“Girls,” I said breezily one morning, “is anyone else struggling a bit with the flush?”
They looked at me quizzically.
“It’s just that I appear to have got myself into an ‘It’s a Knockout’ style game. I flush two of the buggers down the loo, they make friends in the tank and four float back up! I sense there’s a technique and I haven’t mastered it…”
So I didn’t score high with the squat toilet but I had my Joker to play in the ultimate challenge: the Toilet Tent itself.
A hole in the sand with a portable seat stuck over it. A hellish test of accuracy.
I braved it. I took my battery operated fairy lights (everyone else had a head torch but, like I say, I’m not a regular shopper in Millets) and I sat on that wobbly seat.
It helped that I had three double gins.
I can confirm that I am now, officially, a camper. I have buried my own waste. I’m not sure Indonesia is the better for it, but the achievement I feel is immense.
I am back home now and enjoying the privilege of a close coupled toilet and the aftermath of a Balinese bug which took up residency in my bowel on the last day of my trip.
Paul McKenna, I need that book. NOW.