A Throne of Contention

Did you know that flush toilets, or at least indoor toilets attached to some sort of sewage removal system, were already used by certain civilisations as far back as the 31st and 26th centuries BC?  And that some of the most famous toilets in the world include a 24-carat gold contraption in Hong Kong and the International Space Station’s toilet with a value of a staggering $19 million?  And then there are the euphemisms we use to talk about it: loo, WC, washroom, cloak room, little girls’/boys’ room (never liked that one) or the throne.  Include the dysphemisms (you guessed it: the opposite of euphemisms) and the humble toilet has, like so many other things related to it, an astounding number of synonyms.  Let’s not even get started on the endless jokes driven by our distaste for the less beautiful aspects of our daily lives.  And it’s instinctive – you really
can just say the word “toilet” to a group of 4 year-olds and they will laugh (I quote and completely believe comedian Charlie Williams).  Evidently the human race is obsessed with this rather important bathroom fixture.

Well, in recent weeks we’ve come to share the obsession of many who have gone before us.  In our case it is because we’re expecting a plumber to start soon and
that means we have to decide on fixtures like the all-important toilet to make
sure the correct hidden parts are installed now.  Unsurprisingly, since we have a total of oh, about one and a half type A personalities in this house (I won’t say where the division lies), we had drawn up a list of preferred choices months ago.  But the reality is different to all those glossy catalogues and the simple matter of choosing a toilet presented a weird crossroads for us.

A long line of trusted seats

The choice out there is utterly bewildering and it’s even difficult to know where to start looking.  It made me think back to the long list of toilets in childhood and other homes.  There was the not-quite-but-almost lilac one (at the time not so bad), the faded orange one – or was it pastel? – (detested), the old black seat on
white base which my parents installed in the beach house they built with their
own hands more than 40 years ago and which is still in operation and therefore
has to be treated with a measure of respect, if nothing else.  There was also the one all of us have had to use at some point in our lives: the one with the handle that almost always lost its arm in the cistern which required you to lift the top off, do some repair work, possibly throw around a few curse words and try again.  What I’m trying to say here is that randomly collected toilet experiences are as important as research on what’s available in the market.  When we put all the data points together of what we liked and definitely wanted to avoid, we had a good idea of what we wanted.

Gold-plated with a sprinkling of glitter?

Until we ran into the age of absurd consumerism.  I ask you: does anyone
really need a toilet that warms not only your seat, but also your feet?  Especially in this day and age of financial upheaval.  And do you really need a
remote control to flush?  Think about it – can you really go anywhere once you find yourself on the seat?  Aren’t you kind of a prisoner of the process at this point?  I’ve yet to meet someone who complains about not being able to flush remotely.  Aside from the obviously crazy and outlandish, we still came to an unexpected juncture with our far humbler aspirations.  When we got our hands on prices for our list of favourites, I couldn’t quite believe that the price per unit bordered on 400-500 euros.  Of course one wants to go for the best quality for the budget, but we certainly weren’t aiming for the sky.  Needless to say, we ended up doing even more research, finding an astounding number of new options and asking ourselves a few questions along the way:

Is it worth paying 500, 600… even 900 euros?

Can we afford it?  Do we want to afford it?

Is there a comparable model for a better price?

If so, would quality be compromised if we chose it?  Aesthetics?  The overall integrity of the project?

And finally, could we live with these b or c choices?

Once we answered these questions, it was clear that we cared a great deal about quality, simplicity and craftsmanship, if you can use such a word to talk about a loo, but above all sensibility.  Ugh, there’s that word again.  We’re not even halfway with the project yet and the word “sensible” has crossed our minds and lips with painful frequency, but there you have it.  Apparently sensibility and homelessness are on opposite ends of the same continuum.  For us the deluxe version of the toilet, while we may appreciate aspects of it, doesn’t appear to be the answer to life’s problems.  And so, if you’re ever a guest in our house, just know that you may not find the diamond-encrusted, bottom-warming version.  But you will get wine with dinner.  And dessert.


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