Saturday, 28 May 2016

If You Can Meet with Triumph and Disaster

We like, at the Privy Counsel, to be seen as competent people. When you are a self-professed intellectual, you set your standards high. As we mentioned the other week, we did battle with a circuit breaker and came out of it covered in dust and spitting teeth. However, in most areas of life we like to think of ourselves as clued-up and capable. Our source criticism is rigid, our soap is the monkey-friendly kind, and we wouldn't dream of using a semi-colon where a colon is clearly indicated.

But sometimes you fail. Sometimes, you find yourself - to borrow a story from Caitlin Moran to furnish us with a metaphor - in a taxi, having accidentally poured neat clove oil into the eye of a celebrity, and trying to rinse it out with a can of lukewarm Lilt. It happens. Sometimes, no matter how competent you are generally, you will fuck up royally, and your cheeks will burn with shame. And that's ok. As we never tire of saying at the Privy Counsel, we are only human - and some of us barely that. It's totally fine to embarrass yourself and make people angry with your half-arsed blundering. As Our Favourite Aunt pointed out, you might even be doing them a favour - a brief cease-fire in your ordinary barrage of breathtaking skill and flair might be a nice break for everyone else, who has been feeling quietly inadequate in the light of your dazzling sufficiency.

We received a message from Tudor Friend, that purveyor of toilet news good and bad, accompanied by a link to this article about a brewery that has revolutionary toilets.  The toilets mentioned embody, we think, the trope of the high ambition sadly trampled by an utter failure to achieve high standards. Tudor Friend said:

God, would you ever have thought, when you started your blog/fascination, that TOILETS would suddenly become an issue on everyone's lips?* (That... that sounds wrong, now that I read it again. But I'm leaving it because maybe you need a giggle.) Anyway, curious about your thoughts on this- it doesn't solve the horrible-hipster-at-the-sink problem, but it does seem to offer everyone a modicum of privacy in a fairly equitable fashion (I have never understood how guys can stand next to one another and wee!!). 
It's not quite the Eden of actual separate fully-plumbed gender-neutral toilet rooms, and it would be a lot better if the stalls ran right up to the roof to create something closer to separate space, but I have to give them credit for trying to find a fix, as I fear individual complete bathrooms are never going to catch on financially. (I also rather like that it doesn't appear to have mirrors. I'm kind of okay with de-primpifying bathrooms and making us think less about how we look all the time, but that might just be me.)

The toilets in the Optimism Brewery, in Seattle

Although we revere Tudor Friend's opinions to the the point of near-idolatry, in this matter, we don't agree. The story of the above brewery toilet has been bandied about on social media as the dernier cri in inclusive toilet-related equality of late. However, we have several reservations.

First of all, why bother with urinals at all? If one of the reasons for having a gender-integrated bathroom was that guys have more stalls than girls, why then make half the stalls in said gender-integrated bathroom unavailable to women? (Unless of course all the womenfolk are packing a shewee. We really hope they are.) We frankly don't see the point.

Secondly, the stalls, although seemingly made of sturdy, noise-insulating wood, don't, as Tudor Friend points out, go all the way to the ceiling. Can this horror cease now, please? Bathroom stalls need to ensure privacy, and that includes being noise-insulating.

Thirdly - and we can't believe we are still having to point this out - NOBODY WANTS TO ELBOW THEIR WAY THROUGH A SEA OF BEARDED HIPSTERS TO GET TO THE SINK. We cannot stress this enough.

Regarding the mirror issue, we see the sense of Tudor Friend's stance and would dearly love to be able to agree, but being fanatic wearers of eyeliner and obsessors of hair, we really, really, really want a mirror available in the bathroom.

In conclusion: No to non-noise-insulating stalls. No to bearded hipsters. Yes to safe spaces and mirrors. Full points to the owners of the Optimism Brewing Company for wanting to provide toilets that are safe for everyone, and friendly to trans people. We really, really appreciate it. But alas, we cannot bring ourselves to approve.

We move, now, into the realm of poetry. Readers, brace yourselves.

Quite a useful poem to remember odd snippets of when you are flailing wildly, making odd squeaking noises and spectacularly failing to impress people is Rudyard Kipling's "If". This poem was written by Kipling in 1910, and made popular by Helen Fielding in Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, from 1999. Bridget Jones finds comfort in this poem when in a very sticky situation indeed, musing:
Poem is good. Very good, almost like self-help book. Maybe that is why Mark Darcy gave it to me! Maybe he sensed I might get into danger! Or maybe he was just trying to tell me something about my attitude. Bloody cheek. Not sure about sixty seconds' worth of distance run anyway, or if actually want to be man. Also is a bit hard to treat this disaster the same as triumphs as have not had any triumphs that can think of, but still. Will force heart and nerve and sinew to serve turn, etc. in manner of First World War or jungle soldier or whatever Rudyard Kipling was and just hold on. 
(Helen Fielding, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. London: Picador, 1999) 
The poem itself, in all its "lip stiff and upper" glory, goes like this:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings—not lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a man, my son!

As Caitlin Moran pointed out, this is a very useful poem - if you are a man. If you happen not to be a man (a calamity affecting roughly 50 % of the population), there is no poem specifically designed to make you feel better when you are panicking about a press release you wrote that contained factual errors. There is no poem to calm you down when you've spilled mayonnaise AND red wine on a yellow satin skirt. There is no poem containing guidance on how to change your tampon in the toilet of a moving train. However, Caitlin Moran has changed all that! Here, for your delight and edification, is Caitlin Moran's "The Woman's If".

Festive Video - Caitlin Moran, "If" I Were a Woman

Now, we recommend that you all chill the fuck down, stop worrying about that time when you accidentally poured boiling water on someone's foot, and spend the weekend watching Outlander and drinking whisky.

*We can't remember having any thoughts at all around the time we started this bog blog, but no, as far as we remember, we were the only people in the entire world, at the time, who cared about the quality of toilets. We certainly didn't expect transphobia to make toilets an international news item.

Related Reading
All posts featuring Tudor Friend
All posts featuring unisex toilets
All posts featuring gender equality
All posts featuring Caitlin Moran
All posts featuring Our Favourite Aunt

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