Toilet Talk

In our conversations, bodily functions are impolite topics of discussion. We use euphemisms when attending to our needs: one might visit the bathroom, powder our noses or spend a penny. This latter expression comes from the 1851 Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace, at which use of the public toilets merited a penny charge. It certainly made Rowland Hill’s penny post from the previous decade seem a real bargain.

The scriptural record is equally coy when describing our answering of nature’s call. In fact, several references are negative. In Judges 3:24, after Ehud has skilfully eliminated an oppressive foreign king and closed the door behind him, we read:

When he had gone out, Eglon’s servants came to look, and to their surprise, the doors of the upper room were locked. So they said, “He is probably attending to his needs in the cool chamber.”

The AV prefers ‘covereth his feet’, which may be an apt description of a well-proportioned gentleman siting to pass his waste. In 1 Samuel 24:3, a David-hating King Saul is observed ‘attend[ing] to his needs’ in David’s cave. David spares him; the account makes Saul appear doubly weak. 

Better still, some translations of 1 Kings 18 quote Elijah mocking Baal’s prophets by suggesting the deity cannot answer their prayer because he’s on the loo.

Deuteronomy chapter 23, however, must have the last word:

“Also you shall have a place outside the camp, where you may go out; and you shall have an implement among your equipment, and when you sit down outside, you shall dig with it and turn and cover your refuse. For the Lord your God walks in the midst of your camp, to deliver you and give your enemies over to you; therefore your camp shall be holy, that He may see no unclean thing among you, and turn away from you.”

Many a time have I walked in the midst of a park or a pavement only to find an unclean thing in my way or in the grips of my shoe. Well might the camp of Israel be holier on account of its cleanliness. 

Where’s all this going? Well I’ve recently ‘twinned’ my toilet with one located in Katete, Eastern Zambia, latitude -14.2401 longitude 32.07715. My £63 has been spent constructing a decent toilet, making the farm or village cleaner and safer and its inhabitants ’ lives more dignified. Passing waste is not a pleasant topic about which to talk; not having a clean toilet to pass the waste into is even worse.

And for anyone who points out that for my bragging of giving a sum to charity I have ‘received my reward in full’, I can assure you my reward is ample. Anyone moved to do some twinning of their own may go here: