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Thursday 27 March 2014

Care in the community

Recently I have written about sad, theoretical even whimsical  matters. A touch of Barrett Bonden may compensate. This post is devoted entirely to EATRSS (emergency and adjacent toilet roll storage systems - EATs for short). A photograph is provided for those as yet unaware of these symbolic domestic devices.

Why? They prove we recognise the perils of social (and hygienic) embarassment in the home, that we care for our guests' well-being, that our baronial estate extends to advance bulk buying of toilet rolls (a point reinforced if the paper is of the quilted variety), that we take a holistic view of our ablutionary facilities.

Potential dangers. (1) A dilemma. May a guest tear off sheets from the temporarily stored roll or is there an implied obligation to install the roll in the holder? There is genuine agony here. How is the guest required to deal with the surplus-to-requirements cardboard tube from the previous roll? And suppose the toilet roll holder is one of those tricky ones with a detent that can only be depressed with an artisanal thumb nail.

(2) A confusion. EATs are usually stored at the side of the sit-down bit. But not everyone is EAT-conscious. Can the host rely on the guest looking in this direction? And consider this awful denouement: suppose the EAT is not descried and the guest's distress is announced in a quavery voice. "At the side of the loo," comes the robust reply. And the guest is twice cursed for (a) having to bleat, and (b) not discovering the EAT in the first place. Would a small poster, in a discreet typeface, overcome charges of naffness?

Psychological benefits.Sitting in front of the telly, about to turn on the X-factor or some other wretchedness, the host is comforted by the fact that all the EATs (We have three in our house so we are triply blessed) are, as it were, full to the brim. Never mind whether it would take a catastrophic and universal attack of dysentery to test this phenomenon fully; we are warmed by having met our middle-class obligations.

Cheapness. Recent inspection of the EAT closest to my atelier reveals that the price sticker is still attached: £1.99. Never has such a small expenditure (even multiplied by three) brought such tangible benefit. I urge all those who have not invested in this simple device - even though they live in foreign parts where social mores may differ - to consider their responsibilities in this light.


  1. I was once faced with a double-purpose EAT - a toilet plunger loaded with 5 rolls of TP. The bottom roll showed evidence of having been in that lowest position for much, much longer than the top 4 rolls. What does this point to in terms of the host's concern for the well-being of the guest?

  2. What percentage of guests will take a passive aggressive approach when faced with restocking the host's roller, and set the paper for undershot dispensing?

  3. We have circumvented this potential for anguish by simply avoiding having guests, at least any who stay long enough to use the toilet.

    RS's experience, the idea of loo-brush/plunger doubling as EAT at all is quite shudder-worthy. I suppose the bottom one necessarily served as a buffer zone.

    I am interested in Mike's observation, however, though of course the undershot/overshot dichotomy doesn't really apply with a vertical installation such as you show here. Tom has been known to reload TR dispensers in other people's homes since an undershot example is such anathema to him. Discussions with his offspring have revealed this must be genetic, as they have confessed to the same thing.

    While buying TR lately, I observed a particularly luxuriantly, expensive quilted variety I'd not seen before. Evidently the manufacturers felt the need to allay consumer qualms about such prodigality, printing on the packet 'Quand c'est ├ępaisse, une seule feuille est assez'.

  4. RW (zS): Of course these are people with whom you could trust your life's savings. Frugal people admittedly but who would never, never allow their guests that awful moment when, trousers around their ankles (it's always more fun talking about fellas in this situation) they discover they have been BETRAYED.

    Alas I misread your comment first time through. Imagined somehow that the bottom roll was in some way used. Too, too shocking my dear. And then the possibility began to make itself clear...

    MikeM: I compliment you twice over - for getting the hang of the tone of this piece and for handing over the relay race baton to Lucy who has so successfully rushed off with it.

    One linguistic point. In the UK the thing on the wall we call a TR holder. It's worth mentioning this since "roller" is a synonym, usually among the less well educated, for a Rolls Royce. Toilets are places fraught with potential for embarrassment and I'd hate it if on a trip to the UK you were offered one rather than the other.

    Lucy: Please do not paint yourself as social cripples - your policy does allow one narrow window of opportunity: guests known for their powers of - How can I put this? - powers of retention.

    I wondered if Tom minded you revealing this rather intimate tendency. A moment's thought told me this was foolish since Tom leaves clues behind him for all to see. A second moment's thought told me this was nonsense since most people would never notice. A third moment's thought made me doubt the second moment; we are talking about an environment where people's minds are at a loose end, where they become super observant; where they would notice and - much worse - have plenty of time to reflect on the character of Tom specifically and TR tinkerers in general.

    A million thanks for the final observation about the French having the last word. Would that the distance between Ashford International and Tunbridge Wells night have been ten times as long and there'd been time for more and more of this life-affirming stuff.