1 EAGLETON NOTES: Spending Time on the Loo

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Sunday, 6 November 2016

Spending Time on the Loo

For my readers in the USA the title is "Spending Time in the Washroom" and for Canada substitute "Restroom".

When I was about 9 I was given The Schoolboy’s Pocket Book. It was a truly wonderful treasure trove of information including The Universe, Solar System, The World, Language, Tables and Formulæ (sic), Hobbies, Pastimes and Sports.

I used to shut myself in the bathroom with it and learn as much as I could. Unfortunately I was born with a very poor memory and getting things to stick in my brain was not, and still is not, easy. So I would write things out and pin them in places where I could see them and recite them which is why, over 60 years later, I can still recite the Greek alphabet. My brother reminded me a few weeks ago that as a result of me reciting it, he too (who had my share of memory as well as his own) can still recite it. I have to say that it has proved invaluable when doing crosswords.

Looking at some of the book's pages today gave food for thought and some interesting information.

Some is presumably relevant today:

Some probably not!


And  some might look quite bizarre by today's standards. I wonder if any of these records remain today.

Years later I came across Frank Bunker Gilbreth the father of work study and O&M (Organisation and Methods) having read the book by two of his 12 children, Frank and Ernestine, entitled Cheaper By The Dozen. One of his tricks was to put things he wanted the children to learn on the back of the toilet door.

So I have always used my time in the loo to good effect.

Nowadays if you play WWF (Words With Friends - a derivation of Scrabble) with me then there is a likelihood that my turn was taken in the bathroom.

I thought you’d like to know that.

34 comments:

  1. Erhrm... (Now how am I supposed to forget that last bit??) Back in my distant youth, I used to put together bathroom collages, both for my own bathroom, and for friends (like for their birthdays and other special occasions). Usually a mix of newspaper cuttings, images, photos and handwritten quotes - comic strips, jokes, poetry, quotes - could be a mix of just about anything, really. Covered with adhesive transparent plastic, they were perfect meditation material to be attached to bathroom doors or walls.

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    1. What a wonderful idea Monica. It was the forerunner of the book 'Passing Time in the Loo'.

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  2. I'm sure that you're not the only one who multi tasks in the can!

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    1. I'm sure I'm not Red. I've not heard the term 'can' before.

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    2. It's American, I believe. My dad used to say it, too.

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  3. One of the most difficult tasks I was given at Art College was to mix the colour of Marmite (without looking at Marmite). The different variety of results was quite staggering.

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    1. Cro I'm sure I'd have a problem even if I had a jar next to me. Without the jar I know it would be nigh on impossible because I don't retain the detail of images in my memory banks.

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  4. Was there also a Schoolgirl's Pocket Book? I would like both of them!

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    1. Yes Meike there was a Schoolgirl's Pocket Book. It was published in 1952 the year after the Schoolboy's version. It has a blue cover whereas the male version has a red one. The topics it covers are, predictably, significantly different reflecting the different attitudes of the day towards the sexes. It's quite a social statement actually.

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  5. That's how I learned semaphore.... and I loved the book cheaper by the Dozen.

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    1. I never managed to master semaphore Fiona and my morse code was parlous. I gave up on the table of elements which was unfortunate because that would have come in useful for crosswords and many other games.

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    2. Never managed Morse code, but I did memorise the table of elements as a vet. Yes very useful for quiz nights... but then there are also many, many more elements than there used to be and I really don't know the new ones. I quite enjoyed the movie they made of the book ...

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  6. Comment from Martin Geddes: I read your blog about the Schoolboy' s Handbook. I commented but your blog won't accept my reply. I saw modern versions of the boys and girls books (in retro covers) for sale in an NZ clothing store pre xmas a couple of years ago. A lot of the topics you mention have been introduced through Scouting (and Guiding). AND ...Americans have been referring to the "Can", probably since pre war times when it was likely to be a can !

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    1. Martin it would be very interesting to see what information the modern versions contained. AND...thanks for the information about the "Can". Perhaps I should have thought of that.

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  7. I had a book which I sometimes read in the loo, published in the last century by an American doctor who specialised in helping pioneers treat their own ailments out on the prairies or wherever they might happen to live. One of his bits of advice, I seem to remember, was to use paper rather than corn husks, since the latter had a tendency to aggravate piles. I'm betting that bit of info wasn't in your schoolboy's book,but think how useful it could be!

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    1. Jenny you're absolutely correct: that information wasn't in the Schoolboy's Pocket Book! Mind you the San Izal toilet paper we had in those days wasn't very comfortable to use either.

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  8. How lovely to hear those paint colours again. I had a wonderful paint box when I was small,the paints were all given delightfully descriptive names and the individual paints were in little white ceramic removable cubes. I remember going to a rather smart artists shop in Grange Road West in Birkenhead for refills. Lovely memories of a happy childhood. Does anyone else remember these paint boxes ?

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    1. Well I certainly remember them Cath. Windsor and Newton and Reeves are names that comes to mind. Ultramarine was a colour I can recall too.

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    2. I still have a couple of those paint boxes, Cath. And I used them about five years ago and the colours were still good.

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  9. I would love that book. I come from a big family so I rush in and out of the restroom. First time I saw reading material in one, I was very surprised! P.S. You have to rush into the loo when you from a big family, otherwise someone else will beat you to it.

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    1. I can well imagine that Kay. Fortunately we were a small family. The book would be right up your street too.

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  10. I would love that book. I come from a big family so I rush in and out of the restroom. First time I saw reading material in one, I was very surprised! P.S. You have to rush into the loo when you from a big family, otherwise someone else will beat you to it.

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    1. Google is having a field day. Your comment appeared twice on the blog but four times in my emails.

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  11. How are you on the NATO alphabet, Graham? Incredibly useful on the phone. But I expect you know it.

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    1. Frances it is incredibly useful (yes, I do know it) especially as I have a fairly deep voice and seem to spend a lot of time spelling out things like my postcode phonetically using the NATO alphabet.

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  12. Restroom? Washroom? Loo? Perhaps in your first paragraph you should have added, for the benefit of culturally sensitive Yorkshire readers, "Spending Time in The Bog" ( or "S***house)

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    1. Isn't 'culturally sensitive Yorkshireman' and oxymoron YP?

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  13. What happens to the poor soles waiting to use the loo? That book is a treasure hang onto it.

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    1. Diane I can't ever recall such a situation (I came from a small family) but I'm sure that a friendly knock on the bathroom door would have had the desired result.

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  14. Great idea.

    When I was a kid we used to have the "Cole's Rainbow Book"...we'd get one every Christmas nestled in our Christmas pillow cases (never stockings). They were full of interesting information of all sorts.

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    1. Yes, Lee, I've always enjoyed books of facts and so on. I just wish that I'd been born with a memory adequate to retain them.

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  15. I think I've still got my copy up in the loft somewhere. I never saw the Schoolgirl's one though.

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    1. CJ I have a copy of the Schoolgirl's Pocket Book, although it is a recent acquisition and not one from my youth! I shall write a post in due course.

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