The Toilet: An Unspoken History – Getting the Wrong End of the Stick

Written for CAVE by: Carly Trigg

Fact: Getting the ‘wrong end of the stick’ means not getting the end full of soggy crap

It’s 3 am. The only people awake at this time are drunks rolling in with a kebab, men with long beards about to watch Sexcetra or insomniacs on a bender. As it happens, I’m none of these, I just can’t sleep. But what these late night wanderers don’t tell you is what exhilarating television is on at this time. Whilst we all may sit, nod our heads absent-mindedly, rolling our eyes like an upside down googly-eyed plush, and non-committedly say, ‘Teleshopping’, then I could tell you that you JUST HAVEN’T BEEN LOOKING HARD ENOUGH. ARSEHOLES.

Yes, I felt exploited, succumbing to some woman on e4 banging on about how much weight she lost with this amazing new innovate work-out remedy called ‘Photoshop’. Whilst my eyes rolled to the back of my head in gormless resolution, I did the expert skip-through of the channels in the hope that one word might crop up that had somewhat more appeal, or one that at least looked familiar. And then, unbeknownst to me on the unknown channel lingering in the black hole zone that is channels 200 to 300, I discovered, wait for it, BBC Four. Yes, the BBC channel that us kids with our hip sayings and baggy jeans aim to avoid like Leslie Grantham with hand cream commercials. And this one channel presented me with ‘The Toilet – An Unspoken History’. Bit presumptuous, I scoffed. Bit extravagant name for a commodity, I dictated. Yet I found myself unconsciously selecting this crazy channel with this crazy programme and watching it with bated breath until 4am. Eyes burning, the only thought on my mind was needing to find out how we got a round toilet bowl or how we got aloe vera toilet paper.


Presented by Welsh poet and presenter Ifor ap Glyn, whose name even suitably sounds like a clogged up Crapper (an early brand name of toilet bowls… behave). Where they prised him from, I have no idea, but by the looks of it and judging by his sheer enthusiasm for his posterior at work, I wouldn’t be surprised if he burst into the BBC offices, pants around his ankles, shafting his arse in the suited up CEOs and demanding they give his arse a serious think about OR ELSE. Everything he proclaims about the history of the toilet and its history seems to baffle him. In talking about his first discovery of the fascinating world of toilets he says, ‘my daily trip to the toilet was something I just, well, took for granted’. HOW TERRIBLE OF YOU, IFOR! Let’s forget all the other things we take for granted, like our parents, running water, the air we breathe. No no no, scrap that, what really tops the list is ruddy crapping.

What is probably the best about this documentary is the sheer dramaticisation of the non-tantalising topic. Beautiful scenic images of rolling hills, blue skies, medieval buildings. and bags of digested food. At one point, Ifor jauntily gypsies down an old public restroom in Cardiff like he’s in the middle of the Eiffel Tower, pointing out dirty cubicles like an unsanitary sight-seer. Ifor spectacularly draws our attention to the ‘sumptuous marble urinals’, which in my book is on par with saying ‘decadent bags of sick’. In another part, he stands at the middle of a long-drop, looking up at the camera, hands caressing the walls with glorification of its history, whilst gleefully stating through a tired grin, ‘some of it might have smeared down the walls’. In retrospect, Ifor, maybe you shouldn’t be rubbing yourself against it? Just a thought. Carry on as you were.

But with all this over-exultation, Ifor probably makes this show not as bland as it should be, and you almost want to become his best friend, just to see what other basic bodily functions he’ll get excited about in the future. ‘Cor, look at the sheer projectiles on that. The leverage, the beauty of undigested food, smearing the walls of my car. Divinity in its purest form’. But that’s next week’s episode: ‘Sick: just like our ancestors did it’, on at 3am, don’t miss out.




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