On the blog

Monday, 28 February 2011

The Case of the Disappearing Toilets

Earlier this month, the BBC reported that a Manchester council is shutting 18 public toilets in the area, leaving only one for public convenience. So if you can’t make it all the way to that one, you better hold it in!

Manchester City council is not alone. The British Toilet Association, an organisation that campaigns for better public toilets, estimates that at least 1000 public toilets will be closed in the next year. This comes on top of a 40 percent decline in public conveniences over the last 10 years.

The BBC article reads that in recent decades, public toilets have become “run down, unloved, targeted by vandals and increasingly prone to closure by councils looking for cuts”.

As public toilets in the UK become an increasingly rare commodity, here at Toilet Twinning we’re reminded of the daily search many in the developing world have for somewhere safe and private to go to the toilet.

2.6 billion people around the world, including communities in Burundi and Haiti, have no adequate toilet between them at all. Not in their homes, in their schools, let alone on a public road.

Women in particular are left with no choice but to squat in the bushes, giving new meaning to ‘public toilets’, leaving them vulnerable to dangers such as snake bites and even rape. Young women may not be able to go to school for large parts of the year because the schools have no toilets or because they have to collect water.

A lack of toilets also leads to easily preventable disease for many – bad sanitation is one of the world’s biggest killers. Every minute, three children under the age of five die because of dirty water and poor sanitation.

So it may be getting increasingly harder to find a toilet when you’re out on the High Street at the weekend, but for one in three people in other parts of the world, this is a 24/7 issue.

By linking your loo with a toilet in Africa with Toilet Twinning, you'll help provide clean water and effective sanitation to some of the world's poorest communities.

Get ‘engaged’ and twin a toilet today!

Monday, 14 February 2011

What Lovely Loos!

Happy Valentines Day everyone! No matter what your love status this 14th February, we think you'll still enjoy these incredibly loved-up latrines...

Couldn't you only bring these seats out once a year?

Seems pretty pointless. But you'd be sitting pretty nonetheless!

(From urbanjunkie.co.uk and squidoo.com)

These are just adorable, liven up your smallest room with some...cats and strawberries?
(From apartmenttherapy.co.uk)

For the couples who can't stop holding hands, aww. Or eww.
(noahquentingavin.blogspot.com and wiserep.com)

And of course, it wouldn't be Valentine's Day without some poetry...

Ode to Toilet

In sickness I have sought
your cooling grace
and you have received
without question or shame
the parts of my being
that I could no longer contain.

You have soothed
the cramping of my bar-torn body,
supported the thorough cleansing
of my noisy soul
when no one else would listen.

You have tolerated
all the vile projectiles
I could hurl,
always remaining constant
refreshing my view of life
allowing catharsis
epitomizing receptivity.

Oh Goddess of the Toilet
I thank you

(Niuka, 1999)

Amazing what you can find! Show us your toilet poems or pictures on the comments section!

Why not also twin your beloved bog this Valentine's Day and show your love to communities all over the world who don't have a safe place to go to the loo?

Friday, 11 February 2011

Toilet Art: Thinking outside of the bogs

Over the past few weeks we've been emailed a few photos and links to some incredibly creative er... 'toilet art', including a cistern carefully covered in collector editions of X-men comics and a tuba toilet (see our Facebook page photos – the owner obviously enjoys a tuneful tinkle).

Last weekend the Metro ran a story on Paris-based artist Anastasia Elias who transforms toilet rolls into miniature works of art. Who would have thought that the humble toilet could be such a source of inspiration and creativity!

And for sheer creative genius, how about this origami toilet, made from folded US $1 bill... how did they do that?!

It made us think about the creativity and innovation that went into taking one times termite mound...

...and creating these bricks...

...so this latrine could be built:

Kinda brings new meaning to 'art is life' don't you think...?

Photo credits:
Toilet roll art from The Metro
Toilet origami from Hongkiat.com
Bricks, termites and latrines from Toilet Twinning. Polaroids from poladroid.net
Headline pun: Gilo Sings

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Feel the Lurve - Guest Post by Rev Richard Littledale

Since Christians believe that “God is love”, you would have thought Valentines would be the easiest time of year for a minister like me to get the message across wouldn’t you?

The trouble is, the mixture of fluffy nonsense and blatant vulgarity on offer in the high street seems like such a long way from what love is all about, at least to me. Last time I looked the only truly meaningful gift I could find was tucked away in a New Age shop surrounded by faeries on one side and magic stones on the other. It was a candle beautifully embossed with the words of the Bible’s most famous segment on love’ – 1 Corinthians 13:

“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am nothing”

Those who are familiar with that bit of the Bible will know that it doesn’t leave it at that. It goes on to describe the kind of behaviour which defines love. In the end it is the deeds we perform, the words we speak, and the things we choose to remember or forget which bring love into sharp relief.

Whatever is going on in the high street shops, I am delighted that this year’s Valentines festivities give all kinds of opportunities to express real, practical, love for others. At one end of the scale, you could make sure that any chocolates you buy for the one you love are fairly traded. At the other you could join in with a project like Treat Someone Special, where the card you buy automatically generates a card to the government, urging the Prime Minister to honour pledges on people trafficking. This could be a good time of year to sign up to Toilet Twinning too – showing some practical love. What better time of year to recognise the true value of a human being than this weekend, when ‘lurve’ is in the air?

I suppose the worst thing about Valentine’s gifts and cards is …not getting one. It can be a painfully exclusive time of year. It needn’t be, though. Some years ago I was in Chicago at this time of year, and people bought Valentines’ gifts for everyone from work colleagues to Great Aunts. This year you could tell someone, somewhere in the world that they are loved – by buying their goods, sending them a card, or even paying for clean water and sanitation for them.

One of the more unusual Valentine’s gifts I saw in a Chicago supermarket was a roll of “romantic” toilet paper – a bit like that pictured below. Not sure about that as a romantic gesture somehow – think I’ll stick to something more positive.

Head over to Rev Richard's own blog for more romantic thoughts!

(Images from suarahati-youngscholar.blogspot.com and toxel.com)

Monday, 7 February 2011

Sanitation: A Doctor’s Perspective - Guest Post by Dr Richard McCrory

A graduate fresh out of medical school anxiously sits at a trainee induction day listening to reminders of a vital skill that will effectively save lives and reduce illness throughout their entire clinical career.

That skill is…

…wait for it…

…Hand washing.

Yep, Hand washing.


Why would infection control practitioners spend hours reinforcing hand washing techniques to a band of such apparently ‘enlightened’ and ‘knowledgeable’ people?

Healthcare professionals in a modern age of technological advancement can lose an appreciation for the simple activities in our clinical practice that can produce such significant impact.

A single person infected by a bug such as the Rotavirus can have millions upon millions of its particles in each gram of poo, but it only takes between 100 and 1000 of these particles to cause disease in a neighbouring person. An unwashed hand, contaminated food, water or clothing is all it takes to spread it along.

Consider this, the bacteria which causes cholera requires several hundred million organisms to infect a healthy individual. However it an illness that generates such copious volumes of diarrhoea (up to 20 litres per day), this means that adequate distribution within a community is incredibly simple once a dysfunctional or non-existent sewage system has been overrun.

In 2007, a poll of readers of the British Medical Journal chose ‘The Sanitary Revolution’ as the most significant medical milestone in the past 140 years. Pioneering individuals in the 19th Century such as John Snow , Edwin Chadwick and Thomas Southwood Smith sought the prevention of human contact with waste as a means of minimising associated health problems. Although modern understanding of infection has advanced since this time, the practices developed during this time are as applicable now as they were then.

Yet inadequate sanitation remains a problem in the developing world.

In countries and territories where the majority of the population don't have access to the healthcare facilities we take for granted, it is vital that simple technologies such as latrines are easily accessible. This helps to reduce the transmission of opportunistic micro-organisms throughout the community.

Children being taught the importance
of handwashing in Burundi

As a charity Toilet Twinning helps facilitate the construction and maintenance of these structures in Sub-Saharan Africa.

This strategy, in conjunction with access to clean drinking water, as well as educating communities in taking collective hygiene action, have the potential to cut mortality rates connected to diarrhoeal illness. Such cuts could be as dramatic as those seen following the Industrial Revolution. It could also be a major factor in facilitating the release of communities from the bondage of poverty.

Yet for all the knowledge entrusted to medical students, they often need reminding at the start of their professional career that simple habits can benefit their patients the most.

It is essential that the general public gains a refreshed appreciation of the gift of clean running water and functional sanitation which a quarter of the world’s population still needs access to.

So my final thought is to doctor and lay-person alike:

Remember! Wash your hands… and twin your toilet!

Dr Richard McCrory MB MRCP is a graduate of Queens University Belfast. He also completed a BSc in Microbiology during his studies. Dr McCrory is currently a Core Medical Trainee in the National Health Service, instructs Advanced Life Support and is keen to pursue a career in nephrology. His interests include Geocaching, music and film. You can find him on Twitter (@iamdoctord).
(Photo credits: www.scotland.gov.uk and Toilet Twinning, Nick Wilmot)

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Loo-dicrous Valentine's Gifts

It's that time of year again folks - pink and red cards line the aisles, boxes of chocolates are half price, big cuddly teddy bears stare from behind the counter - it must be Valentines Day soon!

Why not go for something a little more memorable this year to give to your loved one? Loving loos, as we do, we've put together a few ideas for a loo-dicrous Valentines!*

*Toilet Twinning does not accept responsibility for any detrimental affects these gifts may have on your relationship on or around the 14th February. These gifts may result in tears, anger, and may cause injury when thrown back in your face by the recipient.

These little gems are perfect for casually filling the time on the bog, when a newspaper or Sodoku just wont cut it. Let's just hope the golf club is regularly cleaned! (Available to buy at Amazon)

For the rockstar in your life, how about a classic white guitar toilet seat. Because nothing says romance better. Available, we're sure, in Van Halen red and Cobain blue. See it here!

This is just fantastic. I think the photos speak for themselves. Who cares about Valentines Day, this is an all year round kind of gift! Available from Shiny Shack and others.

Or, if that kind of thing just doesn't do it for you, (you knew this part was coming) how about showing the love to a community without an actual toilet, let alone a toilet shaped mug!

For just £60, you can twin your beloved bog, and Tearfund and Cord will use the money raised to help households have their own loo and combat poor sanitation in Africa. This way, communities can enjoy better health and go to school or work.

Now ain't that better than a card that sings Lionel Richie songs?

Guest Post: Reverend Richard Littledale - Secrets of the clerical cloakroom

It’s a little known fact of being a Minister or Pastor that some churches are ‘blessed’ with a bespoke minister’s loo. Many years ago, as a young student touring Scotland with a travelling theatre company I paid a visit to the wonderful Coats Memorial Church in Paisley. There I was allowed a sneak glimpse of the church’s spectacular blue and white porcelain ministerial toilet. Did this unwittingly start me on the road to ministry, I wonder? Many years and three churches down the line I discovered that there was actually a ministerial loo here in my current church, but no-one had told me about it for the past thirteen years! Meanwhile, in my previous church, there was a bespoke ‘vestry’ toilet, tucked like an en-suite onto the vestry. One Sunday I came into church after a women’s conference the previous day, to find that some of the seminar labels had been left on the doors. Outside the minister’s vestry, with its private toilet, was a label reading “elderly and isolated”. Hmm…

Sadly, it looked nothing like this...

In these days of connectivity there is really no excuse for being isolated, is there? From the comfort of my desktop or laptop I can zoom across the earth’s surface, communicate with people the other side of the world and connect with people whom I would never visit. Fourteen months ago I started a blog for preachers and communicators, and it has now received almost 10,000 visitors from the UK, America, and places as far away as Saudia Arabia, Iran and Saint Vincent.

Connectivity brings responsibility, though, which is where Toilet Twinning wins out. Toilet Twinning takes the ready connectivity which the internet allows, and puts it to work on behalf of some of the world’s poorest people. With the investment of £60 and a few clicks of the mouse button, a toilet in this country (ministerial or otherwise) can fund the building of a safe and hygienic toilet elsewhere in the world with which it can then be twinned. Twinning your loo in this way is a reminder of the life and death issues surrounding water and sanitation in some countries. Not only that, but with a ‘twinned’ toilet you are likely to be reminded of it several times each day! You can visit ‘your’ loo on google maps, and encourage your friends to do likewise so that the project grows.

A recent post on my blog issued a call for serious thinking about digital ethics. Some people think that Christian behaviour online is governed simply by digital etiquette – such as keeping posts and updates polite and not unfriending people without warning. Surely there is more to it than that? Surely we must think about the new kind of moral responsibility which our international and instant connectivity brings us? Perhaps it is time for a set of digital beatitudes? Whilst you are thinking them up, why not think about twinning your toilet today?

The Rev Richard Littledale is Pastor of Teddington Baptist Church in Middlesex and is a graduate of Spurgeon's College, London and Saint Andrews University. A tutor at The College of Preachers, he has a particular interest in innovative and effective communication. His preaching has featured on BBC Radio 4 and he is a regular on BBC Radio 2’s Pause for Thought. He is the author of Stale Bread?: A Handbook for Spreading the Story and The preacher’s A to Z and writes as a columnist for The Baptist Times. You can find his blog at http://www.richardlittledale.wordpress.com/