Wednesday, 4 August 2010


I think my wife may have helped me to solve a long standing family mystery. Let me explain.

My paternal grandparents lived in a small semi-detached council house in the Midlands. It was typical of its day being two up and two down. Upstairs there were two bedrooms and a 'boxroom'. These were common enough features back then and were basically tiny upstairs rooms which weren't big enough for a bed but which could hold your 'boxes' ready for your next house move. There was also a bathroom - but no toilet.

Downstairs was the front parlour or lounge and at the back was the dining room with a tiny kitchen leading off it which had a small pantry attached in the space under the stairs - but no toilet.

To find the toilet, you went out of the back door (from the dining room), turned left past a small cupboard and there it was in all its glory. It was part of the house occupying the space in the corner formed by the dining room and kitchen but it had an outside door, a door with a space at the top and bottom to allow the air to circulate.

As a child, I remember that one of the big features of my Grandparents' house were the newspapers. Once read, they were kept under the cushions of the 3-piece suite in the lounge and were then used for various purposes. They would be scrunched up and used as firelighters for the coal fire in the lounge. A large sheet of newspaper would be used to 'draw' the fire by being stretched across the fireplace once the fire was lit. This used to create a great blaze very quickly.

They were also torn up and hung in the toilet as a softer and cheaper alternative to the hideous 'Izal' toilet paper commonly used back then in the 50's. Most people would rather have used sandpaper than Izal.

First though, the papers were read and this leads us to the mystery. I would watch with fascination as Granddad would pick up the newspaper and go outside to the toilet where he would sit and read it for anything up to an hour! I know he didn't just read from the evidence of my nose plus the evidence of my eyes since I could see his trousers, braces and long johns round his ankles under the gap at the bottom of the door. The mystery to me as a six year old, was why did he spend so long in there? It was hardly a cosy space to sit like the lounge would have been.

Well I was explaining this to my wife over a romantic dinner - she is used to my toilet topics during dinner. "Oh yes" she said, "my Dad did exactly the same. It was how he got some 'me - time' away from the family. A bit of personal space like you get when you go upstairs to the computer". Mystery solved, courtesy of my dearly beloved.

So Granddad was in a brown study.

I am reminded of the quote by U.S. baseball player Satchel Paige - "Sometimes I sits and thinks and sometimes I just sits".


  1. Hmmm, that habit of reading in the toilet must be a man thing. I must admit to never reading in the bathroom. :-0

  2. Had a dream about my Grandparents the other night. That is something that almost never happens. AND Oz girl doesn't know what she is missing

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