Saturday, 16 June 2012


Phil Turner, Wolverhampton

This story takes place at Latitude. In case you are unfamiliar, Latitude is an arts festival in Suffolk organised by Festival Republic, who also look after the Reading & Leeds festival. It is of smaller profile to those other events though, basically being the ideal festival for people who can’t be bothered with humongous crowds of people (many of which are in a lower social strata and can’t help but get loutishly drunk, steal blackberrys from tents and publically urinate up fencing), watching superstar performers, or having big corporate logos burned into their retinas every five minutes – but still enjoy the experience of standing in the rain being overcharged for rudimentary necessities such as food and liquid.

One of the less typical but gratefully received plus points of Latitude is that, for a small extra charge, we were able to take a fully equipped caravan; meaning that although some of the accustomed comforts of civilised society were still compromised, the festival could largely be lived with human dignity intact. I say largely, because there is still the thorny issue of defecation. Don’t get me wrong, our caravan had a functioning toilet, but as any seasoned caravanner will tell you, the caravan toilet is NOT to be used for solids. Not terrible news if you are in the “guest area” where you sit on a golden seat and a young virgin plays a harp and squeezes grapes into your mouth whilst you defecate, before cleaning off your arse with a towel of silk and bidet fountain of champagne-spray (for those of you who have never been in the guest area I can assure this to be absolutely what happens because I was once in said area myself. I remember those heady days well. My virgin was called Ian). But this was not the guest area. These were the disgusting festival ‘long drop’ toilets; those roofless, stable-door stalls positioned above a huge pit; that the disgusting general public used. In fact the nicest thing I can find to say about these particular loos, is that they’ve an aroma a bit like Saint Agur (a nice little reference there for connoisseurs of the supermarket cheese). But generally speaking, it doesn’t matter which festival you’re at, the sense of dread is exactly the same when one feels the inner-anvil ready to drop.

I headed to the toilet roll dispenser located in front of the cubicle blocks (these festival animals can’t be trusted to have their own roll inside each of the cubicles), plucked myself a dozen sheets, trudged up the platform steps, slid the bendy lock on the door of one of the metal cupboards and sat down to attend to my business. Well, not ‘sit down’ exactly - it may only have been rainwater that had drizzled the seat I peered at, but I wasn’t really willing to take any chances. So instead, I kind of hovered over the bowl with my knees half-bent holding my hand against the wall to assist with balance. And waited for emancipation.

The first tip anyone will give you about these types of shared ‘pit’ toilets is to never look down. It is unsavoury to think that so many people’s omissions collected in one shared ditch, but at least you can retain ignorance if you are sparing with your sense of sight. Unfortunately, you cannot retain such ignorance to the sensation of touch, specifically the touching of a warm liquid spraying across your buttock. Especially when it seems to be coming from the direction of a very audible urinating sound from the cubicle behind. In any other circumstance, I would consider this quite a feat. Surely it is a scientific impossibility for someone to urinate in a near horizontal direction? The only other explanation is that the person behind was weeing with such vigour, it was causing a splash-back effect from the swamp below. And perhaps understandably I’d rather believe it was the former. Philosophically-speaking, it is surely better to be pissed on by one man than be pissed on by a whole festival audience. And more pressingly, since I had refused to look down beforehand, if that level of splash-back could be achieved by single stream of liquid, what sort of monsoon could erupt as a consequence to the thud of my own solids? It was a treat gruesome enough to close my bowel for good. And at that moment, coincidentally my bowel did freeze up; leaving nothing but a kind of small cigar butt of faecal matter wedged between my buttocks.

I waited and waited, trying to muster the sufficient additional weight to cause a droppage but nothing came. At one point I attempted a little Chubby Checker Twisting dance to free the small trapped slug in my buttocks, but it just wouldn’t budge. I think I even tried a more abrupt pelvic thrusting action, but still I couldn’t manage shake it out. And after a while, my hand, which had been supporting the weight of my weird half-crouching position, was getting tired and beginning to buckle and give way.

The only remaining option was to abort the mission and commence with my wipe, trying to mop up the sandwiched messy carnage as best I could. But it wasn’t really ‘mopping’ as much as ‘smearing’. In hindsight, twelve sheets of paper weren’t quite enough because I found myself laying the last two sheets in my pants, doing up my trousers and waddling off back to the toilet roll dispenser to equip myself with more provisions. As I swung the metal door of the toilet open, I caught the glance of a young lady who had been waiting outside for her turn to use the cubicle. And as she entered, I felt paranoid that she would automatically assume I had been the typically selfish and clumsy male who had been responsible for the drizzle on the seat. All in all it was a most vile experience, on so many levels. Next time I will remember to pack some Immodium.

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1 comment:

  1. Favourite bit: "At one point I attempted a little Chubby Checker Twisting dance to free the small trapped slug in my buttocks, but it just wouldn’t budge.". Excelent, that.