Tuesday, January 29, 2008

It's a funny old world

My thanks to Ello (one of 'Moonrat's Minions', who keeps an amusing blog of her domestic struggles, with the fantastic title Random Acts Of Unkindness) for alerting me to the above piece of craziness. Yes, this is not just a joke, this actually exists. It is suggested in the promotional copy that these 'love seat' loos could actually bring couples closer together and cure relationship difficulties. Really? I should have thought it would be more likely to accelerate terminal ruptures, amid shrieks of, "What have you put in my bathroom, you pervert?!"

The Two-Da-Loo™ is apparently manufactured in China (although I would not like to speculate as to whether it was also conceived and designed here). I think, therefore, we can be confident of one thing - it won't work.

When I first visited this country 14 years ago, it soon became a running joke with my fellow travellers and the various foreign teachers I was visiting here that we all had to become skilled amateur plumbers in order to be able to survive the country. Really. In every place I stayed or visited, every Chinese friend's apartment, every cheap hotel, every university guesthouse, the lavatory cistern was completely dysfunctional. The Chinese seemed to just accept that this was the way of the world, and always kept a tin bucket of water beside the loo for flushing purposes. Yet my resourceful foreign friends and I often found that we could achieve at least a temporary rectification of ill-fitting outlet valves, blocked inlet tubes, and errant stop-cocks; bent coat-hangers proved particularly useful for such improvised repairs.

I had fondly supposed that things might have improved in this area by the time I returned here in 2002. But no, not much. The loo in this apartment leaked continuously (with horrendous consequences for my water bill) for about 18 months before I was finally able to browbeat my landlord into replacing it. Unfortunately, I failed to get him to buy me a (not terribly expensive) Japanese brand that I know to be reliable; but I did at least get a 'top-of-the-range' Chinese model this time. It still ain't great (the flush button is apt to stick; and I'm quite sure the mechanism will break completely within a few years), but at least it does the job and doesn't waste water like a mini-Niagara Falls.

A few months back, I visited a South African friend in her breathtakingly upscale apartment. When I went to the bathroom and saw the almost-forgotten name of Armitage Shanks (Britain's premier manufacturer of lavatories), I swear I nearly wept with delight.

Of course, it's probably a knock-off Armitage Shanks - but a good knock-off (a "genuine fake" as the local terminology charmingly puts it) is usually pretty close to the real thing; and even a poor impersonation of an Armitage Shanks toilet is going to be 10 times better than any purely Chinese brand I've ever encountered.

Signs your country isn't really 'developed' yet: Inability to build properly working mechanisms of even the most elementary complexity (such as flush-toilets and can-openers)

Signs your country has ideas above its station: Taking on the manufacture of novelty dual-toilets when you can't even get the basic model right yet

I think perhaps I should have titled this post Running Before You Can Walk.


Tulsa said...

ah, i wondered about the abundance of plumber's snakes sold on the sidewalks here.

This post puts it all in perspective.

Now I need to get up and check the name on my loo!

Froog said...

I have never heard the expression 'plumber's snake' before. Perhaps we do not use it in British English, because of its unfortunate propensity for provoking innuendo.