Toilets are where embarrassing things happen. Little incidents that leave you – shall we say – a bit flushed.
I don’t mean the loo at home, but public ones in bus and train stations, in pubs, hotels and restaurants, and those rather rare ones – the grandly-named public conveniences that were once dotted around our towns and villages.
I had an embarrassing few minutes the other week in Leeds. And I wasn’t the only one.
But first a wee, true story concerning public toilets in my native Galashiels, and a bailie and magistrate who showed a very keen sense of justice.
Bailie Alex Scott, a long-time member of Galashiels Town Council, was on the bench at the Burgh Police Court.
Before him was a gentleman from the town’s Fifth Ward area – that’s the bit up past the Ladhope Inn on the road to Edinburgh.
The miscreant was charged with a public nuisance offence – he’d been caught having a wee against a wall as he wound his way home from a Saturday night out. His plea in mitigation of this horrendous crime was they had closed the public toilet that was once built into the railway wall at the junction of Bridge Place and Ladhope Vale – a convenient watering hole of a different kind from the one he had just left.
Now the “they” included Bailie Scott– because it was the aforementioned town council that had just shut about every public convenience in the town to save a few pennies.
This struck a chord with the good bailie who – by pure coincidence – was also a Fifth Warder.
How could he, he told the press bench, with any true sense of justice fine a man when they – the bailie and his colleagues – had removed such a vital service as the Ladhope Vale loo.
With words to that effect, he admonished the now-beaming offender with, if I remember correctly, a suggestion that in future he make better use of the ample toilet facilities at the Auld Mill Inn before embarking on his homeward journey.
But back to the beginning. Toilets are where embarrassing things happen.
My latest episode happened the other week when myself and colleague Jason Marshall from Hawick travelled to Leeds for a company seminar.
It was held in the new offices of The Yorkshire Post which we – the duo in from the sticks – eventually found after finding someone who understood what we were saying. It is a grand building with a cool reception area and lifts that ferry you up and down once you have discovered which buttons to press.
Remember, we are from the sticks.
But to the loo. I chose one of four cubicles and after a bit of fumbling managed to lock the door. That fumbling should have set alarm bells ringing.
Time to leave – and the door wouldn’t open. The lock handle just spun and spun. Spun and spun. I could hear lofty executives outside and feared I might have to shout – with great embarrassment – for help when, much to my relief, the spinning stopped and the door opened.
At the break for a buffet lunch my colleague from Hawick went missing. Yes, he’d found the same cubicle. But he had to call for help after a five-minute lock-up.
Personally, I wouldn’t have told anybody.