Category Archives: micturition

The latrines of Nîmes

Gare de Nîmes public toilets

The No. 1 annoyance in the Gard

For the purpose of micturition, Dalrymple decides to make use of the public conveniences at Nîmes railway station.

But he is greatly upset by the lavatories’ public-address system, because of the stationmaster’s insistence that rock-music bilge be relayed through it while gentlemen pass water. He asks:

Is modern man really so lacking in what my teachers used to call inner resources that he must be entertained while he urinates?

Dalrymple admits to

an aversion to rock music at the best of times. It seeps into the public space in the Western world as martial music and political propaganda seep into the North Korean public space (and all space in North Korea is public).

To be able to point Percy at the porcelain IN PEACE AND QUIET is surely a basic human right

The enveloping sound of the pop drivel irritates Dalrymple intensely. Having paid his 80 cents, he really feels he has

a right to urinate in silence.

Rock music, he says, is

a distraction, being both a noise and a source of æsthetic discomfort.

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Postcards from Switzerland

Screen Shot 2016-05-29 at 10.34.24Entering Switzerland at Geneva, writes Dalrymple,

one enters a bourgeois paradise. One feels one lowers the tone by entering. The streets are spotlessly clean, the wealth vast. Even the interiors of the lifts in public car parks are clad in marble and lit with crystal. In England, such luxury would invite, and call forth, immediate vandalism.

The Swiss, he notes, are

rigidly, almost morbidly, and intimidatingly law-abiding. If you break a traffic regulation, even in a harmless fashion, ordinary citizens are likely to stare at or gesture to you in a hostile way, or reproach you.

Screen Shot 2016-05-29 at 10.37.18There is one thing, however, about which they are, he points out, highly flexible: tax.

Not only every canton, but every commune, sets its tax: and each commune is in competition to attract wealthy, or potentially wealthy, people. The beauty is that the taxes raised locally are kept locally. If you go to the tax authorities and tell them that an authority down the road has just offered you residence if you pay x francs a year, they are quite likely to offer you residence if you pay x − 1 francs. A virtuous competitive circle to lower taxes is set up. All the authorities are interested in is whether you will represent a net gain to the area; they have no interest in knowing the size of your income and then squeezing you until your pips squeak.

Screen Shot 2016-05-29 at 10.32.16Moreover,

since the money raised locally is spent locally, the population has a genuine and abiding interest in making sure that it is spent wisely. In large centralised states or societies, the bureaucracy has a vested interest in spending money unwisely, for by doing so it creates the very population that allegedly needs its ministrations. Not so in Switzerland: the population is the master of the bureaucracy.

Screen Shot 2016-05-29 at 10.35.13Dalrymple goes to a friend’s flat

a little way out of Geneva and up the mountainside. It overlooks the lake, and you can see Mont Blanc in the distance.

The cold air

is bracing, and gives a pleasantly scouring sensation in your lungs. I almost wish I had tuberculosis, to experience the relief such air would provide. I understand The Magic Mountain and the lure of sanatoria a little better.

Screen Shot 2016-05-29 at 10.42.28The neighbour below

has a balcony so huge that it has a real garden in it, including a lawn and miniature palm trees. It is so perfect, so clean, that one could safely perform surgery in it.

Dalrymple takes his dog for a walk.

I am very nervous, in case he relieves himself in the wrong place and calls forth retribution.

Screen Shot 2016-05-29 at 10.32.00When Dalrymple’s dog urinates against a garden wall,

I look around me as I used to look around me in the Communist bloc when meeting a dissident.

Screen Shot 2016-05-29 at 10.47.57Screen Shot 2016-05-29 at 10.44.47 Screen Shot 2016-05-29 at 10.46.34 Screen Shot 2016-05-29 at 10.47.38 Screen Shot 2016-05-29 at 10.48.22

Drunken retching as self-realisation

Screen Shot 2015-07-03 at 08.15.24The British, Dalrymple points out, are

despised throughout the world wherever they congregate in any numbers.

In any English town on any night of the week you will see

scenes of charmless vulgarity, in which thousands of scantily clad, lumpen sluts scream drunkenly, and men vomit proudly in the gutters.

It has been suggested that the English might be able to develop civilised Mediterranean café culture. Dalrymple remarks:

You might as well preach the comforts of the igloo and the tastiness of whale blubber to the Maasai.

Much of the British population believes

not only that it has no duty to control itself, but that it is harmful to try to do so. It believes that screaming, smashing bottles, vomiting, urinating against walls in full view of others, swaying drunkenly in the gutter, and hailing strangers to give them lifts, are essential to its health and emotional wellbeing, that drinking in this fashion is Aristotelian catharsis.

For the English,

there can be no higher accolade for a night out than that no trace of it remains in the brain. ‘Getting wasted’ and then behaving antisocially before passing out is the pinnacle of social life.

Just as the British government is so corrupt that it does not know that it is corrupt, so the British people

are so lacking in self-respect that they do not know that self-respect is desirable.

In England, drunkenness

to the point of brutish amnesia is regarded as admirable, a high achievement.

Birmingham’s giant pissoir

Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 23.02.31

The much-loved Free Public Library (left): rebuilt superbly in 1882 after a fire, demolished in 1974

Dalrymple confesses that he finds it difficult to write temperately on the subject of the mass desecration of Britain’s architectural heritage, which often, he says, leaves him

trembling with rage. My wife tells me to calm down; as she rightly notes, I can do nothing about this disaster now.

No town or city in Britain, he writes,

has inherited so little in the way of beauty that officials did not think it worth destroying.

Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 23.13.37

Birmingham Central Library: opened 1974, demolished 2015, replaced with something just as bad if not worse

It was the hope, for instance, of Sir Herbert Manzoni, an energetic city engineer and surveyor of Birmingham with modish proclivities,

to pull down every non-modernist building in Birmingham’s city centre.

Fortunately Sir Herbert dropped dead before achieving his ambition,

but he got quite far, and his spirit sputtered on after him.

The magnificent Victorian library

was pulled down and replaced with an inverted concrete ziggurat of such ugliness and, before long, dilapidation, that it defied description, at least by me.

Paris 1865

Ordinary, human-sized pissoir. Paris, 1865

Rapists’ haven

The environs of the library served as

a giant pissoir and, at night, as a haven for drunks and rapists.

In this way

the Albert Speers of Britain converted the Victorian dream of municipal munificence into the nightmare of administered anomie.

Manzoni and Speer

Manzoni and Speer

War of permanently inflamed egos in the Corbusian housing projects of the West

Red Road Flats, Balornock, Glasgow

Red Road Flats, Balornock, Glasgow

Egos in the Corbusian projects are

inflamed by the fact that the inhabitants have been, and continue to be, treated so transparently by social policymakers as faceless, interchangeable, passive ciphers that the only way to assert their individuality is to behave antisocially. I fight, therefore I am.

What do the tenants think of the Corbusian blocks of flats where they live?

They vote with their urine. The public spaces and lifts of all public housing blocks I know are so deeply impregnated with urine that the odour is ineradicable. And anything smashable has been smashed.

The psychopathic indifference of certain Frenchmen to common decency and welfare

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Dalrymple on travelling in a urine-soaked elevator