When a piddle is a puddle

It was when I got an email from the British Trout Association that I began to feel a little insecure.

“Did you get honorary membership?” asked a colleague, sending everyone into paroxysms of laughter.

When I got home I found my husband outside weeding the garden (he isn’t allowed in the house during daylight hours after the clocks go forward. “Am I an old trout?” I asked him.

“Of course not,” he said robustly and dangled a worm on the end of his trowel. I left him to battle the over-enthusiastic bamboo and went inside. Life for trout and women is an uphill journey.

I looked in the mirror and sighed. In my Twenties I used to pinch the sides of my eyes to encourage laugh-lines. Thirty years on, as they say, nothing’s that funny.


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My nose is getting bigger (note to self, don’t tell the artist who does the cartoons) and I am a bit worried about my ears. They were always rather pretty but now lobes look as if they are getting bigger. They’ll soon be too large for earrings and I’ll have to hang artworks instead.

I might be the first woman with Turner Prize-winning earlobes.

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But while it is hard to be a woman, it isn’t all plain sailing being a man, as another email informed me.

Armitage Shanks – you might have seen the name on bathroom sanitary ware, has carried out new ‘wee-search’, yes, they really called it that. It shows that, nationally, “72 per cent of men claim they achieve absolute precision at the urinal, however, in reality they spill 1.5 million pints of urine on themselves every year.”

This would appear to be a particularly worrying statistic for the 2.8 in 10 men who are regularly drenching themselves.

Women of uncertain age, especially those whose pelvic floor muscles are rather nearer the floor than they should be, are prone to having small bladder control problems when it comes to extreme sneezing or laughing but not major flooding of national emergency proportions. More the sort of seepage that water authorities only deal with after they’ve fixed the gushers.

Anyway, enough about me. In fact, despite the alleged accuracy, Armitage Shanks says: “60% per cent of men notice that they get splash-back on their clothes at least once a month – this is even more relevant as the shorts start to come out of the wardrobe for summer, and men start to notice splash-back on their legs, too.”

The point of the study is to introduce the HygienIQ urinal with its “revolutionary ‘fin’”which reduces splash-back by up to 90%.

I’m not sure I shall ever be able to look at a man’s legs again without thinking about splash-back. In fact, I have rarely considered the logistical problems of men’s urinals. Trying to formulate my thoughts, I conclude that the celerity with which they can be used and the fact that there is rarely a queue makes the smell almost tolerable.

Except for one occasion back in the 90s when the editor sent me on a daytime mission to assess the men’s toilet facilities on all the local parks (don’t ask, I still get nightmares), I have little experience of them.

There is a certain etiquette in women’s loos. After using the cubicle you wait patiently for a hand-basin to become available. When it’s your turn and you clamp your handbag between your knees while you stretch across to the soap dispenser and having failed to get much more than a blob of what looks like cuckoo spit you vigorously wash your hands and shuffle over to the paper towel container or the “hot air dryer” - a machine which emits heat and air but, magically, fails to dry. So you wipe your hands on your clothes and exit past the huge queue.

As a child, I was so well-schooled on matters of hygiene I still have to stop myself showing my hands to the lavatory attendant as I leave.

Is it like that for men? (rhetorical) Is 1.5 million pints of urine a matter of trajectory or a slap-dash approach to urinals?

More from the readers’ postbag...

... or should that be can of worms.

First, Ron from Clare, gently rebukes me for referring to my PIN number when PIN stands for “personal identification number” and so doesn’t need another number. So 1812 is my PIN not my pin number.

Then my naval friend John Merritt’s “write rite right, Wright” piece had a ‘Wright’ when it should have been a ‘write’ – so I didn’t get that right either.

For those who tried to correctly punctuate John Wayman’s the “had had” sentence last week, this is the way to make sense of it. “Smith, where Jones had had ‘had’, had had ‘had had’; ‘had had’ had had the examiner’s approval.” Hands up all those who got it Wright/write/right.

Mr Wayman also writes: “I am thoroughly embarrassed to say that I have listed homophones from the paper… for nearly nine and a half years.”

And he sends a list which includes some highly enjoyable ones such as peace for piece; overseas for oversees; leak for leek; well-healed for well-heeled; phased for fazed; torcher for torture.

Meanwhile Jane Dorling suggests that the use of “uz” rather that “us” is a north country thing.

She says: “My daughter-in-law who originally came from Sheffield says uz, and lots of other words slightly differently to me, the word bath comes to mind, she says it to rhyme with hath.”

I believe Sean Bean (nowhere near a homophone) comes from Sheffield and, in his role of Sharpe, I have often felt the urge to give him a bath of any pronunciation.

Cherry Green, of Aylsham, sends me a copy of a fish bar’s advertising pamphlet that has a handy location map with an arrow announcing “We are heare”. It also has a list of “extra’s” and announces that phone orders are “wellcome”. But how are the fish and chips?

Barbara Stammers spotted the word “neither” was used with the plural “were” in one sentence I used recently. “Am I right in thinking this should have been ‘neither of which WAS… I had thought that none and neither were shortened forms of not one and not either and were singular.”

She signs off: “Ah, the sun has come out. I will go outside and get a life.”

I just love you lot.

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