Friday 3 June 2016

French Letter (22)

A Road Less Travelled
'A French Letter'

Saint Aubin de Pouancè

3rd of June 2016.

A Clochemerle Day.

Today I thought I might share with you, one of the French 'delights' - the street toilet, or thunderbox! I can remember as a kid it was common for the local councils in Britain to provide public toilets in the street. Many of which have now vanished due to 'cost savings'. In France however, there are many street toilets around and the small towns and villages take a pride in keeping them in good order. However, I want to stress that what I am about to describe – is not me taking the piss, so to speak.

One French custom I remember, was that while you would sometimes see the British holiday maker standing at the side of the road taking a piss into the hedgerow - the French always stood by the side of the hedgerow and pissed into the road. Many years ago when we used to drive down to Carcassonne in the south of France on holiday. We used to use generic names for any unknown French men and women (Claude Balls and Fifi la Belle). So we would say, look away now Claude is taking a pee!

I was reminded of this quaint custom when a passer by came into the 'Aires' to use the public toilette. However as both stalls and the urinal were taken at the time, we saw the Frog had returned outside and took a pee direct into the elsan! It should be remembered that the French 'village toilets' are often unisex. The public toilette at the 'Aires' has a wash basin and a small wall mounted urinal in the entrance. I still find it amusing to see Fifi come out of a stall to wash her hands while Claude is taking a leak in the urinal at the same time.

Then there was also something almost unique to French toilets. What we always called the French 'thunder box'. In a roadside toilet there would often be a tiled floor which would surround a much larger ceramic square section with a hole in it. The ceramic square usually came complete with a pair of what could best be described as footrests. I think the footrests were provided to help the French when aiming for the hole.

The kids were not keen on using them – however on this particular day. One of the kids was 'taken short' and we pulled into a lay by. It was announced very loudly 'Oh no its a thunderbox and there is never any paper'. To which I light heartedly said – 'Look don't worry, the hand will come out of the hole and wipe your arse.' They never used a French thunderbox ever again!

Meanwhile back at Saint Aubin de Pouancè.....
The water levels on the river Seine are at an all time record high level. We know that we will have to cross the river at some point on our way back to Calais. Already the ferry service is closed down and many of the road crossings are also closed as a precaution. We have decided to delay our departure until after the weekend. We hope that the water levels will have fallen and the various road crossings are re-opened to traffic.

We have been enjoying the highlights of the Isle of Man TT races on satellite television. Also we have been watching Andy Murray in the French Open Championship at Roland Garos tennis centre. Which is only about 100 soggy miles from our location.

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