Loo rolls and other toilet tales

Of all the quaint English expressions I use, “going to the loo” always elicits the most puzzled looks from my American and Canadian friends. Once they learn the meaning, however, they adopt the phrase liberally and appreciate this charming way of announcing their intention to powder their nose or brush their hair. On the other hand, the term “rest room” doesn’t translate well and the first time I saw the sign when I was on vacation in the U.S., I was very amused. One result of the Big R is an increased number of loo rolls being used at home. If you calculate how much more time I’m at home and how many more visits to the loo, it figures I’m using two or three times as many loo rolls. It took me a while to work that one out. On a similar subject, and one close to my heart as my blog readers will know, I’m very excited because I’ve been walking an 8-month-old Havanese puppy, Bella, for a neighbor and I get to text her poop reports when we are done. Sad but true.

I’m entering my eighth week of the Big R and am on a roll. I haven’t dreamed about being late for the office or reached for my office iPhone for a while, so I think I’m cured. I also never know what day of the week it is, so I’m a true believer – and loving it!

Several readers (well, OK, two …) have expressed an interest in learning more about my school days in Nairobi, so here goes. The Kenya High School was known as the Heifer Boma: Swahili words – heifer for young cow; and boma for an enclosure for cattle at night. I don’t think any of us realized how offensive it sounded, but we were known as heifers and proud of it. There were 600 girls, 10 boarding houses of 50 girls each and two day houses – day girls were not considered human, which was probably because they went home at night and the boarders were secretly jealous. The boarding houses were brick buildings with two houses in each – one each side of a central staircase. The ground floor had a common room off the entrance hall with comfy seats and tables and separate rooms for the more senior girls to gather. The locker room was also on the ground floor – you kept your street shoes and shoe-cleaning kits in your locker. Does anyone even clean shoes now? We polished our shoes with shoe polish and a brush, followed by shining with a duster, every Saturday. You left your shoes in the locker and put on your slippers to go upstairs. The next floor had two dormitories with about 20 beds in each and the bathrooms with two showers and several baths. I remember that very few of us ever took a shower – we took baths. Matron had her office there and she doled out clean towels and sheets once a week, along with our laundry. Upstairs, the senior girls had cubicles which were considered the height of luxury and adulthood.

The boarding houses were in a semicircle round the five-acre field – a grass lawn with paths leading from each house up to the dining room and school buildings. It was quite a walk, but I never remember it raining. I talked in my last post about lining up for everything and about inspection. The hair inspection was something we didn’t question, but if your hair touched your shirt collar, you had to tie it back with an elastic band and hairpins, even if the pony tail had only three strands of hair in it. I was 11 years old when I started at the Boma and I didn’t rebel, ever. I think I only ever got one detention (you had to stay in on a Saturday or something) and I think that was a group thing where a bunch of us were talking when we shouldn’t have been. Silence was silence and there was a lot of it – silence before the bell in the morning, after lights out, at rest time, in line, in the dining room before grace – no end of deafening silence. Looking back, I can’t think how else they would have managed 600 girls.

More in another post, but loo paper has its place here, too. The school supplied Bronco brand loo paper – look it up! It’s not nice and certainly not for refined young ladies. We each brought our own supply of loo paper, which we kept in our bedside tables – I presume we kept some in our uniform pockets for use during the day. Picture each girl making her way into the bathroom carrying her precious cargo. Perhaps that’s why I use so much of it now, because I’m sure I rationed each roll carefully at the Heifer Boma.

And just an update on the quilt show. No blue ribbon, but my quilt was a winner just by being accepted. The winning quilts were stunning and so deserving. Keep calm and quilt on!

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3 thoughts on “Loo rolls and other toilet tales”

  1. Amanda, I LOVE the boarding school stories! They are fascinating to me and i look forward to many more. BTW, we had to ration loo paper too when i was growing up! An 1854 farm house that didnt have plumbing when we moved in… an outhouse for 4 months… then rationed paper whe we got real plumbing?! Why!? I need to ask my parents sometime.


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