Friday, March 10, 2006

Te Radar: Let's drink a wee toast to the elixir of life

Perhaps it is about time we as a nation were schooled in the whens and hows of drinking our own urine, not as a new-age health strategy but as a means of surviving potential calamity.

After all, we have been inundated recently with tales of people defying death by engaging in just this survival strategy.

This includes the Australian woman who survived five days lost at sea off Thailand after she somehow paddled her dinghy out into the ocean, and an English mountain climber who was trapped on a ledge for six days.

Both put their survival down to their self-generated elixir.

However, as a survival mechanism, it still has a certain stigma attached to it.

It also poses several wee questions that need addressing, such as how soon is too soon, is sharing wrong and what can we do to enhance the flavour?

Conversely, it is a desire not to relieve themselves that is apparently plaguing women in Britain.

To mark International Women's Day, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy warned women they face serious health problems if they only squat, rather than sit, on public toilets.

The organisation claims that up to 85 per cent of British women do not sit on public toilets and that they face bladder infections as a consequence. Oddly they made no mention of the possibility of injuries sustained through lack of balance.

The physiotherapists' survey went on to state that what people fail to realise is that their workstations often contain more germs than toilet seats. Surprisingly, there was no outcry about this inference that British women are horribly untidy.

This survey came as something of a surprise to me, as I had just finished reading about a study commissioned by the London Assembly entitled "An Urgent Need", which states that there is only one public toilet for every 18,000 people in London. The conveniences, it seems, are not so convenient.

It isn't just the British who are having toilet troubles. The hapless Aussies are also facing lavatory lunacy, with demands that toilet seats be made stronger as the obesity epidemic ravages the country.

Standards Australia is insisting that toilet seats need to accommodate an average weight of 150kg, up from the present loading of 45kg.

This may be of little comfort to visitors to the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, where it seems that, like London, it isn't the strength but the lack of toilets that may inspire a new unofficial games event, the "Clutch and Dash".

The Melbourne City Council, however, has said it will rectify the situation by shipping in portaloos and has, in a masterly stoke of council efficiency, already installed four Exeloos, the supreme public toileting facility.

These models of modernity are self-cleaning, can talk (which must be more than a little disconcerting to users), and collect data on toilet use.

They are also designed to expel loiterers after 10 minutes by automatically opening the doors. The fear of this function must be of great benefit to the constipated.

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