I’d read reports of panic buying and stockpiling in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, but I thought that the citizens of my own good town would act with a little more decorum. How wrong I was.
Arriving at Sainsbury’s on Saturday morning, to do my regular weekly shop, I discovered that the aisles of pasta, rice and toilet paper had been stripped completely bare. Like a Ballardian vision of the future, the scene painted a pretty depressing picture of what a post-apocalypse dystopia would look like; no Mad Max-style cavalcade of pimped-up cars; instead, just the cockroaches of our species hunkering down in determined defence of their beige, dry goods.
So, I arrived back home bereft of loo rolls. Which got me thinking laterally; were there any alternatives?
I often find that when I am faced with a particularly tricky conundrum, it is useful to ask: what would the Romans do? Well, in the matter of loo roll, the Romans used a xylospongium. Basically a communal sponge on the end of a stick. Given my normal admiration for the ingenuity of the Romans’ achievements, in the case of the xylospongium I think they came up a little short.
So, something else. What about newspaper? Plentiful in supply, if a trifle coarse, but also an entirely worthwhile use of the Daily Mail. Is it for me? Maybe as a last resort.
And then there is water. Clean, simple and straightforward water. After all, much of Asia can’t be wrong. Many toilets in Asia come equipped with either a ‘bum-gun’ shower, or shattaf, or with jugs of water, or lotas, for post-pooping ablutions.
And, while I fret about a temporary absence of toilet paper from my local supermarket, it mustn’t be forgotten that over half the world’s population doesn’t have access to safely managed sanitation at all.
One man’s dystopia, is someone else’s daily reality.
© Simon Turner-Tree
Simon Turner-Tree finds the cupboard bare.