... feminist, atheist, autistic academic and historic narrowboater ...
Likes snooker, beer, tea, rivets and solitude, and is strangely fascinated by the cinema organ.
And there might be something about railways.

Monday 2 January 2012

Is taking your own toilet roll as bad as buying your own drinks?

'She's the sort of person who buys her own drinks' - a withering put-down of someone who doesn't stand their round, because, basically, they think they'll be better off if they don't; they're not planning to stay long, or they're only drinking halves, so why should they buy drinks for eveyone else when they won't get the equivalent back in return? The reason they should, of course, is that it's what you do; it's central to English (British?) pub culture. It's an acknowledgement that, in this context, you are not just a self-interested individual but part of a larger community, even if that community is just you and a couple of mates. It recognises that this isn't a one-off occasion, but part of a continuum, in which unequal contributions can be evened out over time; again, part of something bigger than the individual and the moment. It's a homage to tradition; a rite by which we identify ourselves with a particular heritage. Buying your own drinks is a certain kind of meanness which passes itself off as the opposite but's more than that; it's a stand-offishness, a refusal to fully become part of the group.

So... there's a toilet here at the yard. Not a bad one, in fact, as these things go. Not as clean as it might be, of course, but spacious and most importantly, warm. Now, when there's a toilet on the bank, a boat dweller will use it at every opportunity, to avoid too frequent filling and consequent emptying of the on board facilities. As toilets around the system vary in the level of cleanliness and facilities they offer, I always carry with me a 'toilet bag' containing among other vital accoutrements, a toilet roll and a pack of Parazone (or equivalent) wipes. Paranoid I may be, but itnmakes me happy.

The loo here is used by the people working here and other moorers, when there are any. Sometimes there's a loo roll there and sometimes there isn't. When there is, it's impossible to know who's provided it. Because sometimes there isn't one, I always take my bag with me (well, it might need a clean anyway). So, when there is a roll there, should I use that one, or my own? If I use the one that's there, then I am honour bound at some stage to provide a replacement. But if I always use my own, then I don't have to worry about it. As I thought this through, I realised that there is a real parallel with the pub scenario. I could just look out for myself, and not owe anyone anything. Or I could be part of the wider community, using, and providing, the communal resources, without worrying too much about whether it's my turn, or if I'm providing more sheets than the next person. And I realised the answer it clear - next time I must leave the roll behind when I leave.


  1. But what about the person who never buys the FIRST round? This is always a full round. By waiting before its their turn some people can take advantage of others leaving the group, drinking slowly or not wanting any more to save cash. I won't name names but it doesn't go unnoticed!

  2. This whole round thing bugs me. I am always driving and am bad with alcohol so never, ever, drink much at all. Then there is the kitty approach - even worse as far as I am concerned. Strangely, all the big boozers want it. So why do I feel like a skinflint and the freeloading big drinkers are the hero's? Hmm. My answer - make homebrew at 30p a pint and then be very generous with it.

  3. Mmm. I agree with you in principle Sarah, but I am always conscious that Neil and I both drink pints and if we are with people who don't drink, or only a little, that things get very uneven. So we often suggest 'buying our own' to save them! Actually most of our non drinking friends do offer to take their turn, but we think it's unfair.
    Come to think of it, though, we have been known to allow them to buy us dinner when they join us on the boat for a while ......
    Kath (nb Herbie)

  4. Following on from Jims comments, not only does your quick half cost you £25 but every time you spend a penny it costs a loo roll

  5. Hi Sarah
    Good to see you are back at Stretton. 'Futurest' and I must have left only shortly before you arrived. Sorry to have missed you.
    Regarding your gas water heater. Contrary to the prevailing flow of thought in earlier comments, for the last three years since I have been aboard, my Rinnae has been a very good friend and always worked perfectly. And from the look of the dog eared installation intructions that came with it, it is probably as old as the boat itself. That's fourteen years. All the best to you both.

  6. I take your point, Andy and Kath, but it's not a set of strict rules or turn-taking I'm thinking of, more an ethos of trust. It tacitly accomodates people who are drinking less, or, say, are known to be short of funds, without making an issue of it. For example, if Jim and I are drinking more than those we are with (a purely hypothetical scenario of course!) we will visit the bar more often; nothing needs to be said; ideally this is understood by all participants. It's true (Starcross Jim), some people do try to wriggle out of it whilst paying lip service, but at least they acknowledge the custom thereby, and will be brought into line before too long!

  7. Harnsers, I reckon a round of loo roll constitutes about one a week!