Ichabod is itchy

May 29, 2006

Loos or toilets?

Filed under: travel — by ichabodisitchy @ 8:12 pm

n my family (of middle class expats), we always use the word ‘loo’. That is the word we were taught to use as kids– indeed, we were actively discouraged (and even reprimanded) if we ever said ‘toilet’. ‘Toilet’, we were told, is a common and vulgar word. Obviously, this is nonsense but you know, these things stay with you your whole life. My step-children use the‘vulgar’ word all the time (my not being around during the formative years of their life when they were learning to talk) and I must admit that it does not fail to grate on my ears every single time. 

For a long time I’ve known I’m not alone in this ‘loo’ vs ‘toilet’ debate– I remember several years ago listening to someone on Woman’s Hour who had obviously been brought up with the same ‘toiletism’. She was talking about the difficulties she has in explaining to her five year old son why he needs to use the word ‘loo’ when all his friends say ‘toilet’.

But I hadn’t thought the debate was so wide-reaching. Imagine my delight when I saw this public sign at the Hay festival over the weekend:
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A whole festival of like-minded people– no wonder I felt so at home!

Books, books, books

Filed under: literature,travel — by ichabodisitchy @ 8:09 pm

Just got back from the Guardian book festival, at Hay-on-Wye, where we have spent the weekend listening to authors discussing some of their latest literary offerings. Terry Jones told us all about The Barbarians, Mozzam Begg talked about his personal experiences in Guantanamo Bay, Paul Rusesabagina discussed his time in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide, when he saved 1,268 lives at the Hotel Diplomat and DBC Pierre showed us his latest historical documentary (made for Channel 4) about the fall of the Aztec empire in Mexico. We also went along to a wonderful Poetry Gala, where Margaret Atwood, Tishani Doshi, James Fenton, John Fuller, Seamus Heaney, Don Paterson, Owen Sheers and Hugo Williams each got 8 minutes to perform a reading of their poetry.It was our first time at Hay– but we’ll definitely go back.

The town itself lies on the border between England and Wales, surrounded by countryside and very picturesque. The streets run higgledy-piggledy up and down a little hill, and every other doorway leads into a second-hand bookshop– where all the walls (and half of the floors!) are covered with books ranging from first edition H Ryder Haggards to the full collection of Colin Dexter. Everyone wanders around with bagfuls of books, talking about who they’ve been to see at the festival and what hidden treasures they’ve unearthed in town.

The kids enjoyed it too. Although most of the children-friendly activities don’t start until later on in the week, they did go along to some of the talks with us and ran around the garden of the simply beautiful house we rented with a group of friends.

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We did also take them horse-riding on Saturday, although unfortunately it absolutely peed it down with rain the entire time we were out on the horses, so what should have been a pleasant jaunt through the countryside turned into a rather chilly and very wet tramp through the mud! This was, however, somewhat compensated by the fact that once we’d got back to the festival we ran smack bang into Albus Dumbledore (a.k.a. Michael Gambon) wandering around the site. Well, as any of you with kids can imagine, that made up for all sogginess and other discomfort endured!

I've put up some photos on flickr if you want to see more. 

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