Tag Archives: World Toilet Day

Newspaper and Sawdust

Newspaper and Sawdust

In the most recent flash fiction prompt posted on the Carrot Ranch on World Toilet Day, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that glorifies a toilet. Capture the marvel and status and love for a contraption we’d rather not mention. Go where the prompt leads!

Writers were given an extension, allowing 2 weeks for responses, which should have been enough to overcome inspiration constipation. Sadly, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about toilets and toilet situations, but writing little about them. Perhaps something will flow now that the block is cleared. Maybe constipation will turn to diarrhoea.

I am surprised to have few memories of toilets from my early childhood.

I lived on a farm until I was six and cannot recall what type of toilet we had or where it was located. I assume it was what we in Australia refer to affectionately as a ‘dunny’ or ‘thunderbox’ — an outhouse or outside toilet with a wooden seat over a metal can.

I also don’t recall the toilets at the first semi-rural school I attended. Considering I must have made a few trips at least each day, at home and at school, one tiny memory shouldn’t be too much to ask.

When we moved from the farm to a young growing beachside suburb, we definitely had an outhouse for the first few years, probably until sometime in the early sixties. It was located half-way down the back yard, about five metres from our high-set house. So, at night, or during storms or cyclones, we had to negotiate the outside uncovered steps (about 15), race across the backyard and into the shelter of the outhouse, our path lit by a torch or lantern, if we were lucky.

I never envied the job of the ‘night soil men’ (or ‘dunny men’ as we kids called them) who would come in once a week to collect the can of waste and carry it out to empty into the truck. What a job. I wonder if any complained about losing their jobs to flushing toilets.

I know that sewerage was connected to our home before I was twelve as I have a very strong memory of receiving an unjustified (in my opinion) belting behind it at that age. That toilet was also outside but at least it was at the foot of the stairs and not halfway down the backyard. Flushing water and soft toilet tissue replaced newspaper and sawdust.

There was no upstairs toilet added to the house until years after I left home. It was only added when negotiating the stairs became difficult for my mum. But even it was still outside, though thankfully, just outside the back door at the top of the stairs.

My only memories of school toilets are of flushing toilets, whether septic or sewered, I don’t know, and of not being allowed to go when I needed to.

Toilets have taken on a whole new significance as I’ve aged, and their cleanliness is of utmost importance. I worked as a consultant for an educational publisher for a few years. The role involved visiting school in my local and surrounding areas. I used to rate the towns by the accessibility and cleanliness of their toilets.

When I read the statistics published by World Toilet Day, my requirements are something many can only dream about. According to the website:

  • 4.2 billion of the world’s population do not have access to adequate sanitation — that’s more than half of the world’s 7.8 billion people
  • 3 billion people don’t have facilities like water and soap for basic handwashing at home
  • about 800 children under five die every day from diseases caused by poor sanitation or lack of clean drinking water

These and other horrifying statistics are available on the website. The humble flushing toilet that so many of us take for granted, is not so humble for many, but rather something for them to glorify.

For a few years now, I’ve been purchasing my toilet paper, tissues and paper towels from Who Gives a Crap. I chose Who Gives a Crap because they donate 50% of their profits to help build toilets for those who need them. So far, they have donated $8.3 million. I am pleased to be able to contribute in a small way, without any extra effort, to such a worthwhile project. Who Gives a Crap products are available in Australia, USA, UK, Sweden and Europe. Check out their website for more information.

I guess it’s time to share my flash fiction in response to Charli’s prompt.

The End (with apologies to Alan Alexander Milne)

When I was one and had just begun

Nappies were where my business was done.

When I was two, not nearly so new

A training potty was home for my poo.

When I was three, I was learning to pee

In a toilet that flushed away to the sea.

When I was four or not much more

I learned to be private behind a closed door.

When I was five, school days had arrived

And toilets were places to play and hide.

When I get old, or so I am told,

A clean handy toilet is precious as gold.

Thank you blog post

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Around the campfire


You could count the number of times I have been camping on one hand with a few fingers chopped off. And those times, in the main, could not even be considered real camping. They involved cabins, water on tap, and flushing loos. Only once was I required to sleep in a tent, and the experience wasn’t one I wished to repeat: as much to do with other campers as with facilities.

I am not into roughing it. I like the convenience of warm showers, flushable toilets, and power at the touch of a button. I acknowledge my privilege in being able to take these things for granted and, when I holiday, to choose accommodation at which they are available. I recognise that for much of the world’s population, that privilege is as unattainable as a dream.


So, for this week, in which the flash fiction prompt by Charli Mills coincides with World Toilet Day, it is fitting to combine the two.

World Toilet Day is a day to raise awareness and inspire action to tackle the global sanitation crisis – a topic often neglected and shrouded in taboos. Today, 2.4 billion people are struggling to stay well, keep their children alive and work their way to a better future – all for the want of a toilet.

Anne Goodwin who blogs at Annecdotal has also combined Charli’s flash fiction prompt in her post about Fictional Toilets for World Toilet Day. Anne has included snippets of toileting issues from novelists whose characters, unlike most “fictional characters, (who) like royalty, don’t have to suffer the indignity of urinating or opening their bowels”, deal with the inconveniences of life. Her own novel Sugar and Snails is among those quoted. You can read the post here.


For a while now I have been supporting Who Gives a Crap, a company that takes toileting seriously. In its production of toilet paper, tissues, and paper towels it uses only 100% recycled paper, bamboo, or sugarcane. It also donates 50% of its profits to providing toilets for those in need. I am in favour of both those practices.

I am also in favour of helping children recognise their privilege and to understand that not everyone in the world can take for granted what they can. With Christmas celebrations just around the corner, a picture book that encourages children to think of others, rather than just what they can get, is useful in starting the discussion.


Dear Santa: Please Don’t Come This Year written by Michael Twinn and illustrated by Patricia D. Ludlow explains that Santa has tired of children’s requests, of their always wanting more, and of their lack of gratitude. He considers making this Christmas delivery his last; until he receives one final letter that turns his thinking around.

The letter is from a group of children who write:

“Dear Santa,

Please don’t come this year … we have almost everything we want.

So, we don’t want presents for ourselves this year  …

We want to help other children, instead.

And old people and animals in need …”

Santa feels heartened by the children’s selflessness, and he spends the year travelling the world, sharing the gifts suggested by the children:

“The gift of food

The gift of health

The gift of sight

The gift of water

The gift of technology

The gift of hard work

The gift of peace

The gift of learning

The gift of survival”

At the end of the year, Santa realises that “The greatest gift is yourself.”

(Note: I’m not sure if it is still so, but at the time of its publication, sales of the book helped raise funds for UNICEF.)

Now, I seem to have strayed a little, but I’m thinking that’s probably what happens when a group is sitting around the campfire discussing life. I’m sure no subject is taboo, Blazing Saddles proved that, and that the conversation would flow from one topic to another with just a few meagre threads to hold it together.

Song, too, would be a big part of the campfire tradition. I learned a campfire song from Bill Martin Jr. at a reading conference years ago. (I’ve written about that previously here.)

The song “I love the mountains” is perfect for teaching to children and as a structure that children can use to write poems of their own. Sample innovations; for example, “Christmas in Australia” have been included just for that purpose in readilearn resources.


Writing “I love” poems is also a good way for children to express gratitude in their everyday lives, which fits perfectly with Thanksgiving celebrations in the United States, also this week.

Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers!

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that is told around a campfire. It can be a bonfire, burning trash can, a fire pit, something flaming outdoors. It can be a prop, and you can tell the story of anything — ghosts, ancients, jokes. Who is gathered and listening?

Even if you don’t intend joining in the challenge, and there is an extra week with this prompt if you are tempted, please pop over to the Carrot Ranch to read Charli’s fascinating report of her explorations of The Zion Valley area and of the historical artefacts and remnants she found there. You’re sure to find a gem or two, as she did.

Here is my response to her challenge.

Around the campfire

“Smile,” they said. “It could be worse.”

Than what: a compulsory “adventure”? navigating scrub lugging a loaded rucksack? avoiding plant and animal nasties? digging a toilet? erecting a recalcitrant tent? enduring inane chatter and laughter roaring as insanely as the campfire flames?

“You’ll learn something,” they’d said.

Fat chance.

Darkness hung low like her spirits.

Along with the dying flames, the mood quietened and, one by one, each told a story of horrors beyond her imaginings: of fleeing famine, war, abuse, hate …

Along with the sky, her heart softened with the light of a new day, and gratitude.

Thank you

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Which is your favourite thinking room?


Do you have a quiet place at home where you like to think?

do not disturb door

Some people I know like to think in the toilet. (I’m not one of them. I prefer to not be in there long enough for that!) They see it as a quiet place where they can sit and think, undisturbed, for as long as they like. If they are “in the can”, “in the dunny”, “at the loo” or “out the back”, or whatever other euphemism you can come up with, their position is unassailable and their sanctuary respected. Mostly, anyway. Parents of young children may vehemently disagree with that!

A couple of weeks* ago Anne Goodwin reminded us of World Toilet Day and how lucky we are to have access to toilets and sanitation. Most of us take what used to be the smallest room in (or out) of the house for granted, not giving its use a second thought as we flush away our waste.

But not everyone is so lucky. It seems that more of the world’s population have access to a mobile phone, and or to the internet, than to a toilet. Visit Anne’s blog for many links that explain why a day for toilets is important.

WaterAidAustralia explains that

“The day was created to raise global awareness of the struggle faced by the 2.5 billion people living without access to sanitation. It is also used to explore some of the healthy, emotional and psychological consequences people endure as a result of not having a proper, clean toilet.”

An article written by Nicole Arce and published in the Tech Times cites the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the information that 2,200 children around the world die every day due to diarrhoea. Proper sanitation would prevent most of those deaths.

Arce writes that the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has set 2019 as its target for “total sanitation”. However, as also suggested in Anne Goodwin’s flash fiction piece “Culture Shock”, the problem can be attributed to cultural as well as monetary issues.

Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch followed Anne Goodwin down the toilet path and extended the discussion to include the effect that poor sanitation has on education, particularly of young girls. The link is not as tenuous as it may first appear as explained here and here.

Charli decided to use her flash fiction challenge to “spread awareness that toilets matter.” She invited readers to “Help spread the call for human dignity and basic sanitary health” by linking to UNICEF when responding to her prompt: In 99 words write a story that includes the toilet.

I have decided to do just that, as have many others. Check out Charli’s post at the Carrot Ranch to read all responses.

Toilet sanctuary

“Miss. Marnie’s locked herself in the toilet and won’t come out.”

“What now?” I thought, scanning the troubled face pleading for assistance as much as to be absolved of blame.

“Okay,” I reassured Jasmine. “Let’s go see what’s up.”

As we hurried to the toilet block Jasmine reiterated her innocence, she hadn’t done anything, she didn’t know what was wrong (it wasn’t her fault).

“I know,” I smiled. The toilet cubicles had frequently been Marnie’s sanctuary. But not for weeks.  Jasmine’s kind-hearted friendship had seen to that.

“She’s got her unicorn again,” Jasmine whispered.

“Oh,” I said.


*I apologise that this post may appear out of sync with World Toilet Day which was now ten days ago. Unfortunately I have been without internet access for 12 days and unable to publish although I had the post written. Fortunately I still had access to a flushing toilet, and if I had to choose between that and the internet, I’d go for the toilet every time! Though World Toilet Day has passed for this year, the message remains important every day!

Thank you

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