Loos and The Definition of a Gentleman

On our visit to Shugborough the Anson family house, in which the seeds of our eccentric tribe were nurtured for generations; I was reminded of the story my dad used to tell me about the joke played on his crusty old great aunt Lady Louisa Beresford when she was staying . There was obviously a great paucity, of lavatory’s even though the house had numerous grand bedrooms. I can only surmise that many guests used some vile sort of chamber pot and expected a hapless minion to empty it ….. but for those who did not, there was a one water closet on the floor in question, and it was clearly identified with a sign saying WC. After Lady Louisa had retired they quickly put the WC sign on her door . Whether she was glad or sorry about the following constant interruptions, history does not elucidate; I do not think she was much of a looker and as most of the intruders were probably men, as they do what’s known as “go more” and in the “wee” hours and are less punctilious in their attention to detail when staggering in an alcoholic haze. Perhaps she thought she had died and gone to heaven. I will think about this….. but in any event very soon the WC became known as the Lady Loo in all country house circles . And in the last forty years has been hijacked and shortened to the common usage of loo. I think it’s great to come from a family who are responsible for such a nice euphemism . When I started writing historical novels the domestic lives of my characters were clearly much influenced by their lavatory habits, and in the seventeenth century people were very indelicate about such matters. I did a lot of research on the subject, so in Flora’s Glory I have her father Lord Thomas being well ahead of his time and installing water closets. Of course the English were always regarded as very slovenly people by foreigners ……!!!!!

While we are on the subject of Loos, a rather grand friend of mine was taken by his father to be given a lecture on “the definition of a Gentleman” . He was made to stand outside the door of the WC in another great house and was asked, had he ever seen the father go in or out, and the boy shook his head “That my boy is the definition of a gentleman.” Finally a word of warning never take nuts from a dish anywhere, they are usually covered in a world class selection of urine specimens.

Today I am thinking about “the heads” and these are for those of you who are not as clever and brilliantly informed as I am they are the loos on board ships …… my new masterpiece about Admiral Anson will take into account one of the reasons why no women were on board fighting ships. I will not explain it would be too much information, and it’s time for elevenses with a shot of Baileys. In case you were wondering … the Sainted One is out .

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