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You know how it is, the law of toilet paper is always strictly enforced.

When you don't need it, it's everywhere.

When you do need it, it's out of reach.

When you *really* need it, it's nowhere to be seen.

So here is a collection of alternatives to toilet paper for those who find themselves stuck. I'm not saying I've tried any of them, they come from vague memories of drunken conversations with friends and strangers, and my own imagination.

1. The obvious - other kinds of paper

  1. Kitchen towel
  2. Old newspaper
  3. Phone book
  4. mail-order catalogue
  5. bank notes

2. The Infantry Technique - how to make the best use of that last sheet of TP

(as described by an old army friend of mine)

  1. Take your sheet and tear out a circular hole in the middle.
  2. Put your finger through the whole and wipe yourself with the paper and your finger.
  3. Use the remaining disc of paper (is it classed as chad?) to clean under your fingernail.

I'm told that on manoeuvres some (British) army units are only issued one roll of paper each - making the above necessary.

3. More Civilised Methods

  1. a bidet
  2. The Three Seashells
  3. an upturned shower head
  4. a wet sponge (that's how the Romans did it)
  5. your hand - sounds ikky I know - but do you think people in the Third World can afford it?)

4. The Last Resort

  1. Your underwear
  2. The carpet - like dogs do
  3. don't bother.
In the classic sixteenth century novel Gargantua and Pantagruel, a great novel that predates the writings of Cervantes and Shakespeare, and is guaranteed permanent inclusion in the western canon of literature, noted author Francois Rabelais gave careful consideration to the subject of alternatives to toilet paper.

In the thirteenth chapter of the first book, titled "How Grandgousier realized Gargantua's marvelous intelligence, by his invention of an Arse-wipe," the protagonist Gargantua (from whose name we have derived the word Gargantuan), while still a child, explores many options for wiping his arse, until he finally arrives at what he finds to be the best.

Among the items that he uses to wipe his arse, the following are included:

  1. A lady's velvet mask
  2. A lady's hood
  3. A lady's neckerchief
  4. Some earflaps of crimson satin
  5. A page's bonnet, all feathered in the Swiss fashion
  6. A March-born cat
  7. His Mother's gloves, well scented with maljamin
  8. Sage
  9. Fennel
  10. Anise
  11. Marjoram
  12. Roses
  13. Gourd Leaves
  14. Cabbage
  15. Beets
  16. Vineshoots
  17. Marsh-mallow
  18. Mullein, which is as red as your bum
  19. Lettuces
  20. Spinach-leaves
  21. Dog's Mercury
  22. Persicaria
  23. Nettles
  24. Comfrey
  25. His Codpiece
  26. The Sheets
  27. The Coverlet
  28. The Curtains
  29. A Cushion
  30. The Hangings
  31. A Green Cloth
  32. A Table-cloth
  33. A Napkin
  34. A Handkerchief
  35. An Overall
  36. Hay
  37. Straw
  38. Litter
  39. Cow's Hair
  40. Wool
  41. Paper
  42. A Kerchief (again)
  43. A Pillow
  44. A Slipper
  45. A Game-bag
  46. A Basket
  47. A Hat... and some hats are
    • Smooth
    • Shaggy
    • Velvety
    • Of Taffeta
    • Of Satin
    ...though the best of all are the shaggy ones
  48. A Hen
  49. A Cock
  50. A Chicken
  51. A Calf's Skin
  52. A Hare
  53. A Pigeon
  54. A Cormorant
  55. A Lawyer's Bag
  56. A Penitent's Hood
  57. A Coif
  58. An Otter
  59. A Well-downed Goose

Some of these options, he finds, are not so good, for instance the ear flaps of crimson satin, of which he states:

"...there were a lot of turdy gilt spangles on them, 
and they took all the skin off my bottom.  May 
St. Anthony's fire burn the bum-gut of the goldsmith 
who made them and of the lady who wore them!"

As for paper, it leaves him less than satisfied with the results:

"Who his foul bum with paper wipes
Will on his ballocks leave some chips."
But it is the last option, the well-downed goose, that leaves him most satisfied:

"But to conclude, I say and maintain that there 
is no arse-wiper like a well-downed goose, 
if you hold her neck between your legs. 
You must take my word for it, you really must.  
You get a miraculous sensation in your arse-hole, 
both from the softness of the down and from the 
temperate heat of the goose herself; and this is 
easily communicated to the bum-gut and the rest 
of the intestines, from which it reaches the heart 
and the brain."

All quotes from the J.M Cohen translation.

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