Rhymes with “please”

When I was a kid our cat brought fleas into the house, where they took up home in my bedroom (as the place where the cat slept too). The itchy red bites were unpleasant and so I undertook to remove the little beasties but without chemicals (or the cost of treating our entire house with my meagre pocket money).

Knowing the idea of beer traps for slugs, and such garden lore, I came up with a plan. I knew fleas jumped their way about, I’d somehow picked up this piece of science too. So, saucers of water were placed strategically around the floor, probably inspired by finding a floating flea trapped in a cup of tea. I was forever leaving cups of tea to go cold, and these would remain on the carpet beside my bed, instead of being taken downstairs and washed. I was incapable of cleaning up after myself, but now I had a flea infestation. I like the word ‘infestation’, so melodramatic. Typical me.

It worked. The fleas hopped their way towards something, possibly me, but on their route dropped into a shallow pool of water. There were maybe half a dozen of these water traps around the floor, so they had a fair chance, in their fairground game of Russian roulette. Hop, hop, plop. This taught me that fleas do not navigate like we humans do. They should look before they leap, ha ha ha.

Maybe a dozen fleas were trapped that weekend. Always getting trapped by the surface tension, they swam hopelessly on their flat sides, big legs kicking them in circles but not one was ever able to drag itself out of the water. Success! So long as I didn’t let them escape before I slaughtered them between finger and thumb nails, crunch.

Eventually, the casualties ceased arriving and the bites stopped. The problem had gone.

Now, for men who stand and pee into the toilet from a great height, proud of their direction and sure their aim is true, I have bad news. This also applies to urinals, by the way. I know this, not only from personal experience, of which I have lots, but because for years I have cleaned toilets (and I am proud). Imagine the popular picture of a water droplet exploding on hitting a surface, that atom bomb like circle of rising water, a mini tsunami of action and reaction. Now think of the cascade of pee that can pour from a height down into the toilet bowl or splash against the urinal wall, sometimes with considerable force. Tried aiming diagonally have you, to save your trousers getting splashed?

Try this: Place containers of water such as buckets adjacent to the toilet bowl. When you pee, with precision, observe the surface of the still water, like a puddle in the rain. I cleaned toilets and toilet floors daily for years, down on my hands and knees, close to the scene of the crime, as they say. It stinks. So I know it is not only me. Women know this intuitively, if not also from being down their cleaning. Carpets around the toilet? More like mats soaking up the pee, the urine, which eventually gives off a lovely aroma of ammonia that no amount of pine scent is going to remove, only mask.

So, please understand that even the greatest marksman must clean up the mess he makes. Not just after those accidents but regularly. Of course, there is always the compost heap you can pee on, putting the urine to good use as fertiliser (ammonia being packed with nitrogen). My father emptied his chamber pot on the compost heap for years (memories of standing on there stamping down the grass cuttings, urgh). I remember seeing the almost industrial production version at the Centre for Alternative Technology, where the males peed into a funnel connected to 5 gallon tanks, to be poured onto the compost. The women were exempt I think.

Now we are starting to experiment with dyeing our own wool (sheep’s wool, not … never mind) and urine is a valuable chemical. For more on the wonders of urine, and reasons to pee into a bottle rather than flushing it down the drain with gallons of pure drinking water, many times a day, have a look at Tony Robinson’s The Worst Jobs In History, or Google it.

Next week: The joys of fibre. I cannot wait. Until then, please think of the consequences of your actions, even the unseen splashes!

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