Off-Grid Living – Where To Start – Episode 5 - Shit

By Howard Lewis. I’m a single man and have been all my life. Despite being married for 25 years I’ve been a single, in the context of just one. One poo has always been enough for me and generally at the start of the day, right after breakfast. Maybe two on Boxing Day, because of the sheer volume of traffic from the festivities, but then back to one a day for the rest of the year, regular as clockwork. My brother does a daily double; one in the morning and one around tea-time so it’s not a gene thing. He’s a lucky chap, well read and always has a funny story to tell.

As many before me have said, taking a dump is an opportunity for some quiet personal time. Everyone has to do it, even the Queen. One imagines that she sits quietly on the throne, her mind sorting through her Tupperware issues and reminiscing about the ‘good ol days’ when she’d never heard of Megan (or her Dad) and Andrew’s peccadilloes. They say that if you are scared or in awe of someone, just think of them sitting on the toilet with their pants or knickers round their ankles. It’s intended to act as a leveller; to reassure you that everyone has the same bodily functions and hence is not to be put on a pedestal. I once tried thinking about Donald Trump with his trousers down and had to take another Prozac.

Before I started on the road to sustainable living I would happily spend 20 minutes or so each morning utterly alone, “dropping the kids off for their swimming lessons” as my friend Rob calls it. It’s a delicious time and needs careful preparation. They say that men can only do and think one thing at a time, but when you’re having a shit this rule doesn’t apply. It’s quite normal for me to be able to have a shit and do a Sudoku, all at the same time. Or, of course, take in something to read. These days my smartphone is a great comfort; I can choose to do a quiz or a free-flow puzzle, or read an article in the Economist, answer an email, even listen to my voice messages. Whatsapp has made it even better; I tap away on the family group and the conversation (amongst other things) flows.

Eating a meat-based diet was also very helpful – all that animal stuff blocking things up. It meant that come shit time, rather than ‘the train taking the strain’ (as the old British Rail ad goes), I could do a bit of straining myself and be rewarded with an enormous plop. In the interest of full disclosure, I found particular pleasure in dropping one off only for the resulting splash of water to hit me back at the point of said plops’ exit. Seemed to me to be wonderfully satisfying and not without some skill. Altogether, my meat diet made me a well-rounded person. Not only did I have the girth commensurate with pies and burgers and steaks and roasts, but I had a ready selection of interesting things to talk about that I’d gleaned from my 20 minutes a day of on-line, on-loo.

But sustainable living has put paid to all that and I’ve become a poorer human being for it. A vegan diet is useless as an aid to straining and heaving. I barely need to go even once a day and when I do these soft, squishy excuses emerge and disappear. I’ve hardly got my first Sudoku line done and I’m finished. Three weeks to do a Killer Sudoku is not any kind of achievement. Worse still is that we use a composting toilet, so even if there would be a splash, there is no splash. Not a thud, or a plop, or a crash, just nothing. Into the void. I have found the lack of splash quite difficult to adjust to.

I’m sure there are many benefits to veganism. Personally, I have lost some weight and my energy levels have improved. My skin is better, my blood pressure is down, as is my cholesterol. My heart, liver and kidneys are functioning well, I seem to be gaining strength and I’m reasonably alert. But on the downside I can’t have a good shit. I miss the straining and the heaving and that feeling of blood rushing to my face. I miss having the pleasure of a jolly good John Grisham chapter each morning. And, worst of all, I miss that amazing morning after a chicken vindaloo where I have to hold my face in a wet flannel and grit my teeth together. Those days are gone and I miss them dreadfully. Vegans have a lot to answer for – other animals may not be suffering, but this animal is.

But hark. I’m writing this after breakfast and for once I’m getting a heavy feeling down below. Could salvation be at hand? Time to attend to the kids.

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