It is some time since our toilet went south.
Not very south. But far enough away to have been isolated from all water supply, indeed, from the very wall against which it was accustomed to lean.
I well remember the conversation we had with the builders when they came to do the quote. “It’s a perfectly adequate white suite,” I said, referring to toilet and basin in a businesslike fashion. “Perhaps we could keep that, replace the shower and the floor tiles and make the whole thing good?”
And so, in moved the builders and out came the old suite. It was parked unceremoniously outside our patio windows, next to a wheelbarrow full of petunias. It forms the main view from our picture windows in our sitting room.
That was seven weeks ago.
A week ago, one of the workmen shook his head sadly at the now rather grubby suite sitting in our garden. I could get a new one at B&Q for £250, he told me. I sighed. You tell me this at the wrong end of the budget, I said, and went out and cleaned the dated porcelain until it shone.
The toilet was still sitting there when my five year old nephew, Big Al, arrived to spend the day.
He whirled into the house and ran around, inspecting new developments, before pottering out into the garden.A long, very noisy silence ensued. I knew there was a question coming. I waited.
“Why is the toilet in the back garden?”
I sighed. My incisive nephew had gone straight to the crux of the matter, as usual. Why was the toilet still in the back garden? After seven weeks?
“The builders took it out to do some work, Al,” I explained. “When they’ve finished their work, they will put the toilet back again.”
Al wanted to investigate further. I scrambled out of my seat just in time to deter him from sampling the rainwater at the bottom of the pan, with its sundry leaves and berries and a small colony of moving things.
“Why can’t I touch the bottom of the toilet, Auntie Kate?”
“Why can’t you, Al?”
“Because it’s dirty.”
In companionable silence, we watched things doing wiggle-stroke at the bottom of the toilet.
Ar length, I stirred. “I tell you what, Al, you go and play with the Lego, and I’ll clean the toilet so it’s not dirty.”
And that is what we did. Thirty minutes later, behold; a pristine, steam-cleaned barren waste for all bacteria. Including the pan.
Al spent much time playing in the garden. There are many things to occupy a small boy out there; buckets, snails, sunflowers, large lewdly-shaped courgettes. All were grist to Al’s mill.
Today, Al and his family popped over once more. His eldest sister had made me a beautiful cake, and we all sat down and had cake and tea and nattered happily away for an hour or so. Al busied himself, as always, with two of his favourite preoccupations: Lego, and the garden.
It was when they were in the car, ready to go home, that Phil thought to look inside our estranged but highly beloved toilet.
And there, at the bottom of the pan, were toys. Many toys; Lego men, cars, a plane, some construction kit. All the things Al loved, in a place with which he was fascinated. As only a five year old boy can be.
Soon the toilet will be back with its soul mate, the plumbing, and busy at its day job once more.
But if porcelain could collect memories, it would treasure forever the time it was Al’s toybox.