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Messing about...

Since taking delivery of her motorhome in March this year, the subject of toilets - or rather the emptying of - has become very dear to Gillian Comfort's heart. Now she finds herself pondering on the way to a new venue what joys await – or indeed don’t!

During my very brief spell as a Girl Guide (hated it) some 40 years ago, being on ‘Latrine duty’ meant digging holes in the ground, erecting tents around said holes then filling them in when the camp was over. It was horrible. So, with the invention of our supa-dupa Thetford cassette toilets, things must only be better... or are they?!

Well, that depends on where you go. Those of squeamish disposition or eating a meal stop here.

 Cassette emptying facilities seem to fall into one of two main categories:-

Holes in the ground that go straight into a drain
These sometimes have a tap alongside to rinse out the cassette (Top Barn springs to mind) and are either open, have man-hole covers to remove (Newbury and Huntingdon Racecourse) and in the case of the showground at Peterborough an interesting addition of an inverted traffic cone to make sure the contents go in the intended direction. The size of the drain cover at Huntingdon was so vast that there was a real danger of the toilet cassette and/or its owner vanishing down there too!

Now here the real problems arise! Top of the list comes Aylesbury with their fab low level tanks, each having several apertures which are easily accessed. The latrine attendants dream. Then we have the large tanks with steps leading up to them where one can balance precariously whilst lifting the cassette to shoulder height to empty.

Finally, the real nightmare, the bete noir of elsan points... Unless you are 6ft tall with big muscles, there are those high tanks with small openings and no means of raising yourself off the ground. Trying to swing a toilet cassette to shoulder height, aim and deposit the contents with 100% accuracy is a terrifying experience and one that almost tempts you to forget the facilities of your own van but head for the portaloos. The fact that previous users have had similar problems is evident from the blue liquid 'matter' that invariably engulfs the top. Yuuuuuck.

Actualy finding said elsan points is, to say the least, challenging. Furtive whisperings spread the word. One has even been known to make a beeline for someone cheerfully swinging their empty cassette - you can’t swing them when full - to find out where they have been. Sometimes their whereabouts are even unknown in the Secretary's tent. It was evident at the Kennel Club Festival that the term ‘elsan’ is not used throughout Europe.

So, show organisers – please when booking your toilet emptying facilities, if you have a choice, do try and find something user friendly. Please also make sure that they are well marked and the location showed on the maps.

Meanwhile – my box of disposable latex gloves are in the van reserved specifically for what awaits at our next outing.

About the author...
Gillian Comfort started agility four years ago with her Border Terrier Robbie. She competes regularly together with her son George and his dog Phil. Their puppy, Thistle, will be making her debut next year. They train with UpAndover Agility near Andover.

First published 14 September 2007


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