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Plumbing by Platypus


I had vowed not to write any longer about the subject of having a pee in a glider, but I will make an exception, since it may help to prove, while I'm on this topic of varying cultures, that the further people are from London the more interesting (= weird) they get. At the BGA conference in Harrogate I was told this true story by a member of a famous northern club. He wanted to overcome the classic problem of pushing water uphill, and he had the bright idea of pulling it uphill instead. So he built a device consisting of an assortment of plastic tubes with latex on the end, a car windscreen- washer pump, and a 12 volt battery to extract the fluid by brute force. "How did it work in flight?", I asked. “Well, it never quite got to that stage”, he said.


He decided to test it out while lying on his back on the bathroom floor. His first mistake was to switch the thing on. When he did this he found it gave a violent and most disagreeable suck (I forgot to ask whether six volts would have given a more agreeable suck) which left painful marks. His second mistake was to have left the bathroom door open, so that when his wife-who as a gliding wife is more or less permanently braced for the unexpected-heard the strange noises coming from this Heath Robinson machine, shortly followed by even stranger noises coming from him, she dashed into the bathroom. There is no record of their subsequent conversation, which I leave to your imagination.


To us in the great soaring movement that narrative is absolutely credible. But I was wondering what the man in the street would have made of it all if he had read about it in the News of the World, which would certainly have reported the story if our inventive friend had used 24 volts and had required the immediate aid of the ambulance or police, or even the fire brigade. Knowing what Fleet Street journalists are like when they get their teeth into a bit of scandal, I simply shudder to think. As a subplot for a bawdy novel I give this idea free (which is very generous of me, since the story wasn't mine in the first place) to Tom Sharpe, who could no doubt work it up into a masterpiece of bad taste.

Platypus (alias Mike Bird) wrote regularly in S&G for 50 years. I always found his style of writing most amusing. This extract from 1987 is far from dated.