Now wash your hands

An exploding stool

I know that matters lavatorial have become something of a recurring theme in this narrative, and for that I apologise, but pay attention dear readers. The following information might just save your life one day.

I have a theory that people can be more-or-less evenly divided into two camps. Those who take an interest in the contents of the toiled-bowl after a visit to the smallest room in the house, and those reckless hedonists who just flush and be dammed. Incidentally, this first group – in which I include myself – are those same folk who are inexplicably compelled to study the inside of their handkerchief after blowing their nose. I really don’t know what we are hoping to discover. In fifty years of dedicated nose-picking and hanky-gazing I don’t ever recall being surprised or shocked. The occasional nose-bleed not withstanding, snot is by-and-large consistently unremarkable to the point of tedium, not to say pointless.

The same however cant be claimed for the other stuff. Oh no. Every morning is an adventure! An endless cavalcade of fecal fun and games. A constantly evolving palate of subtly changing hues and textures presented for our daily consideration and appreciation. There are the floaters, the sinkers, the squirters and the stinkers. The occasional, unaccountable, mystery piece of sweetcorn that you just know you haven’t eaten. Yes, you can certainly learn an awful lot about your inner machinations by a quick post-poop-peep.

In a school biology textbook in 1974, I saw a picture of a tapeworm. It had a long, pale, segmented ribbon of a body, and a sinister spherical head like a miniature diving helmet. The picture was accompanied by a gruesome account of a poor woman in Africa who, after being hospitalized after months of mysterious sickness, weight-loss and fatigue, had a six-foot tapeworm removed from her intestines.
For some reason this made a very big impression on me. The notion of another living thing, hiding, feeding and growing inside a person, was both terrifying and fascinating and became something of an obsession. Many years later, working as an Art Director in London, a photographer friend of mine having returned from a trip to the Himalayas, confided in me that he had indeed found a tapeworm in the toilet and was being treated for that dreaded internal parasites.

After that, I paid even closer attention than usual to my morning’s business. And sure enough, one day some years later, my worst nightmare finally came to pass, so to speak. There in the porcelain, amongst my otherwise unremarkable droppings was a flat-worm about five inches long. Translucent and ivory colored, it coiled lazily in the shallow water and peered back at me with it’s one eye. My legs turned weak as I hung onto the flush-handle. “HOLY CRAP!”

A hastily improvised and entirely unhygienic bathroom sink autopsy of Platyhelminthes Cestoda a few moments later revealed – to my enormous and lasting relief – that the unwelcome intruder was in fact nothing more sinister than a length of partially digested tagliatelle. A false alarm thank the Bottom Gods. BUT, one false positive doesn’t undermine my argument. It pays to keep a keen eye on what’s going on down there.

So here, dear readers, without further ado or digression, is my hot tip for a long and happy life…

If your shit ever turns black, get yourself along to the doctors. Pronto.

This, in retrospect, was my big blunder. Or at least one of them. It’s not as if this phenomenon had slipped passed my routine morning inspection unnoticed. It had happened several times over a few weeks, and I’d certainly been intrigued, if not overly concerned. “Something to keep an eye on” I’d say to myself. But then it would clear up after a few days and I’d forget all about it. We’ve always eaten pretty healthily in the Redding household, but at one point I remember mentioning to Jo that perhaps I should try and eat a few more vegetables, thinking it was just to much red meat and not enough… you know… green stuff.

It’s easy to be smart after the event of course, but the penny didn’t finally drop until I was lying on a gurney in the triage department of the city hospital shortly after the now infamous Brittomart Incident.

One of the several doctors who drifted in and out over that evening inquired after my motions.

“How are your Stools?”
“My what?”
“Your number twos”
“Er, dark?

“You mean black?”
“I guess”
“Really black, and foul smelling?”
“Of course foul smelling. It’s shit isn’t it?”
“Actually no. It’s blood. Congealed blood.”
“Come again?”

HOLY CRAP! For weeks I’ve been quietly manufacturing my own personal brand of black pudding! Now, I doubt there is much of a demand for rectally extruded small-goods, and I imagine the food health and hygiene department would take a dim view, but this was high grade stuff, no artificial ingredients or bulk filler here. Suddenly, it all made sense. If I’ve been flushing away half a pint of blood every time I go to the reading room, no wonder I’ve been feeling tired and washed out and struggling to get out of bed in the mornings. What a monumentally dumb shit I’ve been.

So there you have it people. That’s my public health message for the day.

Don’t be in a rush to flush.

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  1. Ian and Celia Smedley says:


    The prospect of black oudding as a breakfast ingredient has suddenly become very low on my list!


    • Linds says:

      Delighted to find you are following along with the fun and games. Thanks for playing!
      Now I have your email address I’ll be in touch. Linds x

  2. Jenny Le P says:

    A one word (well, OK, two) caveat concerning false positives:

    beetroot consumption

  3. Tricia Hollingum says:

    Oh I always spin around and take a peek before flushing away…. there is actually a chart for stool types in their various shapes and guises. Hence the number 2 phrase I think which is the ideal texture, bobbing quality and shape!!!
    Have often wondered where the sweetcorn came from too! xx

  4. little jo says:

    Hi Lindsy , Jo and Becca, just thought we’d say hi, typing could take a while on mobile ,but try to send a message of courage and many hugs. Sorry,family have to do hug thing. Have been reading journal and think you have amazing strength, (more than me with broken ankle last year) Hope tests bring something hopefull, keep in touch, big hugs Jo, Dave and mob xxx

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