Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Taking The Piss

For American readers, "Taking The Piss" = taking advantage of in a very unfair way, pulling a scam, abusing one's position. Also means "making fun of" in a different context.

Now that is just taking the piss (Image source)

You have heard all the stories about a looming water shortage. Does it not seem strange that in a summer so far not particularly memorable for its endless days of brilliant blue skies and scorching sunshine we are warned that a serious water shortage is imminent. What has really caught the attention of Headbutt Blog's relentless hunter of cant and hypocrisy Ed. Butt is the call by the Mayor of London to refrain from flushing each time you pee.

There is an old maxim in low rainfall nations like Australia, "if its yellow its mellow, if its brown flush it down," although having spent a lot of time in London I know this should be revised for Londoners; "if its yellow its mellow, if its brown and tastes of shit its probably drinking water." Yep, the product of London Water is perhaps not of the best quality to start with. Another old joke relating to the recycling of water in the British capital it that London Water Company takes quality control very seriously, in fact all the water Londoners drink has been passed by qualified chemists.

Flushing is not environmentally friendly The Mayor tells us, perhaps he should explain what is environmentally friendly about letting millions of gallons of water leak away through fractures in the hundred and fifty year old pipes.

Pee is environmentally friendly anyhow, lots of gardeners collect theirs and put it on the compost. I suppose it gives the marigolds an especially bright hue. A hundred and fifty years ago (around the time the water mains were being laid) the urine of pregnant women was highly prized for its use in something I would probably rather not think about. Urine is a very underrated commodity.

As well as its role in ayurvedic medicine (which again I would rather not think about) it was for centuries used in tanning and in the dyeing of cloth. Our revulsion at stuff that comes out of the body is therefore modern and bourgeois. The cried of "yeuch, disgusting" that greeted Livingstone's suggestion are entirely the product of modern urban prissiness. Country folk are not victims of such delicate sensibilities, I speak as a country lad who once failed a school spelling test because the crucial word was "auspices".

What should outrage us is that a senior public official is blame shifting again. Livingstone is saying "there is a water shortage because you irresponsible, binge - drinking bastards are pissing too often, so you can suffer." Actually the problems exist because of mismanagement in the privatised utility companies. For every pound they spend on giving you a good service to your premises they spend ten on employing people in Mumbai to harass you with a million unsolicited marketing calls a day.

And that really is taking the piss.


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