Pissoirs- Coming to a City Near You.

In 2007  the Farmer and I were in Amsterdam to attend  the wedding of our friends’ daughter. We had one day before the wedding to do some sight-seeing.  We visited the Rijksmuseum, home to Dutch paintings of 15th and 16th century. The most famous of which is ‘The Night Watch’ by Rembrandt.

Half an hour of looking at paintings of the burghers of Amsterdam and their wives and children was more than enough for me. The Amsterdam weather in June was grey and damp and I was wishing we had chosen the Van Gogh Museum and the sunny scenes of

Provence seen  through Vincent’s eyes  rather than the huge, dark paintings of the Rijksmuseum.

We strolled over the Magere Bridge and across the Amstel River, named after the famous Dutch beer, no doubt. That’s the beer that attracts stag parties on cheap flights for boozy weekends from all over Europe the beer’s so good. But it was a week day and all was quiet. We found a table in a cafe and were admiring the view of the old church when I noticed several plastic structures on the street. They were much too boring to be sculptures. Turns out they were urinals, pissoirs. The Amsterdamers must have loved having the stag parties tourist dollar but were fed up of having their streets and doorways used as toilets so the council placed portable pissoirs in heavy Amstel-usage areas. It seems as though people (you know who I mean and it’s not the girls) have no qualms about peeing in public.

I haven’t thought about pissoirs for years (well you don’t, do you ?)but yesterday I read an article in ‘The Sydney Morning Herald’  stating that the City of Sydney Council had conducted the trial use of 4 open-air urinals on Friday and Saturday nights in the city centre. The trial ran for 4 weeks and the results were gratifying. Every drop of urine was measured and noted. The council estimated that approximately 550 people had used the urinals and 1600 litres of urine was produced. Now it’s all very well for the council to put out a report like this but who was the poor guy who did the measuring and just what is his job description?


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