All the stuff you never knew you needed to know about life in rural France.....and all the stuff the books and magazines won't tell you.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Oui, Oui, Monsieur

Defense d'urinerImage via Wikipedia
In a week which has revealed the French elite pissing all over the French people, I began to wonder what had happened to the great invention of Paris municipal architect, Etienne Vanderpooten, who in 2005 unveiled the French capital's answer to those (men) who urinate in public places.

It was a wall that peed back.

His theory was that a jet of pee is launched at an if it meets an sloping surface it is fired back at the launch pad, dampening the trousers.

So the Paris municipality tried it out in the 10th arrondissement, where there were supposedly the highest number of offenders. 
How they came to make this rating I have no idea. 
Municipal agents noting incidents in pocket books? 
Justine Putet peering from behind her curtains?
A coefficient?

Did it work?

Well, in 2009 Monsieur Vanderpooten noted that people (men) who used to use the area where the wall had been installed were now pointing Percy elsewhere.

Somewhere where the wall did not fight back.

Paris has built no more such walls, and, as far as I am aware, no other town council tried them out either.

But French walls need protection.

Here in San Jose, in the areas where homeless men sleep in cardboard boxes on the pavements, there is a reek of stale urine that has impregnated the walls and pavements despite the best efforts of shopkeepers and street cleaners to hose things down, and the smell always reminds me of my early trips to France, when you could smell Calais before the ferry docked and park walls stank. 
If you wanted to eat your picnic without losing your appetite you sat well into the centre.

I could understand if women were driven to use outdoor facilities....considering the indoor ones on offer where you have to cope with a light which goes out half way through the performance leaving you balanced above a hole in the ground clutching your handbag in case the violent flush carries it away under the door.

No wonder there is so much emphasis on gymnastics in French schools - and on the availability of laxatives in French do not need to add constipation to the list of hazards above.

However, French men seem to regard urinating in a public place not to be the resort of the terminally sozzled, unable to distinguish between a street sign and somebody's letterbox, but as a sort of inalienable male right, despite the growing availability of free loos.
There's even a dog loo round the back of the cathedral at Chartres.

And they're quite bold, these men.

I remember years ago in Caen seeing a butcher's shop with a sign on the wall under the display window which proclaimed

'Defense d'uriner'.  No peeing.

Who would take a risk of peeing there, in close proximity to an outraged butcher with handy access to meat cleavers?
Clearly enough to make the purchase of the sign worthwhile.

And it's not only in towns.
Holidaying in France, years ago, I had decided to eat my picnic in one of those vast laybys formed when a new road cut off a vast swathe of the old, winding one.
I was alone.
I perched on the bonnet and was happily eating my sandwiches when another car appeared.
A car with a French numberplate.

I cursed, knowing that the French, always wary in case another unexpected German invasion should burst through the Maginot line and be upon them before they could leg it for safety, like to laager up in car parks, and this was no exception.

With unlimited space available, it pulled up just in front of me, manoevring fussily so that I would have to reverse in order to drive on when I'd finished my picnic.

The driver got out, said
'Bonjour, Madame'
and proceeded to open his flies and have a pee.

It certainly did nothing for my cheese sandwich.

However with the 'phlegm' for which we Britanniques are famous in France I finished eating and reached for the thermos flask of coffee.

It would take more than a flash of something 'shocking' to disturb me.....

And, what's more, I'd seen more impressive specimens  in saucers of vinegar on shellfish stalls.  

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  1. Its exactly the same in my local town, and there's no excuse for it - there are bars every two doors, and they all have toilets and hardly any of them object to non-customers using them. Certain corners almost knock you over with the smell.

    Mind you, since having the dog, who pees every two steps of the way on a walk around the town, I feel I have less right to get on my high horse about it...

  2. Pueblo girl, it was one of the things I didn't miss, I can tell you.

    Perhaps the dog is just following in the tracks of the dirty dogs who were there before him.

  3. I guess incidents of "shy bladder" are pretty much unheard of in France, then?

  4. Well that one made me snort on my curry here. Bits of basmati lodged in the cracks of my keyboard now. Thanks Fly.

    “And, what's more, I'd seen more impressive specimens in saucers of vinegar on shellfish stalls” LOL’s. At least he had the decency to say “Hi” first. Laugh.

    First time I ever encountered one of those public pissoirs with a small black hole in the floor became a horrible disaster which has haunted me ever since. The ceramic tiled floor was very slippery…as were the souls of my shoes. The word ‘merde’ just doesn’t do the occasion justice. Not by a long and precipitous descent.

  5. Steve, they could refloat a stranded supertanker given ten minutes....

    Phil, that tale of the black hole took me back immediately to the delights of France....oh merde!

  6. cheshire wife, I don't think French men do shame...

  7. Fly, I never got this peeing in the street thing when we lived in France. I saw more men's willies in an average week than in 10 years of the Dieux du Stade calendars. Most not really worth a look sadly. Why do French men want to share sight of their stream of steaming urine with the rest of us?

  8. They do it in car park stair wells too. I wondered if it was part of the maire's policy of discouraging people from using their cars and using the trams instead...

  9. Wylie Girl, probably some deep seated personality disorder....

    Sarah, yes! And when this happens in blocks of flats we are supposed to regard the perpetrators with horror,as uncivilised louts, but when it's respectable Monsieur Chose it's part of the national culture.

  10. I hate that smell...stale pee. Something that is noticeable in the UK in lifts, stairwells and car parks. Its something I have never actually experienced here in Turkey. Maybe the men pee in open spaces...or maybe they're shy!

  11. My little boy would like it in France - since he's been walking he drops his pants for a wee at almost any opportunity. But then he's only just six.

    Interesting though how quickly they pick up etiquette; he's just started being a bit shy and by another year he'll probably be doing that "I'll just hold on' thing , and we'll have an accident or two.

  12. Ayak, yes it's horrible and what I don't understand is why people are so anti social as to do it.

    Mark, funny how it takes little boys, isn't it.
    What signals as to etiquette do you think he picks up?

  13. Forget Venus and Mars. I'm suspecting men and women are from different Galaxies. I smiled, then grinned, then laughed out loud. Your sense of humor is perfect for me! The Story was good, too. :)

  14. Snarf! Wine in the keyboard this time. And what's with the peeing in the garden rather than asking to use your bathroom? Beyond me, really it is....

  15. Salut Fly! This made me laugh because yesterday as I was taking the bus back to Aix from the airport, we passed a guy on the freeway sharing his urgency with all the rush hour traffic. It caused quite a stir with the tourists sitting next to me. I didn't even look I actually getting used to this?

  16. A winkle by any other name .......

  17. pacificmelody...I often wondered about one of those little guns that fire a suction pad....

    Perpetua, my apologies to your keyboard.

    Delana, you've gone native. certainly wasn't a whelk.