|The entries are all in, the judges have deliberated, the recounts have been demanded, the barrel’s been scraped, and the results of TV Cream’s Closet Reading competition have been decided. (What’s Closet Reading, you say? Over here, chum!) So, who’s won a copy of the newest Cream Lit volume (plus random ‘friend’)? Who précised their favourite toilet books with sufficient pithiness and aplomb? That’ll be this lot, then:
Entrants were nothing if not considerate of the vast panoply of toilet literature out there. Dominic Small, for instance, won’t be tied down to one particular title, but gives a good account of an entire cottage industry, nay genre in its own right. “It’s not easy to choose a favourite,” he confesses, “though given a free pick I’d say Private Eye‘s range of goofs and bloopers titles sting the flag, from the Book of Boobs back in the day to Colemanballs and the more recent Dumb Britain and Mediaballs, proving that laughing at others’ faults isn’t always a bad idea! Sure, some of their calls can be a bit pedantic (witness Colemanballs‘ literally recent Lynne Trussian literal obsession with the literally overused word ‘literally’) but any tome which can reprint a telegram to the Beatles which somehow conspired to include the words ‘Sod Manila’ is worth a few minutes of my time.”
So, it’s a copy of Closet Reading winging its way off to Mr Small, and accompanying it in its singularly crowded Jiffy… ah. The random wheel of whimsy has stopped bang over Moreover, Too…, a selection of the Times columns of Miles Kington in his sideways-looking mid-1908s pomp. Expect lots of gags about pound coins, airport luggage trolleys and coypus in the Norfolk countryside. Not sure if this is the ideal book for a fan of PE or complete anathema. Anyway, there it is, sent. Next!
From adult toilet literature to pure childhood nostalgia, as Dan McMahon brings the inevitable bulk of Gyles Brandreth’s oeuvre into view. “My folks have always been in the habit of leaving an esoteric selection of books on child-accessible shelves, so my early reading included books about Letraset, Tommy Cooper, organic chemistry, Spike Milligan’s war memoirs and a Not the Nine O’Clock News diary which was pretty much my introduction to satire. But the all-time bathroom reading winner, for me, is Gyles Brandreth’s 1,000 Secrets: The Greatest Book of Spycraft Ever Known. I was going through a phase of wanting to be a secret agent when I grew up, and found this book at a school fair for 10p. I think in terms of play-value for money, it actually surpassed Optimus Prime. 1,000 Secrets was rammed with tips on how to shadow your mark unseen, how to disguise yourself in case you were seen, loads and loads of codes and ciphers and even – yes! – interrogation tips for the thoughtful child (“If you want to get information from a captured agent then get a member of your spy ring to act as a priest or member of the clergy, to whom the agent can talk in ‘confidence’.”) My parents didn’t actually have books in the loo, but there was a bookcase on the landing so the intent was pretty clear to me. It was with some pride I shelved 1,000 Secrets out there, instead of in my room.”
Such pride! And for valiant services to Brandreth, Dan gets a copy of Closet Reading plus… spin spin spin… hooray! It’s Kill the Chocolate Biscuit, Esther Rantzen and hubby Desmond Wilcox’s joint lid-lifting venture into the hilarious backstage antics of consumer programming! That’s er, sure to be good.
Jason Carter, in a disarming bout of honesty, admitted to living in Sweden before the entries were all in, thus potentially jeopardising his chances in the event of tightness and corruption amongst the TVC judging panel. Happily, we had to give him a prize, for this timeless evocation of that often experienced embarrassment, being caught by your mum with a ‘rudie’ toilet book, in this case Bachelor Boys: The Young Ones Book. “Clutching my hard earned book token (earned of course by way of celebrating my 9th birthday) I cycled furiously into WH Smiths in town and bought my very own copy of this anarchic delight. The toilet was the ideal home for this tome, and it was leaving it in the toilet that was my downfall: there, my mother found the book, thumbed through it and frogmarched both me and book to a dustbin on the Other Side Of The Main Road (and as such very much out of bounds, so there would be no hope of me retrieving it) and made me throw it away. There was no room for this filth under her roof, apparently, and in any case I was too young….”
Ah, we can sympathise with that predicament, believe us. Bits of Closet Reading do, admittedly, get a trifle blue (usually towards the beginning, oddly enough), so be careful in there. If it gets a little too bawdy, Jason can always take the edge off it with.. yes, The Day Job, Terry Wogan’s second volume of massed codswallop from his breakfast radio show (1981 edition, so it’s TWITS rather than TOGS).
Changing the mood, Michael Galvin goes all topical on our collective arse. “Since we’re in the middle of a recession,” he begins, in grand ‘sideways look’ columnar tradition, “I’ve trained myself to only go number 2 at work to save on toilet paper, so I haven’t got much time for reading in the smallest room in the house. But every now and then, if I’m on holiday or if the work cubicle happened to be in use every time I went in, I get caught short. Because I’m normally in a rush to find something readable, I’m limited to whatever’s on the bookcase just inside my bedroom door. To my eternal shame, the one book I seem to consistently pick up is Victoria Wood’s Barmy which I liberated from my mother’s collection some years ago. It works great as it’s just sketches from the show, each only 2 or 3 pages long and all of which I’ve seen numerous times so have no trouble visualising the chubby lesbian-coiffured funster doing her thing. I read it primarily for the Acorn Antiques scripts contained therein, but for some reason after about 10 minutes of reading little nuggets like “What was it, muesli? What, was it muesli?”, I always end up putting it aside and singing that one and only verse of “Let’s Do It” that everybody knows. And that’s how a lot of my water closet visitations end these days with me doing a peculiar impression of Ms Woods doing a rousing rendition of a sad tale of unrequited lust; “not bleakly, not meekly, beat me on the bottom with a Woman’s Weekly.” My wife thinks I should see a professional. Or get a different book.”
Well Michael, now you’ve got two! The other one being… Sassenach’s Scotland, a corker of a tour guide cash-in written and illustrated by Willie Rushton, and sponsored by 100 Pipers (‘the deluxe scotch whisky). Yep, we’re that cheap – this is a book entirely sponsored by a drinks company. It’s not even got an ISBN number! ‘Copyright the House of Seagram’, indeed! Still – Willie Rushton!
And from jokes you’re too unsophisticated to get, we go to – oh. Sorry about this Adrian, but our random wheel of whimsy has alighted, in no uncertain terms, smack over Isaac Asimov’s Lecherous Limericks. Yes, you read that right, and you’ll be wishing you weren’t reading the rest, when you get it. The premise: the father of science fiction pens 100 limericks, some – cover your ears, Marjorie – very blue indeed. Then, on the facing page, he methodically, scholastically and – we feel the word is for once not misused – joylessly deconstructs every last stanza and half-rhyme out of each one. It’s dirty poetry with copious footnotes.
So there we have it. If you won, well done, and, er, those books will be with you as soon as industrial relations allow. If you lost, commiserations, but (you knew it was coming) you can still get hold of The Complete Christmas Gift by CLICKING HERE. You know you want to.