OPINION: When in Rome ... finding a loo is a wee problem
HERE'S a wee story for you. It actually does involve wee, so if you're not comfortable, read no further.
Unlike our considerate country, many countries (most) around the world don't believe in public toilets.
At the Colosseum in Rome recently (says she flippantly as though it was just around the corner) there were several thousand tourists milling about and posing with the fake Roman centurions. So naturally you'd think there would be a facility nearby, surely? No.
Despite this place being one of the world's busiest tourist attractions, there was only one pop-up cafe on the pavement nearby and of course, that had no facilities.
So after an uncomfortable half-an-hour of needing the loo and trying to love the Colosseum despite the heavy stone feeling in the belly, I asked one of the centurions if there was any hope of a nearby public toilet.
"Around the back," he replied and I almost fell on him with gratitude.
After a long and uncomfortable walk around the magnificent and ancient building I finally saw a loo sign and raced to it, only to find it shut with a tatty notice on the door, difficult to read in Italian, but obviously telling people to pee off. (If only.)
By now the need was calamitous.
"Into the bushes," my husband ordered, which is OK for a bloke to say, but for a woman with a shy bladder even in her own home and now surrounded by thousands of people?... I don't think so.
"There will be a toilet at the Metro station, let's go," I replied and hobbled my way crossed-legged to the station.
Through the turnstile, down the stairs with hundreds of others, excruciating bladder pain, but oh bliss, oh joy, there was the toilet sign, right on the side of the steps.
Joy instantly turned to horror when the toilet door revealed itself to be a formidable thick steel contraption with no visible handle or button. A steel electronic coffin.
"Not going in there, I'll never get out, trapped forever, I'd rather die of a burst bladder," I squeaked to the husband, whereupon he hit the door with his flat hand and it slid open at lightning speed.
There perched daintily on the seat with panties around knees going about this most private bit of business, was a young Japanese woman.
She screamed, we screamed, her friend (who should have been guarding the door) screamed, and several hundred tourists passing by screamed.
We did the only polite thing possible. Ran away.
On to the train we squished with hundreds of sweaty people pushing bags into my throbbing belly to travel for three crowded and agonising stops.
We finally arrived at the Spanish Steps.
There beside this, perhaps the second most popular attraction in Rome, was a quaint English tea house. I know, a tea house in Rome? ... but it was English and therefore well-bred and would surely have a nice loo with a proper door and a handle and a lock.
The name of the teashop is Babington's English Tea Rooms, so if you happen to find yourself in Rome and in urgent need as I was, pay them a visit, have a cream cake and tell them I sent you.