The Most Humble of Commodities

Photo: © RC Morgan

Yes, what is it about loo rolls in what the BBC describes as “these unusual times?” 

Diarrhoea isn’t one of the symptoms. 

Brigitte suggests it may be for wiping off surfaces as it’s cheaper than kitchen roll, but loo paper has a tendency to disintegrate so it wouldn’t be the best choice.

Still, this is definitely the moment to go into details about this most humble of commodities.

My mother has two toilets in her flat and at any one time there are approximately twenty rolls of toilet paper in each toilet.  She lives alone. (I’m talking about normal times. I don’t know what the situation is at the moment.)

Seems like overkill and B and I have laughed about this on more than one occasion.

However, I am of the opinion that good toilet paper appreciably augments the quality of life. 

But so little of it is good. 

I once discovered an excellent toilet paper in – wait for it – Rome, Italy, which is sold in very large rolls indeed.  Back in Switzerland, I expressed my desire to the manufacturer of obtaining some, but I never got a reply to my request. 

I also used some excellent toilet paper once on a camping site in France, but there was no indication on it which would have enabled me to order.

And then about four years ago, we went to a village called Mürren up in the mountains here in Switzerland for a few days and the hotel toilet paper was pretty good.  So when I got back home, and was disgusted with the latest purchase of “high quality” paper from the local supermarket, I finally rang up the hotel and asked them where they got their toilet paper and they were kind enough to tell me. 

Only slight drawback – industrial supplier so minimum order 280 rolls.  But I went ahead and ordered them sometime in June 2016, put the two cases delivered by lorry in the garage and have been as happy as a sandpiper (or is it sandboy?) for these last several years.

However, it does rather put the forty rolls at my mother’s flat into perspective….

We still have some fifty-six of the order left.  We changed the roll on Sunday morning and we have just changed it this morning (Friday.)  So one roll last five days.  This means that as we still have 56 rolls left from our order in 2016, we have enough for 280 days. 

No reason to panic then.

There are only two of us, of course, so a family would need more.  But panic buying them in bulk doesn’t really make sense.

Unless, of course, one has been searching for a really good toilet paper and finally found it….


And there are other ways of cleaning one’s rear.

The Romans used small sponges which they dipped in running water. The sponges were communal which might have made it a less hygienic solution.

In the middle ages, they used rounded stones. Haven’t tried that. Don’t know how satisfactory it is. I imagine they washed them and re-used them as well. Communal stones?

The British cut up newpapers and used that during World War Two. My mother experienced that and survived to tell the tale. I smile, imagine being able to read the headlines on people’s butts, British newspaper print being notoriously shedding.

And I’m sure that now we’re in the 21st century with all our wonderful technology, we ought to be capable of coming up with a few more ingenious ideas if the world runs out of loo paper….

May your life never become an endurance test even with coronavirus about!



P.S. I have just read somewhere that the average person uses 200 rolls of toilet paper per year.

Can this be true? The mind bog(gle)s.

If our consumption is one roll every five days, that adds up to 73 rolls in a year between two of us, or 36.5 each.

What are people doing with the other 160 odd rolls?