The Outside Netty (1957)

Now and again you would wake up through the night and want a ‘jimmy riddle’.

When we lived in Appleby Street in the good old days you had no such thing as inside loos or central heating. At the back end of the year, like November, it used to be that cold the bedroom windows had ice on the INSIDE as well as the outside, but we just took it in our stride as normal. Now and again you would wake up through the night and want a ‘jimmy riddle’, so out of bed you would jump, race to the backdoor then down the yard, trying not to slip on the fresh snow and ice and jump into the loo.

God, it used to be freezing and more times than enough pipes and bowl were frozen solid. Often dad or the neighbour would build a little fire in the loo to unfreeze everything. Hanging up in a corner was a candle so if you wanted a number two you would take a couple of matches with you and light it up. Now daft as it sounds, when it was lit and you watched the candle flickering away, you felt warm while you were sitting there. Once finished you blew it out or else.

Now as the outside loo was shared with your neighbours the bottom of the door had a six inch square cut out. The idea was, if an adult was on the throne, they would stick the end of their left foot out the hole so everyone knew it was engaged. The bolt we had was just a piece of stick which we kids would hold tight keeping the door shut. The other way was to either sit there and sing or whistle as our legs were too short to stick a foot out.

We were lucky because there were only two families that had to use our loo, but next door there used to be four. That was two upstairs flats and two downstairs flats leading into one backyard, so sometimes it was a bit comical when you heard them shouting at each other.

When it came to loo paper, on a Sunday night it was the job of one of the kids to cut the old newspapers into squares of about six inches and thread these onto a piece of string to be hung in the loo for use the following week. Now if I remember right, one of the bread shops used to wrap their scones and cakes in tissue paper and if you were lucky enough to get some of that for bum paper, by it was like heaven sent from the angels. A couple of our neighbours were what I would call posh because their loos were whitewashed inside and had a piece of carpet on the floor along with a proper bolt on the door.

Those times were rough, but that was all you knew so you never batted an eyelid.

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