……makes a great deal of sense.

We don’t talk about it often enough.


Who's watching YOU 'powder your nose' ? @ John MacPherson
Who’s watching YOU ‘powder your nose’ ? @ John MacPherson


I was doing some photography work for an environmental client in remote area of Scotland at the end of a long arduous single-track road. It was a glorious fjord-like inlet from the sea, but more than a dozen miles from the actual ocean. It could have been a scene from Lord of The Rings, mountains looming all around, still traces of snow in the deeper gullies high up. And no sign of any human presence, other than a single VW campervan parked a short distance away whose inhabitants, a young couple and a small child,  had just risen and were preparing for a walk with their large frisky dog.

Well I thought there were no signs of human presence until I walked to the lochside where lay a huge amount of disgusting detritus left by some vandalcampers. Discarded beer cans, empty food tins, plastic bags, whisky bottles both whole and broken, and all manner of bits of old clothing and scrap. And all this right on the water’s edge in an otherwise idyllic spot.

I walked through it, astonished that people would make the effort to come this far to such an amazing spot, carry all this stuff, then simply discard it. The mess was everywhere. Then I spotted something odd, so went closer to investigate…..it looked like some huge mound of discarded peanut butter sandwiches…….white bread……covered in spread….then the godawful smell hit me. Caught short with no toilet paper, and confident that no-one was around to watch or complain, one of the inebriated campers, whose stomach had obviously rebelled against their poor hygiene, had crapped a monstrous pile on the shore and used a white loaf as toilet paper, discarding it right beside their camp.

I backed off as the flies rose in a cloud and started to home in on me. No thanks……

I quickly walked on away from the bread, swatting the flies, and following the trail of rubbish towards the water. Then out of the corner of my eye spotted campervan couple and child, with their dog….off the leash and ‘exploring’ the obviously whiffy aromas. I could see where the dog’s nose was leading it……I yelled as loudly as I could and waved furiously at the couple to grab their exuberant hound and running towards it waving my arms in the vain hope of intercepting it…..but too late. Confronted with what appeared to be a large pile of sandwiches the dog demolished the lot, greedily grabbing and swallowing every scrap then licking its lips in delight and rolling on the ground………..

The couple were obviously perplexed by my behaviour so I had to tell them what had just happened for safety’s sake. It would be fair to say I ruined their morning.

You might laugh at this. Or you might not. It’s a serious issue when it happens in our so-called ‘developed’ country, but it’s a global problem, and a matter of life or death for many people. And two young girls in India died recently doing what we take for granted: going to the toilet. In many developing countries access to toilet facilities is impossible, it’s not just an ‘inconvenience’ but actually places young women at risk of violence, and whole populations at risk of infections.

Writing in the Guardian Development blog on 1st June, Barbara Frost, Winnie Byanyima, Corinne Woods and Nick Alipui, report “Two girls died looking for a toilet. This should make us angry, not embarrassed”.

“Two teenage girls have been gang-raped and killed after doing what half a billion women and girls are forced to do every day – go outdoors to try to find somewhere discreet to go to the toilet.

A toilet, bathroom, powder room – whatever you want to call it – at home, at school, at work, in the shopping mall, is something many of us take for granted and cannot talk about without feeling embarrassed. But we must: because the lack of toilets is costing women their lives.

Today, 2.5 billion people live without access to a toilet, forcing women to walk to dark and dangerous places to find the privacy they need – those same dark and dangerous places where men wait to attack them.

So we must stop blushing when we talk about open defecation because it is not something to be embarrassed about: it is something to be angry about.”

But many people do think about this, and are trying to effect change. Here’s just one:

And you could be another.

Truth is, some people are literally dying for a crap…..something to consider the next time you’re imitating ‘The Thinker’……?




John MacPherson was born and lives in the Scottish Highlands. He trained as a welder in the Glasgow shipyards, before completing an apprenticeship as a carpenter, and then qualified as a Social Worker in Disability Services. Along the way he has cooked on canal barges, trained as an Alpine Ski Leader & worked as an Instructor for Skiers with disabilities, been a canoe instructor, and tutor of night classes in carpentry, stained glass design and manufacture, and archery. He has travelled extensively on various continents, undertaking solo trips by bicycle, or motorcycle. He has had narrow escapes from an ambush by terrorists, been hit by lightning, caught in an erupting volcano, trapped in a mobile home by a tornado, kidnapped by a dog's hairdresser, rammed by a basking shark and was once bitten by a wild otter. He has combined all this with professional photography, which he has practised for over 35 years. He teaches photography and acts as a photography guide & tutor in the UK and abroad. His biggest challenge is keeping his 27 year old Land Rover 110 on the road. He loves telling and hearing stories.

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