|Image: Wikimedia Commons|
OK, own up: who's got a bidet? What do you think of them and do you use them? And who, among the Brits, does not have a friend who thinks these contraptions are for washing your feet?
Italians, of course, love their bidets and 97% of households have them. Portugal and France are second and third in the European bidet-ownership table.
Much indignation, therefore, was expressed yesterday when it was reported that Italy had received a €50,000 fine from the EU for not obeying a directive to remove bidets from public and private premises because the installations waste both water and space.
I remember a student of mine being horrified, a few years ago, when I told her that the British do not have bidets installed in their bathrooms as a matter of course. "How", she cried, "do you wash yourselves down there?!" "In the bath or the shower", I replied, causing her to sigh at this further proof of Anglo-Saxon ineptitude with regard to our private parts and I could see that she was beginning to worry about me. "What if you need to do it quickly?" she continued. "You can't have a shower five times a day!" I said there were ways.
Given the amount and variety of "intimate" gels, wipes and deodorants on sale in Italy, you would never imagine that Italians used the bidet quite so often, but there you are:
Paisi ca vai, usanzi che trovi - Places you go to, customs that you find.
Popular politician and Mayor of Florence Matteo Renzi was reported to have said that the removal of the bidet was a first step to a Europe united by matters other than money and Lega Nord politician Roberto Calderoli that Italy's Celts weren't worried because they could wash themselves in the [aptly named] Po.
Alas, it was all a joke which began with an item on the satirical site AnsIapress but we enjoyed it while it lasted. I haven't seen my Sicilian friends so indignant since a set of traffic lights appeared at a busy Modican junction some years ago. The offending lights were regarded as an infringement of Modicans' civil liberties and, unlike the island's bidets, were soon removed.