[As published in March/April BayBuzz magazine.]

Somebody did their business on the berm outside my house. I was alerted to it when I spied a facemask discarded in the gutter and, thinking it was litter, I picked it up. It had mud on it. Turns out it wasn’t mud. Someone had just done fresh number twos … right there on the grass verge. Not just a minor download, but a deposit with the length and girth of a chocolate eclair.

It was almost as impressive as the Lloyd Bank Coprolite (a 20cm by 5cm turd laid by a viking in the 9th Century, now on display in York). But rather than show it off, nose pinched and eyes watering, I flung it into the bin and told the people who live in my house to watch out for repeat offending … to “mind where they stepped in case the phantom faecephile returned”. 

My child asked for details: “Did it have cracking on the edges?”. I said I hadn’t caught sight of cracking, I hadn’t studied it closely at all. “If there’s cracking they haven’t got enough fibre in their diet”, I was told. “How on earth do you know that?”. The retort? “Science, Mum. Do you think I just go to school and sit around all day!?”.

This is perhaps the only piece of actual learnt information that has ever come home from school. Collectively, my children have attended school for about 7,000 days and the only thing they have ever been taught that has actually stuck past 3pm is facts about crap.

Dung delights humans, and disgusts us. A new baby’s doo-doo is something to be scrutinised, analysed and hypothesised over. An adult’s is something to be hidden away and never mentioned. Literally, it’s unmentionable. But we all do it – or hope to – at least once a day. 

Office consternation can be set off by doings left on bowls. School assemblies can be hijacked by scatological smears on cubicle walls. 

Scat is on our minds, if not on our tongues. We do everything in our power to hide all traces. We would rather have each other believe we are arranging bouquets of lavender and eucalyptus, or manufacturing pot pourri in there than laying a chain. I’m so phobic of sniffing another’s whiff that I yearn for the days of the outdoor lavvy, or the long drop down by the compost heap.

But being regular is seen as a sign of wellness and there’s plenty of products and procedures to help make it so. Healthy fibre intake is only the start. Bristol Stool Charts are now standard in the modern convenience. Stool stools are all the rage; tilting your pelvis to evacuate smoothly considered the only sensible course of action. Some households have installed bidets to facilitate a clean finish. We’re all a little bit coprophilic deep down.

A friend put me onto a true-crime podcast that dissects a dastardly defecation deed. Over 13 episodes, Who Shat On The Floor At My Wedding (155,000 downloads to date) seeks the truth behind the turd deposited on the carpet on Helen and Karen’s Big Day. When we allow ourselves, there’s a lot to say about jobbies. In it an interview with clinical forensic psychologist Professor Mike Berry throws up this crunchy gem: “If it’s a very loose faeces, it suggests someone might have been anxious, if it’s a very hard faeces then it’s an indication of somebody who’s angry and bitter.”

Perhaps it’s time to raise up poo to its rightful place, give credit where credit’s due. 

We spend a lot of time talking about our emotions, and not enough talking about our motions. But it’s the latter that really tells us how we are, whether we’re in balance, if what’s going into us is helping or hurting.

Emotions present as motions all the time…from anxiety causing tummy butterflies to stress-induced diarrhoea (or constipation). Links between gastro-intenstinal health and brain health are well documented. Serotonin is the happiness hormone: 95% of it lives in your gut. “The gut is the second brain,” says Dr Michael Gershon. 

Going into the clinic for a blood test is something we almost gloat about, but taking in a “sample”? We only mutter that if we mention it at all. Shouldn’t we crow? And crow too when the results are back? 

We can prod at our feelings as much as we like but they are ephemeral, intangible, generally invisible, not like feculence. If we prodded our excreta a little more then perhaps we’d better get to grips with what’s going on inside us.

All that being said I’m as sh** shy as the next guy. So I won’t be first to lead the charge. But for those of you who get my drift, I’m ready to follow the movement. 

P.S. The National Bowel Screening Programme is a free programme to help detect bowel cancer. It is being offered every two years to people aged 60 to 74 years who are eligible for publicly funded health care.


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  1. Here here! and the lexicon of words for poo has been exceptionally well recruited I counted 15 different words for it!

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