Mooncups on Motorways

Motorway service stations at lunchtime during school holidays are a battlefield for a disabled traveller; add in a few coach parties and the experience is more than a little bit frightening! Small people motivated by the freedom of open spaces take just a tiny advantage of frazzled parents engaged in some complex form of juggling act (what one wonders are those heaving shoulder bags full of) and all on a full bladder!

I never cease to be amazed by, (and more than a little bit envious of), the senior citizen coach teams; these ladies seem to have a strategy designed to facilitate a red sea style parting of the crowds. With steely determination, firm stares and armed with a forest of walking sticks these battalions are on serious manoeuvres! Is it respect for the older person or the unspoken risk of breaking their collective concentration releasing waves of vitriol (and ripples of ladies water)?  This quaint expression came from my friend’s late mother when reassuring those of us reaching our middle years that the unexpected joy of bladder weakness was pretty much guaranteed!

And yes we have graduated to the cohort with the mantra ‘I’ll just pop to the loo you never know how long it will be before we see another (toilet)’.  Those of us who regularly find ourselves on the A470 going from North to South Wales have a mental map of the ‘opportunities’; the best conversation I ever had in terms of usefulness was discussing such matters with a pregnant colleague who had really done her research! Her daughter is 8 years old now and the intelligence gathered back when she was in her mum’s belly still serves me well! And yes I will sign the petition to keep the public loo in Powys open; well I would if only I could remember what the name of the village was!

Back to motorway service station specifically the advertisements on the back of the toilet doors; everything from PPI insurance claims to various bladder /bowel charities and the Mooncup. I first came across the mooncup in the late 1980s –early 1990s whilst immersed in rape crisis and womens aid; in my early 20s I was probably more susceptible, (or perhaps more receptive), to the wisdom of older feminists. Womens health matters were taken seriously with a constant flow of recipes designed to balance ones hormones with a cunning blend of home grown, (today referred to as organic), natural ingredients. All bakery items lovingly created without wimpishly resorting to the use of electronic equipment; the number of times our naivety resulted in a form of RSI from repeatedly attempting to whip cream with a fork!

God we were gullible but how we were adored (initially when we had a shiny newness about us; you could practically smell of Johnsons Baby Powder oozing from our pores (especially in summer as one was warned of the harmful contents of deodorant – I can’t remember what we were trying to avoid but I do remember you could purchase a safe alternative in Waitrose (only the nearest one was in England in those days so the default position was au naturel). This is where the mooncup came in, a natural alternative to paper based sanitary protection otherwise known quaintly as ‘feminine hygiene’. As the name implies the ‘cup’ collects and to avoid embarrassing spillage or overflow obviously the cup needs emptying periodically (no pun intended)!

A friend took it upon herself during a Womens Aid Conference to extol the virtues of the mooncup to a group of us; what more appropriate topic of conversation for a late night alcohol soaked networking session! Looking back the demonstration she gave under the influence was verbose in its descriptive detail but sadly lacking in transmitting the technique required. A steady hand and ideally a sink in close proximity to the toilet upon which a lady is sitting! Light coloured garments are best avoided when in season as seldom is one appropriately steady handed 100% of the time; and no you really don’t want to have to phone a friend!

The reason for the renaissance of the mooncup in 2012 is environmental sustainability, reducing ones personal carbon or textile/tampon footprint and thereby contributing to cleaner beaches all round! Let’s face it this is a canny marketing move as recycling and environmental issues are so much more mainstream that frankly ‘hippyish alternative wimins’ stuff. Hence the poster (above and below) featuring in the toilets of motorway service stations. Today one was loitering longer than strictly necessary in the cubicle on account of a large mixed aged crowd fastidiously washing hands and queuing for the hand dryers. Small people obviously can’t reach the washing facilities so need to be physically man handled if tiny paws are to become wee free before being strapped in for the remainder of their journeys. And something happens to said small persons once they have clean fingers, it’s as though the blast of (hand dryer) air injects kiddy speed and they become spinning banshees (with integral sound effects stuck on loud mode)!

My particular favourite trick was ably exhibited by a rather too cute specimen today. On exiting the cubicle with more than a degree of caution – following Tufty Safety Squirrel rules ‘look right, look left, proceed with caution etc you know the format – I approached the sink. Cute specimen spies me with more than a glint of wicked devilment in her eyes; intrigued by my black crutches she suddenly (without warning) launches herself at the handles! It seems she want to swing on my sticks for reasons lost on me. The look of shock on my face apparently scared her as she lost focus falling into a heap at my feet where she began to scream! Note to self stop imbibing liquids whilst driving, stick to sucking Werthers (sugar free) so as to avoid the need to enter the potential warzone that is the public toilet!

Back to the mooncup – and yes I do have a tendency to think about things too such sometimes – one began to wonder just how practical using this menstrual management method is when one is not at home? Or at least somewhere where bathroom (not just toilet) facilities are available.  With my pitiful fine motor movements plus the optional vibration mode locked firmly in place –  one would frankly not want to take the risk of creating a personal (Jackson) Pollock in my pants! No matter how briefly! Certainly not an experience to be shared with strangers me thinks; on reflection the proximity of the menopause is ever closer so that will be my personal sustainability plan rather than a mooncup!

Blame the accident on the M1 – lengthy delays between junctions 23A and 25 –led to pondering at length the landfill* versus water management **question. And then I remembered the incinerator dimension*** which practically fried my frazzled braincells as I reached for the solace of Dark Side of the Moon…

Explanatory Notes:

* landfill – burying refuse for example disposable nappies

** water management – linked to the use of terry nappies which require a lot of water to soak/launder

*** incinerator dimension – some local authorities provide nappy bins for disposable nappies/similar materials, the contents once collected are apparently incinerated. Now there’s a thought this method could redeem itself if the heat generated was used to heat the water that is needed to launder the terry nappies. Except of course this would only work if you paired people together i.e. one using disposable nappies/pads with one using washable material!!! Enough already Mr Putin – if we were in a judo competition and I was playing Mr Cameron I would be the one slapping the map to indicate defeat (or submission perhaps?)

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