Category Archives: SDUs

March, March, March

March birthdays are like blog posts – you wait around for ages and then three come along at once. So here’s a big long birthday postscript-post  to make up for the lack of  updates lately.

On Sunday I got bagel-coffee-and-cupcaked by my lovely wife, who also further enabled my chart-loving geekitude by getting me this awesome piece of work:

and Sarah’s mom, whose birthday is the day before mine, posted me this amazing Shipping Forecast* t-shirt:

which I wore to bed Sunday night, and may well wear at a gig sometime soon. See, I like all kinds of charts – not just menstrual cycle ones. (I’m also a big fan of the Venn diagram.)

We digested the birthday breakfast and read the charts on the way down to Oxford for the lit fest, where we met this lovely gentleman. (Our mission for the day was to give away free zines, and we ended up working out a trade for some whiskey, so that was awesome, too. Those who know me know I’m always up for zine trades, and now…those who don’t know me know it as well.) Anyway, this kind fellow was working for the festival and I offered him a zine. He thanked me and stuck it in his pocket, with the title showing, which was pretty darn cool. I asked him if he’d mind if I took a picture for my blog, and he said, “I have three daughters. There is nothing about menstruation that freaks me out.”

Word, my friend. Word.

We had fun times all round (most likely due to the zine-whiskey trading) and I had four zines left as we all headed to the train station, so I decided to deposit the last four in various bike baskets among those at the rafts and rafts of awesome bicycles at the station bike racks.

I figured cycles…cycles…whatevs. That was the sum total of my thought process. Sorry. Whiskey.

Anyway, if you received a zine at the festival, or if you found one in your bike basket, hello! I’m Chella, and I’ll be your weird secret zine santa today. Hope you stick around!

In other news, I was lucky enough to have two pieces of my writing published around the internets on my birthday.

Here’s the Menstruation for Sale article at (it’s a brand new webzine for right-on teens that happened to have launched on my bday).

And I also had a  review up on Feminist Review blog. Speaking of FR, it was also Mandy Van Deven’s birthday this week. She edits Feminist Review, as well as writing like a demon everywhere else that’s cool and feminist. Her birthday appeal goes a long way to explaining what she’s achieved with FR, and I was really psyched when she invited me to write for FR after my zines were reviewed on the site. If you can spare some cash to help them/us out, that’d be grand. More details can be found at the I ♥ FR Campaign.

Today’s link (rather than recaps from earlier in the week like a lame clips episode of your favourite ’80s sitcom)  is a shout out to Travel Queeries on a Danish blog that’s new to me and looks pretty cool. Birthe, the editor of Feminine Moments, saw the review on Feminist Review and contacted me to see if she could quote it. So, ya see? Valuable resource right there is all I’m sayin’.

Right, it’s all gone a bit meta so I’m gonna say goodnight. Thanks, as always, for all the support.


*You can listen to the Shipping Forecast here. It is just as useful a navigational tool if you are literally at sea as if you are metaphorically at sea.

Bloody brilliant!

We just got some nice coverage in the Guardian G2. Who knew their online edition was posted the night before? (Well…many people, probably, but there you are!)

I’m taking it as a compliment.

“You were the funnest person I’ve met in a toilet for ages.”

I was recently chatting to that girl I met in the toliet a couple of months ago, and this was her parting comment.

That’s good, right?



The London Zine Symposium was fantastic. Met great people, saw some beautiful work, and loved loved loved reading with a cadre of funny and intelligent fellow zinesters. I’d tour with those guys. It rocked!

At the moment I’m working on Robyn’s Egg: A child’s Introduction to Menstruation (which I think I’ve mentioned before), and two companion children’s books, which is taking some honing of my rusty illustration skills. The other two books are ‘Rocket to the Moon’ (tampons as improvised toys and craft supplies) and ‘How Does Your Friend Make You Feel’ (a colouring and activity book based on menstrual euphemisms that I think might also make a good creative writing/comic workshop – stay tuned).

I’m also in the middle of developing my guide to sanitary disposal units: The SDU and YOU: Public Inconveniences. Stay tuned for the results of interviews with industry insiders!

We’re looking at summer plans and should have a couple of events lined up soon.



I met a woman in the toilet.

I know what you’re thinking.

But you’re wrong.

What happened was…

…ok I know what you’re now thinking….

and you’re still wrong. (Thank you, Laura, other woman I just met in the pub.)


Seriously, I’m out at the pub with some friends and we’re all having a laugh over my ineptitude at keeping quiet about menstruation.

I just can’t help myself. It’s like a disorder.

What happened was, I met a girl who asked to share my table, but the seat was taken. Then I happened to go to the toilet at the same time as she did, three times. It went: awkward looks in mirror as we were both surprised to see each other again, embarrassed apology on our second meeting for denying her a table, and finally, friendship. She saw me again and said, ‘Wow! We’ve synchronized!’

Readers of Adventures in Menstruating #3 may remember my concerns about what to say about menstrual synchronization. It’s a whole other ballpark when it’s toilet synchronization. We’re now friends, I think. She works for an organization that gives kids free bikes. One day soon, I’ll explain to her about the zine, and why I nearly exploded with laughter in her face at ‘Wow! We’ve synchronized!’

Last weekend I was in the public toilet at the newly refurbished theatre in town, and got into a very long and loud conversation with some cool old ladies about the width of the cubicles finally meeting their approval.

“I wrote in,” said one. “The old toilets were too narrow for my mature backside! I’m glad they finally listened,” she beamed.

Mature backside one, Historically cramped public inconveniences – zero.

I’m going to have to find a swift and sensible way to explain why I tend to loiter in public toilets and strike up conversations though.


A small oversight.

I’m a total stooge – I saved a draft of this post as long ago as the 24th of September but forgot to hit the publish button. No wonder I couldn’t link to it in response to a comment I received. For the uninitiated, it also goes a long way to explaining yesterday’s post. Thanks for the nudge, Riot Kitty.


This update brought to you by The SDU and YOU.

York SDU #1: My friend John (who is awesome and designed the Honeymoon Period logo based on little other than a wobbly drawing I had emailed him) took us to a shopping centre outside York and then on to York proper last weekend and we spotted a good, a bad, and …instead of an ugly, I actually think this one almost qualifies as cute. But this is mainly because of my disorder where I see cute faces in everything. But come on – don’t those chrome hinges cry out to be eyes staring lovingly up at you, the overflow valve and bowl presenting an alien as adorable as Doctor Who’s Adipose babies?

While ridiculous and unnecessary, this SDU is less offensive than normal. It has room to chill on the diagonal, a long trap door, curvy edges and a chunky foot pedal. Without incurring the wrath of certain corporations, I’m suggesting it could be called an iSDU. Just don’t hit shuffle.

York SDU #2:

This is a classic problem – the short trap door plus a lax cleaning rota. Last year’s York centre SDU nirvana may have been a one-off. This was taken in the other public toilet built and maintained for shoppers and tourists in York city centre, and it let me down.

My accidental SDU tourism has taught me two things though –

  1. York has the most stylish units in the UK, evidenced by twice-seen rakishly angled design choices – the debonair dandies of the public convenience world.
  2. It would be wise for none of us to accept old-lady free toilet hook ups in the future. Visitors and Citizens of York: Pay the 20 pence charge from now on to avoid crimes against SDU-manity.

Oh yeah – there were replica Viking ships in the mall.


I take mind maps literally.

On one of the translucent, subject specific, topological maps layered horizontally in my brain, there is a Public Toilet Map. This is handy for obvious reasons, but sadly my mental map has become marred due to an altogether avoidable quirk I’ve picked up in recent years:

I photograph toilets.

This means that some of the little mental map icons have related images attached to ratings now. Sheffield train station: AVOID. Copenhagen airport: Import a ‘number 1’ with reckless abandon – these toilets are lovely.

The reasons for the ratings range from practicality to aesthetics – space for a sanitary disposal unit (SDU), space for your ass, inherent design flaws in the SDU and related mess of the cubicle…width has a lot to do with it. In fact, the whole thing started when I was doing action research for my comedy performance lecture on public sanitary disposal, The SDU and YOU.

After this past weekend, sadly, my tiny bladder is no longer overjoyed with Marks and Spencer’s second story standby in the centre of town – you have to be Narrow McNarrowstein to feel the facilities are, in fact, facilitating anything like the relief you’re after. The height is also a concern, unless you need a handy armrest. I can’t get that comfy in a public toilet though, no matter how much good reading matter I have in my tote. It’s confusingly huge and could be a bidet, or a baby changing table or something. Maybe a drinks cabinet. Amazingly, the cubicle photographed above is not the narrowest in town, in that you can actually see space between the SDU and the bowl, so I’ll not complain any more about this photo.

But, to quote Kermit the Frog in Christmas Eve on Sesame Street, let’s view the problem from another angle:

The toilet paper dispenser is in my ‘dance space’, as it were. Come on, M&S, I have just about managed to learn to replace the empty toilet roll in my bathroom at home with a new one as soon as the old one gets used up (Does this make me a grown up? Or would a real grown up be mature enough not to ask?), how come you can’t get your ducks in a row? Next refit, let’s go for wider cubicles (or hey, even actual cubes maybe) and a more minimalist design all round.

Coincidentally, I added this rating to my toilet topology on the same day the Guardian G2 ran an article about women and the design of public spaces. I was psyched to discover that there is a women’s design service, and that they actually have produced a definitive work about toilet cubicle design. I was just as unsurprised to read measurements and statistics evidencing male-centric urban design. Read the article at the link above, and check outthe WDS website Gendersite for articles and case studies on women and public inconveniences.

And as usual, check back here for updates to my own personal (if ad hoc) case study.


P.S. Some of the other maps in my head include: Subway Stops, Cafes that have Soy Milk, Copy Shops and Branches of Muji.


Ok so I can see now that I’m going to have to label the toilet posts cos there’s gonna be a whole slew of them eventually. It’s becoming compulsive.

Up till now, I never saw a UK sanitary disposal unit I didn’t hate. This SDU is no better or worse than its peers, but it’s the placement I find could not go without comment. Yes, in a public toilet in York, amidst crazed Christmas shoppers, I found SDU nirvana. Notice the butt and leg space around the SDU, which is placed at – dare I say it – a rakish angle. I never thought I’d see that.

Sanitary disposal units are a money-making, period shaming, hygiene-fear scam at best, and, in tiny cubicles designed by people who just don’t think, most are a practical irritant as well. As you can see, though, the spacious cubicles in York are worth the 20 pence entry charge. (Although both times I used the public conveniences there, a different nice old lady clandestinely held the door open so I wouldn’t have to pay. Thanks for the hook ups, old ladies of York!)

You’d think that for once, I wouldn’t feel I had to photograph a toilet, but my lack of ire was so thoroughly replaced by self-righteous joy that I had to take a ‘well done’ picture and post it here, in case any public toilet designers see this blog and take note.

Ironically, this was the only un-crowded area of York last Saturday.


Something else Chella’s parents can be proud of.

The other night, we went to a groovy show to support some bands we’ve shared the bill with at various Ladyfests. We met the band Valerie at Ladyfest Leicester, and throughout the night, they kept introducing Chella to people as ‘the one who photographs toilets’.

Yeah, it’s true. Chella did a performance lecture called ‘The SDU and YOU’ at Ladyfest Leicester and a lot of the slides included photos that name and shame the badly designed sanitary disposal units in public toilets throughout the UK. (They’re not so bad in other countries. We don’t know why this is.)

For example, the one above is jammed in right next to the toilet seat, and the lid is actually OVER the seat. Now, if, like most women, you a) sit down to pee and b) have an ass bigger than your head, you will not be able to open the lid. You will also have it jammed up against your ass.

Anyway, all is explained in the live show. Just thought we’d share Chella’s illustrious new title with ya.