Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Night Soil

Ernesto Priego has a post called Night Soil over at Never Neutral. But judging from the tone of the piece - a note (a) as to how he's got an eye infection & (b) how he's enjoying reading Sean Finney's The Obedient Door - I don't think that what he means by the term is what I mean when I use it.

In my very early childhood, younger than six, the town where I lived had neither sewerage nor septic tanks. Instead there was an outside toilet - a dunny - that had, behind & beneath the wooden bench on which you sat to crap, a small outside door through which the nightly (?) collection of excreta would be made. Hence the term night soil.

Probably every family has a much-loved story somewhere in their history about sitting on the dunny seat & having the night soil collector take the pan away from underneath them. A couple of local additions to the myth include the time the night soil truck overturned in the main street of an even smaller town a few miles away. &, what is not myth but reported fact, the time a local night soil carter got charged with breaches of the health regulations because he also delivered the milk at the same time.


Ernesto said...

I titled my post "Night Soil" because what made my come and write about The Obedient Door was one of the Finney's "Hawaii Fragments" where he writes:

That door is shut. Your words night soil.

I am aware of the usage of "night soil" you mention, but I liked how Finney uses it in that line, using "soil", I think, as a verb, or, if he uses the phrase as a noun, as a way to imply an equivalence between "your words" and "night soil".

To my tired eyes last night, "night soil" sounded like a way to make, to prepare or "treat" the night so it becomes prosperous or a good growing ground. It also had, for me, a certain rough tone that I find very appealling these days.

"your words night soil." I liked that.

Always a pleasure, Mark, to read you...

Martin Edmond said...

our guy was the coal man by day, so he was black whatever time it was ... but we never had the little door, he just waltzed into the dunny, took the can and went to empty it. then, later, we got a sewage tank, a concrete bunker under the old tennis court with a ceramic vent like a golden toadstool you could lift up if you wanted to look inside ... well, sometimes I did. naturally curious I guess.