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BS: Bums the word...a 30 year Govt secret

Shanghaiceltic 04 Jan 05 - 12:55 AM
Peace 04 Jan 05 - 01:30 AM
Liz the Squeak 04 Jan 05 - 04:41 AM
John MacKenzie 04 Jan 05 - 04:55 AM
Liz the Squeak 04 Jan 05 - 04:57 AM
JohnInKansas 04 Jan 05 - 05:40 AM
GUEST,Mingulay 04 Jan 05 - 06:59 AM
Rapparee 04 Jan 05 - 09:27 AM
GUEST,Mingulay 04 Jan 05 - 10:44 AM
Donuel 04 Jan 05 - 10:58 AM
GUEST,Peter from Essex 04 Jan 05 - 11:05 AM
Rapparee 04 Jan 05 - 12:02 PM
Strollin' Johnny 04 Jan 05 - 12:27 PM
Bill D 04 Jan 05 - 01:24 PM
mooman 04 Jan 05 - 01:31 PM
Shanghaiceltic 04 Jan 05 - 07:00 PM
Bill D 04 Jan 05 - 07:10 PM
Helen 05 Jan 05 - 01:15 AM
Sandra in Sydney 05 Jan 05 - 07:21 AM
GUEST,Chief Chaos 05 Jan 05 - 02:42 PM

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Subject: BS: Bums the word...a 30 year Govt secret
From: Shanghaiceltic
Date: 04 Jan 05 - 12:55 AM

If decisions on the types of bog paper that Civil Servants should use have been kept a secret for 30 years and only just been released under the new FOI act, just think what else must be hidden away in the archives!

BTW I never knew that bumf stould for bum fodder.

Bottom line on the envoy's loo roll
By Ben Fenton
(Filed: 04/01/2005)

The nether regions of a British ambassador provoked a protracted battle in the Civil Service over whether hard or soft paper was better for the bureaucratic bottom.

Eighteen years of scientific inquiry and penny-pinching followed a letter from a Harley Street doctor to a friend who was the medical adviser to the Treasury.

Previously secret files released as part of an exercise to promote the new Freedom of Information Act show that the campaign began in 1963.

Dr John Hunt wrote to his friend Dr Cornelius Medvei, describing the piles that afflicted his patient, Sir John Pilcher, GCMG, Her Majesty's ambassador to Austria and later Japan.

His letter said: "[My patient] thinks that the government lavatory paper is out of date and extremely bad for his complaint and he has asked me if there is any chance of it being changed to a softer type."

Dr Medvei discovered that money lay at the root of the objection to softer paper, which was bought for the entire government - by Her Majesty's Stationery Office.

He replied to Dr Hunt that if lavatory paper purchases rose by as little as "half a farthing daily" it would cost the government an extra £130,000 a year.

The file is one of about 50,000 between seven and 29 years old which have been chosen for release to co-in‐cide with the first full day of the Freedom of Information Act. Under the previous regime, all of the files would have stayed secret until the 30th anniversary of their closure.

The Treasury document shows that the baton of the soft tissue brigade, once taken up, was not dropped easily. Other Foreign Office staff urged Dr Medvei to become their champion.

It took years for official action to follow and in 1967 there was a setback for the campaigners when the public health labs ruled that soft tissue paper was "distinctly more pervious to infections such as dysentery".

In 1969 a representative of the Treasury's typing pool wrote to Dr Medvei asking him to help "us poor females" to avoid "damage to our delicate parts".

This time "Tommy" Thomson, the chief medical adviser to the Civil Service, took charge. He referred the matter to Prof Sir Gordon Wilson at the School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who ruled in 1970 that the hard, shiny paper was healthier.

The following year an accountant at HMSO warned the Civil Service Department: "If we switched to soft tissue for government purchases our annual expenditure on this item would shoot up from about £170,000 to between £500,000 and £835,000."

Staff unions were beginning to mobilise, but in 1972, a time of austerity, Dr Thomson refused to help them.

"The prevailing philosophy is that we each stand on our own feet; so I take it that the adjunct to that is that we each sit on our own bottoms - and don't expect the state to mollycoddle them!" Then in 1974 the rebels' cause was taken up by a Dr Ian Taylor, who said: "The nub of the matter is that the soft paper gives a clean wipe."

In 1975 the British Standards Institute gave advice for the first time on large purchases of what it called "crêped paper" and throughout the Seventies the department headed by Dr Thomson, by now Sir Tommy, came under heavy pressure to change its advice.

There was a financial motive too, as hard paper was becoming more difficult to find and the price advantage to HMSO had disappeared. Then on June 30, 1980, the advice came from the epidemiological research laboratory that Prof Wilson had been wrong.

Dr Mair Thomas wrote: "I think HMSO and other providers should now be encouraged to supply the soft tissue variety of toilet paper." She concluded that, for reasons that might not be appropriately described in a newspaper without risk of offence, hard paper was less hygienic than soft.

The laboratory's findings were not passed on to the long-suffering civil servants but the soft lavatory rolls at last were: in 1981.



The bottom line
(Filed: 04/01/2005)

It is a story that might have been dreamt up by the authors of Yes, Minister - except that most viewers would have found it too far-fetched to be believed. For 18 years, according to documents published today under the new Freedom of Information Act, civil servants pushed papers around Whitehall as they grappled with one of the great policy issues of the late 20th century: should government departments be supplied with hard lavatory paper, or soft?

The saga began in 1963, when a Foreign Office mandarin complained that the hard paper issued for the use of civil servants exacerbated his piles. By the time it ended in 1981, with the issue of soft paper throughout Whitehall, it had involved not only the Foreign Office, but also the Treasury, the Home Office, Her Majesty's Stationery Office, the Civil Service Department, the School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the government's Epidemiological Research Laboratory.

The papers released today are not only a useful reminder of the derivation of the word bumf, explained thus by the Concise Oxford Dictionary: "bumf n. (also bumph) Brit. colloq. 1 usu. derog. papers, documents. 2 lavatory paper. [abbr. of bum-fodder]." They also throw bright light on the workings of the civil service mind - and perhaps on its anatomical location, too.


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Subject: RE: BS: Bums the word...a 30 year Govt secret
From: Peace
Date: 04 Jan 05 - 01:30 AM

Of course, he didn't have to use a Sears and Roebuck catalogue. The glossy pages were tough on the ol' wazoo.

Did no one think to take pity on the man and simply send HIM a year's supply at a time?


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Subject: RE: BS: Bums the word...a 30 year Govt secret
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 04 Jan 05 - 04:41 AM

That would have smacked of favouritism. Soon everyone would have been claiming soft TP on medical grounds.. the Government OHD and BMI would have been swamped with people showing their Chalfonts* ..... Those who didn't have medical grounds would have been forced to go out on strike for fair treatment - it would have discrimintated against those without Farmers*! A sit down protest would have been organised, thus excacerbating the problem....

And a plague upon that damnded Prof. Wilson... he was the cause of my 'soft paper in school loos' campaign failing, which lost me the Form Captainship that had finally got me the recognition and popularity I so richly deserved!

LTS



Chalfonts = Chalfont St Giles (a village in the UK) = Piles.
Farmers = Farmer Giles = get the picture?


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Subject: RE: BS: Bums the word...a 30 year Govt secret
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 04 Jan 05 - 04:55 AM

Soft strong and exceedingly long!


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Subject: RE: BS: Bums the word...a 30 year Govt secret
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 04 Jan 05 - 04:57 AM

Oh and bumph - or bum fodder - was a term used for any useless paperwork.

In the days before paper was produced particularly for wiping, any sheet of paper that had been discarded was used. Soldiers stole books, not for reading as most were probably illiterate, but for wiping. Any paper that had been used to its limit or was no longer required, became fair game for the clean botty brigade. A great way of disposing of all that waste paper.... biodegradable, soft and usually quite absorbent (what would now be called high quality, high rag content, chemical free, woodpulp stuff, that degraded quickly when wet) and usually buried in the latrine pit, rather than left flapping about the country. Therefore, any pointless paperwork which was doomed to end up as waste, was termed 'bumfodder' (literally; food for bottoms). The commonest use of 'bumph' referred to those pages of instructions, descriptions and piddling little details that come with equipment (today's equivelant would be the myriad guarantee cards, 308 page manual and those 'if you bought this, you'll need that' junk mail you get with anything that ever used a battery), and were deemed pointless.

LTS - a Government worker who excells at creating Bumph!


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Subject: RE: BS: Bums the word...a 30 year Govt secret
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 04 Jan 05 - 05:40 AM

An associate with whom I shared office space ca. 1960 had spent several years with the (US) Scot Tissue company. He related numerous descriptions of their "weekly technical meetings" at which samples of competitive products were passed around for examination, complete with detailed documentation of the source, lab reports on physical properties, and comparative estimates of relative costs for manufacture, etc. Always seeking the perfect product.

The story is entirely believable, as he reported that the "quality" of British samples, including some from Buckingham Palace, were so consistently "bad" that they considered whether it was some sort of "plot to mislead the US" into misinterpreting the industrial capabilities of "the Empire."

My suggestion then, probably still valid, was that I didn't think the British really cared that much about what the US thought of them.

A possible source for the reports of the "John Wayne" toilet paper:

"It's rough, and it's tough, and it don't take shit of of anybody."

John


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Subject: RE: BS: Bums the word...a 30 year Govt secret
From: GUEST,Mingulay
Date: 04 Jan 05 - 06:59 AM

Izal hard and glossy loo paper, it's what an empire was built on. That and torn up squares of newspaper and pieces of old cardboard. None of these, of course, are effective as cleaners (regular shotblasting being needed)but do impart a certain hardness to the nether regions and the constitution in general.


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Subject: RE: BS: Bums the word...a 30 year Govt secret
From: Rapparee
Date: 04 Jan 05 - 09:27 AM

As you sit and...have nothing much else to do except wait for Nature to run its course...crumple and wad and wad and crumple those pages from the catalog or the local newspaper. Softens 'em right up.

Sadie Jones, the Quartermistress of the Idaho Legion, went to answer the call one day last week. Being fastidious and picky, she put newspaper on the seat. Well, the ink came off and now her bottom is emblazoned with the words "Sale! 5 for $1!" And until then nobody in the whole danged Legion was aware that she'd raised the price!

Back in Boy Scout camp one of my compatriots had an urgent matter to attend to when he was hikin' in the woods. The job was over, but he didn't have the necessary paperwork so he grabbed a handfull of leaves. Poison ivy, it was. Didn't do a thing for him except get him VERY well acquainted with the Camp Nurse, who thought it was funnier'n a rubber crutch (and no, it wasn't me!). The next year the same guy got poison ivy on the other side, pissin' on a bush. (I suppose this ties into the thread on stupidity....)


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Subject: RE: BS: Bums the word...a 30 year Govt secret
From: GUEST,Mingulay
Date: 04 Jan 05 - 10:44 AM

If he grabbed a handful of leaves to wipe his arse, he probably never looked at them, therefore, when pissing on a bush, he just thought it was any old bush. More unobservant than plain stupid methinks. After all anyone can make a mistake......


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Subject: RE: BS: Bums the word...a 30 year Govt secret
From: Donuel
Date: 04 Jan 05 - 10:58 AM

Over here we worry about hard or soft money but they both buy the same ol crap.


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Subject: RE: BS: Bums the word...a 30 year Govt secret
From: GUEST,Peter from Essex
Date: 04 Jan 05 - 11:05 AM

I remember that the paper had "Government Property" printed on every sheet.


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Subject: RE: BS: Bums the word...a 30 year Govt secret
From: Rapparee
Date: 04 Jan 05 - 12:02 PM

Anyone ever use C-ration toilet paper? For its intended purpose?


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Subject: RE: BS: Bums the word...a 30 year Govt secret
From: Strollin' Johnny
Date: 04 Jan 05 - 12:27 PM

And of course it's called Bum Fodder because it's Fo' da Bum.
S:0)


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Subject: RE: BS: Bums the word...a 30 year Govt secret
From: Bill D
Date: 04 Jan 05 - 01:24 PM

The few times *I* have had to confront the problem..(brief stints in Govt. buildings or a weekend at a camp, etc.) I, being delicate, took a small supply of the kind of paper *I* preferred in a small bag. I felt smug....and comfy.


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Subject: RE: BS: Bums the word...a 30 year Govt secret
From: mooman
Date: 04 Jan 05 - 01:31 PM

Unfortunately my tenure as a UK scientific civil servant ran from 1974 to 1979...so I had the scratchy stuff with the official insignia.

The reminiscence is not a comfortable one...

Peace

moo


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Subject: RE: BS: Bums the word...a 30 year Govt secret
From: Shanghaiceltic
Date: 04 Jan 05 - 07:00 PM

There are probably piles of such secrets hidden away in the dark recesses of government departments.


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Subject: RE: BS: Bums the word...a 30 year Govt secret
From: Bill D
Date: 04 Jan 05 - 07:10 PM

an interesting note...that report made National Public Radio in the US today. It seems that they are making it a lot of work to get much more than stories about TP from the files, however.


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Subject: RE: BS: Bums the word...a 30 year Govt secret
From: Helen
Date: 05 Jan 05 - 01:15 AM

A poem I once heard my Dad say when I was a kid:

In days of old
When knights were bold
And paper wasn't invented
They wiped their bots
with tops of grass
And walked away contented.


A year ago a friend of ours gave my hubby a roll of toilet paper with a picture of Little Johnny, our ignominious Prime Minister, printed on every sheet.

Puts the fun back into going to the loo.

Also, I hadn't heard the word bumf for years, but it was in a book I am reading yesterday and I resolved to find out its meaning. By pure coincidence, here is the answer at Mudcat.

Helen


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Subject: RE: BS: Bums the word...a 30 year Govt secret
From: Sandra in Sydney
Date: 05 Jan 05 - 07:21 AM

what magnificent persistance!! What wonderful bureaucracy!


sandra (public servant of 34 years)


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Subject: RE: BS: Bums the word...a 30 year Govt secret
From: GUEST,Chief Chaos
Date: 05 Jan 05 - 02:42 PM

What would we do without the Mark 1 Mod 0 All Purpose Disposable Tissue?

As well as the "normal" work for which it is required you can use it to sand wood, remove paint from metal surfaces, scour pots and pans, and after using it for the "normal" work it can also be employed as bandage, turniquet, and for making a white flag to surrender to the other side that has better, softer, toilet tissue!

Take it from me, the voice of experience!


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