Its price is escalating faster than the stock market and fetching upwards of $1000 per roll on eBay or maybe you’ll be fortunate enough to find a bargain on Facebook Marketplace or Gumtree. I saw it for as little as $60.
For the connoisseur there is super-absorbent, ultra-strong, extra-soft or multi-ply but I’m sure you’ll pay a premium for the privilege. And then there’s the recycled toilet paper that commands an even higher price, but then my grandmother had that idea long before it was invented.
At the bottom of her back steps, next to the washhouse was the outdoor loo. Its unlined timber walls were the perfect shelter for spiders and a conglomeration of other insects that lurked in dark corners. But the thing I hated most of all was the recycled toilet paper that hung from a nail hammered securely into one of the studs.
My grandmother cut squares from newspaper and telephone book pages and threaded them on string. It was neither super-absorbent nor extra-soft but it was ultra strong, exceedingly cost effective and decidedly unpleasant to use.
But maybe for those of us not fortunate enough to have a Ute full of toilet paper we might yet have to resort to my grandmother’s solution if people keep stockpiling.
And who could have imagined toilet paper’s capacity to unearth the true nature of man?
Just a few months ago we saw an outpouring of love and compassion for all those affected by the bushfires. Wallets were emptied, volunteers rushed to help and we all shared whatever we could. The crisis brought out the best of human nature.
Now in shopping aisles from Bourke to Bullaburra, Kiama to Katoomba and Riverwood to Rylstone, tempers flare, police have been called and a knife has even been pulled in the high stakes of this me-first pantomime.
Greed and disregard for others is strewn behind overladen trolleys in the rush to the register, while those who live from pay day to pay day, those living on pensions or unemployment benefits and those who’ve had to wait for a carer to take them on their fortnightly shop, stare helplessly at the empty shelves. Their need may be urgent but who gives them a second thought in the rush for serving self?
While I struggle to understand the logic, or lack of it, I must say I’m just grateful to live in a culture that has the humble toilet roll. I remember travelling in San Gimignano and having to hand over my money to receive just a few small sheets of toilet tissue before being allowed into the toilets. And when travelling on the edge of the Sahara Desert, it was a case of go west with your spade, not a toilet roll in sight.
So, long live the humble toilet roll I say. May they soon be reclining in abundance once more on supermarket shelves.
And while this is not a traditional ode, it is a heartfelt cry for the small things, the things that are always there so we don't give them a second thought. We don't really value water until the dam runs dry, the ability to walk until something cripples our mobility or the true value of love until it's taken from us.
It's got me thinking about how much I take for granted, sunrises, fresh fruit, shoes, shampoo, fresh air, good conversations, a roof over my head and yes, the humble toilet roll.