Thursday, July 07, 2005
French Particularities No. 2: Plug retractors
Through all my childhood and young adult life in the UK, I cannot remember ever using anything other than a rubber plug on the end of a chain for stopping the water from running out of the bath or sink. However, I suppose about ten or maybe fifteen years ago, I first encountered one of those strange devices: a plug retractor. These devices are now ubiquitous in new build homes in the UK. Frankly, I hate these contraptions. As far as I am concerned, there are four types: (1) broken; (2) impossible to find; (3) stuck, or (4) leaky.
Judging by the designs I have encountered in various French hotel bathrooms, plug retractors have a long history in France and are taken very seriously. Why, I can't imagine. What is wrong with pulling on a chain? The only possible reason I can think of is that you might catch the chain by accident and some water escapes. Big deal. On the other hand, a sink with a really elaborate plug design, now that says something about you...
The designs are normally very elaborate and cranky. They often involve a significant elaboration of the sink or tub as well as a plug mechanism. The photo above, taken in a Normandy hotel last week, shows how the design of the ceramic sink is closely tied to the placement of the plug retractor, creating a formidable hole down which to drop your toothbrush when arriving home after a glass too many of burgundy.