Mention in passing a place you may wish to visit, a comment on the weather, a liking of dumplings, the pleasure of emptying an overfull bladder, anything really, and the crapper will hold forth for an hour or two on the topic in question. It matters not whether it is the mating habits of Greenlandic polar bears, the weather in Morocco, tenth-century Burmese literature, the films and actors that have won those strange awards given in the USA (the ‘Academy’ awards), the dietary habits of the Sultan of Brunei, or the differences in migratory patterns of German and American cockroaches, he or she is willing to give you the ins and outs, aboves and belows, historical context and much, much more. It matters not that no-one else is willing to listen since the crapper assumes that everyone is hanging on every precious word that streams from his or her mouth.

Crapping is one of the less endearing manifestations of a life spent lecturing students who appear to be lapping it all up. Soon enough it slips outside the lecture room and into everyday life. Is there not a whole world to enlighten, to spread the inestimable store of knowledge that the crapper contains? From the moment he wakes until sleep descends – if not beyond those moments – the crapper’s life involves emitting one long stream of endless, utterly useless information. Give the crapper a drink or more and she becomes a veritable encyclopaedia of trivia, able to talk for hour upon hour. Indeed, at times those not given to doing so in sober states will turn into drunken crappers.

But another type of crapper may also be found in academia: the writer of texts. Too often is the metaphor of giving birth used for the writing of books. Gestation may be months if not years, but when the birth finally happens, the author holds the baby gently in his or her hands, checking to see if it has five fingers on each hand, five toes on each foot. But far more appropriate is the image of taking a massive dump. It may come easily, sliding out with quick relief. Or it may build up over time, becoming a massive and somewhat painful affair, before it is laid before the world with immense effort. Universities love the quick crapper, for this helps them attain an enviable ranking in the university shit-stakes.

This type of crapper comes a little close to home, although I have always enjoyed the loose and easy version, enabled by plenty of roughage, rather than the compacted and swollen version that threatens serious injury on its emergence. The catch, of course, is that even though you feel as though you have finally shitted it out, you are always full of more shit.