Toilets. Love them or loathe them, you’d be a fool not to know where they are in a city as big as London.

With the sad decline of the wonderfully euphemistic ‘Public Convenience‘ the world weary and fluid-full traveller can often find himself in tricky and, let’s face it, sometimes trickly situations.

Councils have been thoughtful in planting those pre-fab fibre glass monstrosities with coin-operated doors in far flung corners of our boroughs. They rarely work, the so-called cleaning process between uses never does and they seem to be a contender for the Most Ill-Thought-Out Design Award of the Century. Perhaps Dr Who will adopt one if he can sort out the problem he has with his Tardis being locked into its antiquated appearance as a police call box.

The few remaining Victorian lavvies are now so much centres of drug abuse that the old tradition of gay bumfoolery in the cubicles now seems as quaint and nostalgic as an Ealing comedy.

When I am in London and in desperate need, I always prefer sophistication whether standing or sitting down. Virtually anywhere in the centre you will find a five star hotel which will cater for your aspirations to finer living. The Mayfair Hotel in Stratton Street, near Green Park, boasts cavernous cubicles where you could comfortably bed down for the night. The Grosvenor House Hotel in Park Lane is ludicrously convenient as its toilets are first on the left after you go through the main entrance, nodding confidently at the suspicious doorman. The Waldorf, in Aldwych is similarly accessible, with no huge Reception desk to walk past trying to ignore the quizzical stares of the concierges. There is probably a guide book in this. And here I am, giving the idea away. It will be published tomorrow by a rival to the sound of my grinding teeth and tearing clothes.

Sometimes, though, desperation and distance from any refined porcelain forces one to look for alternatives.

Pubs are an obvious choice, although the quality is traumatically variable, with the unlockable doors and loose seat being a regular feature. And of course, you have to walk through the bar acting as though you are looking for someone. Strangely enough, only the other week, I discovered that the Assembly Rooms in Kentish Town is part of a ‘Community Toilet Scheme’ which allows any non-customer to go in and use their toilets. This is a brilliant idea which I think all towns should encourage their hostelries to adopt.

Cafés are a little more difficult as they are smaller and seem to demand that you buy something before or after using their facilities. What is amazing, though, is the number of cafés which purport to not having toilets. They shove all that tea, coffee and lasagne down unsuspecting customers and then eject them into a toilet-less void. That’s simply pure sadism. And besides, I don’t believe them. OF COURSE they have a toilet, unless of course the owners are all physically connected to the sewers by a system of tubes which I highly doubt, although my research in this area is not complete.

The best route to take if you HAVE to use a café is to target the big chains like Starbucks. They’re busy, the staff won’t notice and they usually have big cubicles which double as a baby changing area. I could spend all day in one of those, playing with the equipment. And if the worse comes to the worse, you can always force yourself to use a McDonalds. In fact I’ve often been grateful to McDonalds for installing their toilets all over the country.

Weary late night tube travellers like myself are often perplexed by the lack of lavatories on platforms. Of course, there is plenty of evidence that this does not put some people off simply using the platform, but for those of us with refined sensibilities, a little privacy, decorum and consideration for others is of paramount importance. There are some woods across the road from Totteridge Station which provides all these. If you go far enough down one end of the car park in East Finchley you are normally out of range of both eyesight and opprobrium.

So, if you are travelling around London, print out this handy guide to ensure your trip is successful and anxiety-free. The paper might come in handy, too.


3 Responses

  1. LOL.

    That’s a fantastic guide. I love it. You could sell it at the international airport and make a fortune.

  2. I always use a posh hotel’s loo when I am in town and in need of a leak!

  3. Thank you Naomi! Steve, I am sure the posh hotels are glad of a visit from you.

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