Gripes & Graplings

Monday, October 31, 2005

British Toilets

What is it with the British and toilet hygiene? If I had a pound for every British toilet I’ve visited that’s a disgrace to the country, I’d be rich by now!

I’m talking about public toilets here, of course. Not that I’m saying that toilets in people’s homes are always clean, I’m sure some aren’t, but as I rarely use private toilets apart from in the homes of close friends—whose bathroom facilities are generally clean—it’s the state of our public toilets I’m concerned about.

This all kicked off during yesterday’s trip to Blackpool. I desperately needed the loo so, rather than use a public toilet, I asked to use the toilet at the café where we ate. Expecting to be directed to a nice, cosy toilet, instead I was sent out onto the street to a toilet at the side of the building. Ok... so maybe they had no way of providing access from the inside of the building but had it been raining, I wouldn’t have been too happy. But it wasn’t, so no harm done.

No harm until I actually stepped inside the toilet, that is.

I really shouldn’t have been shocked having seen so many disgusting British toilets but this one belonged to an FOOD establishment, and as such I would have expected at least a modicum of cleanliness. But, no - it was filthy!

The toilet bowl itself had deep tan layer below the waterline where many a person has peed but few, if any, have cleaned. The dirty sink was home to a sad looking, wet bar of soap and the tap was so loose that it went spun on the edge of the sink. The floor could have done with a good scrub and if I’m going to be really fussy, it would have been nice if the toilet paper had been in its holder, rather than on the floor with damp edges!

Good points? The hand dryer worked and there was a bolt on the inside of the door!

Now, bear in mind that although accessed from the street, this wasn’t a public toilet as such. You had to buzz your way in so I don’t imagine just any old Tom, Dick or Harry off the street could go wandering in there, leaving all sorts of mess behind. This place was dirty because whoever is responsible for cleaning obviously doesn’t see toilet hygiene as a priority.

Quite honestly, after seeing the toilet, it made me wonder what the standards in the kitchen might be like! Needless to say, I didn’t finish my meal.

What I really can’t understand is why the British have such little pride in the surroundings. Yesterday’s experience was just one of many similar experiences I’ve had, and some have been a whole lot worse. I’ve seen excrement wiped on walls, blood on toilet seats, and it’s certainly not uncommon to see puddles of urine on the floor. Neither of these problems are caused by a cleaner’s lack of enthusiasm, either! In fact, if I were a toilet cleaner, I’d seriously consider jacking the job in if I had to face those kinds of conditions every day!

I spent 18 years in Norway and not once did I see anything even remotely similar to the kind of filth I’ve experience in British toilets. I’m ashamed to invite friends to our country because, as a nation, we’ve little to be proud of when it comes to cleanliness!

Cool Britannia? There’s nothing cool about filth!

Related Links:
The British Toilet Association
The 2005 World Toilet Summit


Sunday, October 30, 2005

Blackpool Illuminations

Have you ever been to Blackpool? You know, that tacky seaside town in the North West? What’s more, have you ever seen the Blackpool illuminations?

Today was wet and relatively windy – the perfect day for taking a car ride out to see the lights, especially as Richard had never seen them before and Paul loves anything that’s pretty. By our reasoning, with the weather being what it was, not too many people would bother to venture to Blackpool to see the illuminations and we’d sail through quickly.


Bumper to bumper traffic moving at an average of 2 miles an hour is what we encountered. Either several thousand other families had the same idea as us, or the fact that this weekend was the last chance to see this year’s display had brought fans of the illuminations out in droves.

Linn Marie, who’s 16 and surly at the best of times, had come along for the ride. As soon as she saw the queue her face took on one of those looks that could turn a strawberry sour with one glance, and every comment was along the lines of “are we really going to drive through the whole thing?” and “when are we going to stop and eat?”

We’d planned to have dinner in Blackpool but the heavy traffic meant that parking anywhere remotely close enough to decent looking food establishments was anything but easy. Eventually, with hunger pains plaguing several members of the group, we opted for a New York style diner. Well that’s what it advertised itself as being, anyway. Whether or not they’d serve deep fried burgers and charge 15p extra for a sachet of ketchup in a real New York diner is debatable, and somehow I can’t imagine them sending their clientele onto the street in order to access the loo, either.

Fed and watered, we persevered and eventually saw the entire six miles of lights strung across the main road that runs parallel to Blackpool beach – its famous ‘Golden Mile’. From just before the Pleasure Beach, home to the ‘Big One’ - the UK’s highest roller coaster ride, to well past the South Shore, the lights shone and sparkled in every conceivable colour and portrayed all sorts of themes from mermaids and photography to Blackpool Rock and one-eyed jelly babies. Yes, you read that right. Illuminations depicting Cyclops babies with tubby tums that looked oh-so pokeable.

Richard’s favourite was the ‘Haunted House’ because it had “Draclia” looking out of the window. Linn Marie was impressed by the ‘My Little Pony’ set-up and Paul like a tree that had big balls of light at the ends of its branches. Me? The ‘Pig Disco’ because it reminded me of my clubbing days.

One thing I can’t help wondering about is where do they store all those lights for the rest of the year? In a lock-up at the end of a dark alley? Or maybe at the back of the mayor’s garage? I’m blowed if I know!

Two and half hours we spent in Blackpool, two of them just to see the illuminations. And to think I’d already seen them, just three weeks ago! I guess I must be a glutton for punishment!

Related Links:
Blackpool Illuminations
Blackpool Illuminations II