Time Out’s award winning columnist Michael Hodges has been at it again. This week’s thing not to do in London – No 837 : wee in the wrong place.
Watching the woman have a wee in the middle of the road, it’s hard not to be impressed. I’m on my way to meet Jim’s friend Sandra for the first time. Jim’s set it all up. He says he thinks Sandra and me will get on well, so the three of us are going for a Korean. But Sandra and Jim are going to have to wait. This weeing woman is incredible. For a start, her aim is extremely impressive. Somehow she’s getting the line of pale yellow liquid to rush along the exact centre of the white road marking before tumbling on to the tarmac, racing across the gap and then mounting the next marking and continuing in a straight line. That’s impressive weeing by any standards. And it’s not easy, I’d guess, to lift up your skirt, pull your tights partly down, push your pants to one side and then let loose such an accurate stream of urine while successfully holding on throughout this operation to what looks like a long island iced tea and singing selections from the Spice Girls’ earlier work.
It’s a bravura performance that’s also noteworthy for its utter disregard for physical danger which, if you’re squatting in the road with a bare bum just around the corner from Greek Street, is considerable. Already one black cab and a meat delivery van have had to steer round her, and she hasn’t even stopped singing. The woman has admirable spirit, then, but even for Soho her behaviour might be considered a little flamboyant. It’s relatively commonplace to see a woman going to the loo in a London corner after a night of wild abandon, but this is not happening outside a nightclub at 3am; it is happening outside a Korean barbecue restaurant at 8.30pm. And not everyone is as impressed as I am. As he made clear when he wound down his window, the meat delivery van driver was particularly underwhelmed.
But we should hesitate before we criticise London women when we find them weeing in unlikely places. Often they don’t have any choice: 112 years after Queen Victoria died, the provision of toilets in London’s pubs and bars is still arranged much on Victorian lines – that is, lots of loos for men, few for women. An extraterrestrial visitor to London’s bars and clubs might conclude that the male of the species is sociable and happy, keen to gather together, chatting and laughing with other males. But the female is a gloomy creature, preferring to stand in lines on nightclub staircases and pub corridors looking cross while shifting from foot to foot.
It’s doubly unfair that men in London are allowed to go wherever they want without causing much complaint. Though further out from the centre of London, attitudes get a little more suburban and a little less free with wee. This is why there are signs on the staircases at the multistorey car park in Beckenham saying ‘Do not urinate here’ but none, say, at the NCP in Soho, where some people seem to think you’re expected to wee in the stairwells and have consensual but confused sex with a total stranger who has forgotten where their friend’s Vauxhall Corsa is parked. These, it strikes me as the tang of kimchi mixes with a waft of wee in the air around me, are insoluble mysteries.
Eventually the woman begins the complicated process of putting her clothing back on. I offer to hold the long island iced tea, but she snarls when I approach the glass. Stepping back, I find Jim standing in the doorway of the Korean restaurant.
‘Where’s Sandra? Inside?’
Jim points at the woman in the road.
More life guidance from Michael Hodges.