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Alexi Duggins asks: Where the hell are all London’s public toilets?

Posted at 4:15 pm, August 17, 2014 in Fun London
Alexi Duggins © Rob Greig

Life in London: so many issues. Our inquisitive editor-at-large addresses the ones that nobody dares (or cares) to. This week: why our city’s toilet provision takes the piss.

Weeing should be one of the most natural things in the world. As instinctive as drinking when thirsty, holding your breath when underwater and mistaking Boris Johnson for an albino walrus in a Worzel Gummidge party wig.

But wazzing in London ain’t that simple. I recently spent a week journeying to work disguised as a woman (I had my reasons) and let me tell you: finding a unisex public loo to change in was as about as easy as playing darts with spaghetti.

And it suddenly hit me: this sucks. Granted, penis-folk like myself don’t enjoy furtively unzipping in alleyways, but at least there’s an emergency option that doesn’t risk you falling backwards into your own widdle. So why does London make it so hard for ladies to empty their bladders? Apparently councils can’t afford to run public loos any more, so since 2000 there’s been a 16 percent decline in the city’s public pissers. Or, as I think of it, ‘Sixteen percent higher chance of a maddening half-mile hop to the next loo while your bladder boils jam.’

Liz Darke outside Attendant

There are only four lavs in all of Islington (that’s a potential 51,500-person queue for each one). And due to maverick WC opening hours supplemented only by gross street urinals, women can’t wee in Hackney after 8pm. At this rate, it won’t be long until they replace toilets with signs reading: ‘Ladies: piss off to Tower Hamlets’.

The answer? Use bars as bogs. The latest big thing in excretion is the Community Toilet Scheme – signing bars, shops and cafés up to a programme where the public use their loos for free. It’s cheap for councils. It’s good for the public. It’s good for business. It’s a great idea. It’s top of the poops.


One thing about using pubs as lavs, though: what about the lavs that are now pubs? Fun times in pissers are in. Across the city, ex-loos are being retooled as funky hangouts that just happened to once contain men with their penises out: WC in Clapham, Cellar Door on the Strand, Portside Parlour in Shoreditch. Yep, our public toilets are bars and our bars are now public toilets.

The thing that worries me, though? How difficult community loos are to find. Locating them involves spotting tiny stickers on pub and café windows: not easy when you’re desperately jigging about like a Riverdancer with a flea problem. Surely there’s only one conclusion: if the trend continues we’re going to accidentally wee ourselves in the street. Which is when disaster strikes. A healthy adult can produce up to 2.5 litres of urine a day. Multiplied by 8.3 million Londoners, that’s 20,750,000 litres of piss sloshing round the streets per diem: enough to flood the city. So that’s Tom Cruise doggy paddling to Leicester Square film premieres through a lake of widdle. That’s Crossrail trains bobbing about in bladder juice like futuristic urinal cakes. That’s Soho smelling… well, roughly the same. There is, however, something to be said for it. At least it will be just as embarrassing for men as women. Right, sisters?

For another of Alexi’s comical ponderings have a read of: Why is there a fly rave in my flat?

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