Friday, 29 May 2015

My Favourite Toilets

"These are the most interesting and dirtiest walls in Derbyshire"

A public toilet (also called a bathroom, restroom, latrine, comfort room, powder room, toilet room, washroom, water closet, W.C., public lavatory, lavconvenience, loo[1]) is a room or small building containing one or more toilets and possibly also urinals which is available for use by the general public, or in a broader meaning of "public", by customers of other services.[1]
Pictured: a private bathroom
(for the purpose of comparison)

The public toilet is a deeply interesting place. I carelessly like to assume that no one really has a particular fondness of public bathrooms. But they are a necessary evil when you are not within the vicinity of your own home-based private bathroom, or indeed, a friend’s, acquaintance’s, or arch enemy’s inside outhouse.    

For this reason specifically, I decided a while ago that The International Cheese-Fries Review should rise to the challenge of reviewing a handful of Liverpool City Centre’s public bathrooms. Being of a female persuasion and as the sole researcher in this venture, I have to apologise in advance for the fact that I was only able to sample the respective locations’ ladies’ rooms; and thus, any evidence I can give will necessarily be heavily skewed and biased. Whilst I am apologetic about this as mentioned just now, I am also revelling in this state of affairs for absolutely no reason whatsoever and to a perfectly ridiculous degree.

Public toilets are typically found in railway stations, schools, bars, restaurants, nightclubs or filling stations as well as on longer distance public transport vehicles. [1]

As you can see from the above, public toilets are clearly social animals. This goes some way toward explaining why they can usually be seen hanging out in groups.

With a modest sample size of 6 locations, my extremely limited selection (please take note: 3 of the host properties, that is: half of the sample size, are situated on Hope Street), most of which can be illustrated and underpinned by completely useless pictorial evidence, will surely make for a highly scientific review and is sure to have a great impact on the academic and political community both locally and globally.

However, please rest assured that I have personally visited and used all of these toilets at least twice (i.e. a minimum of 2 (two) times) in order to account for variances in weather, air/water pressure, alignment of stars as well as myriad other factors which may impact the rating of said shithouses.

Here, then, are my findings, arranged in order of oh-who-even-cares (bathroom selfies are to be viewed with caution and at your own risk):

The Pen Factory, Hope Street

At Hope Street’s Pen Factory, the Ladies’ rooms – if you can stretch to calling them that – will strike any visitors as somewhat basic and makeshift. So much so that I am still uncertain as to whether this is in fact more of an art installation than an actual bathroom (which would explain why I always seem to find myself alone in these particular facilities). Paper-thin wooden boards separate potential lady urinators from one other, while the floor displays generous stains of unknown origin.
There is a certain charm to this rustic simplicity, however. An added benefit is that you don’t have to walk through the actual bar/dining space to access the toilets, so you are able use them at your leisure without anyone asking questions. And isn’t that something we all really want in our lives? To not be spoken to when we go to do our business?

Overall rating – 7/10

The Philharmonic Pub, Hope Street

I have heard many people speak fondly of the lovely toilets in the Phil, citing them almost as a tourist attraction of sorts. Although I’m fairly sure that this was always in reference to the men’s rooms, which I have not been able to see to this day for reasons cited in the above introduction. In any case, the female sector is way above average for what you expect from a pub toilet – fresh flowers especially are a nice touch. But then... the pub in question is the Phil, so I would never really have expected the floors to be flooded with wee or anything. The only negative point I can think of is that the air sometimes seems a little stuffy. For that reason, I may not be able to move in after all.

Overall rating – 9/10

Marks & Spencer (Mahrks n Spahrks innit), Church Street

This one is standard department store fare in terms of lavvies – bonus points are awarded for efficient hand dryers (the type that you have to stick your hands in vertically downwards) – but this IS Marks after all – as well as the warning sign on one of the cubicles which informs the attentive reader that the door upon which it sits opens outwards (shock!). Health and Safety reigns supreme in this country and M&S is clearly its proudest stalwart.

Overall rating – 6/10

The Everyman Theatre, Hope Street

The washrooms at the Everyman are very stylish indeed. It’s almost... too much. They are: colour coordinated, industrial, and crisp. Just look at the pictures. It's everything you could ever want from a shitter, really.
Seriously, though: The taps and hand towel dispensers are fitted with sensors so you don’t have to touch them (but of course you do anyway, if you’re me, and adopt a slapping rather than a waving technique). I don’t feel good enough for these toilets. I'm currently in talks with the proprietors of the building to negotiate an assured shorthold tenancy on this particular restroom, but to be honest, I don't think I stand a chance.

Overall rating – 9.5/10

Debenhams, Lord Street

About as bog-standard as they come. Not enough confusion.

Another boring, standard, but mostly clean department store lot. I have to give minus points here simply because someone else is always in there with you. Obviously, the location can be found too easily by the general public. It must be too obvious, too well signposted – although you do have to walk past the tiny-children’s clothing section to get there, which may well prove disturbing for some unwilling or unwitting (non-)customers.
With regards to these premises, I am planning to petition for a maze to be implemented over several of the store’s floors which would take even the most shrewd of solvers roughly 20 minutes to complete before the sweet relief of bladder-emptying may begin, in order to ensure exclusive use of these premises for myself only.

Overall rating – 5/10

The Met Quarter, Whitechapel

I found the toilets at the Met Quarter shopping centre to be surprisingly large and spacious, and thus somewhat reminiscent of an expansive set of public toilets I once frequented at Manchester airport around 11am on Christmas Eve, when I believe I was the only person in this farm of about 50 cubicles, which immediately made uncouth possibilities come to the very front of my mind (It was Xmas after all. I didn’t follow through on any of these inappropriate ideas, but I have fond memories of that day nevertheless). The Met Quarter’s loos are posher than those at MAN airport; also, and this is a good thing, they are somewhat hidden away and only accessible by an elevator, so for the first-time visitor a sense of adventure is included in the price (which is a handsome £0.00 to the penny)! So why don't you go there next time you're in the area and have a posh pee. Go on, treat yourself.

Overall rating – 9/10

*UPDATE: Special bonus contender:*

The Kazimier, Wolstenholme Square

Well, isn't it always the way that you find the very best thing only after you think you've concluded your studies in a satisfactory manner.
Here, then, is the best thing: I like to call it "The friendship toilet". Spotted in the legendary Kazimier's ladies' rooms (whether it is the Kaz that is legendary or its ladies' rooms is for you to decide), this toilet displays an uncomfortable and yet exciting lack of boundaries and ensures you can still chat and hold hands with your bestie even whilst weeing to your heart's (and bladder's) content.

Overall rating - Out of this world

At the end of my exhaustive review, let me just say that if you were looking for a winner of this competition - there is none, despite what the numbers may suggest. As the saying goes, all's fair in love and toilets and you should go out there and find the one that works best for you.

Nature calls x


Friday, 8 May 2015

Welcome... in Blue Jam

***DISCLAIMER: Rather than writing a distracted review of something picked at random, I have, for once, decided to write a straightforward recommendation about something I love.***

[..] and when you are inside the infinite misery jumper, pulling it over and over your head, with no hope of ending, cause it replicating at the waistband, and you never get out... then ee welcome... oh, then ee arth welcome... in Blue Jam. (from the intro of Series 1, Episode 1)

Experimental radio show Blue Jam combines the wonderfully weird and sometimes sick-minded with the absurdly funny, with a tone provided by a backdrop of dreamy, strange and just downright good music.

Originally broadcast in the late 90s on Radio 1 (!) - albeit late at night - its otherness is still striking. People with a certain sense of humour and penchant for strangeness will feel immediately at home when dropped into Chris Morris' world of doctors who kiss their patients where it hurts, mentally unstable human art exhibits and bosses who offer lewd gestures instead of payrises, all swirling in and out of a sea of songs that sound like they were made for this sole purpose.

From the Pidgin-English intro poetry to whole minutes of complete or near-silence, to jagged fragments of pop songs that cut in and out - even if it does nothing else, it is likely to take you by surprise and show you what radio can be.

If you share my love for this particular blend of sound art, and hear it for the first time, you will probably cry out: "Finally! I have been waiting for this for so long and didn't even know it. Why isn't there more of this?!"

Proudly weird people, please try to make something as excellent as (not: exactly like) Blue Jam. I know I'm certainly trying. Just you watch this space.

But first, if you haven't yet, listen for inspiration. Where? The YouTube channel Cook'd Bomb'd hosts the entire two series of Blue Jam for your enjoyment.

And if you have listened, and know all about what I mean, listen again, and feel at home in your head.


Image credit: