Wednesday, 30 April 2014

A Wild Loos Chase

it really goes to show that I take this blog seriously when I go out I'd my way on holiday to visit a famous toilet. It's therefore an even bigger shame when it seems to no longer exist.
"Don't Miss a Sec" was an art installation near to one of the Tate art galleries in London. It was a toilet surrounded by one way mirrors in the middle of a busy street. One way mirrors meaning you can see everyone walking past it while doing your business but nobody can see in.
Unless everywhere on the internet was saying it was somewhere it wasn't, I believe it is no longer there. I spent a good few hours walking round the outside of both Tate Britain and Tate Modern yesterday to no avail.

I guess I'll go back to reviewing train station toilets then...

Shout outs to Chris for putting up with my toilet seeking adventures in London.

Friday, 18 April 2014

The Dog & Partridge, Bolton

The relenting march of time's eternal boots have not been kind to these toilets. 

There is nothing to dry your hands after you've washed them, not even a towel. The urinals are mismatched, and one has a large crack in it. The door doesn't seem to shut properly.

However, there is one good thing to note about these crappers. They take a firm stance on dangerous mind-altering substances.

I'm not entirely convinced that this isn't somewhat tongue in cheek, but I certainly came away from my experience feeling a better person for it. And who can honestly say that a toilet has done that to them of late? 3 out of 5 flushes from me.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Cottons Hotel, Knutsford

I had the pleasure recently of being involved in an event at the very smart Cottons Hotel in Knutsford. The ladies loo was very clean and modern, with good facilities.The sink area was super shiny sparky nice, and the posh handwash and cream were a rather splendid touch.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

The Nags Head, Crewe

So, pub toilets, a beacon for high standards in essential facilities? Of course not! Many a time I've seen the link between licensed premises and dingy, damaged, poorly maintained toilets. So let's not get our hopes up for The Nags Head, situated at the heart of Crewe.

Firstly, inside the cubicle, what do you notice?

That's right, not even the first hint of toilet paper. I can't even see the remains of a dispenser. This suggests that the room may never have housed a loo role, or at least not since it was last painted (yes, this is the gents, and yes, the walls appear to be pink).

It's not too dirty, this was early on in the evening. Lets see the main room...

Soap, check, working sink, check, urinals (obviously not in use during my visit), check.

There's a distinct lack of graffiti here, unless you count the adverts for upcoming events jotted down on the wall, for gents to peruse at their leisure while... actually, nothing in particular leads visitors to face that wall.

That hand drier is merely for decoration.

Either the folks of Crewe are not for scrawling, or management is quite efficient at removing any unauthorised daubings, I guess we'll never know. If it is the management thing, they're definitely misdirecting their efforts to graffiti removal instead of essential facilities.

Basically, there's not a great deal I can say that's good about this place, it's not doing it's job, there's nothing to attract me to it (besides the obvious biological requirement) it's basically featureless, lacking in both interest and functionality.

There is one thing, tho. To say in it's favour...

That, right there, is a lock! It's clearly been removed and replaced on numerous occasions. Now, I don't know who it is that kicks locks through in pub toilets, but wherever I go there's a lock deficit in pub gents. Someone appears to remove them on a regular basis and more often than not there's no hint of a repair or replace taking place.

So well done on the lock, Nags Head, but it could really use toilet paper and hand drying facilities.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

The Real China, Southport

Let's start at the beginning, The Real China is not, by any means, the real China. It's a slightly bizzarely named Chinese buffet in Southport, Lancashire. It's on a block along with a cinema, bowling alley, and a few other restaurants.

In the past I've seen several oriental eating establishments that take their colourful, slightly overblown, stereotypically Chinese decorative approach as far as their lavatorial facilities. On the whole, they're usually a good bet in the search for an interesting, beautiful, pleasant toiletry experience.

The Real China, on the other hand. doesn't. Their lavatories betray the nature of the business, a pop-up establishment ready to be deployed in any given space. The toilets just feel like they came with the premises and could just so easily belong to the cinema, the motel across the car park or the Mexican franchise next door.

I can't say anything much about them, then, it's soulless, clean and serves it's purpose.

Even the graffiti is rather unremarkable, such as this slightly cryptic graffito.

Me. Plain as day, just... me

I had to look this one up, the originator would appear to be a fan of TNA wrestling, specifically Mark LoMonaco and evidently feels everyone who uses these facilities should know it. However the identity of this particular graffitist is lost to the ages, perhaps it was "me". So we'll just have to live with that mystery for ever more.

There's one thing to be said about these graffiti, they're not daubed in feeble, temporary, easy-to-erase ink. They're created using the traditional artists craft of paints, or the more synonymous spray-paint. No, these graffiti are scratched into the fabric of the door, removing the top layer of soul-less functional grey, to reveal a dark underbelly of soul-less functional grey. These must have taken some work, and so I feel I must reluctantly applaud the effort that was placed into them. With the ever-present temptation of another course from the all-you-can-eat buffet, under constant threat of detection (I can't imagine this was a quiet process), they toiled, possibly in multiple sessions to leave for the ages one simple message.

"Me" likes Bully Ray

Sunday, 6 April 2014

A note regarding railway station toilets that charge

It just occurred to me that trains will often arrive at their final destination well before they're due to depart as another service. You will often be able to board the train in advance too. Right now, I'm at Manchester Piccadilly station. I needed the toilet, but rather than spend 30p, I just got onto a Virgin Train that is due to depart in half an hour. The toilets on Virgin Trains flush into a tank, so you're allowed to flush in stations (not all trains are like this, so pay attention to signs that say "do not flush in stations" unless you want your business left the track in the station.

so there you have it. Just a quick tip to save you some cash.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Inspire Centre, Levenshulme

Unfortunately, I have to begin this review with a health & safety announcement. 

Take a look at this picture and see if you can work out what's wrong. Clue: I'm pointing at it.

The clear plastic front of the toilet roll dispenser leapt off when I merely touched it and ended up on the floor. 

Despite my obvious alarm, I replaced it like a conscious cubicle patron. Which is when I noticed this:

I've never in my 27 years on this planet come across such a concept, but would be interested to know if anyone out there has themselves...

Even though I searched high & low, I could find no further documentation explaining this peculiar phenomenon. I must therefore assume it's the work of either someone attempting to create a toilet-based social network, or a deranged yet well-meaning toilet attendant who merely wants to spread the good word.

Answers on a postcard, please... In the mean time, I award this a paltry 1 out of 5 flushes, due to the danger I felt I was put in.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Swinton Shopping Centre

I'm not proud of what I'm about to admit here, but I feel that I need to get it off my chest. Ok, here goes...

I used a disabled toilet earlier today, not to prove some sort of point or because I'm a convention defier, but because there was someone cleaning the gent's.

I feel a lot better for that, actually. A palpable weight has been lifted.

Ok, only a couple of points I feel need to be raised here.

One, is it frowned upon to utilise a baby changer to store your jacket?

Because if it is, then strike two against me!

And secondly, has anyone else ever come across a 2 person hand-dryer?

I think the manufacturer of this thing thought they were making games consoles, because I can think of no other valid reason this exists. Especially as this is, remember, in a single person disabled toilet.

You might think it's for whoever's assisting the disabled individual, but everything else in the cubicle seems designed to ensure no second party is needed, whether for wiping or emotional support.

Could it be for mother (or father) and baby? I don't think so, a baby's hands aren't big enough to warrant a whole half of a hand dryer, surely?

So, a rather perplexing situation presents itself... Answers on a postcard, please.

Oh, and 2 flushes out of 5, in case you were wondering...

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Birmingham New Street (managed by Network Rail)

THE FUTURE IS HERE! I think. It's somewhere around here I'm sure.

Birmingham New Street. Birmingham's best and worst train station simultaneously. It's steadily getting better thanks to lots of improvements and refurbishments in both the station and the surrounding areas. It's costing lots of money and, in true Network Rail style, a long time. Also, just outside, the tram line is finally being built towards New Street (did you know Birmingham has trams? No? That's why they're extending it to the biggest railway station then).

Speaking of improvements, the toilets! Speaking of Network Rail, the confusion!

Birmingham New Street is currently split in two. The A-side and the B-side. Don't let the lettering fool you, it's the opposite to singles where the A-side is what you actually want and the B-side is something thrown in for good measure. T'other way round this time. If you alight your train on the "B" side of the platform, go up the escalators and you will find yourself in the new section of the station. Food places, ticket office, shops, etc. There are two passageways into the central section (where the exits are) from the "B" section. Section "A" however, has not yet had its upgrades. Enter the station from the platform in the "A" section, and you have a very long corridor with only one way out (on the lower number end, so you've got a long way if you arrive on platform 12A).

Now then, to toilets. Section "B" has the toilets right at the platform 12B end of the corridor (if you arrive on platform 1B, you're gonna have to run). Standard Network Rail 30p entrance fee to get in though. More on whether it's worth it in a moment. HOWEVER, if you arrive on the "A" side, how long it takes to get to somewhere to relieve yourself depends on your gender. The "A" side currently only has female facilities available (between the platform 5 and 6 escalators by the single exit to the central area). So, if you're a bloke on the A side, you have to go all the way to passageway (including ticket barriers) into the central area, across the central area, through one of B side's ticket barriers, down the corridor towards platform 12B, pay your entry fee and get in. Hope you made it. Might be quicker to go down to the platform and across to the B side escalators and back up again.

In all fairness to Network Rail, there are gents toilets being refurbished/replaced on the A side which may open in future to the closing of the female toilets instead, but I don't know. I thought it was worth mentioning here though.

Right, onto the actual gents loos. After paying your entry fee, there's a few differences to other Network Rail-run station loos. First off, it smells fine. No problems with stocking air fresheners here unlike Euston. The thrones themselves have a problem though. One which I shall go into great detail about:

I had to tilt.

Okay, more detail needed. The new toilets in New Street have proximity/motion sensors for flushing (like I said, the future is here). Typically, this involves waving your hand in front of the sensor. However, there is a problem with these sensors, as I found sitting down and leaning back (as you would normally) sets them off. In the name of this blog, I had to investigate with a Vine:

That's quite a distance it gets set off, and perhaps it's a little too low as well. So, in order to counteract this and continue with my business, I had to A) tilt to the side, and B) tilt forwards, resulting in being diagonal to the back of the stall. Uncomfortable, I can tell you. Fortunately, the seat was very clean, so rotating myself didn't result in introducing myself to any remains from prior users. One final thing, the dryers were some non-branded generic ones, not the Dyson ones that Manchester Pic and Euston use, so they were like being coughed on by an asthmatic.

After my visit, I did have to inform Network Rail staff that the sensors were malfunctioning or badly placed. One staff member mentioned that their reflective clothing sets the sensors off from quite a distance too, but agreed that there may be a problem with the specific stall. Hopefully this gets fixed, but it was very unpleasant.

So, time to round up with scores. Two points lost for gents only being on the B-side (they get this point back when the ones on the A-side open up), point lost for having rubbish dryers, only one point lost for the broken sensor as this might get fixed, add one point for having air fresheners that worked very well, points sustained for clean seats and dry floors.

All totalled up, 7/10

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Jack Spratt's, Manchester

This is a trendy bar in Manchester city centre, and the single unisex cubicle quite neatly reflects this. 

I always expect a queue outside these ones, but there never is. Almost disappointing, in a way...

Easily the most striking thing about this W.C. is the artwork daubed on the walls. 

There's this on the inside of the door:

It looks like a deleted scene from a Tarantino film. I like to imagine the old man is suddenly going to pull a sawn-off shotgun from the depths of his coat and blow those guys behind him away. But after a 40 minute discussion on fizzy drinks or something.

Then there's this:

Scantily-clad seƱoritas peer down at you whilst you conduct your business, whether judging or admonishing you is left to the user's imagination... Well, their husbands have gone to war, and their only pleasure in life is to watch Mancunians make potty.

I like this bog, I'm not going to lie, and for it's uniqueness, coupled with the exotic mystery of the paintings, I'm going to award this 5 flushes out of 5! Magnifico!

Sunday, 23 March 2014

A quick one

So the store has just opened. The customers start arriving. One of them needs the toilet. He goes in. There is no soap and it smells horrible. It is the beginning of the day, how has the toilet not even been looked at? Is that not part of the beginning of the day before you open up the store?


Sunday, 16 March 2014

Chester Railway Station Platforms 4-7 - Gents

"These toilets are available until 18:00"
that's a good sign...

First off, Chester station has two sets of toilets. One set in the buildings on platforms 4-7, the other set are on the main concourse just inside the station. Therefore, you need a ticket to get through the barriers to the ones I'm about to talk about. Just so you know.

First off, as you enter the corridor (i.e. Where you choose your gender-specific door) the smell is horrendous. This is really weird when the smell is completely gone when you enter the gents, and everyone knows girls don't poo, right? Anyway, the room is very small and cramped, where you almost have to contort yourself around the corner to the single cubicle. Interestingly, it seemed to have been recently cleaned, or perhaps a better class of people use this toilet (considering you need a ticket to access it) as the seat was dry and the water was clear! A rarity with public loos. Of course, I could be lucky, but it left a good impression. Flushing is a push button which is rather odd. Beware however, as when I visited there was no soap available, which you would think "oh they'll refill it", but on both times I've visited this particular loo in the past, there hasn't been any. I'm guessing it runs out part-way through the day and nobody refills it.

Oh, and one last thing: this graffiti amused me, namely the last line at the bottom (WARNING: strong language ahead) click here for picture

Points lost for only one cubicle and repeated lack of soap. I would deduct points for the smell, but that's in the corridor on approach, but I will deduct points for only being open part-time.

Final mark: 6/10

Saturday, 15 March 2014

The Verve, Leeds

What to say about so generic a toilet? Not a whole lot, alas.

The most remarkable/frustrating feature of these particular facilities is that they're located upstairs! Upstairs! In this day & age, I'm surprised they don't contravene some sort of health & safety policy. I'm sure of a Saturday night, many a drunken reveller has taken a near-fatal plunge down these very steps. Whether post or pre-wee we'll leave to the imagination...

These toilets don't emanate any warmth or friendliness, they're simply ambivalent metal troughs against which litres of recycled booze is sloshed against night after night. And they're upstairs! Madness...

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Loo review - Sandbar, Manchester

This bar's bohemian pissers are to be expected, as the place itself is nestled firmly in student territory.

You step into the anteroom that separates the gent's from the ladies, and it's as if someone with severe mental issues decorated with whatever was in their garage a the time. Once you've puzzled out the correct way to go, you're into the loos themselves.

Functional & uncompromising, a strip urinal takes up one wall. The Lilliputian sink laughs at your attempts to fit both hands under one tap, and the single bathroom stall barely has enough room in which to swing a cat.

The graffiti as well hardly warrants mentioning, nonsensical & impenetrable as it is. It's as though someone vomited the contents of a Russian phone book over the walls, and instead of an occasional piece of sweetcorn, there's the odd peeled band sticker.

The bathroom, alas, fails to live up to the quality of the surrounding boozer, and thus only scores a paltry 2 flushes out of a possible 5...

Thursday, 27 February 2014

The GYM, Woodbridge Meadows, Guildford

For those of you who are unfamiliar with gymnasia, they're institutions designed to extract subscription money from people. They are filled with machinery which human beings willingly use with the specific intention of becoming exhausted, experiencing muscle fatigue and vowing never to return. In the exact opposite of traditional employment, customers spend money in order to be able to work. But Points of Loo is not about gymnasia, it's about toilets.

It is, however, important to understand the context in which a toilets are situated. My experience of the gym is not of a place where people enjoy spending time. The facilities reflect this nature, they're small, functional and joyless.

The flush appears to have been upgraded at some point in history, no longer a contact handle but the flashy, pointless feature that is a motion sensor. Full points for keeping up with the times, there. The story is, of course, that a flush sensor is there for reasons of hygiene, not allowing your hands to come into contact with something that's touched someone else's hand, immediately before washing said hands.

In the real world motion sensor flushes do one of two things, either flush incessantly whenever a human being is in the room, or require direct contact to trigger. This one is the latter.

To add to the joyless, exhausted nature of it's patrons, the facilities here are filled with advertising to alleviate the symptoms of exercise and fatigue. Todays cubicle has one astonishing offer:

Put yourself in the mindset of myself, after one too many sit-ups, lifts and strides upon the treadmill. Barely able to believe my eyes. That's absolutely right! Only twenty of my English pounds for a masseuse to place a candle in my ear for thirty whole minutes! That's only a mere 66 pence for a whole minute of having a candle in my ear.

Once again a little off topic, but I could recommend buying a candle and attempting the treatment yourself for considerably less. That is, if you dare to risk placing a candle in your ear without the aid of a qualified masseuse.

Hand washing facilities are ample, although a push button which, after the hygiene gains of not touching the flush (much), require several pushes and some amount of contact. So even with a motion sensor flush you have to resort to soap and water.

The dryers are Dyson Airblades, which, contrary to Peters comments, I like as a piece of technology. It's a rare splash of fun in this joyless building to watch the flesh of your hands being displaced by high speed air. Add to this the delicious irony that belongs to the fact a large proportion of patrons only use this dryer to try and avoid wobbling flesh and the hand dryer is easily my favourite thing about these facilities.

They are, at least, well maintained, cleanliness is largely good, toilet roll and soap are plentiful and I've never met a non-functioning fitting.

In conclusion, they're functional, joyless and deeply in keeping with their surroundings. There is nothing in this room to make me smile, it's so-so. This can only be 3.5 out of 5. Very good at being a toilet, but for my money it's lacking in a USP. Would use again, but it's only because I keep using the same gym.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

London Euston National Rail (near platform 1)

Some call it "spending a penny". Network Rail call it "spending 30p".

London Euston is one of the few stations in the UK managed by Network Rail themselves, rather than the train operator of the area. They have this thing where they charge people to use the loo (30p, which I believe is standard across all Network Rail managed stations). I've not been to a station managed by a train operating company where they charge, though that could be a coincidence.

Nyways, the fact that you have to pay to get in should be a good sign that the quality and cleanliness of the toilet is of at least a reasonable standard. almost is. The toilets are typically clean looking, unless you're really unlucky and are immediately after the guy who doesn't flush (incidentally, if the person is within the vicinity still, Network Rail encourages dropkicking the individual back in to flush (this is a joke don't sue us)).

Flushing is handle operated, not sensor-based like some Network Rail toilets. As per usual, Points of Loo encourages the use of a bit of toilet paper to use handles on public loos.

Paper is plentiful, two large rolls per cubicle and there's always at least one cubicle free out of the past many visits.

For those carrying lots of baggage (it is an intercity station after all) there are extra-wide cubicles indicated by signs on the doors. Plenty of room for large bags. However, this sometimes means the paper dispenser is further away from you than normal, which can require a stretch.

Hand washing facilities are sub-par. Not very many basins with those depress and let go taps that are never running water for long enough. Dryers are those Dyson ones which, while quick to dry, are noisy and unpleasant to use. If you get the cubicles adjacent to the dryers, you get a draft and, in some cases, stray water flying in from under the door. The noise when you're not expecting it is also less than pleasant.

Finally, the smell. Yes it's a toilet. Yes I know they're supposed to smell bad usually, but not this bad. I can only assume the air freshening unit wasn't working as it was incredibly unpleasant to the point where I wanted to sacrifice my 30p and go somewhere else. Possibly the worst public toilet in terms of smell only I've been to.

So, overall rating is 3/5. Good if you really need to go and can't get somewhere else, but I'd save your money and go somewhere else. Train toilets are better.

--Peter Shillito

Monday, 24 February 2014

Virgin Pendolino, Coach D, disabled access toilet

On the 23rd of February, amongst the panel of an up-and-coming panel game in Manchester's spiritual home, AllFM, a plan was hatched. As we beknighted few moved through this world we would chronicle the lavatories we met and share our experiences with the world.

So, as young, new, hip, dynamic players in the highly competitive khazi review game, it seems appropriate that our first review is a decidedly mobile toilet, on board a Virgin Pebdolino train travelling from Manchester to London.

Pressing a button you hear instantly hear the hiss of compressed gas and whir of machinery, informing you in no uncertain terms that you are entering the smallest room of the future. The door obligingly slides aside to reveal...

An advert, for Mr. Branson's prestigious balloon trip business, conspicuously lacking in information about that form of Virgin transport, it's lavatorial facilities and journey time from Manchester to Liverpool. Overall it would appear that rail is a superior form of transportation. Perhaps the trains should tow the balloons.

The room itself is cramped, but not too cramped, being disabled accessible it would be possible to fit a wheelchair and it's occupant in here, but I fear making use of the facilities beyond this point would be tricky in this moving, shaking, tilting room. 

The mirror bears the simple message "Hey there, good looking!", to ensure me of my attractive visage in a complimentary, but sadly under-informed manner. 

It appears there's a feeling of humour, or at least humour-by-committee, about this place. Perhaps designed as a distraction from the fact your necessary activities are taking place while being buffeted around by the train.

It would also appear that classic computer gaming icon Pacman has fallen on hard times, reduced to consuming sundry lavatorial waste to get by.

Then we come to hand washing facilities, notorious for their unreliable functionality, there's a routine here. First, check the drier works, this seems backward, I know, but it is tricky moving about a train with wet hands. Then the water, this also feels wrong but it is one hundred times better than having hands covered in soap and attempting to grab on to seats as you search for the nearest working tap. Better to allow your hands to remain unwashed? I'll let you decide. 

Overall, I would give this a mediocre three stars. I personally quite like the talking point provided by the Virgin-branded decoration and rather wordy humour on the signs, and it is actually very well designed for it's rather difficult location but a long history of spotty hand-washing facilities let it down for me.

- Andrew Faraday (@marmitejunction)