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)