Thursday, October 15, 2020

A Day of Unexpected Surprises

These are rather politely known as the "West End Lane Public Conveniences" -- in other words, restrooms -- and believe it or not, they're a historic landmark.  They're about a five-minute walk from our flat on the high street in West Hampstead. They date from the Victorian era and according to the historic listing, they "are attractive, with colourful tiled interiors and handsome railings at street level." They are also "notably intact, having surviving basins, doors, ventilation grills and signage and there has been no vandalism or neglect."

I have never been inside these restrooms -- in fact, I'm not sure they're consistently open to the public, given that there's a modern public toilet cubicle right behind them (you can kind of see it behind the tree). But the description sounds intriguing: "The interior walls are lined with cream glazed bricks with a red glazed brick course at dado height and the floors have black and red tiles laid in a chequerwork pattern. The ladies' WC has three cubicles, each with an original wooden door and an ornate metal ventilation grille above. Two original toilet bowls survive and one original lock. An arched opening opposite leads to the washbasins, also original. The space is ventilated through openings high in the walls with ornate metal grills. The gentlemen's lavatory was not inspected but is known to have the same tiled interior, cubicles and wash room section as the ladies', in addition to a row of urinals."

One of these days I'll try to see inside. I only discovered they were historic when I was photographing local monuments for Wikipedia, and they came up on the list. Who knew?!

Yesterday was super-busy, with all the kids wanting to swap out the books they'd read over October break. We had a ton of checkouts and a ton of returns, and in between I had to help repair the laminator, which one of the teachers jammed. We removed about a dozen screws before we could get the thing apart and finally retrieve a sheet of melted plastic, which had become accordioned inside the casing. It was a freakin' mess but it seems to be working again. As I told my boss, "Bet you didn't expect to spend half an hour on that today!"

When Dave and I got home we found that Olga had had an accident in the house, which never happens. It has literally been years. She evidently wasn't feeling well -- maybe drank too much pond water on the Heath! She seems fine now, but I spent another hour or so meticulously cleaning the carpet in the dining room. (We have acres of wooden floors, but she had to have her accident in the one carpeted room in the house.) I'm a little concerned about her new dog-walking schedule, because Kim comes about an hour and a half later than Francisco used to, but I really think in this case she was merely unwell.

Oh, and I checked with the supervisor of elections in Florida, and not only was my ballot received but it has been counted. So for me, voting is officially done. Whew!


Frances said...

You should def. try and get a look in those Gents' toilets. The Victorians made everything look very attractive in their way!
I love the way Americans refer to them as "restrooms"..very polite! Most public toilets would not be conducive to " resting"
I hope that Olga is OK and was just " caught short" ! Have you heard that expression? (Probably an English one.)

Yorkshire Pudding said...

The Victorians created so many public conveniences! In modern times - partly because of funding issues - the official attitude towards lavatorial matters is less enlightened. None of Sheffield's public conveniences remain. What are we meant to do? It is a national disgrace. Some of those old lavatories were splendid - designed with both style and longevity in mind.

crafty cat corner said...

Here in Brighton you would think being a seaside town that we would have many public conveniences, but no, they have all been taken away.
We used to have many like the one you have shown.
Do Hope Olga is okay.

Moving with Mitchell said...

Hope that was just a passing thing for Olga. Yes, pets always find the carpet before they throw up or have their accidents. So they can bury it later. The public toilets are fascinating. I look forward to your interior photos. Funny you still call them restrooms. Is that where you go to rest?

Anonymous said...

I expect the West End Lane Public Conveniences could tell a story or two.

Vivian Swift said...

On a trip to Paris about five years ago I made it a point to go find the last pissoir (in France they are called Vespasienne, after the Roman emperor who first introduced a tax on public urinals). It's in the 13th arr., and it's a twofer because it's just outside the famous Sante Prison, which I had also never seen before. I was very traumatized by these things on my first visits to Paris in the 1970s, but now I'm grown up and I wanted to photograph the last one standing. It is ugly and awful, and is very popular with Paris taxi drivers, I observed.

That's it. That's my public convenience story.

Sweet Olga. She must have been in distress. Maybe she thought the carpet would hide it better?

Ursula said...

Sorry, needed to iron out some of my inaccuracies in the last paragraph.

As Frances above says, it's so quaint to call "conveniences" restrooms. When Professor Higgins' English son took me under this tutelage one of his first instructions was to ask for "The Ladies" instead of the obvious. Ok. Whatever. Foreign places, foreign customs. When in Surrey (England) don't do as the Romans do. Enter the peculiarly British class war whether to say "loo" or "toilet" (in an informal setting). I'll stop at dwelling on napkin/serviette.

The Wikipedia entry you refer to: Is it your own or are you working to someone else's brief?

Commiserations to Olga (and you and your carpet, of course). Sometimes it's best to sit in a restroom when pissed off and at everyone's convenience as not to cause a stink. If you haven't seen it yet, La Grande Bouffe (Das grosse Fressen), Marco Ferreri ca. 1973, springs to mind. I won't spoil it by giving the gag away. Should you watch it please do not google it first. Let's just say: Only the French and the Italians . . . And I thought Germans were robust.


Ursula said...

Addendum: Don't know what's wrong with me today. By all means watch aforementioned film since it definitely links in with the theme. The one I was thinking of, getting it all mixed up, is "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie" (Luis Bunuel, 1972). It's surreal as is the other - and great fun (relatively speaking).


ellen abbott said...

how civilized to have public toilets. I wonder how many countries do? not the US of course. you should definitely check one out. I wonder about 'restroom' too though I've been in many fancy ladies toilets that had a lounge room first that you passed through to get to the toilets so maybe that has something to do with it.

poor Olga. she was probably mortified.

Ms. Moon said...

I would visit the ladies' restroom in a heartbeat! I am fascinated with lovely facilities! Apalachicola put in public restrooms a few years ago and I heartily approve. They are very nice.
Poor Olga. You know she didn't want to have an accident. Bless her little doggie heart.

Sharon said...

Somewhere around two or three years ago, I read a story about one of those public toilets being turned into a tiny pub. I don't remember what part of the city it was located in, I just remember thinking "ick".

My ballot has been verified and counted too! Now it's a waiting game.

Red said...

All school employees end up doing many things not on the job description if the ever was a job description. Secretaries end up doing all kinds of fix jobs.

The Bug said...

That laminator issue is just the kind of situation I love - as long as I can figure it out. It's very satisfactory!

Hope Olga's accident was just a one-off! And YES, go visit the loo! :)

Anonymous said...

I hope you check out that ancient restroom. I'd love to see what the interior looks like.
Bummer about Olga's accident. I hope she's feeling better and it doesn't happen again.

Edna B said...

I'm interested to see the interior of the old restrooms too. They sound really nice. I hope Olga is feeling better. Accidents do happen. Even more so as they get older. You have a super day, hugs, Edna B.

My life so far said...

That's pretty cool, antique toilets. I remember visiting Bodiam Castle and looking at the garderrobes which I found much less appealing when I realized that they emptied into the moat.
Take lots of photos when you visit the toilets please.

Hope Olga is feeling better.

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Angelicastar said...

Steve, I was feeling the same as you about my ballot. I mailed it earlier in the month of October but I carried it to to the post office to have it metered . The lady told me, oh we are not doing that now. I told her you have been doing it for years and asked her what happen this year. There was no answer, so I told her I hope you all are not throwing them in the trash. She said something then. "I have no reason to throw them in the trash." I said I don't know and walked out. I called the Harris County clerk office a few minutes ago and they verified that they did receive it. I told them if it's not there I will go to a polling place and vote. (laughing) It was there on the 7th.

Catalyst said...

I began to wonder if perhaps blogging was getting too much for you when you're going on about public loos but then I saw that your struggles with a laminator may have sent you over the edge. Or mayhap Olga's "accident". Well, at least you didn't forget to vote! Just hope you didn't write in Boris Johnson's name.

37paddington said...

You vote is counted! In Florida! Woot! Poor Olga, I wondered how she managed after seeing that photo of her emerging from the pond. And poor you, for the clean up.

The Padre said...

Congrats On Officially Being Counted - Hang In There Olga Girl

Rock On

Linda Sue said...

So proud of you for getting your ballot in and counted on time! A major feat. I love the toilet and would not hesitate to go in, gentlemen or not, I do that sort of thing because i am American and old and blond and they can not stop me, Advantages!! have you taken Olga to this house?,72T7T,W4MIEI,SL94Q,1

Michael said...

Murphy rarely has an accident either, so when he does, I am always worried that something is wrong. Glad she is feeling better. Kudos for fixing the laminating machine. I would never be able to do it as I have the mechanical ability of a fruit fly.

Debby said...

There is so much confusion about the post office, that I made up my mind to show up in person on Nov 3rd and do my voting in person. I know that is not an option for you. I honestly have to say, I never dreamed that we would see democracy taking such a beating as it is taking right now before our very eyes. The Republicans in California are scattering fake collection boxes around to steal votes. It's not some weird conspiracy theory.

Steve Reed said...

Frances: I have heard the "caught short" expression. I think that's exactly what happened with Olga, poor thing.

YP: It IS ridiculous that it's so hard to find a bathroom in many cities and high streets. This one, in West Hampstead, actually has an attendant!

Briony: It's crazy so many have been closed. More austerity, I suppose.

Mitchell: Oh, I didn't think of that -- that pets are drawn to rugs so they can bury their waste. Interesting!

Andrew: Yeah, I'm not getting into that. LOL

Vivian: Are those the metal outdoor urinals? I remember seeing those in Paris. I didn't realize they'd been taken away! Or is a "Vespasienne" something different?

Ursula: I always opt for "loo" in a casual setting! Thanks for the film recommendations. The photos I was taking for Wikipedia weren't for a specific article -- just for Wiki's use in general and also for use by the public.

Ellen: It's strange that public toilets have become so scarce. It seems like such a basic thing to provide. I guess local governments don't want to pay someone to clean and monitor them.

Ms Moon: It's actually not as lovely as the listing would have us believe, at least based on the men's room. Maybe the ladies' room is nicer.

Sharon: Yes! It's a bar in Kentish Town called "Underground" or "The Basement" or something like that. I've never been there.

Red: I haven't read my own job description in years, if ever. I'm not sure what it says. But usually there's a catchall phrase like, "...and any other task requested by your manager."

Bug: It was good to get it fixed, but I was sort of annoyed that it happened in the first place. :/

Robin: So far so good with Olga. I think it was a one-off.

Edna: Yeah, it's just part of pet ownership -- particularly when, as you said, pets reach a certain age.

Lilycedar: Can you imagine how filthy those moats must have been? Ugh.

Rajani: Thanks for visiting!

Angelicastar: Wonder what she meant when she said "Oh, we're not doing that now?" Maybe she was thinking of the old metered postage, like out of those old-fashioned metering machines. Anyway, glad your ballot arrived!

Catalyst: Ha! Wait til you see TODAY's post. LOL

37P: Normally pond water doesn't bother her at all, and I'm not sure it did this time, either. We don't really know what triggered this! But anyway it seems like a one-time event. (Thank goodness.)

Padre: Rock on indeed!

Linda Sue: Yes, we've been to Kenwood! Unfortunately dogs aren't allowed, so we had to go without Olga. But I blogged about it here:

Michael: I guess dogs occasionally get upset stomachs just like the rest of us. (And considering what they eat, that's not surprising!) I'm not very mechanically inclined either, but fortunately this mostly just required a screwdriver.

Debby: I agree, this is such a surreal and scary time for Democracy. The Republican redistricting efforts over the years, and their active voter suppression, is appalling.