Beirut; not the Lebanese capitol, but the high end restaurant down town

 

Beirut, food, hummus with celery water and crunch bits

I’m not an especially fancy diner. I love food and eating, but spending a ton of cash on a fancy meal has never seemed quite as enticing as buying a 20 box of chicken nuggets, some decent beers and gorging myself while parked up in a pretty spot. I will happily spend a silly amount on a nice handmade cheese from a farmers market, or a specialty salami from an international deli, but I have never quite graduated to the point of degustation; 10 tiny bites each containing 200 meticulously chosen, far-flung ingredients, filtered through every over-priced piece of kitchen equipment known to man.

My fine dining reviews would be the thing of nightmares; “Dehydrated milk foam; why? I see no reason to make milk hard. It didn’t work for me in the 90’s with the love them or hate them chalky milk bars, and it doesn’t work for me now. Do celebs only eat in fancy places because the tiny portion sizes keep them under nourished?” I’d be fired in a second.

But, I do like a fancy toilet. I’d even settle for a toilet in a fancy place.

So when my Mum and Aunt came to visit I was more than happy to meet them for dinner at Beirut on Fort Street , Auckland’s award winning, fancy Lebanese restaurant.

Beirut, exterior, Fort Street

To start off, I must admit to my own idiocy. When I walked along the facade of Beirut, I got totally confused as to where the dicksplashing entrance was. You would expect it to be one of the many glass doors along the front of the building, but you’d be wrong. The entrance is located in the wooden barn style door on the far right, which appears, from the street, to be a totally different building. I wandered about, looking like a cock, for a couple of minutes before texting my Mum “How the fuck do I get in??”. Luckily she came outside to save me.

Beirut, interior of the bar, Fort Street

Once you get inside the layout makes more sense. The barn doors open into a bar area which is set off the side of the dining room.

Inside the restaurant proper it’s dark as fuck. I imagine it’s on trend, they call it atmosphere, I call it aberration. The decor was very nice, comfy chairs and plenty of exposed wood and candle light.

Beirut Fort Street, light fittings

Beirut Fort Street, light fittings

The light fittings, though low in watts, were very pretty in a deco kind of way. They acted more as glowing roof orbs than actual light pendants but still, enjoyable.

Beirut Fort Street, toilet sign male

The bathrooms are located through the bar and around the back of the dining room. To access the loos you have to walk past a pair of industrial fridges and the open kitchen door. Now, I’m not keen on seeing behind the wizard’s curtain in a restaurant setting so I was kind of unimpressed that they hadn’t worked the layout better. No one, how ever unfancy and unfamous wants to walk past the kitchen to go to the toilet. It makes me feel like I’m in a cheap dumpling place on the scabby end of Dominion Road. No disrespect to the cheap dumpling places, their plastic table cloths and blank-eyed teen waitresses are far more my jam, but I would have thought for a fine dining venue, Beirut might have thought out the whole experience more effectively.

Beirut Fort Street, toilet interior, sinks

Beirut Fort Street, toilet interior, sinks

Beirut Fort Street, toilet interior, sinks

Once inside the toilet I was more pleasantly surprised. Lots of polished concrete and chrome. There are 3 stalls in the women’s toilet including a SUPER generous disability access toilet with a shower and rails and all the bells’n’whistles.

Beirut Fort Street, toilet interior, disability access stall, women's

Beirut Fort Street, toilet interior, disability access stall, women's

Beirut Fort Street, toilet interior

Beirut Fort Street, toilet interior

Beirut Fort Street, toilet interior, toilet stall

They had some nice individual touches such as the brass handles and locks. I appreciate any time a facility has little details that are obviously not from the Mitre10 standard racks. It’s the little things that show the personality and effort of the owner operators.

Beirut Fort Street, toilet interior, door handle

Beirut Fort Street, toilet interior, door lock

Beirut Fort Street, toilet interior, handwash bottle

The Ashley & Co. hand wash smelled very nice but I found it odd that they had gone to all the trouble of fitting chrome soap dispensers to the walls, only to offer branded bottle of soap as well. I guess, as with my inability to door, some people didn’t see the soap and got pissy.

Beirut Fort Street, toilet interior, handwash dispenser

Beirut Fort Street, toilet interior, handwash & smelly sticks

Rating

Cleanliness : 9/10  It was nice and clean, which I would expect. The most basic thing a restaurant/cafe/bar/club can do is have clean toilets and if the place is expensive and frequented by fancy pantsy people, then all the more reason.

Interior :  7.5/10  The facilities offered were of a high standard, which again, was expected. I liked the privacy the toilets offered, being that they didn’t come directly off the bar or dining room. I loved the facilities offered for people with disability access issues and thought they internal offerings to be very pleasing.

Exterior :  6/10  Marks down for the need to pass the kitchen and fridges (that’s just poor floor planning) but positive marks for the privacy of the toilet’s position. The confusing street entrance was a bit shit too. I might joke, but I’m not a dumb person and I was confused by the entrance. It’s a pretty basic thing to make the door into any kind of business as easy to access as possible, that’s just good marketing sense.

Safety :  7/10  Fort Street is not the crack den it used to be. Now re-imagined as an industrial gem, post 1990’s drug infested refurb. The whole area has been hard-out gentrified which in a way makes it far more accessible for people like me (weak pussies) but also takes away a lot of the genuine charm of the place. I quite liked the dirty bars and strip clubs. They made an evening out more of an adventure and less of an exercise in embarrassment at the lack of designer clothing you are wearing.

Snugglitude :  6/10  I genuinely enjoyed my meal at Beirut but if I’m honest the star of the evening was not the food. I was more interested in the fun of “being fancy” with my Mum and Aunt, wearing my awesome new Kat Von D lipstick, followed by watching TV’s Jaquie Brown walk out of the place with a napkin stuck to her heel. It felt almost like a bit scripted only for the enjoyment of the hostess when she told her about the offending paper towel. A comedienne making the world laugh one waitress at a time. If I were having a bad evening with panic attacks and spew guts I could for sure see this loo as being a place I could sit and get my head together. That said I saw Beirut at 6pm on a Saturday evening when no one was in the bar, so I imagine the sense of privacy and quiet would be totally lost as soon as 20-30 more people turned up to ra-ra-ra at their own self-importance.

Total :  35.5/50

Beirut Fort Street, flower display at the counter

Sans trees & a howling breeze; The Kirkbuster Museum, Orkney Isles

Kirkwall Museum, Orkney, sea view

When was the last time you were in a place that felt profoundly foreign?

Over the past year I’ve experienced that “other worldly” feeling in a handful of countries, but none felt somehow simultaneously close to home while also being totally alien in the same way as the Orkney Isles. Orkney is an archipelago of 70 odd islands north of Scotland. The largely uninhabited and pastoral nature of the Mainland (the very inventive name of the largest Island) made me feel a little pang for the endless flat fields of the north Waikato plains, but that’s where the similarity ends.

To begin with, there are no trees. I’m not even exaggerating. The fields just go on rolling from ragged cliff coast to ragged beach coast as far as the eye can see.

Orkney Islands, Mainland beach

The wind whips across this green but kind of empty landscape like an actual whip, sometimes enough to almost poke your eye out. We visited in the height of summer, and yet the top temperature during our holiday was 11°c. With no hills or trees to act as wind breaks, on an island that is only 25 km across at it’s widest point, there is no real main land to retreat to in hopes of sheltering from the harsh northern elements.

Orkney, Kirkbuster museum sign from road

Kirkbuster isn’t a town, more a patch of fields near another patch of fields. But it does have a dinky as fuck museum where we stopped to take in some local history and play with antique farm equipment.

Orkney, Kirkbuster museum sign from carpark

Orkney, Kirkbuster museum front door

Being a museum (not very) professional, I love visiting smaller local museums. Their content is genuine and old fashioned (even if they have worryingly low standards for collection care and pest management) but lacks the zeitgeist, on-trend approach that sometimes bog down big national museums. I feel a proper going back in time, 1950’s, joy in dioramas, mannequins, and historical tableaux.

The museum consists of a handful of dry stone buildings (in various states of repair) on a country lane, surrounded by fields. The exhibitions look a bit like this;

Kirkbuster museum, interior, museum display

Kirkbuster museum, interior, museum display

“This is what life looked like a hundred years ago and for the hundreds of years previous” exhibits. The hearth at the center of the room was pumping out smoke like a demon, so everything smelt very strongly of dark, dank peat smoke which stung your eyes and left a scent to your clothes for the rest of the day.

Kirkbuster Museum, exterior of building

The bathrooms had cheery red doors and had luckily been updated in the past century.

Kirkbuster Museum, exterior, toilet doors.

Kirkbuster Museum, exterior, toilet door

There were two unisex toilets, each containing one set of facilities. The interior walls of the toilet had funny little paintings all over. Twee bunnies and flowers, like a Beatrix Potter book.

Kirkbuster Museum, interior, toilet and sink

Kirkbuster Museum, interior, toilet and wardrobe

Kirkbuster Museum, interior, sink and mirror

Kirkbuster Museum, interior, flagstones

Kirkbuster Museum, interior, doorknob

As with many historical buildings in Europe, the doorways are very low, hence the need for foam padding on the upper door frame to stop dim people banging their already empty heads.

Kirkbuster Museum, interior, door

Kirkbuster Museum, interior, door

Rating

Cleanliness :  7/10  I get the feeling there is rarely, perhaps never, an all balls to the wall, super busy, run off your feet season. The toilets were clean, but unless one of the 4 or 5 people who visited the museum that day had been a real dickbag, the bathrooms were never going to be too dirty due to over use. Each day someone goes in and gives them a good going over and that is more than enough for the daily horde.

Interior :  7/10  Both toilets had all the facilities you would require and the privacy of a unit over a stall is always a plus in my book. The surrounding fields and gardens had plenty of places to hide if panic over took me but due to the remote nature of the Orkney Isles it was mostly an if you see a toilet , use it situation.

Exterior :  8/10  Very pretty, picturesque surroundings in a bucolic and slightly barren kind of a way. The museum must have a decent bit of funding as the facilities were in good order for a place in the middle of fuck nowhere, on an island miles from any real civilization.

Safety :  8/10  Getting lost would be the only real worry on Orkney. If you ended up alone, naked and lost in the middle of a field in winter, you might have a problem but otherwise, I think you’re pretty safe up there. Less people, means less arseholes. It’s basic percentages.

Snugglitude :  7/10  This place is cute as fuck and if I were driving the windy roads of Orkney looking for a place to stop during a panic attack, I would feel comfortable stopping at the Kirkbuster Museum. The only issue might be finding someone to ask permission to use the loos.

Total :  37/50

Our time on Orkney was lovey. We saw stones, and grass, and bigger stones, and a cuttick. After we left the Kirkbuster Museum we drove to the next parish where we stopped to take some pictures. While posing with the sign, I saw a local lady drive past and roll her eyes at our childish antics. What did she expect living in the town of Twatt?

We are, after all, only human.

Twatt Church, bench, Orkney Isles

 

 

Magyar Szecesszió Háza; Art Nouveau museum, Budapest Hungary

As the haze of my jet lag subsides, and I once again reconcile myself with the reality of paying $5.00 for a block of butter (Oh the joys of being home!), I submerge like the bloated corpse of Luca Brasi from the Northern hemisphere, with a suitcase full of Primark clothing, and a phone jam-packed with pictures of toilets.

Over the past year have received strange looks from people whilst taking pictures of toilets across London, up to Scotland & the Orkney Isles, in Hungary, Germany, Italy and Dubai. They are, of course completely correct in their questioning stares. I may be a bonafide loon. But writing about toilets is a nice, safe way to push my brain past the HUGE Bruce shaped anxiety bubble which currently looms over my mind. Now, with all the time in the world – I am for the first time almost in my life, a genuine unemployed person – I am struggling to find any creative inspiration or mental spark. It’s been four whole days since I, having settled into our new flat and my unsolicited position as house wife of two, have had no real work to do and so far I’m coming up dry. Dry like an 18 year old’s tongue, the morning after drinking two bottles of off-brand Kahlua, then vomiting so hard and long out their hostel room window that they pull a variety of muscles between their ribs.

So, Budapest. It’s a city in Hungary and I went there late last year.

Budapest, bridge scenic view

If you fancy yourself all worldly or just a bit of a pretentious dick, feel free to pronounce it; BoodaPesht.

Budapest has a huge variety of historical styles; romantic marble and tiles clashing wonderfully with cold war austerity and brutalism. Mmmmm, such art wank.

House of Hungarian Art Nouveau

The Magyar Szecesszió Háza or House of Hungarian Art Nouveau  is a 6-7 level, center-row terrace, filled with gorgeous furniture, prints, ceramics and other arts. To the Alphonse Mucha fan girl in me, this place is a stylistic wet dream. Those amazing double height wooden windows let in just enough light to cut through the dust’n’gloom to reflect light off various goodies crafted from silver, glass, pewter (not very reflective, I’m aware) polished bronze and glazed tiles. The three levels of the museum proper (i.e. open to the public) are put together like a hoarders cave or old-fashioned antiques shop. There was something pretty to look at in every direction.

House of Hungarian Art Nouveau, internal, cafe window

As you walk in the front door there is a sweet little cafe and gift shop area. Behind a wall of furniture you will find a little old lady sitting at a desk selling tickets to the museum. As a museum professional (read: wanker) I will explain to my fellow museum wankers that this isn’t really set up like a museum. No labels, no exhibitions, very few real displays. It’s more like you’ve somehow found yourself in the basement of a museum where beautiful things are stored while waiting to go on display. But with no collection care or pest management.

House of Hungarian Art Nouveau, internal, prints on wall.

The public toilets are on the lower level down a wrought iron staircase. Though they weren’t full-on art nouveau as I had hoped, they did have a few touches that made me happy and warranted a review.

House of Hungarian Art Nouveau, internal, bathroom door signs

House of Hungarian Art Nouveau, internal, bathroom door signs

House of Hungarian Art Nouveau, internal, bathroom door signs

The toilet signage was original and gorgeous. I appreciate how much work must have gone into hand stitching these figures in classic 1910-20’s lounging attire. Seems the toilet is where you go to smoke in orange silk pajamas.

House of Hungarian Art Nouveau, internal, door handle

House of Hungarian Art Nouveau, internal, door guard

House of Hungarian Art Nouveau, internal, room dividers/doors

The internal door-dividers were one of the best nouveau details, with long curved glass panels. The yellowy-orange glass made me think 1970’s but I loved that they were hinged in the middle so could be folded open if required. Why that would be required in a museum bathroom, I don’t know but, where ever they originated (maybe a theater or restaurant?) I’m sure this function was worthwhile rather than just decorative.

House of Hungarian Art Nouveau, internal, stall

The toilet stalls, sinks, soap dispensers, driers etc. were all pretty standard, but the lack of other patrons made it rather nice and peaceful.

House of Hungarian Art Nouveau, internal, sinks

Rating

Cleanliness : 8/10  Not bad.

Interior : 7/10  I liked the lack of people. Four stalls would have been plenty had there been more customers on the Sunday afternoon we visited but no one at all is always preferable.

Exterior :  9/10  The exterior of this building is stunning, a point which is often less easy to improve for most businesses. It was easy to get to on the cool as fuck cold war, brutal looking Budapest metro system. I was massively over charged for a gin and tonic in a bar nearby but even hyper vigilant tourists are fools from time to time.

Safety : 8/10  I found Budapest to be super not stabby, which I always appreciate. The museum was quiet and run by sweet little old ladies so really unless they were killing babies and hiding them under the floor boards, I think we were pretty safe.

Snugglitude : 7/10  The museum or “show rooms” were gorgeous and well worth the time to wander about. The bathroom could have been more in keeping with the theme, perhaps with nouveau sinks, carved stalls or even just stylized soap dispensers but as with everything, that costs money and I get the feeling this place is run on a pretty low budget. If I were having a panic attack, I could have left my husband upstairs to read in the cafe while I sequestered myself in one of the stalls to shit-a-plenty without too much of an issue.

Total :  39/50

House of Hungarian Art Nouveau, internal, mirror in bathroom

The Vauxhall tree debacle

I haven’t written anything in ages and that makes me sad. Unfortunately, the lofty ideas I had about moving back to London and spending my down time writing up a storm for a variety of cool and historied publications have not come to fruition.

London has been hard on me, but in more subtle ways than I ever expected. It’s made me question my own drive and ability and left me feeling as though it’s not the city’s fault, but my own. London has been my mentally abusive on-off boyfriend for the past year. Like if I just tried harder, pushed a little more or loved what I do enough then I would achieve ALL my goals. It seems I have had to re-learn something I have understood in terms of my personal relationships for years, but have only just realised counts for my relationship with myself and my surroundings in the past few months. Self care can be walking away or changing your mind/plan if that’s what you need to do, physically or mentally.

Accepting our plan to leave London initially made me feel like a failure. I felt as thought I had not achieved even one of the things I had planned to when I set out on this trip. But, as I have to learn to accept my in ability to achieve grammatical accuracy in all things, I too have to accept the limitations of my physical and mental health.

My body is rapidly going down hill. I am suffering from regular migraines, terrible IBS guts which make me both rush to the loo at a moments notice and want to vomit in the most bizarre places and at inopportune times of the day. My general anxiety and panic attacks have reoccured on a  semi regular basis, and though I can pin point their resurgence to the stress I experience daily due to an inflexible and unsupportive work situation, I have to admit that a pattern of physical and psychological infirmity has become clear. I get stressed by personal relationships or a big life changes such as; not getting a job I wanted and thus feeling harshly cast aside by a colleague, planning a move across the world and being separated from my husband for 3+ months or now when I’m in an unpleasant work situation and exhausted both physically and mentally.

But, I’m side tracking wildly.

The point of this post is to talk about a tree.

Vauxhall trees

Well, technically a pair of trees. Near our flat in Vauxhall there are two newly planted trees, the life of which I feel clearly represent the struggle of living in London, of the atmosphere of London it’s self in this current social-political climate. London has so many amazing positives; the architecture, the restaurants, the history and opportunity. But London, or England in general has a legacy issue and a legacy of issues.

The main road where these trees are now planted runs along the front end of Vauxhall park. The footpath is wide and frequently strewn with dog shit and vomit, but on the whole the area is quite nice. Some time in October-ish last year I walked past the park and two patches of concrete had been cordoned off for works. By the end of the week the result was two, 1 1/2 meter square holes set against the park fence with round wooden poles set in the centre. Just big ol’ holes with dirt and poles.

Within 24 hours one of the wooden posts had been nicked, the second lasted about a week. But the holes remained empty. Big muddy impediments on the side of a busy road. The winter months didn’t help and the holes turned to churned mud bogs causing annoyance to foot traffic and danger in bike vs pedestrian altercations.It took over three months for something to come of those holes.

In New Zealand that would be unthinkable. The concrete would have been lifted, the dirt prepared and the trees planted all in one morning. But that isn’t how London works. Nothing is ever that simple here.

Understanding the legacy of these issues means understand how London bureaucracy functions. The men (because invariably they would have been men, probably hard working Eastern Europeans. The same people Mrs May and her gross Brexit cronies are trying to rid the country of so our services will become even less effective. Thanks Thatcher!) who lifted the concrete would have been from one company, independently commissioned by some low-tier section of the government works department, for a day when the cheapest bid for the job was proposed. The fact that that date would in no way line up with the seasons or the other departments who were involved never seems to bother anyone over here. The date the holes were prepared happened to be at the start of winter, a time not hugely compatible with the planting of new saplings. Another unrelated company would have won a bit to supply and plant the trees, perhaps preparing the soil a little first with proper drainage and compost. This company didn’t complete their work until February this year.

London is a city of people, companies, entities who don’t communicate with one and other. The lack of communication doesn’t seem to ever bother anyone, they have come to expect it.

When the Head of my department had his kitchen re-done last year, it seemed to take literally months to complete. He had to live in a  house without a functional kitchen for 4+ months because none of the companies who undertook the work could come at the same time or in close proximity to the other companies. There were weeks of dead time waiting for one errant plumber or a back order for the correct number of tiles. At home, if you were lucky and organised, you might be able to get your kitchen in and out over a weekend. I think when my parents did theirs back in the 90’s it took a week at most, back before the internet made scheduling a piece of piss. Not only did the builders working on my HoD’s kitchen take forever to finish the work, they left his house in a state of such dusty disrepair, that he had to take off a day to clean all the builder grime off everything before they could even move back into their own scullery. If that happened at home you would get such a shit reputation for your sloppy workmanship that you’d struggle to find more work. But, in England everyone is a jobsworth (as in “it’s more than my job is worth” to go above and beyond or just do the basic level of work that is expected of me) and doing the bare minimum is what is expected if you can possibly get away with it (read: come up with an excuse for why you’ve piked out on doing the whole job, i.e lie through your teeth).

So the mud pits stayed open and awkward for 3+ months until the spring came around. Why didn’t they just wait for the spring and do the whole job you ask? Well exactly.

Because England, because legacy, because lazy cunts.

This is one of many reasons why I’m coming home where opening a bank account doesn’t take a month and involve so many hoops to jump through that you’re tempted to request your work pay you in coins cash as it might be easier and less of a fuss.

 

The last of the season at Winter Wonderland Hyde Park

Today is the last day of my 12 Christmas toilets, and as I sit here at 10.30pm stuffed full of Lindt truffles and feeling a little sick, I have to wonder what universal and life changing lesson have I learned from this experience? The answer? I’m not a fan of any present that involves live birds and making yourself go out and do things is healthy for your brain.

As his final gift this year, my true love gave me a traditional partridge in a pear tree. What a shit present. Yet another bird and a small fruit tree. I asked for roller blades. My true love is the worst Santa ever. But I found a more handsome version to replace him at Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. This one doesn’t have a classy winky eye and ‘come hither’ finger like the Auckland Santa, but beggars can’t be choosers.

Winter Wonderland Hyde Park, exterior Santa statue

I wanted the final night to be something spectacular, something that truly encompassed the spirit of Christmas and what says Christmas more than a port-a-cabin toilet at a fare ground filled with carnies? NOTHING.

Winter Wonderland Hyde Park, exterior lights

Winter Wonderland Hyde Park, exterior sign

Winter Wonderland is a yearly festival held in Hyde park, which for those who are unaware is a fucking huge chunk of pretty grass in west central London. Look at my illegible photo of the entrance sign? It’s moody right?

Winter Wonderland Hyde Park, exterior mulled wine stand

The carnival is German in origin I believe and (almost) every little part of the setting is gorgeous. The stalls, the bars, the rides, it’s all in keeping and covered with winter-time Christmas decorations.

Winter Wonderland Hyde Park

We drank Viking hot spiced meed and ate bratwurst at a chalet style wood lodge, followed by wandering the park looking for the Haunted House ride. I went on a roller coaster and lost at winning a big plushy donut. It was a great fun, if not a little expensive, evening in the company of people I don’t hate.

Winter Wonderland Hyde Park, exterior roller coster

Winter Wonderland Hyde Park, exterior ferris wheel

If only they had thought it through and bothered to maintain the design through to the toilets (one of my most loathed bathroom improprieties.) But the magic of the park, with all it’s glittering lights and warm mildly alcoholic drinks, is crudely smashed as soon as you walk towards the toilets. You are faced with skips filled with rubbish, wads of toilet paper and quite possibly the most ridiculously positioned toilet roll holder I have ever seen.

Winter Wonderland Hyde Park, exterior toilet

Winter Wonderland Hyde Park, interior stall, toilet

When you are sitting down, undertaking your ablutions where is the hardest place to reach for paper? Right behind your head? Yes exactly.

Winter Wonderland Hyde Park, interior no toilet seat toilet

Having no toilet seat is also a real treat in the middle of winter.

Winter Wonderland Hyde Park, exterior toilet sheds

The alleyways which lead to the porta-sheds are more like back street crack smoker accommodations than the personal facilities of the happiest place on earth (if there is no Disneyland which there isn’t in London). However, they did provide baby changing facilities which was a pleasant surprise.

Winter Wonderland Hyde Park, exterior baby change sign

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The porta-shed loos were as you’d expect, grubby, over used, under cleaned and full of a questionable amount of wadded up toilet paper. Thank the Lord I had my gorgeous friends to make everything better. Them and alcohol.

Winter Wonderland Hyde Park, exterior toilet sign and leonie

Winter Wonderland Hyde Park, exterior toilet sign and friends

Rating!!!

Cleanliness : 4/10  It was over used and they didn’t seem to have employed any attendants to keep the place looking decent which was odd because staff seemed to be one of the things the park had in abundance.

Interior : 4/10  I have been to many music festivals, so I know what to expect when it comes to porta-loos and these porta-shed things, but honestly I expected better from Winter Wonderland. Yes, it is a free carnival which millions of people will attend, but when you see the extent to which they have designed, decorated and animated every tiny morsel of your festive experience, it seems like a massive oversight to have totally forgotten to do anything at all about the bathrooms. Then again, if I were panicking I would feel ok about using these loos, but only because no matter how unwell I was (at either end) I couldn’t really make more of a mess than some other customer is likely to over the course of the evening.

Exterior : 8/10  Overall, I had a great evening at Winter Wonderland. We ate and drank and went on some rides. It was immersive, festive and filled with expensive treats. It’s just a pity they haven’t thought through the whole experience.

Safety : 6/10  They have big signs up everywhere warning you to not keep anything valuable where it could be pick pocketed. Big free gatherings are rife with dodgy humans who were never taught the difference between been a decent human and being a fucking cunt.

Snugglitude : 2/10 The 2 is because the park was a fantastic experience, but it gets a low score because I’m scoring the toilet not the carnival in general. I don’t have enough time to start another blog which covered “all the stuff I like generally but that doesn’t encompass toilets or the fact that I’m a bit crazy”.

Total :  24/50 Bad toilet ju ju.

Winter Wonderland Hyde Park, exterior toilet sign

 

Hampstead Heath public toilets *puns definitely intended*

On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me, rabies.

Not on purpose, but if you will invariably gift your intended a zoo full of feather livestock, then accidents will happen.  Perhaps it’s not rabies, it might just be a simple case of parrot fever. A bit of pneumonia never hurt anyone, right? Fuckin’ turtle doves. They’re nothing but uppity pigeons.

However, they do mate for life making them a perfect emblem of devoted love and monogamy. And where best to look for clues to long term love than in a public toilet at a park?

Hampstead Heath, trees

Hampstead Heath is well known for it’s unkempt, rambling woods and murky, natural swimming ponds (or lidos). It’s also well known in modern parlance as the place where George Michael was arrested for trying to solicit a quick blowy from a plain clothes Police Officer. Tsk tsk George. I’ve heard tell that Kevin Spacey and Sadie Frost have enjoyed similar clandestine encounters in the Hampstead loos without the need for forensic intervention.

Hampstead Heath

Isn’t it beautiful? Doesn’t it just make you want to rush to the closest public toilet and fornicate with whom ever is closest?

Hampstead Heath, exterior

Hampstead Heath, trees

When I was researching for this post I was trying to discover which toilet was most popular with the cottaging gents of the area. But, alas after penetrating down a shallow hole of Google searches such as “Which toilet is most popular for gay sex?” and “Where did George Michael try to suck off a cop?” I realised that if I wasn’t careful I could end up on an internet watch list.

Hampstead Heath public toilets, exterior

So, rather than find the exact toilet (thought I managed to narrow it down to the West end of the Heath) I decided that I would wander around one afternoon and take in the splendor. Then review the first bathroom I came across.

Hampstead Heath public toilets, exterior

This little shack is located between a children’s playground, a mini zoo and a field of deer/antlered creatures. It would seem in that situation the toilet would be more innocent than the Easter Bunny’s undies but deep down I know that not to be true.

Hampstead Heath public toilets, exterior of building

Hampstead Heath public toilets, exterior

The shed consists of two toilets, both disability accessible with baby changing facilities.

Hampstead Heath public toilets, interior toilet stall

It wasn’t the tidiest, but there were no obvious displays of bodily excretions. Still I could think of more romantic places to spend a date.

Hampstead Heath public toilets, interior toilet

Hampstead Heath public toilets, interior bins

Hampstead Heath public toilets, interior mirror

The only really telling thing about these loos, was the hand prints on the mirror. Gives a new meaning to that scene in Titanic when they are in the car.

Hampstead Heath public toilets, interior stall

The second stall was a mite cleaner but otherwise identical.

Rating

Cleanliness : 5/10  It’s a public toilet in a large park so I wasn’t expecting it to be in great shape but on the whole, it was pretty clean.

Interior : 7/10  The toilets had all the things you might require and because there were two you could probably hide out and panic in there for a little while without someone banging on the door. The same privacy and anonymity prized by the cottaging gays, would double as very convenient for agoraphobes such as myself. Though far less fun.

Exterior : 9/10  The park is stunningly beautiful. The wild and abandoned feel of the place makes you forget that you are only minutes from the center of one of the largest cities in the world. It’s green, quiet and in places verging on magical.

Safety : 4/10  Hmm yeah probably not a place I’d want to wander about on my own without a large obedient dog. The Heath isn’t too dodgy as far as London parks go, but the same privacy that is so breathtakingly beautiful could afford a mugger plenty of time to switch-knife stick you up without anyone ever hearing you scream.

Snugglitude : 6/10  I love a park loo because I feel no guilt or obligation about spending far longer than is usual inside. I don’t worry that someone will be inconvenienced or that anyone’s business will suffer because of my issues and that makes me feel safe.

Total :  31/50

Hampstead Heath, water fountain

When you’re looking for 3 French Hens but end up with Faulty Towers. Toulouse La Trec Cafe, Kennington

Every day in London you walk past a million cafes and restaurants in which you will never eat a morsel. Sometimes the thought of all that uneaten food, those unconsumed meals makes me sad. But then again, what was it Lincoln said? “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool then to speak out and remove all doubt.”

On the third day of Christmas my true love was planning to give me three French Hens but honestly my house was already full of God damn eating shitting squawking birds, so instead we determined to eat French food at the cafe Toulouse Lautrec.

Oh the folly of one who knows not what she has done!

Toulouse Lautrec cafe, exterior

Toulouse Latrec is a cafe near my place of employment, which I have walked past on a frequent basis. Because of it’s lurid paint job and prolific signage, it stuck in my mind. I was never entirely sure if it was a cafe, a restaurant, a jazz bar or brasserie and even after eating there I’m still not sure. I don’t think they really know what they are doing there either.

Our waitress was a sweet, polite girl but utterly clueless about what a waitress does or how to do service. She had the overall ability of someone on their first day but with no one at all showing her what to do.

We were the only patrons in the restaurant for the full hour we were there so I guess the lunch rush isn’t a thing for them. We were given 5 different menu most of which only had food we couldn’t order (dinner specials, bar snacks etc.) We didn’t get a drinks menu or the lunch menu and when I asked a question she looked down at me with empty eyes and asked “What is it you are here for? Brunch perhaps?” It was 1pm on a Wednesday.

Toulouse Lautrec cafe, interior

After she fucked up sending our order through the expensive looking computer system, the chef came out to loudly complain about her to someone, a manager or owner perhaps, well within earshot of our table. If what you are looking for is a full on Faulty Towers vibe, then this is your place. The whole time we were there it felt as though we were interloping somewhere we were not supposed to be. I constantly felt like I had made a mistake and that they were just serving us to humour me.

But beyond the hilarious service and the half an hour it took to make me a cheese and ham toastie… The bathroom is on the second floor, up a great wooden set of stairs. With only 2 stalls, I’m confused as to how so few toilets could work, on an evening when they have more than a handful of customers. Perhaps that has never been an issue.

Toulouse Lautrec cafe, interior

One sink and one had drier in a live music venue, in a two floored restaurant seemed pretty scant to me. But then again they likely spent all the money they had paying the salaries of the 6-8 staff members who were there serving just my husband and I.

Toulouse Lautrec cafe, interior, cistern

The toilet had a cool old fashioned, high-set cistern which I always like, but rather than keep it looking nice, clean and tidy, the plaster was molding and falling off the wall. While the flush pull was held together with a zip tie.

Toulouse Lautrec cafe, interior, toilet

I enjoyed the floral toilet bowl and matching sink, though I’m not sure why they they were so fancy when everything else was so sparse and cheap.

Toulouse Lautrec cafe, interior, toilet

Toulouse Lautrec cafe, interior, sink

Toulouse Lautrec cafe, interior, sink

Toulouse Lautrec cafe, interior, toilet paper holder

As far as my needs when I’m panicking, this place would be a nightmare. When I went up to use the loo, our waitress was standing in the bathroom staring blankly at herself in the mirror. Not sure if she was upset or just confused about how doing a job works. The glass door from the bathroom proper looks out into the restaurant and can see into the doorway of the men’s loo. So if you were standing at the sink trying to get your shit together, anyone heading in to the men’s could see you. That would make me super uncomfortable if there were other customers in the restaurant (again I’m not sure if that has been or ever will be an issue).

Rating

Cleanliness : 5/10   Most likely, there had been no other customers that day so the bathroom should have been perfect. It was “clean” but it needed refurbishing badly or at least a new coat of plaster and a scrubbing of the grimy grout.

Interior :  3/10  No space, two stalls and nothing to make it feel private. I imagine our waitress spends a whole lot of her shift standing in the bathroom rather than doing her job, so you may never get a totally private visit.

Exterior : 3/10  The restaurant staff were polite but seemed confused about how to customer service, or how professionalism works.

Safety :  3/10  No immediate physical danger but the general mood of the place made me feel apologetic and uncomfortable, and who knows when the blank-eyed girl who served us would finally lose it and stab everyone in sight. While she incorrectly poured my diet coke, from a bottle into a warm glass, sitting flat on the table so it was all foam and no coke, she looked at me with the cold dead eyes of a killer. I feared I might end up buried under the floor boards like the last foolish customers who walked in thinking a place advertising lunch, might genuinely serve them lunch.

Snugglitude : 1/10  Only point given for comedy value and the fact that my cheese and ham toastie wasn’t terrible.

Total : 15/50

I wonder if this place is just a front for a drug running cartel? That would make more sense than a business this bad making enough money to afford central London rental prices.

Toulouse Lautrec cafe, interior, window