I’ve been sniffing toilets at Muriwai Heads

It’s not often that you walk into a public toilet and think “Mmm, this smells like home”

Muruwai public toilet, exterior view

But, that’s exactly the thought that popped into my head when I entered the public toilets off the carpark at Muriwai Heads. Mmmm linseed.

Muruwai public toilet, exterior view

Now, I love the west coast of Tamaki Makaurau. I love the dark green of the Waitakere Ranges, the peace of the deep bush, and the scalding volcanic sands of the beaches that run from the Kaipara Harbour down to the Manukau.

But in spite of that love, and even though I have lived in Auckland for what feels like a 17th Century syphilitic paupers lifetime, you will be shocked to learn that until this visit, I had never been to Muriwai. I know right. Yes, you should be aghast. Dr. Josie, please don’t hate me. I love birds, really I do.

Muruwai public toilet, exterior view

Muriwai is known for it’s surf beaches, for that one time a guy got killed by a Great White shark out there, and for it’s Australasian Gannet colony.

Muruwai, gannets ganneting

It’s a very squawky spot. When you walk towards to lookout, you get a wiff of bird shit mixed with salty sea air and the swelling sound of thousands of gannets happily ganneting.

Muruwai public toilet, view of the heads

I like the birds, the birds are nice and their migratory routes are very interesting and cool but this isn’t a bird blog. I’d be terrible at bird blogging so I will stick to what I know, and that is toilets.

This is another classic West coast beach loo. Like Piha and Bethell’s, it has been architecturally designed to be sustainable (or seem that way. I haven’t looked deeply into the council data on the subject) and eco-friendly.

Muruwai public toilet, exterior view

The bathroom units are made of wood and have passive airflow to allow for less smells. The roofs have plants or mosses growing on them which [hopefully] helps them filter rain water for the flushers or maybe it’s just to look pretty, because I’m a cynical old bitch.

Muriwai public toilets, female entrance

The bathrooms are hard up against a rock face, which is lovely. You get to watch the little streams of water cascade down the cliff in happy-looking rivulets. As you walk the gang-plank between the male and female units, the overall smell that hits you is linseed oil on wood. This is one of my top 5 favuorite smells in the entire wide, big-ass world.

My family moved to a large wooden house on the hill in Whakatane when I was 15 or 16. We moved from a pretty nondescript breeze block house to this magical eco dream house because my Dad visited it and fell in love. He was a little impetuous like that. Our gorgeous house on the hill is one of my best memories of my teen years which were plagued by undiagnosed anxiety disorders, self doubt and some mild bullying by morons. I could go on and on about the house that I loved, but to paraphrase; it was a macrocarpa multi-leveled house with huge bright windows, and due to the natural wooden floors being sealed in linseed oil, always smelled like a brand new wood work project. That is the smell I encountered walking into the Muriwai Heads public toilets. That is the smell of happiness and safety.

Muriwai Heads public toilets, interior, changing area

Muriwai Heads public toilets, interior, entrance

Muriwai Heads public toilets, interior, sinks

The bathrooms themselves are nice. They are big enough to feel private, the open slots along the tops and bottom of the walls stop it smelling bad in here and the fixtures and fittings have a classic kiwi industrial charm. Like a Doc hut you’d be so happy to finally arrive at after a long days tramping.

Muriwai Heads public toilets, interior, sink

Muriwai Heads public toilets, interior, stall

I’m not super jazzed by the gendered units but I guess the council can only move so fast and getting to all unisex bathrooms is a slow process.

Muriwai public toilets, interior, men's urinals

 

Rating

Cleanliness :  8/10  It was very clean when we visited. It isn’t brand new or flashy in anyway but the loos had been well maintained and the clever design meant that they would last longer and seem tidier even once they get a little worn.

Interior :  8/10  It’s all quite basic in here; no soap, no hand driers. I don’t even know if these bathrooms have electricity, but still the interior space is nice and comforting. The smell of the wood, the idea that this place goes so well with it’s surroundings and the comfort in that fact that you’re not ruining the planet a million % just by needing a shit. It has all the basics but the only bells and whistles you’re going to get will be the associative memories you bring with you.

Exterior :  8/10  If you are visiting the gannet colony, this bathroom is the most useful thing in the world. It’s not adjacent to anything else though. There are no shops or houses or information centers or anything else up on the hill there. So if all you want it to wander the cliffs and look at the birds, then take a wee before you get back on your tour bus or back into your 1996 Toyota Starlet, then this is the place for you.

Safety :  6/10  There is a high possibility of getting shit on from above and if you have Hitchcock-esk bird phobias then don’t even think of visiting. Stabbing wise, I’m pretty sure you’ll be sweet most of the time. I get the feeling that not many robbers would take the time to drive all the way up there just to try and gut stab you, but then again, they may have already been there, smoking meth in their car. So I guess leaving your house is always a gamble…..

Snugglitude :  50/10  I can’t give this a real mark because the smell and memories that it brought back to me, made me too happy to explain. It’s like your Mum’s perfume or the smell of your babies head, it was an emotional experience, standing there sniffing the public toilet until my husband said “Lucy, ffs hurry up”.

Total :  90/50 (fuck you maths)

Muriwai heads, Exterior, men's entrance

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RIP The Kings Arms

Kings Arms Bar, signage internal

and

Kings Arms Bar, signage internal

There were a few years there when the Kings Arms played a large part in my social life. I drank there, I perved at hot tattooed boys there, and I’m sure I ended a few evenings throwing up in or around the toilets there.

Kings Arms men's bathroom interior, toilet sign

Kings Arms men's bathroom interior, toilet art

My memories of the Kings Arms mostly revolve around the handful of years I spent going to see local bands; Hardcore shows, Punk, Indie, Emo, Hipster-Rock, I frequented them all. Now that I’m older, I’m not going to pretend that I really cared about the music, or the artistic intent of any of those bands. I went along for one to three of the following reasons; to support my friends who played in the aforementioned bands, to drinks lots of booze and run around like a spastic, and/or to philander about the place, which was my favourite pass time ages 15-31. The Kings Arms facilitated all three of these goals whilst also offering me a variety of social circles in which to insert myself at a time when I still cared about how cool I was , or how cool other people thought I was. Getting all dressed up in whatever look I was going  for at the time and knocking back a large amount of Dutch courage gave me the opportunity to mask my Titanic insecurities and quiet the booming anxious voice in my head long enough to speak to people I found attractive, those higher on the social hierarchy than I and maybe even feel a tiny grain of power over the swirling vortex than is life in your early 20’s.

Kings Arms toilet interior, Men's urinal

Kings Arms toilet interior, Men's urinal

Back in my day the toilets didn’t look as cool as they did when it closed. The street-style art works across all the walls and stalls were all new to me when I visited the venue for the last time a couple weeks back.

Kings Arms toilet interior, Men's bathroom, sink

Kings Arms toilet interior, Men's bathroom, sink

Kings Arms men's toilet interior, stall

Kings Arms men's toilet interior, stall paper holder

The week following it’s final night, a work friend and I attended the viewing preceding the auction of every chattel the Kings Arms had to sell. I’m not just talking about the selling off the speakers and the bar stools. They ended up ripping chunks off the toilet walls and selling them to interested punters. At the auction my colleagues managed to snap an awesome mid-90’s cigarette machine, complete with cock-logo sticker and years of built up grim. And a set of exquisite women’s toilet stall doors [3 in total]. The graffiti on these doors tells more about a sub-set of Auckland culture better than any academic prose ever could.

Kings Arms ladies toilet stalls

Kings Arms, women's bathroom interior, sink and mirror

Kings Arms, women's bathroom interior, sink and mirror

Kings Arms, women's bathroom interior, toilet

Kings Arms, women's bathroom interior, toilet

Kings Arms, women's bathroom interior, toilet art

Kings Arms women's bathroom interior, toilet art

Kings Arms women's bathroom interior, toilet artKings Arms women's bathroom interior, toilet art

These days, the loss of the Kings Arms will not affect my personal life in any way. I am now old, tired, happily married and unable to drink more than two beers without getting a killer migraine, meaning that every reason I had to visit the Kings Arms is now void. But I’m still sad that it is gone. In part due to my own weighty nostalgia, but also because the removal of this wonderful grubby, sticky little bolthole will stop any other people, young or old, from having the opportunity to attend a gig played by their friend’s band, who are terrible but beloved, downing far more bourbon and cokes than the Health Department deems acceptable, flirting with some guy just to catch that spark of interest in his eye when you say something witty, the acceptance of which will feed your damaged self esteem for  a few days at least, then making out with aforementioned boy after eating too many Golden Cheese Grain Waves purchased from the Shell station on Khyber Pass because you didn’t get around to having dinner.

These are the ridiculous memories that have taught me how to be a person in the world, often due to doing the wrong thing and learning better from it, but also having the opportunity to be a young person without many responsibilities, free to learn about social interaction, relationships, sex and fractured drunk friendship. I feel grateful that I had safe [enough] places like the Kings Arms to test my own bullshit and learn how to, as the toilet door so succinctly states “Stop being cunts, for fucks sake”.

Rating

Cleanliness : 4.5/10  Hahaha nah, that was never important here.

Interior : 5/10  Three toilet stalls for that many women meant you were always waiting for some girl and her friend to finish snorting whatever from the filthy surfaces of the stall interior . The bowls were often broken, as were the paper dispensers. The supply  of loo paper never made it to the end of the night. God forbid that you were straight edge or sober enough to care about drip drying by the time closing came around.

Exterior : 8/10  The position of the Kings Arms was one of it’s best features. Close enough to what used to be cheap flatting areas to stumble home with your gaggle of mates, with a beer garden every other establishment tried for years to emulate. The toilets were near the front door, but also quite near the stage which meant you had to wade through a mass of steaming bodies just to join the toilet queue. In any other situation this would be a huge negative, but when the object of your affection is standing between you and the bathroom, you have the blessed opportunity to appropriately graze your body across his as you squeeze through the throng making a night of yearning seem totally worthwhile.

Safety :  8/10  No bar is ever safe. Alcohol plus humans equals the possibility of violence and stupidity at all times. But when it comes to skanky bars making you feel like you’re in danger at all times, The Kings Arms did a good job of making their toilets as unpredatory as you could rightly hope.

Snugglitude : 10/10  It was a gross old sports bar that morphed into a sticky venue filled with hormones, drink and memories. No life altering events happened to me there but I spent too much money and many happy hours buzzing about with a full head of steam up, enjoying the opportunity to have my anxiety silenced by drinking for a few short hours. And for that I am thankful.

Total : 35.5/50

Kings Arms men's toilet interior, wall art

 

Whakatane Airport; geometric shapes, acid trips, and 80’s sitcoms

Whakatane is not an idyllic place. It is a place, and there are parts of it that are picturesque but on the whole my childhood in Whakatane was more crude and rugged than the quaint views would have you believe.

And yet, along side my vivid memories of my Intermediate school peers claiming they [and I quote] ran out of condoms so just used glad wrap, or visceral stories of who-fingered-who on the stock-bank at the back of the school field, there are reminiscences of the bold primary colours and geometric shapes that distinguished the 1980’s anti-modernist design aesthetic.

Does anyone else remember the TV show Me and my Girl about a widowed father raising his tween aged daughter throughout the madness and massive hair of the 1980’s? For some reason there is an inextricable link between the style of that show and the over all aesthetic of well known New Zealand architect Roger Walker.

For those who don’t know who Roger Walker is (which I’m imagining is everyone who isn’t an architect or an older architecture nerd) he was the dude who populated this kind of building. 

He also designed this wonder of the modern world: I give you Whakatane’s Teeny Tiny Airport.

Whakatane Airport, external view

As a child I remember coming to the airport was a great experience because there was a basket of lollies on the reception desk. They were supposed to be for the people who were flying, to help their ears pop, but I didn’t give a fuck. My brothers and I were all over those bastards like a rash.

Whakatane Airport, external view

And before you say it, yes it does have a little face…

Whakatane Airport, external view, face tower

I think it’s a duck wearing a hat.

I’m guessing Mr Walker was quite fond of LSD in his youth. Perhaps even finding himself inextricably imprisoned in a cupboard at a kindy, tripping balls, with nothing to sooth him but a collection of geometric blocks and a paper plate with a face draw on it.

Whakatane Airport, external view, entrance

Whakatane Airport, external,

Whakatane Airport, external signage arrivals and departures

Luckily, very little at the airport has changed. The decor is still firmly situated in the late 70’s early 80’s from which it was birthed. Amber lampshades, white painted breeze-blocks and “quirky” circular windows show their age in the nicest possible way.

Whakatane Airport, internal entrance, light fitting

Whakatane Airport, internal entrance, stairwell

Whakatane Airport, external, circular window

The stairwell, which leads up to the viewing platform, has always been a favourite of mine. The terrible but fantastic look of the railings make the little kid in me smile.

Whakatane Airport, internal stairwell

Whakatane Airport, internal stairwell

Whakatane Airport, internal viewing platform

Whakatane Airport, internal viewing platform

Whakatane Airport, internal stairwell from underneath

I must admit that I don’t remember using the bathrooms as a child, but I know I don’t recall there being two. I’m pretty sure that they added the disability access toilet across the hall more recently to adhere to access and inclusion law.

Whakatane Airport, internal, disability access toilet

Whakatane Airport, internal, disabled access toilets, sink

Whakatane Airport, internal, disability access toilet

From the look of it, this was not built to be a toilet, or even a public space. The main bathroom across the hall has retained some lovely features from the circular skylights, to the perhaps still working but a lil’ worse-for-wear radio.

Whakatane Airport, internal, main toilets, doors

Whakatane Airport, internal, main toilets, sink

Whakatane airport, internal, main toilet, stall

Whakatane airport, internal, main toilet, skylight

Whakatane airport, internal, main toilet, radio

Whakatane airport, internal, main toilet, door closer

Rating

Cleanliness :  6/10  It wasn’t filthy but I wouldn’t say it was very clean. It could do with a really good going over, like the grout between the terracotta tiles could do with a good water blast. I’m guessing that every year or two they just whack a new coat of budget white acrylic over any dirt in the corners rather than actually clean it. I doubt very much that the passenger turn over will ever be high enough to hire anyone other than preternaturally lazy teenagers who left school at 16 because it was “boring” only to realise they were stuck in Whakatane with no qualifications and were subject to no better job prospects than Pac’n’Save vs Farmers. Which means this little Beauty Queen will always be just a little bit grubby around the edges.

Interior :  7.5/10  Would I feel safe panicking here? Yes. The disability access loo is private enough, encased rather than a stall, and there are other loos available so I wouldn’t feel like I was putting anyone out if I had to stay there for a while. The main bathroom had 2 stalls and 1 sink, but even these were not busy so I would be ok locking the door and trying to regain my composure before attempting to people or travel again.

External :  8/10  The bathrooms are exactly where they should be, right by the entrance. As long as the building is unlocked, you’re all good to use the loo with no questions or stink eye from staff or customers.

Safety :  9/10  Whakatane isn’t free from violence, but I doubt much of the angry drunk, domestic beatery or gang related violence that we know is prevalent in the Bay of Plenty would find it’s way 10 minutes drive out of town, down a long winding road, past the golf course and into the silly world of geometric shapes and honey lacquered 2 by 4.

Snugglitude : 8/10  This place still makes me happy years after I left the Bay behind, only to visit for holidays and funerals. Visiting the airport has given me a desperate need to watch Me and my Girl, Birds of a featherBrush Strokes or any other program you’d not choose to watch over say Ghostbusters, but you’d enjoy anyway because it’s 4pm on a Saturday afternoon, it’s raining and you want to stay in the TV room by the fire. Your Mum will let you know when your tomato soup and cheese on toast is ready, so settle into that ugly, green sofa your Granddad gave you because he was about the chuck it, and enjoy some lighthearted British merriment.

Total :  38.5/50

Whakatane airport, internal, exit

 

Roma Termini: toilet of doom

Hollywood’s big-wig movie men, Instagram, and Julia Roberts would have you believe that Rome looks like this :

Trevi Fountain, Rome

And it does.

I took this photo on a gorgeous Italian spring day after elbowing my way through some fat American tourists, and idiots with selfie sticks doing the peace sign. I’ve since cropped out most of the hoard of tourists, and voila (it should be ecco coz Italy but that phrase hasn’t been colonised by we English oppressors yet) a decent picture of one of the most over-grammed landmarks in human existence.

But, I’m here to show you that Rome also looks like this:

Roma Termini toilets, Rome Italy. Bucket under leaky sink

Travelling isn’t all pretty sunny days and marble fountains. Reality is not about the shots we edit and filter for social media but about the leaky sink in the central city train station.

Why is this photo such an inviting bluey-purple you may ask? Perhaps these were the cheapest fluorescent tubes available, or my camera was stuck on a blue filter which I didn’t know how to turn off? Wrong.

Here’s a bitter lesson young’uns: If the light in a public toilet is purple, it’s been put there to dissuade intravenous drug users from shooting up in the loos. Apparently the blue light makes it harder to find a vein. Cheery right?! And drug use is rife in most major European cities. If you are traveling anywhere densely populated, in a country with relatively open boarders, expect to deal with a few occasions of drug use, drug deals or left over paraphernalia.

A day or two after I took these photos, I was waiting to use the toilet on a cross country train from Rome to La Spezia. The door had remained locked for what seemed an ungodly length of time. I had been watching from my seat, flicking my fingers and twitching uncomfortably, waiting for the loo to be free. I was struggling with my panic a little that day and wanted to quite down my Bruce. Sadly, someone else’s Bruce needed the space more than I did.

I knocked, politely at first, then with more indignation. When the door finally opened, a beautiful young woman walked out with a light wobble. She looked model-esk, in a way only everyday Italian woman can look ; impeccably stylish, jutting collarbones, blunt cut dark bob, and big dark glasses. The look Victoria Beckham has paid a fortune to assume after years of being a ludicrous Chav nightmare. Her gaze remained firmly downcast as she scuttled past me. That very specific scuttle of someone who isn’t moving fast but you can tell the inside of them is racing like a million Doc Marten wearing centipedes. I knew instinctively that she had been in the bathroom shooting up. I’m not completely sure how I knew, gut feeling, but I guess my history plays into it as well. Anyone who knows me well is aware that I lost my lovely, but slightly bonkers brother to a drug overdose nearly 8 years ago. The pain of my grief and the utter shock at his passing has left an indelible mark, like a fissure on my soul. It’s my terrible, unwanted Spidey sense. I’ll write more about him one day but even now it feels weird to spell out the facts in publishable words.

Inside the toilet there was brown residue in the sink, and an empty wrapper for an ultra fine hypodermic needle poking out of the trash. When I got back to my seat, the beautiful woman was sitting across from us with her legs up on the seat, head lolling against the window as the train shuddered and rolled down the track. Her bare ankles betrayed all pretense, displaying the tell tale Amy Winehouse bruises of a habitual drug user. There is no climactic end to this story because again this isn’t Hollywood, it’s real life. I felt sad for her and whatever experience she’d been exposed to that pushed her to rely on drugs as an outlet. I also felt sad for me and missed my brother, who so would have loved to see Italy but never got the chance.

Rome Train station, plaza shops. Stazioni termini Roma Italy.

Stazioni termini Roma, two floors of shops and food outlets surrounded by trains, buses and grubby tents.

Rome Train station, toilet sign

The blue light oozes out of the bathrooms like the radioactive slime favoured by every Captain Planet villain, seeping into each nook and cranny of the subterranean shopping center in which they are housed.

Rome Train station, toilet sign. Stazioni termini Roma Italy.

Rome Train station, plaza escalators. Stazioni termini Roma Italy.

Rome Train station, price sign. Stazioni termini Roma Italy.

It costs 1 to use the loos, which is about $1.65NZD. Not the best value, but they have a captive market so what choice do you have if you need to pee?

Rome Train station, change box. Stazioni termini Roma Italy.

Rome Train station, gates. Stazioni termini Roma Italy.

Rome Train station, pay gates. Stazioni termini Roma Italy.

You don’t get a whole lot for your $1.65; leaky sinks, bucket decoration, and broken locks all come as standard. I’m guessing they want you to pee fast and get the fuck out.

Rome Train station, stalls. Stazioni termini Roma Italy.

Rome Train station, mirrors. Stazioni termini Roma Italy.

Rome Train station, sinks. Stazioni termini Roma Italy.

Rome Train station, broken lock. Stazioni termini Roma Italy.

Weirdly, the light isn’t as blue in the stalls, the one place where you should probably have the blue lights, y’know to stop the drug use. But, I recall the last time I was in Rome that the lights were all blue so I’m guessing, they started with good intentions, then gave up and had a nap. It’s the Italian way.

Rome Train station, toilet. Stazioni termini Roma Italy.

Most of the loos will have no seats and the bins will be over-flowing despite there being an attendant onsite at all times. The floor is almost always dirty, again in spite of there being an attendant and a cleaning trolley in the middle of the room. It never seems to get cleaned.

Rome Train station, selfie. Stazioni termini Roma Italy.

Rome Train station, hair dryer, Stazioni termini Roma Italy.

There is a weird European, low powered hairdryer, just in case you washed your hair in the dirty sinks?

Rome Train station, hand dryer, Stazioni termini Roma Italy.

Rating

Cleanliness : 4/10  No shit visible, but the smell of damp, warm hand dryers and sweat is ever present.

Interior : 4/10  The Termini loos have plenty of stalls, so you shouldn’t be kept waiting if you’re freaking out and need to get in there fast, but there are few hand dryers, which is just an odd design choice. There is a slight sense of comfort in the idea that this bathroom is already a public wretch, so no matter what I do, even if I have explosive diarrhea all over the stall dividers, it won’t be the first or last time that had happened. I feel a wave of comfort in knowing that I couldn’t possibly be the least socially conscious or disgusting person who has set foot in this bathroom.

Exterior :  5/10  As with most things in Italy, as long as it looks average on the outside, the real substance doesn’t matter. Case in point, the Termini shopping center. It is quite fancy and has an abundance of high end shops and expensive food outlets, but when it comes to the base level services, it’s fucking disgusting. I have a better example of this phenomenon coming up in a post about a cafe in Florence. The services in Italy couldn’t be further from the services in Dubai where EVERYTHING is pristine in places you are expected to part with your cash. Say what you want about the terrible aspects of Dubai but they know how to create a head to toe experience in their malls, hotels and theme parks. But, though it sounds like I’m bagging out Italy, hard, I love the place. However grimy, stinky and inconsistent, it has heart and the best fucking ricotta pastries in the fucking world.

Safety : 2/10  Trust no one. You will be stabbed and possibly with a dirty needle.

Snugglitude : 5/10  Italy has had a hard time, economically, socially, fiscally etc. But, it’s still an amazing place (other than Naples, which is a shit hole nightmare). It’s a bit like the goofy character in any American family ensemble movie. You know you should like the character who is nice, pretty and good and does the right thing all the time, but really the character who is dodgy, gritty and conflicted is far more fun. Italy is that character, Italy is Bill Murray.

Total :  20/50 This rating is for the toilet, not for Italy it’s self.

Rome Train station, exit, Stazioni termini Roma Italy.

 

 

 

Riomaggiore, in the Cinque Terre – “It’s a bit over rated really”

Riomaggiore, Italy, street view

Cinque Terre literally means “five lands”. No flashy bragging names, just five pretty seaside villages perched precariously along the rocky coastline of Northern Italy.  From a distance they look like a handful of partially licked skittles being thrown down a steep hill, just waiting to plummet into the Mediterranean sea. But, many of these buildings have been in situ for more than a hundred years, despite being buffeted by many a storm and earthquake, so who am I to question their sustainability?

I jumped up and down in various places, and nothing fell off, so I think they’re good.

Riomaggiore, Italy, street view

What keeps the villages of the Cinque Terre modest in comparison to other Italian tourist attractions, is the lack of arterial routes for ingress. There are no accessible roads that will take you into the towns, and very little space to drive if you could carkore (like parkour but with a small car. Yes I just made that up) your way in through the grape vines and fat Americans.

To visit the bathroom I am rating in this colourful wee village, you will need to take a train from La Spezia (a gorgeous port town in the Ligurian province which was a highlight of our trip) along the Cinque Terre train route, or walk the hugely popular tracks along the hills, looking out over the Mediterranean Ocean. It really is gorgeous, when you husband stops complaining about the heat, the sun, and the number of people also doing the walk (this is Europe you fool!! Did you think it would be as empty as Piha?).

The public toilets we came across in Riomaggiore were perched about halfway up the main drag, with scattered shops winding up the hill through the pastel coloured apartments.

Riomaggiore, toilet exterior view

While similar in material and basic structure to the one I rated in Point Chevalier, this little stucco shed shared no other similarities beyond their basic use as a place for people wandering about the world in a very privileged fashion, to release the much needed dump they have been building up all morning, since that very strong coffee they had with breakfast. Sultana Bran before a big walk? That was a dire mistake my friend.

Riomaggiore, toilet exterior, sign

Most of the time, in Europe but very often in Italy, if you want a toilet you need to look out for this sign. All tourist areas will try to cater for the multitude of languages spoken by their visitors but if you tried to write “toilet” in every language, you’d have a fucking huge sign and many people would piss their pants. If you didn’t know, “W.C” or water closet is an old fashioned term for a loo. Still in use in countries where the signs may have been first erected 150 years ago and very little has changed since (That was a facetious line. Obviously I don’t think this sign is 150 years old, give me a fucking break).

Riomaggiore, toilet exterior, sign

In Italian a toilet is gabinetto, but they frequently use toilette, which is more like a restroom, and quite handy for English speakers.

Riomaggiore, toilet interior, toilet

Almost all bathrooms in heavily used places in European cities will have attendants. These are usually older ladies who don’t always advertise a price but expect you to hand over some cash for access beyond their deck chair barrier. I was lucky on this day as the attendant appeared to have go off for lunch, or a nap, or just didn’t fancy working that day. Her seat was left empty the whole time I was visiting and I got to pee and photograph the place for free.

Riomaggiore, toilet interior, attendant's chair

Riomaggiore, toilet interior, paper holder

Riomaggiore, toilet interior, sink

 

Riomaggiore, toilet interior, toilet paper dispenser

Riomaggiore, toilet interior, toilet

Riomaggiore, toilet interior, hand written sign

I’m guessing this sign is referring to plastic bags for sanitary products but, there were no bags available or sanitary bins. I’m guessing you’d just have to chuck it in the regular bin, which honestly would be pretty rank during the very hot Italian summer.

Monterosso, Italy, beach view

After our walk along the hills, followed by a gelato in the sunshine, Josh and I sat on this beach and played cribbage while I got very angry people spotting and watching dickheads drop litter. The beach may appear to be sand but it is in fact small smooth marble pebbles, which kind of glisten in an opaque off-white fashion. It was here, after the dip in the cold, blue, tranquil Mediterranean that Josh said “Well, it’s a bit over rated really isn’t it?”. It may be a UNESCO World Heritage Site, covered in the remnants of one of the most sort after building materials of the last 600+ years (Carrara, where the marble comes from, is just up the line) but to my husband, it’s nothing compared to the deep dark green of the Waitakere Ranges or Bethells Beach on a summers day.  It took me a while to explain how spoilt we are as New Zealanders, and that this may not be his idea of paradise, but compared to a housing estate in Slough surrounded by nothing but grey skies and empty K cider cans, this place appears to be the land of Zeus himself (Yes, I’ve met clever people in England, but I’ve also met many who will never know that Zeus is not the King of Italy from history times. Yes, that was a mean, snarky joke about stupid English white trash people. No, none of them are likely to read this blog).

Riomaggiore, toilet interior, over full waste paper bin

 

Rating

Cleanliness :  5/10  These bathrooms are never what you’d call properly clean. Someone has gone over the floor with one of those disposable swiper things at the start of the day and maybe had a wipe around the sink,but as you can clearly see the ingrained dirt is never addressed. It didn’t smell bad, which was nice so they still get a few points despite over flowing bins and muddy foot/hand prints every where.

Interior :  5/10  I’m not a fan of pay toilets, but not for the reason you’d first think. I have no issue paying for the loo, especially if that money pays someone to keep the toilet in nice clean working order. I’m not a fan of having to pass a person (who may be judging me) when coming in and out of the loo. I don’t like the idea that my anxiety will latch on to the fact that, if I need to go back into the loo a few times I will either have to pay again (fine with a machine, but scary if it’s a human) explain my issues or lie and say something less complicated and more socially acceptable such as “Oh dear, I have such terrible morning sickness” to which everyone goes “Awwwww, pregnant lady!” and let you do what ever the fuck you want, how ever weird. And though, due to my rotund present condition, or lack of condition, I could totally pass as anything up to about 6 months pregnant if required, I just really hate lying. I’ll do it, but only if I’m really struggling and need to calm the stupid Bruce voice in my head that tells me that I must be honest in all things or feels guilt about adding to the stigma of mental health issues rather than taking the time to explain to the strange man at the desk in front of me, who may or may not be a little drunk, that I have a real condition that makes me panic but also need to shit sometimes. In this situation, the lady wasn’t there and I was feeling fine, if not hot and tired, but two toilets may be problematic if it had been busier.

Exterior :  7/10  The view is stunning and the access to this loo is very easy, not gates or turnstiles. The W.C is a few minutes walk up the hill from the train station and the port so if you were desperate you’d have to hope your ill equipped thigh muscles held out long enough to get you there without assistance.

Safety :  6/10  Italy isn’t the best place to leave your bag unattended. The fear of getting pick-pocketed is ever present, but these little villages felt safer than most (I’m looking accusingly at you Naples, you gross scab hole). If you were to ask a nice looking stranger to watch your luggage while to visited the little girls room, you’d have a pretty good chance of coming back to your luggage, still present and unmolested. This area of Italy is lucky enough to have a more stable economy than some others and less mass homelessness. Poor ol’ Italy has had a hard time. Even though she’s trying her best to maintain an attractive well put together exterior, she may be heading for a Greece style melt down sooner than first expected.

Snugglitude :  7/10  The day we spent training about this region was lovely. I also have great memories of the last time I visited the Cinque Terre with my family in 2003 ish, so just the thought of these sweet, semi-parochial villages makes me smile. We came across this toilet at the end of the day, on our way back to LaSpezia where we had a late afternoon nap. Visiting beautiful things, followed by a shower, snack foods, then a nap, that’s pretty much a perfect day for me. So, even with the above faults, I found this facility unexpected and quaint.

Total : 30/50

Riomaggiore, Italy, hill view

 

Matakana public toilets; I didn’t go on a Saturday because I don’t have a death wish.

Matakana public toilets, exterior view

I’ve been meaning to visit Matakana for a while. Not because I’m intensely cool and need to buy artisanal small goods from the Farmers Market, nor because I have completed my 20th contract killing and can finally afford a home on the extreme Auckland fringe. Other than odd-coloured organic vege and handmade goat cheese infused free range eggs, what is the only other thing people associate with Matakana? Their fancy surrealist toilet.

Like Kawakawa before them, this teensy hamlet decided to let some arty nut jobs grasp the reigns and hoped they would shit out a winner.

But unlike the Hundertwasser loos, the Matakana facilities are actually attractive (sorry, don’t hate me but I just fucking hate abstract surrealism. It makes me feel nauseated).

Matakana toilets, sign exterior

Because I am a first class researcher, with genuine professional citation standards, I looked on Wikipedia and found out that the Matakana bathrooms took 7 years to complete and were the outcome of a design competition won by a local guy, in his first year at Elam Art School. The body of the toilets represent the bows of local fishing vessels in a nod to their oceanic heritage, but who really knows about the disembodied bisected heads. A nod to downing a couple tabs of acid and a handful of laxatives simultaneously and hoping for the best?  I could make up some art wank, but why bother when there are toilets to review.

Matakana toilets, exterior view

Matakana toilets, exterior stall door

I like concrete, and I like shapes sprayed with concrete, so these fulfill my Playschool level need for geometric eccentricities.

They have pride of place at the juncture where the high street leads out of town. They sit like Ned Stark’s head atop it’s spike on the walls of King’s Landing.

Matakana public toilets, park

The bathrooms back on to a very pretty wee park, with a stream and play areas etc.

Matakana public toilets, exterior

There are two stalls, both of which are disabled access and unisex. The gendered signs have been hand crafted by a local artist. I’m not sure who did them but they are very cute and cartoon like. Sadly, other people liked them a little too much. In fact enough to pry them from the toilet door and nick off with them. That is cunty because now the rest of us don’t get to enjoy them. I really fucking hate people like this, with no sense of community. Selfish pricks. I hope they get a really bad sunburn and it hurts to sleep so they get very tired and do badly in an important job meeting.

Matakana public toilets, exterior, toilet signs

Matakana public toilets, exterior, toilet signs

Matakana public toilets, exterior, toilet signs

The exterior doors of the toilet have been heavily graffiti’d by scratching into the Macrocapa.

Matakana public toilets, exterior, scratched graffiti

Now, I’m not a fan of most graffiti as much as I’m not a fan of defacing public structures, but I don’t feel like these scratches take away from the bathroom’s overall charm. In some ways they are quite nice, if only they were less “tag-y” and more social like the scratched glass panes at The Red House built by William Morris.

Matakana public toilet, door handle

Matakana public toilets, interior of toilet

Inside the floors and one wall are mosaiced in orange stone or rock, maybe it’s pottery left overs, either way I like that it’s different but I stand by my opinion that almost all chunky modern mosaic is fucking ugly. It’s a terrible old lady craft made out of left over trash. I have seen exceptions to this general rule in the National Museum of Naples, but those were fine, detailed pieces of art, not left over scraps glued together like a prisoners art project and mailed to their pen-pal bride.

Matakana public toilets, interior of toilet

It was very difficult to get a quick subtle picture of the inside of these toilets as the doors weigh a fucking ton and the second they close it is dark as the arsehole of Satan in there.

While I was inside the first stall, a woman came over to partake of the facilities for their intended use (I’m guessing). She asked if I was actually “using” the toilet, which I wasn’t, I was standing there like a twat with her phone out. So I scurried over to photograph the other stall and get more detailed images. Unfortunately, the lock on the first bathroom was broken so she came over to mine,  leaving me with no time to get better pictures inside the bathroom proper. If I were a normal human I would have just asked her to wait a second but I’m a massive pussy and just scuttled off apologising as I went.

Matakana public toilets, interior window

 

Rating

Cleanliness : 7/ 10  The toilets weren’t dirty but they didn’t look great on the inside either. A little worn and less well looked after than I would have thought. No worse than a regular public loo so I guess being an art piece doesn’t make you special in the eyes of the Auckland council cleaning crews.

Interior :  7/10  The inside was just fine. They had sinks and toilet paper, though the paper was not in the paper holders because they were way too far away from the toilet bowl due to the hand rails getting in the way. Not so good in the ol’ design sense when it came to practical application. Honestly, I don’t think that two toilets would be enough for a busy day and I can’t imagine how long the line would get on a Saturday morning. Luckily, we were there on an ordinary week day during the school holidays so I had no issue beyond the lady who needed to pee. From the inside the wooden doors are very pretty, but other than the doors, handles and the stained glass window above, all the hardware is standard public loo grade so nothing special.

Exterior :  7/10  The view is nice behind the bathroom and there is parking down the hill to the left, but again not much parking when it is busy. It isn’t private so if I was panicking it wouldn’t be a great place to go. Every other dickhead in a 100 meters could see me coming out and I’m guessing there would be a lot of angry door knockers, which makes me panic even more.

Safety :  8/10  The exposed nature of the loos means that they have almost no hidden areas. I wouldn’t be worried about using these bathrooms even at night. There is a pub with tables and such outside right across the road so plenty of eyes to avoid a mugging from some curly mustachioed dude whose get away car is a well greased penny farthing.

Snugglitude :  7/10  This is a very close seven, nearly a six if I’m honest. I love art and the idea of making public toilets more creative, but when the Aart comes at the expense of good practical design it raises issues. Having been to art school, I get the need to spray concept wank over all practicality, but because my degree was in design rather than fine arts, I feel like the dude who designed these should have focused more on the practical aspects of a bathroom which would work for more people. All points given for the small touches of craftsmanship, like the toilet signs, wood work and the lovely brass door handles.  Points taken away again for the use of boring standard toilet, sink, paper and soap dispensers. For the massive price these loos cost, I feel like they could have done a bit better with the actual toilet set.

Total :  36/50

Point Chevalier, old lady gash, and swimming in your undies

Point Chev beach, sand and sea view

A few years ago, friends and I decided early one drunken New Years morn, to walk the 1.7 km from their flat to Point Chevalier beach. The route was strewn with broken glass related mishaps, thrusty dancing around traffic lights, and no doubt really badly off key singing. When we arrived, we ran down the sand in only our knickers to swim, or more closely loll in the bath-water-left-in-the-tub temperature sea, floating like booze swollen orcas.

Now, you can say we are idiots for swimming drunk, and you’d be correct. But, in our defense none of us went deeper than our chests, and handily one of our group acted as sober life guard. Better behaviour, I have to admit, than during my formative years growing up going to parties on the beach, or the many many times I’ve thought it was a shit hot idea to have a shower after arriving home pissed.

More importantly, it is a really nice memory, I didn’t die, and no one else did either, so get off my god damn ass.

Point Chev beach toilets, from the beach

Strangely, in spite having visited Point Chev many times over the last 18 years, I had never walked further than the weird looking expensive beach-side apartments 2 minutes walk from the stairs. But, a few weeks ago on a gorgeous sparkling blue winters day, I had the time and the inclination to explore the full length of Point Chevalier’s tranquil sandy beach, from concrete pohutukawa outcrop to concrete pohutukawa outcrop.

Point Chev beach, south end, jetty

Point Chev beach, south end, jetty

Having spent the past year in the UK and Europe, enduring sore-foot inducing pebble beaches, freezing icy winds and marble shingle, the softness and brilliant beige of home sand made me as happy as a methed up clam.

It was during my jaunt that I spotted this little stucco cutie, nestled among the pohutukawa branches.

Point Chev beach toilets, from the walkway

After a year of intensely Anglophiled architecture, and haphazard Italian facilities, my little heart was warmed by the sight of a traditional Kiwi beach toilet.

Point Chev beach toilets, from the walkway

Dappled light, filtered through massive intertwining pohutukawa trees, minimal rubbish, and the smell of warm sand and fresh air. Mmmm home is good.

Point Chev beach toilet, signage men's

Point Chev beach toilet, signage women's

Inside the bathroom, there’s a fuck load of space for people to change into their swimsuits. Strangely, these places always include someone’s Nan leaving nothing to the imagination and having no qualms of modesty, getting 100% naked between swimsuit and underwear (not my Nana. She’s proper). Over the years I’ve seen more old bush and sagging tits in beach and pool changing rooms such as this one than I would have ever chosen to see.

Point Chev beach toilet, interior changing area

It’s a basic set up with cold showers and benches to keep your clothes off the wet floor (Never works. You always end up with a wet patch). The poured concrete floor, breeze block walls, and cattle pen chic makes me feel young, idealistic and warm, right down to my broken belly.

Point Chev beach toilet, interior sinks

Point Chev beach toilet, interior toilet stall

Point Chev beach toilet, interior toilet stall

This one even had toilets seats, and loo paper that hadn’t been soaked by some little shit, dried, then gone all yellow and wrinkled in the heat.

Point Chev toilets, internal, rafters

Point Chev toilets, view from the doorway, pohutukawa

 

Rating

Cleanliness :  7/10  It was pretty clean. The floor had sand on it and some leaves but you can’t really avoid that at the beach. It didn’t smell bad and there was little to no rubbish/Woodies cans strewn about.

Interior :  7/10  I was there on a very quiet winters day, so other than a few dog walkers and the unemployed, no one was around. I imagine at the height of summer the bathrooms would be full to the gunnels with screaming kids and frazzled Mums as the beach is very calm with little to no wave action so a grand place for little humans who drown easily. There are 3 stalls, with space open above and below. If I were having a panic attack it wouldn’t be a quiet or private place to be, but I imagine the turnaround would be good so, if I had to lock myself in for 40 minutes, the other patrons would be less likely to break the door down wondering what I was up to inside.

Exterior : 7/10  The setting and the view are something magical. The light, the fresh salty breeze, and the calmness due to Point Chev’s position inside the appendix of a rather deep harbour (if the harbour was your large intestine), away from the mess and drama of the open ocean. It is not, howmever, a toilet at which you’d be able to park up and run inside if diarrhea hit. But, luckily there is a large bathroom up at the car park which services the patrons of the playground, the bit off to the side of the car park where people drink, and the large undulating park.

Safety :  6/10  I think the out of sight nature of this loo would make it safer but also conversely more dangerous than some I’ve rated. Point Chev has been gentrified to the point where anyone who isn’t married to a professional sporting person, or has never managed to rustle up a set of wealthy parents, would have a shit show in hell of buying a property there these days. But, any pretty spot near a main road, with a car park and park benches is likely to possess undesirables at times so, best you don’t hang out there unless you are armed with a group of your most violent-when-drunk friends.

Snugglitude :  7.5/10  After a year in the wilderness of central London, the peace and traditional Kiwi charm of this place made me well up with good feeling, and for once, not vomit.  It’s not a flashy toilet, but the memories associated with good times and the architecture of your childhood always add to the snugglitude of a place. And, there were cute little fungi growing in the leaf litter which made me smile. I like nature and shit.

Total :  34.5/50

Fungi, Point Chev beach toilets

Fungi, Point Chev beach toilets