Monday, 11 April 2011

As quick as a flush

During my early twenties, when working in London and visiting the theatre fairly frequently, a friend and I talked about writing a book. We talked about writing a guide to the ladies toilets in London theatres. Now I am sure that in the twenty years since our comments someone probably has written that guide.

My friend and I would give each loo marks out of ten. And I still find myself doing so now in public places, like pubs and restaurants, shops and high streets at home and abroad. Friends will say that I am quite fussy when it comes to public loos and I must say some of them are still appalling - smelly, graffiti strewn, doors that don't lock and no paper! However, I have discovered in the last few years that I cannot be the only one concerned with the state of ladies toilets. Standards have crept up and even in a very ordinary coffee shop the toilets now come with air fresheners and hand wash.

It's amazing how, travelling around Buckinghamshire between churches (many without a loo), planning toilet stops has become a necessity for me. So IKEA in Milton Keynes, Beaconsfield Services and John Lewis at High Wycombe are all on my list. In London the public toilets in Covent Garden take some beating. Although I must say my favourites are those in upmarket London hotels and restaurants which have individual flannels to dry your hands and Molton Brown hand wash and hand lotion. You just have to buy a meal or drink for the experience!

It's all a bit over the top really, particularly when in other parts of the world health and sanitation isn't given the same priority. The provision of nice or grotty toilets may be someones responsibility here, but others are not so fortunate. Many people across the world do not have their own loo, do not have water to flush it and would not even comprehend that western designers win competitions for inventing quick machines to dry our hands.

In Ethiopia Christian Aid partners train teachers in health and sanitation so that this knowledge is passed on to school children. Each time I flush the loo today I will give 10p for the privilege of doing so and will count my blessings....

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