Off to the Bog

Trafalgar toilet

No toi­lets deserve to be described as ‘the bog’ more than those you find in British pubs.

Por­trait of a pub toi­let

At its worst: chipped tiles, damp chip­board par­ti­tions and wet floors; blink­ing flu­o­res­cent light; a toi­let seat lean­ing against the wall, a cubi­cle door with­out a bolt, no toi­let roll. Has­n’t that bit of chew­ing gum been in the uri­nal, next to the dis­in­te­grat­ing cig­a­rette end, for the last two weeks? The floor is wet. A piece of paper on the wall says, mock­ing­ly: “These toi­lets are inspect­ed reg­u­lar­ly.” Aban­don hope all ye who enter here.

The ladies have it good

Bai­ley emerges from ‘the gents’ with a hor­ri­fied look on his face, hands drip­ping wet: “Ugh. That was hor­ri­ble. No soap, hand-dri­er bust­ed. Need to throw these shoes away. How were the ladies?” Boak looks puz­zled. “Love­ly, actu­al­ly. Real­ly beau­ti­ful­ly dec­o­rat­ed, and clean… wow! I could see my face reflect­ed in the tiles. And feel how soft my hands are – free balm!”

Nice pubs can have hor­ri­ble bogs, and vice ver­sa

We’ve been in posh pubs whose toi­lets are nonethe­less iredeemably bad, as if they’d spent every pen­ny on ‘lim­it­ed edi­tion art prints’ and had to cut back on soap and clean­ing prod­ucts as a result. They know that a code of silence exists: no-one wants to talk about the toi­lets over their rus­tic duck pate.

Seri­ous­ly, no soap? What the…?

We don’t expect all pubs to have the pala­cial facil­i­ties of a Wether­spoons, or bar staff to spend their whole shift mop­ping up wee. We can deal with no locks on the cubi­cles (lean against the door, loud whistling… there are ways) and all the oth­er indig­ni­ties. But we must have soap. A bar of coal tar would do.

All we want, tru­ly, is to be able to share a bag of crisps with our friends with a clear con­science.

Pic­ture from Flickr Cre­ative Com­mons. This post is our con­tri­bu­tion to Pub Bog Day 2012.

23 thoughts on “Off to the Bog”

  1. I always refer to loos as need­ing the holy trin­i­ty of seat, paper & lock. It’s amaz­ing how many pubs strug­gle to get one nev­er­mind two or even three of those items.

  2. You are a cus­tomer. So am I. I don’t eat or drink in places where the toi­lets are hor­ri­ble. Do the same. They can sort it out or go bust, pubs are busi­ness­es not caus­es to sup­port. I don’t pay mon­ey to catch ill­ness­es due to an absence of hygiene, nor should any­one

  3. The most enter­tain­ing pub toi­let I know is The Bridge House in Belfast. It’s a Wether­spoon, with Wether­spoon’s nor­mal toi­let pol­i­cy. But it also caters exten­sive­ly to large burly men seek­ing cheap lager. Every time I vis­it, I inspect the gents to see which side is cur­rent­ly win­ning. It’s about 3–2 to the burly men at the moment. I imag­ine there are plumbers, car­pen­ters and tilers in Belfast who have retired on the earn­ings from that pub­’s toi­let alone.

  4. In addi­tion to the com­plaints above, I tend to avoid pubs where I have to put my coat on to go the toi­let. My favourite is the per­me­nant­ly open win­dow with bars on let­ting in the snow. Nor­mal­ly cou­pled with no hot water and either no hand dri­er at all or a dri­er that only blows cold.

  5. I’d actu­al­ly say that the aver­age stan­dard of pub toi­lets has much improved over the years. But I have been in one a few years back which man­aged to have no seat, lock, paper, soap, tow­el, hot water or light.

    1. Oh, the pitch dark toi­let! We for­got that one. A par­tic­u­lar­ly delight­ful vari­ant: you know you’re stand­ing in *some­thing*, but what?

  6. The pub I went to watch foot­ball in for 10 years in Prague start­ed out with pret­ty decent lavs, auto­mat­ic paper tow­el dis­penser, liq­uid soap dis­penser, cleaned pret­ty reg­u­lar­ly.

    Then the stag par­ties found the place, and that they could watch the Pre­mier League all Sat­ur­day and drink about 10 quids worth of beer. The toi­lets got pro­gres­sive­ly worse, both dis­pensers ripped off the wall, the doors to the sit downs had to be replaced with met­al because heads were occa­sion­al­ly smashed through the some­what flim­sy ply­wood, waders were the pre­ferred footwear for the reg­u­lars. I heard that the ladies was still pret­ty decent though.

    1. Some­times I won­der about the amount of utter crap on the inter­net. Com­pe­ti­tions to win a free ipad, self impor­tant face­book sta­tus updates by peo­ple with self esteem low­er than the Mar­i­anas Trench, the amount of band­width wast­ed so peo­ple can lis­ten to that tool Steve Wright on Radio 2.

      Then, an absolute gem of an arti­cle appears about a piss dun­geon.

      You, Dave, are a leg­end.

  7. I’d like to rec­om­mend the Long Val­ley Bar in Cork,Ireland.
    Fan­tas­tic doorstep sand­wich­es, the usu­al array of stouts and lagers and indoor toi­lets that are open to the ele­ments because they don’t have a roof.
    It’s hard to explain unless you’ve seen them but you step through a door in the bar and there’s the pisser,the hand-dry­er and a cou­ple of WC’s.
    They’re clean, dec­o­rat­ed and all in work­ing order with soap and taps.
    All fine and dandy until you won­der why it’s chilly while you’re hav­ing a piss and look upwards and see the stars twin­kling away.
    It would take a com­pe­tent builder less than a day to put a roof on it but for sev­er­al hun­dred years no-one has both­ered.

  8. Per­haps My blog name ren­ders me pre­dis­posed to com­ment on this…

    I went to the now sad­ly closed Sev­en Starts at Halfway House in Shrop­shire. A more basic, unique and root­ed in the past pub I swear you’d nev­er have found.

    I enquired where the loo was – it was out­side. Vis­it­ing this facil­i­ty involved stand­ing just with­in the scant pri­va­cy afford­ed by a sin­gle wood­en par­ti­tion, piss­ing against some tiles stuck on the side of the house next door. Christ alone knows what hap­pened when one need­ed a “sit­ty down­er”.

    Sim­i­lar con­cerns arise at the Cider House in Def­ford. Not a win­ter loo I’d ven­ture.…

    1. At the Sev­en Stars, I think if you need­ed a Num­ber Two you could go to the Halfway House next door.

      I once went in a pub in Snow­do­nia that appeared to have no trap at all in the gents’.

  9. This reminds me of the descrip­tion of the bogs at the Crown in Stock­port in the GBG in the 1970s: “awe­some view of the viaduct from the out­side gents’ ””.

    The pub is still going strong, but the toi­lets are now inside.

    The long-closed and won­der­ful­ly basic Hop Pole at Ris­bury in Here­ford­shire had a sin­gle WC, way down the gar­den, for both sex­es.

  10. The thought of going to a very-well known Leeds bar fills Louise with dread sim­ply due to the state of the toi­lets! Women do have it worse than men, though, I think!

  11. I wor­ry that there is a poten­tial for me to become a name inspired expert on thrones and cubi­cles, but I’ll take the risk to report…

    The Lup­pitt Inn in Lup­pitt has one of each but there is no light in the gents (and pub does­n’t open dur­ing the day) and also does­n’t have, erm, any­where to sit. So almost every­one used the Ladies which were sur­pris­ng­ly clean and fresh smelling for being built into a sta­ble.

    The ones in the Not­ting­ham House in Sheffield looked even worse than those in the pho­to at the top, when I went last year. Out­side lavs are up against quite a few prob­lems but there’s no excuse for filthy dam­aged indoor ones, which many pubs seem hap­py with.

  12. Only yes­ter­day did I vis­it my local and realise just how bad the loo’s had got­ten there. The uri­nals over­flow, the lock on the cubi­cle is pre­car­i­ous at best and the sink tap does­n’t work with­out per­sua­sion with a knack that only a sea­soned reg­u­lar knows.

  13. No soap and hand dry­ers that don’t work are a con­stant prob­lem in so many pubs. To many pubs in cen­tral Lon­don charge the earth for a pint but can not seem to pro­vide the basics in the toi­lets.

    I would like to see hand dry­ers that dry hands, not burn them.

    Taps that don’t shoot water out with such pres­sure, that it bounces off the sink straight on to your trousers.

    Toi­let roll that does not dis­ap­pear in the hold­er, so you spend ages try­ing to fish it out.

    Last but no means least. Air fresh­en­ers or at least an open win­dow.

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