As you might have noticed if you read my blog, I really like old pubs. There’s nothing odd about that, many people do. But I like basic, workaday boozers as well as the more immediately appealing Victorian gin palaces, and I’ve been to a lot of them.
In Scotland at least there are many such pubs where the ladies’ toilet is clearly something which has been added later and was not thought necessary originally. If you’re inclined to macho (or homoerotic) romanticism, you may enjoy imagining past times when men, and men only, would crowd into the pub en masse, drink pint after pint of beer and then stand in a row relieving themselves against a glistening white porcelain wall in the gents’ (Actually, keep quiet about the homoerotic bit, as it would probably have got you a thorough kicking).
Problems of gender and sexuality aside, what’s also disturbing about this image is that such toilets often have half a dozen or more urinals, but only one tiny little wash hand basin. Sometimes, as with the retroactive addition of a ladies’ toilet to a pub, the washbasin too is obviously much newer than the rest of the fittings. This suggests to me that washing your hands was, shall we say, not universally considered a necessary aspect of going for a pee in the old days.
This shouldn’t be too much of a surprise – some people today still don’t bother, the dirty bastards. But I for one am glad that we now live in prissier times and can make use of running water and soap on each visit.
Soap, though, is one item that vexes me; specifically, scented soap. I have nothing against scented soap in itself, but I don’t want it in pub toilets. There, I want plain soap please. The reason is that the scent lingers on your hands – and now that we enjoy a brave new world in which beers might well have aromas of citrus fruit, pine, coconut or vanilla, I want to be sure, once I’m back in the bar drinking my pint, that what I can smell is coming from the beer in my glass and not from my fingers.
This post is part of Boak and Bailey’s International Pub Bog Day, “a chance for the international beer blogging community to really focus on pub toilets.”