Being British, and Spending a Penny

It rained all night, drying up in time to drive to work. I then returned home to collect a parcel for delivery in Newark and arrived at Newark Market just as the thunder claps started. After that rain stopped it became quite hot, I took my coat off, and the sky clouded over again. I left before the dark grey sky could fulfil its threat. On the way home the weather was remarkably pleasant, actually being sunny and hot.

Weather talk is typically British, I admit. I will therefore move onto something typically middle-aged.

I needed the toilet when I arrived in Newark. The one nearest the car park has been closed for some years now, as part of the “improvements” to the town centre. However, I knew there were toilets in the Town Hall (which is also home to the museum and a half-derelict shopping centre). Problem solved, you would think. But no, those are closed too – only one “Accessible” toilet remains, and that wasn’t accessible because you need a RADAR key.

Now, I’m not disabled, but I’m not very mobile either. That means that although I’m not ready to admit to needing a RADAR key, it’s not very easy to climb the stairs in the pub next door. Anyway, I have a conscience about using pub toilets if I’m not using the pub.

Enquiries revealed that there are toilets round the back ย of the shopping centre, not far from where I started. If I’d looked to my right instead of walking straight on as I left the car park I may have seen the grey-coloured sign suspended high on a wall. Even when you are close you can’t see it very well.

You then have to insert 20p, in 5,10 or 20p coins. I only had a 50p so had to ask a passer-by for change because they have a sign telling you they don’t give change. Twenty pence – that’s 48 times what it used to cost when I was a lad and “spending a penny” was a term you used to hear.

Two attendents were chatting in a cubbyhole, though one had gone by the time I emerged – some evidence that the rate-payer’s cash isn’t being totally wasted. Neither looked like this was the job of their dreams.

Newark markets itself as a tourist destination – based on today’s experience they have some way to go, which is sad as they’ve been doing it longer than I can remember (by which I mean around 30 years) and show no evidence of even getting the basics right.

In typical British fashion I made my feelings known be emitting a low-pitched but definite “humph!” as I left.

I am seriously thinking of writing a stiff letter to the council.

26 thoughts on “Being British, and Spending a Penny

  1. orvillewrong

    The lack of public facilities in this country is pathetic, we can spend council money on pointless statues and other monstrosities but not on public conveniences apparently

  2. derrickjknight

    Stick to the posts. Don’t forgive, just don’t waste your ink.
    I once got thinking about phrases like ‘spend a penny’, ‘pull the chain’ etc., wondering whether they were now obsolete or used by people who wouldn’t remember their origins.

  3. higgledypiggledymom

    Many an expensive juice, tea or cake have been purchased so to use the facilities. Yes, I take advantage of my grandson needing a change as well, I’m sure my DIL needed help doing those things. It’s when I don’t have the exact change or the man is being daft when I ask him for coins..too much hemming and hawing about it-just gimme the coins will ya?!!

      1. higgledypiggledymom

        Laughing…they do that with the Mister too, ’cause he’s a white head/beard, but in better shape than me. Glad to hear of polite still. So many kids/youngers would not even think of it. He should take it as a “senior benefit.”

  4. Clare Pooley

    I understand that the cost of maintaining public lavatories is high, especially when they seem to be vandalised regularly but knowing that there are toilets in a town encourages me to visit and spend my money there.

  5. cmc19

    Hi there,

    I would write the letter because they don’t know what the “hmph” was about. And, until,you tell them with specifics they won’t know how or what to change. It doesn’t have to be a great grumble, but, enough to say you felt annoyed and here’s what they can do about it.

    Keep writing the posts. I do enjoy them.


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