Fifth Column – Issue 19

Public Inconvenience

On an unseasonably warm Sunday morning, I walked from one seaside town to another along the beach, enjoying the ease of not being on the conveyor belt of commerce. Having enjoyed the breakfast and a pint , I followed the signed imperative to stray along the straight road between the two towns.

On my carefree sojourn I noticed a couple of museums to Public Services. Had they been indeed in service instead of having padlocks that would not be out of place at Fort Knox, I may have added to the exhibits. These are now museums you literally have to go round, given that there was no access to the facilities. I did notice a peeling, somewhat dishevelled piece of paper bearing some words of warning or announcement of something forthcoming, that has long since ceased to be current.

On further inspection, I saw that the announcement had all the urgency of a service society. However, in my minute of need, this notice merely ‘took the p*&!’ which added to the irony of the situation. The notice also had in its short but punchy narrative, a kind of historical and political message that is significantly modern: the imperative of privilege that even reflects itself in these sites that once were more than ancient symbols to the recognition that even proletarians require facilities in which to relieve themselves.

The notice read: IN HONOUR OF THE QUEEN’S VISIT THESE TOILETS WILL BE OPEN ALL DAY AND CLEANED REGULARLY THROUGHOUT THE DAY. EXCEPTING THE PERIOD WHEN THE ROYAL ENTOURAGE WILL BE PASSING. SO, FOR AN HOUR, FROM 3PM TO 4PM, THERE WILL BE A TEMPORARY MIDDEN SET UP NEAR THE BEACH.

In my tremulous state of needing a whizz, I contemplated the implications of this notice. So, for one time in possibly sixty years, these toilets will be made available to someone not recognised as a member of the public, her being privileged and in no need of such grubby facilities, yet for me and other proles who actually frequent these public spaces on a more regular basis, we are now deprived of such services for such long periods of the year. Not only is this unjust from a logical point of view, given the rhetoric we hear every day from politicians regarding fairness and equality of opportunity, but it is ridiculous to consider that we as proles, especially those of us who are bladder challenged, do not need toilets when we need to whizz.

They now resemble a museum that exhibits the lack of public in public services, especially as we are paying much more towards the public element than ever before. It makes me think of writing a letter to HRH and tell her that she, and those serving her with obscene zeal, are taking the patronage rather than giving it.

I also heard what I hope were only rumours concerning the road around the said museum of modern reconstituted Chartists, rumours that said the road would be painted in the colours of the flag. These kinds of behaviours are insulting to both the public and to the toffs whose rare presence on such proletarian soil is responsible for the deferential actions of publicly elected bodies who are compelled, in a free society, to evince obsequiousness. All parties know a new lick of paint when they see it, so the servants and masters are merely enacting a charade that is given sanction by the severely class-ridden basis for the society that claims to be free and democratic.

So, unless the area is visited by one of these privileged dignitaries, places of public convenience are closed to the very members who qualify for that appellation and who, because they are feckless soaks, require the use of conveniences on a day to day basis.

I wonder if the same hospitality would be extended to one of our ilk, if we were caught short, being overcome with the excitement of being close to where one of the elite actually frequents on a regular basis, and needed the use of a private convenience in one of the castles or palaces?

Hold your water, I hear you cry, these conveniences have to pay their way, especially in such times of austerity. I only pose the question, is it fair and free to condemn public services to bare-arsed minimum provision, at times when too much public money is going down the drain of personal wealth for a select minority who don’t ever need to use public conveniences as their private jets, their boats and their many dwellings – some paid for directly by public funds – have any number of conveniences in them.

There are times, much against my better nurture, that I am grateful for the secluded beach valley of sandy mud, so I can be like a cat and cover over any inconvenience I might otherwise cause.

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