My recent use of the name Armitage Shanks inspired memories in a coeval friend ... I had intended the name simply to revive recollections of when Shanks was a mere archdeacon, and his doings were chronicled monthly in New Directions by the Revd Dr Geoffrey Kirk, Vicar of S Stephen's Lewisham, and now an Ordinariate Blogger (I hope you read him daily). But my aged friend's memories took him back to ancient and dimly remembered Urinals. And their vulnerability. He mentioned Thomas Crapper (poson O poson to kleos); and the Joseph Pontifex whose oeuvre could be found in Pusey House in Oxford.
He's dead right. When I first taught at Lancing, the urinals were still called 'The Groves', because it was in groves, in the College's earlier and primitive days, that such functions were ... er ... discharged. The groves behind Field's House were built in the indigenous vernacular architecture of the Sussex chalk downlands: worked masonry framing knapped flint. The building was so superbly done that there was not a millimetre between the beautifully knapped and fitted flints. Sir John Betjeman, on one of his visits, referred to it [fact!] as the finest Gothic Revival Urinal in England. It may well have been. In fact, far too fine a building, in the minds of provosts and bursars, for its designated functions. Naturally, it is now a Pottery. As we finally close down our last coal-mines and steel-refineries, there is very little now left of England that is not either a pottery or a craft-shoppe or a merchant bank.
Near enough actually to be seen from that despoiled urinary masterpiece there is another similar tragedy of 'reordering'. On the coastal plain below the great heaped Gothic mass of Lancing College on its hill-top lies Shoreham Airport, London's first international airport in the days when you took the train from Victoria and hopped off at the very edge of the Channel waves and got onto a plane which could, just about, get you across to the French coast. Here, in the 1930s, was built a fine Art Deco airport building ... which is still there. And, inside it, was a superb, pure, Art Deco loo (or bath room or rest room or WC or whatever ...). As you stood in your 'standing', a little below the level of your nose was a small cigarette-shaped ledge on which the sophisticated air-traveller could rest his cigarette so as to have both hands free for enabling his function. I am not a smoker ... but I surmise that this provision may also have been a safeguard against dangerous avalanches of glowing ash.
Now the whole dam' shootin'-match is no more. Eheu, you are so right to say, fugaces.