13 May 2022

The Good Urinals Guide

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! ... but, I think, unpublished] as the finest Gothic Revival Urinal in England.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. 

A decade or two after we finally closed 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 Spirit of Vatican II-style '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, on a good day, 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, is 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 who self-identified as male could rest his cigarette so as to have both hands free for enabling his necessary function. 

I am not a smoker ... but I surmise that this provision may also have been a prudently necessary safeguard against dangerous avalanches of glowing ash. The philoprogenitive male can never be too careful.

Now the whole dam' shootin'-match is no more. Eheu, you are so right to say, fugaces.

1 comment:

Josephus Muris Saliensis said...

How superb! you enrich at all levels. (Like you urinal, both the ashtray and... in partibus inferioribus.)

When I was at school, now half a century past, I was, on early visits to London theatres, entranced by these art-deco temples of excretion all along Shaftesbury Avenue. I decided then that one day I should write a book, copiously illustrated, when I had more time, perhaps in retirement (looming). The will to do so has in no way diminished, they were masterpieces of that British spirit of lending dignity to the most mundane things, that spirit which produced provincial town-halls, banks, and... public loos, worthy of an imperial capital. One of my candidates had slender corinthian columns between the stalls, in ochre stoneware. Sadly my book will never be - they have all gone, destroyed in the name of progress and utilitarianism. (*Someone did try to do this book recently, but too late, its photographs were lamentably few).

That these edifices were capable of inspiring art may be proved by one anecdote. When the singer called Stewart Goddard was young and told he needed a stage name quickly, he went for a pee. There before him, in classical letters, was written ADAMANT. Thence came immediate inspiration, the rest is musical history. (This is true!)

PS. I trust your Reverence's health is recovering well, I realise this post-pradial ramble won't see light of day for a while. Oremus pro invicem.