by Kate Symondson
I’ve started to wonder whether some Londoners would prefer the open sewers that used to flow freely through our streets, converging in the biggest sewer of them all, the Thames. Since the big stink of 1858 got up the noses of the Whigs and Tories, we’ve engineered all human effluvia underground. Now it journeys beyond sensorial detection, channelling beneath the surface in the realm of the ancient hidden mystical rivers of London, ending up in some water cleaning plant which, frankly, the less I know about the better.
But some Londoners don’t seem to give a shit about the joys of sanitation, do they.
A couple of years ago I was borrising around Pimlico. It was a hot day. I suppose I smelled it before I swerved its light-lit splashes. A ‘gentleman’ was pouring a litre bottle of urine directly in the path of my borrowed bike. Why didn’t he just piss directly in the street? I struggle to see the benefit of bottling multiple pisses up and discharging in one go. Unless it was some sort of political statement (against Boris? The bikes weren’t even his initiative ffs).
Talking of bottle-wazzers, I was walking up Roseberry Avenue when I saw a guy approach a stationary cab, trying to suss out if it was for hire. Straining his eyes in the dusk, craning his head to gain a clearer view, he startled me out of my rhythm with a delighted yelp of realisation:
‘He’s pissing! Oh my god, he’s pissing!’
I’ve often wondered where cabbies ‘went’. I now have conclusive evidence that at least one pulls over on main roads hops in the back of his Hackney and relieves himself in an empty lucozade bottle.
Yesterday I saw something that – for a whole host of reasons – beggars belief. It was bank holiday Monday. I was in Green Park around 3 pm in the blazing sun walking with my sister. It was heaving. We were walking up the path to the tube. We smelled something. Instinctively, we turned to visually investigate the source. A woman. Mid thirties. Wearing a floral floaty skirt, nice pastel cotton tee, a pretty, quirky headband. Surrounded by shopping bags, and two observant similarly casually nicely dressed friends. I saw the baby nappy first. Positioned in the middle of the ring of highstreet branded bags. The woman was squatting over it, skirt hoiked up, her friends poised behind her for balance/ support.
She was shitting. The smell confirmed it. The strained concentration confirmed it. The careful baby wiping process that ensued confirmed it.
There was no baby, so why was there a nappy? It did occur to me that this woman may be afflicted with some issue, but if that is the case, it seems pretty unlikely that this public-park-process is, well, the process, or that her two guardians would have let it come to this. The baby nappy suggests improvisation. Fine. But why in the middle of the park? A park heaving with holidayers on a sunny afternoon. Why no attempt for some more covert location? Behind a tree. In the shade. Why next to the main thoroughfare?
Why was it that nobody else seemed to mind? Was her ostentation so incredulous that people simply didn’t believe what was before their very eyes? Finally – and this is the most pressing question of all – why not poo in the public bathroom that was moments away?
Like a David Lynch, this scene invites endless speculation, but with zero promise of any answers. Frankly you ought just be thankful that your eyes or nose did not bear witness to this inexplicable shit.