Where I stay in London, we don’t have a lot of schools, there are a few, and surprisingly, their yards and the surrounding premises are quite tidy. The school children are quite well-behaved, nay even conscientious.
The problem comes when they grow up and leave school. Something happens. It’s called Alcohol. And this is where the tide begins to rise near me.
I daren’t even tell The Mom of what awaits me on my morning walk into work. Because if she knew, she’d likely position herself on the worst offending street corner, with a mop and a loudspeaker in hand, shouting, “Clean it up people! You should be ashamed!”
And truly, they should. Because on a Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday morning, and probably a Tuesday and Wednesday too, what awaits me when I wander through Shoreditch are piles of vomit. Yes, vomit.
I walk looking at my feet until I get to Holborn and then even there is no guarantee that a stray pile of it isn’t lying in wait the nearer I get to the university. Students, innit.
I’ve learned that one ought not walk too close to either edge of the sidewalk because, perhaps with some view to modesty or shame, the vomitteurs of the previous evening tend to aim for the hard edges of life. The beautiful cobbles of London, covered in puke.
Though, sometimes it’s not puke. There is an awful lot of pee as well, of course, one doesn’t see that, but the odour is a dead give away. That and two other things: the first is that the council, or perhaps the city, it’s hard to tell who’s in charge of this sort of thing, has installed, for boys only, these outdoor urinals in order to cut down on the unsolicited watering of curbs, grass, trees and front doors. There is an old joke in Glasgow that goes something like, How do you know when a drunk man’s got home? He’s peeing on his door. It’s not funny, rather, a sad imitation of life as it stands. Anyhow, there are these new whizz-bang outdoor urinals. In the middle of areas which feature as their main selling point a rather ridiculous amount of pubs, bars and the odd club. So, nearest to me is Hoxton Square. There is what I would call a small park, or parkette, in the middle and all around are bars and pubs. There is a sidewalk around the park. And at the southern end, along the main thoroughfare, is the urinal. It can hold up to four drunken men at any given time. It’s there, Thursday to Monday in summer. You don’t see it much in the winter. Brits aren’t as hearty as they think they are.
So there’s the urinal. Which is good. Unfortunately, it’s not that popular and people still for the most part, given the stains on the sidewalk and the rank smell in certain corners, prefer having a wee in the street, as nature intended. I’ve seen people duck behind cars, and people who just whip it out, not at all caring who’s watching. And I have a certain begrudging admiration for this sort of thing, and also a bit of jealousy: if I could pee standing up, the things I could do.
Anyhow. So there’s the bodily fluids section of filth that covers this place. Which is not to say it’s not lovely, in its own certain way, or that these bars and pubs aren’t ones I am known to frequent now and again. It’s just, you know, you watch where you step.
I’ve always begged The Mom to come and visit me here in London. I think, for the most part, she’d rather enjoy it. But upon reflection, perhaps it’s best if she just arrived on a Tuesday and stayed for the night, before we decamped to somewhere with less… fluids.