A definitive guide to the land of lavatories
Like Sisyphus and his rock is this self proclaimed heartland of hip fated to forever amble along a Mobius Strip? To glance out the window and scream ‘did we not pass that road sign an hour ago?’. Jeans may be slightly tighter , beards may be longer but when you rub your hand along the wall of reclaimed timber one can only muse ‘plus ça change’. Is it really 12 years since The Strokes released ‘is this it’?
It appears that around the same time the descent of Essex teenagers and city suits ‘largin it on a corporate one’ crashed onto the beaches of Hoxton and Shoreditch, the look of the times became one of some sort of brogue laden failed artist or ‘hipster’ as the vernacular has dictated. Shoreditch went mainstream. Thus the very strange occurrence happened whereby the people who defined it fled, but the place looked the same, gentrified and more expensive yes, but still looking pretty much the same.
And thus – like the early stages of a chess game, when all that is swapped is long looks and pawns, from an outsider not involved in the mind battle and thus able to see the intricate details – the pubs, food, clothes, music – looks the same.
So indeed the scene in Shoreditch, has become a mish mash of prolonging the one that made it, whilst pandering to those who have come to see it.
The Crown and Shuttle outlines this perfectly.
The formula for these type of pubs has become so refined, so meticulous, so well delivered that one has to admire the efficiency with which the index finger scrolls down the clipboard and the lumberjack shirted conductor bellows the word ‘Tick’.
‘Keep Calm’ Parody…..tick
Artistic and humorous blackboard sign….tick
Pop Up/Street Food van instead of kitchen…..tick
Suits that have slipped through the net ‘because it’s Thursday’….tick
Micro Brewed beer on site that is actually just Carling….tick
The pub was exceptionally busy and one can’t help but think that this is the new slug and lettuce, the new chain for a post loadsamoney world. Rustic homogeneity. Homogenously rustic. Out with the pretension menu’s, in with a barman proud he only sells Zagat worthy Burgers, served in a cup, that you eat with a spoon.
Look – a random object over there as if by chance, covered in a backstory of careful deliberation.
Indeed it’s easy to be cynical, but cast aside the clichés and you at least have a pub that has paid more than lip service to the past of its building, reclaiming the timber and preserving the building fascia to remnants of former incarnations. It certainly cannot be denied that this new wave of spit and sawdust pubs have been carefully crafted by people with a passion for public houses, it just always seems a shame that classic public house artefacts like beer mirrors or bar towels have made way for distressed wheelbarrows, or other items deemed ‘quirky’.
There is a farm somewhere in Guatemala, which has, through years of progress in fair trade pricing and seasons of fairly decent harvests, slowly improved working conditions and wages for the staff. Hours have decreased in intensity, the tools used for picking have improved and allowed the farm hands to become more effective, efficient, less bruised….happier. The toilets, which for years had to be insulated with discarded and torn coffee bags that they use for export, have finally been taken down and replaced with some proper insulation and lining with a view to one day put some tiles up. Fantastic. Commendable though the rather ingenious way to waste nothing may have been, the time has come to put this behind them and look forward to toilets like they are in the developed world. Look forward to new experiences. Look forward to….
In the strange world of globalised interior design, the British public house is morphing into the inner workings of a gap year student’s mind and the last bastion to make a stand, the toilet, has buckled.
Regaling the story of the time you awoke at sunrise to trek to the peak of a Nicaraguan valley and saw the beaded mist separate from the land to reveal the intricate workings of the numerous farm hands ticking at one with the land like some eloquent Swiss pocket watch, is fine (slightly indulgent perhaps). But bringing that back and into the pub toilets you frequent? Surely the magic is in the separation, the differences in cultures and the way we decorate our lives?
I looked around for the one thing that may have punctured this theme somewhat, brought it back to blightey – the hand dryer. But It was almost as if it knew it didn’t belong:
The Porcelain Gentleman:
Sitting as close as it does to the city and a world of sauna room sexism and burning £20’s, a pub that has gone for a stripped back approach and a focus on the booze itself, not the number on the receipt must be commended. However the Starbucks storeroom bogs have truly fallen wide of the mark – 2/10