An Ode to London – V

I was waylaid a bit in my five-part celebration of Britain by rants about American matters, namely diatribes involving Thanksgiving and Black Friday.

But goddammit, I always finish what I start,a and today’s post concludes this little series once and for all.

Tiny, tiny washbasins

I’ve always thought the British have a tendency to be a little mean about space.

Now, I do concede that real estate is very expensive in London, but there are some instances when I think they’ve taken it too far.

About five years ago I visited London and stayed with a friend who was at grad school at SOAS. She had managed to find a great one-bedroom apartment, with lovely wooden floors, tasteful furnishings, and most importantly of all, excellent water pressure.

What was most memorable about that flat, apart from how every floorboard creaked plaintively as I was trying my best to be quiet early in the morning; its steeply slanted floor  (her wardrobe tipped over one memorable evening); was how narrow her kitchen was. It was essentially a corridor that had been outfitted with a faucet, a tiny refrigerator, and a small stove.b

FirenzeMy friend kindly gave me permission to feature this very artistic photo of her in said kitchen.c

This sort of stinginess with space is, in my mind, a quintessential London thing.

But it is just one part of a larger space that’ll get shorted — I think the architects or contractors figure that if the rest of the place is well-proportioned, no one will mind the fact that the walls of one corner of the living-room meet at an extremely acute angle.

In the public spaces you’ll happen upon in London, the most likely casualty of this twisted parsimony is the bathroom.

I’ve been in bathrooms here where it is literallyd impossible to use the toilet and close the door without some elaborate manoeuvring and feats of flexibility on the would-be occupant’s part.

Regardless of how large or small the space allocated to the bathroom is, one thing remains constant.

In 9 out of 10 toilets here the washbasins are so small, so diminutive, so undersized, as to be almost impossible to use.

images-3Picture of your average wash basin here in London, aptly captioned by the photographer as “world’s smallest sink?

Please note that most of these basins employ separate hot and cold faucets, which may appear charmingly retro, but renders them virtually useless.

It makes no sense whatsoever in a public restroom. It’s not like anyone is going to plug up the sinkhole, run both faucets simultaneously for a minute or two to create a small pool with the perfect temperature, and splash their face. THIS IS NOT THE VICTORIAN ERA.

Turning on just the hot faucet — my preferred faucet in such situations — just means you’re in for a good scalding. Which I guess is good for sterilisation purposes.

Actually, while I’m on the subject — those separate faucets are equally unwelcome in home settings as well.

images-1Artist rendering from wait but why illustrating this calamitous lack of functionality beautifully.

London is brilliant

Unsurprisingly, and most diplomatically (I am a Libra you know), I really do think that all the wonderful things about London outweigh the bad things — most of which are actually just endearing quirks.

Its winged vermin; its occasionally trite yet often hilarious media circus and plethora of free publications; its handsome men (nothing at all to complain about here); bitchy felines;  and minuscule hand-washing facilities–all of these are loveable characteristics that make this city wonderful. And…it only took two years, but I’ve finally learned to let go of iced coffee.

The worst thing about London, to me, its love affair with franchises, is here to stay. I’ve learned to filter them out of my line of vision and look for the city’s many hidden gems.

And even this elitist little shit has to admit she grabs sushi at Itsu every now and then, so who is she to throw stones? (But in case you’re wondering, never Pizza Hut! NEVER.)

Of course I’ve barely scratched the surface — there’s hundreds of other things, puzzling, infuriating, and profound about London and British culture that I haven’t even touched on. Some of these deserve an honourable mention at the very least: the dizzying array of biscuits available to choose from (and all of the confusing questions that go along with such a massive spectrum of choice); pubs that inexplicably serve Thai food; Chavs; football hooligans and the endless news items they generate; the British supermarket chain hierarchy (an issue I happen to be very passionate about); and how no one here seems to have any idea of what recycling actually entails.

And then there’s still so much I’ve yet to experience or even hear about.

Being the hobo-like (bobo-like?), itinerant ne’er-do-well you all know and love, hopefully I’ll have plenty of time to delve into all of that delightful stuff.  Time distributed over the course of a series of perfectly legal medium-length visits, of course.

Whether you’re a total expat like me; a transplant from further afield in the UK; or a Londoner, born and bred, please feel free to include any more of your London Loves, Loathes, and WTFs in the comments section.


  1. This statement in not 100% true, but whatever.  (back)
  2. You’ve hit the flat-hunting jackpot if you find a place you like that has good lighting, decent water pressure and a fridge that doesn’t look like it’s more well-suited to a hotel room than a two-bedroom apartment.  (back)
  3. Actually, this is not the kitchen of which I speak, but it seems that she is often allotted accommodations with ridiculously narrow cooking facilities. But trust me, I was there, and that kitchen was equally as narrow.  (back)
  4. And this is not a word I bandy about willy-nilly.  (back)