A little while ago, the Head of Steam in Newcastle underwent an extensive refurbishment.
Having been a regular patron of this iconic little dump back when I used to be allowed out after dark, it hadn’t gone unnoticed that each time I’d bypass it in order to head to a more pleasant imbibing establishment, the doors seemed to remain permanently and mysteriously closed.
In much the same way you’d moodily stare at the floor after spotting a friend of a friend approaching you from afar with whom you didn’t want to end up trapped in excruciating conversation, I’d begun studiously avoiding my old stomping ground lest I fall back into my old habit of spending whole evenings trapped in excruciating conversation with friends of the friends with whom I’d initially gone out on the drink.
Aside from the more believable theories as to why it was shut which included rumours of a long overdue death in the downstairs venue bit, there came quite the inexplicable rumour that it was going to be magically transformed into something resembling the inside of a Swedish sauna. On hearing this news then ultimately seeing the occasional photo of the new interior being drip fed to social media, this fable turned out to be bang on the money as you can see from the photographs I’ve appropriated from Microsoft Google Inc. without assigning authorship.
I felt quietly intrigued as to whether the brand new toilets in this brand new Head of Steam would be transported into the 21st century and include toilet roll, locks on the doors and actual doors themselves. Also of interest to me was whether the Hepatitis virus was still used in the cisterns when flushing the toilets, and if there’d still be free Class-A drugs hidden behind the toilet bowls to use at one’s pleasure. I suspected luxuries such as these would be a long shot, but I approached my first use of the new HoS toilets with the same amount of excitement and trepidation that one would generally expect when venturing into a WC in order to simply use it.
*For each toilet review, I’ve created and will adhere to a strict 7-point ‘Toilet Test’ to ascertain whether each public lavatory subscribes to my sky-high criteria for a pleasant toilet experience, and all future reviews will follow this.
1. Toilet Approach: does it seem threatening? Do your eyes water on approach?
Thankfully not. Approaching the entrance to the toilet made me feel a lot like Sir David The Attenborough in that nature film he was in when he visited Planet Earth because there was a small rainforest by the entrance window that contained all forms of life that I can only presume is very important to the small but intense sub-climate the Head of Steam now cultivates. And feeling like David The Attenborough is obviously a good thing as he’s 149 years old and can still run faster than a car.
2. Toilet Entry: is there a toilet attendant inside and is he/she grinning at you?
Again, no, there was not another human being awaiting me with an extensive array of high sugar lollipops and disgusting aftershaves, nor was there a lustre of desperate self-loathing and an aggrieved sense of injustice in the air when I washed my hands and didn’t have to pay for that privilege.
3. Toilet Cubicle: is there a lock on the door? Is there even a door?
I was vociferous in my joyful relief that there were now doors in the HoS cubicles. In the past when you wanted to do your business you had to ask a friend to stand like Batman at the entrance to the cubicle, warning people to stay clear in a rich, sexy voice like the way Gareth Bale speaks in Batman Returns. The locking mechanisms were also correctly fitted and in place which means management have taken great pains to ensure Gamekeeper Robert Muldoon doesn’t moan on and on like he used to about the lack of locking mechanisms on vehicle doors when he worked at Jurassic Park.
4. Toilet Privacy Settings: is it an isolation booth? Is there a gap at bottom/top of door/walls? In the toilet, can anyone hear you scream?
Disappointingly, there is a small gap at the top of each cubicle presumably as an emergency escape route should the entire building go into lockdown like what happened at my work the other day when I misplaced my iPhone and didn’t stop screaming. Speaking of which, I did try the Pavarotti Test and sang the crescendo of ‘Nessun Dorma’ in full voice whilst having a relaxing sit down wee. Unfortunately people can definitely hear you as I received retorts from fellow toilet users in an abusive vernacular hitherto unknown in the English language. So while the privacy appears to be good, it’s really not. Think Google for comparative purposes.
5. Toilet Use: is there a toilet seat? Location of roll dispenser? Proximity of walls to push against should the need arise?
Use of facilities was better than expected as is clear having mentioned I sat down to have a wee which is a rare treat for the male of the species. The space between cubicle wall and toilet is distant enough for a quality test of resilience, enough to not pop your shoulder or cause a migraine should you find yourself in dangerous waters during your toilet experience. Unfortunately the toilet roll dispenser was located behind the toilet and above my head which will result in you appropriating a backward slam-dunk stance each time you want to get some paper. Which is fine for any basketball fans out there but what about the rest of us?
6. Airblade Alert! Airblade Alert! Airblade Alert! Airblade Alert!
*The presence of the famous Dyson Airblade automatically awards the toilet the Must Visit Because It Has A Dyson Airblade Award regardless of how atrocious the toilet is, how many sheets of bog roll you cover the toilet seat with or how many times some boorish fuckwit bangs on your cubicle door when you’re trying to do drugs.
Head of Steam Airblade. Our survey says...
7. Toilet Overall Score Out Of 1000:
750 out of 1000 with plenty of scope and time for the facilities to be decimated to a pre-2014 standard of airborne-syphilis and doorless ponderings. Recommended. Would come again.