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Author: Vince Poynter Version m5.280 29 Nov 2019
The vinceunlimited Suzuki GSX250 Story
Engineering Over Soul
Lynda’s Suzuki GSX250 so new it’s still proudly displaying its L plate. Her now superseded Renault Fuego now skulking in the garage behind
The Suzuki GSX250 came into my life at the same time as my wife, for it was her bike so the story must start with her.
Lynda always hankered after a motorcycle but left it until her late twenties in the early eighties before taking the plunge. An inexperienced rider who had owned new cars for ten years took her disinterested father to the local bike showrooms to choose a steed. She wanted the fantastic new six-cylinder Honda CBX1000 but laws restricted learners to a maximum of 250cc. Unfortunately she discovered the Honda CB250N Super Dream was more difficult to get on the centre stand than the big six.
Honda didn’t produce a two stroke 250cc road bike but other manufacturers did as this was a popular option at the time, offering high performance, light weight and easy maintenance for these ‘starter’ machines often purchased by those on a tight budget. Kawasaki offered the manic, thirsty but ageing, triple cylinder KH250, Suzuki the super light, super fast GT250 X7 and Yamaha the stunningly engineered, water-cooled RD250LC.
Four stroke options other than the Super Dream included Honda’s own slim CB250RS, the similarly square and unremarkable Kawasaki Z250A, Suzuki’s ageing GS250, newer GSX250 and Yamaha’s twin-cylinder XS250 or custom style, single cylinder SR250.
There were also some alternative options to the Japanese big four but none were widely sold. Benelli 254 anybody?
Given these choices my heart would have hankered after the Kwacker triple but my wallet would note the high fuel costs and suggest the ultra smooth, modern, beautiful, water cooled LC.
But I wasn’t around and Lynda’s dad advised her to avoid the two strokes, purely on engineering grounds. It was also this thinking that considered the high level of sophistication of the Suzuki’s DOHC motor. It’s a pity that they didn’t stand back and look at the damn ugliness of it compared to its contemporaries.
Lynda’s brother Kevin sitting on the Suzuki. Unfortunately for the viewer he is stationary so has his leg down, revealing the horrendous side panel
Looking at it now you may wonder why I disliked the look so much. Yes, it has a slightly dated 1980s vibe, but it was the 1980s so that can be forgiven. The overall styling is fairly neutral and the twin megaphone, slightly upswept exhausts look OK. I preferred the circular cam covers of other Suzuki four cylinder bikes over the newer more befitting square ones on this model but this alone shouldn’t relegate the thing into the ugly bin. What did this was mainly the slender, tall styling exaggerated by the crappy side panels with their multiple parallel indents. Furthermore, the upswept optional rear rack and engine mounted crash bars didn’t help.
The NVH was also irritating and shouldn’t have been so. It was designed to be able to willingly rev to a maximum power at 10,000 rpm but didn’t have the banshee lightness through the power train of a two stroke, meaning a chainsaw motor but no pay off in top end speed. Buzzy but strangled. It lacked the lazy, comforting thump of other four stroke motors and allowed the motor’s vibes to be easily felt through the handlebars and hard, narrow seat, which inexplicably rose over the tank.
But it was brand new, a nice red and Lynda liked it. Slightly less than the physically bigger, more accommodating Super Dream which she admits she should have had.
However before I entered the picture Lynda had to set about becoming a motorcyclist. Enter brand new bike matching leather jacket, trousers, gloves and moto-cross style boots. On her head a matching, quality full face helmet, around her a fluorescent body sash and in case of rain a full one piece Belstaff all in one waterproof suit. She was quite literally the example set to others on her motorcycle training course. In fairness the other young lads there hadn’t just sold their less than year old new Renault Fuego to their dad to fund their steeds.
A shining example of how all new motor bikeists should present themselves. All the gear and riding in a carefully controlled, professional manner
It didn’t take long for Lyn to get her riding skills up to speed. She passed her gold star training easily, utilising the benefit of a decade of driving and set about joining a local club to meet new friends in her newfound hobby. Which is where I joined the story.
I was a reasonably experienced biker by then and a member of the same local club. I was without a ride due to self imposed poverty and had virtually only the clothes I stood in. But I did have my jacket and helmet which became useful when I persuaded this naive, new biker to give me a lift back to my place. We became close friends and have spent the rest of our lives together.
Her dad wasn’t impressed. Nor her mother. They never liked the idea of Lyn taking up two wheeling and thought it dangerous and dirty. My lust for life and adventure and unwashed jeans only served to confirm their suspicions and it took me some time to win them over. And one episode in those early days didn’t help.
I never minded being on the pillion seat whilst Lynda was riding, other than the narrow, hard seat. Many men feel this placement is incorrect and wouldn’t countenance the idea of sitting at the back. But it was her bike after all and it was very snuggly holding onto my new girlfriend, knees tightly gripping her bum and indicating directions by friendly taps on her thighs. However she also liked me riding her bike. When tired at night it’s nice to just sit there holding your partner whist they do all the riding and concentrating stuff. Plus I had to show her how to really ride. All the stuff that the new riders course didn’t go into. Such as how a bike could perform, why full revs don’t harm the thing, how it could really lean in corners to the point of foot peg grinding, how you can overtake any car you chose to, the safest way to brake sharply in full control and most importantly be ultra defensive when needed to survive.
But an early incident could have derailed all this. I was riding, Lynda on pillion and we were leaning through a series of tight corners when I hit a huge pothole with the front tyre. It destabilised the bike which slid away leaving us sat on the tarmac. The corner was so tight that there was virtually no speed and we were properly dressed so there was no human hurt. But Lyn’s shiny new GSX had picked up some battle scars. Still, it was her first lesson from me on how to crash.
I made sure she was alright, retrieved the bike, jumped back on and we shot off to my parents house for a quick fix. Within moments Dad had helped me remove the handlebars and crash bars, straighten them back into position, reverse the clutch and brake levers so the damage didn’t show, tugged the loose rubber snags from the grips and forced the left foot peg back into shape ready to get back on our way after a nice cup of tea from Mum. Lynda was astonished by the speed and efficiency of repair and her own parents never found out about the incident until we told them several decades later.
The Suzuki attending a Motorcycle Action Group [MAG] rally in Southsea, Hampshire. We were also there, me riding helmet less with many of the other attendees in protest about compulsory helmet wearing laws. Which we actually agreed with. Still, anything to have fun when a biker
We had many more adventures on the thing. Pottering around two up all the time, going places, touring, learning together improving our riding, avoiding any new crashing etc. But I never really enjoyed the bike itself. It wasn’t something special to ride or to arrive on. It never excelled at anything or even disappointed in any aspect to give itself some sense of character. It was just there. Well engineered but ultimately soulless.
It should be noted that Lynda doesn’t share the same negative feelings as I do. But consider it was her first steed and on it she was introduced to a wild new world and friend in me so must be influenced by this. But unlike my feelings for Lynda the bike never really grew on me. She should have had the Yamaha ‘Elsie’ or the Honda Super Dream, both of which still have legions of fans nowadays. I could have taught her how to get the awkward Honda on the stand in no time.
Author: Vince Poynter Version m5.280 29 Nov 2019 [First Publication]
The first image is of Lynda Clare sat on her brand new Suzuki GSX250 outside her parents home in 1981. Photograph taken by Lynda’s brother Kevin Clare on her Canon SLR digital camera
The second image is of Kevin Clare sat on Lynda Clare’s brand new Suzuki GSX250 outside their parents home in 1981. Photograph taken by Lynda on her Canon SLR digital camera
The third image is of Lynda Clare riding her brand new Suzuki GSX250 outside her parents home in 1981. Photograph taken by Lynda’s brother Kevin Clare on her Canon SLR digital camera
The final image is of Lynda Clare’s Suzuki GSX250 parked in Southsea, Hampshire in 1982 at a Motorcycle Action Group [MAG] Rally. The helmet and gloves on the seat are Lynda’s and the one strapped to the rack is the author’s. Photograph taken by Lynda on her Canon SLR digital camera
It may have been a while since I last updated my web site but at least the update has been a well overdue one. I have been working on a better way to present my photographs page.
You will have to touch the 'Photos' item from the 'vSectors' drop down menu above or blue button below to see what I have done but in essence for version 5.278 I radically altered the view layout to incorporate pokeable thumbnails for my photos and in this version I added a couple of more 'thought provoking photographs' along with a new section entitled 'Intreesting Photographs'.
The layout required the use of some more CSS coding and makes the layout respond differently dependant on the size of screen that you are using. On a mobile size screen the photos should show as singles or pairs but on a larger desktop the number of horizontal thumbnails across the screen may be dependant on the window size as each resizes to fit in about a quarter of the window area but can slightly alter depending on the text autosize function. So, if a line of images appears to have less than four thumbnails across the layout may correct if the window size is changed. Let me know if this is the case on your desktop.
In accordance with previous practice I could have reproduced the latest set of images here to allieviate any further effort on your behalf but that would deprive you of all the fun of discovering a visually interesting part of my web site. You may thank me later.
The recording of my second 5 minute Open Mic Stand Up slot performed at The Studio Theatre within The Point, Eastleigh, Hampshire, UK on 17 October 2018.
This original routine was written and performed by me.
This time I had a whole month to prepare and decided to once again script a brand new routine. Particularly as the venue and many audience members would be the same as the month before.
Once again the inspiration came from one of my previous podcasts, this time Podcast 002 - Electrohead which had a driving theme. However to make it more 'stand up' friendly I interlaced the car park routine with some of the puns from later in the podcast. Then I decided the performance would be more visually interesting if I sat during the car park routine and stood for the other bits, frantically leaping up and down as the routine developed.
You can find the original podcast within my Podcasts section on this web site. Click on the blue vSectors button above and choose Podcasts for a link.
The video and sound was again captured by my wife, Lynda, on my Apple iPhone X and lasts 6 minutes and 43 seconds.
The video was edited in the Apple Macintosh iMovie application using customised stock title cards.
This film was uploaded into the Comedy category of YouTube on 10 Nov 2018 and at the time of publication had received just 25 views.
You can read the routine by clicking the button below to toggle between hiding and showing the transcript.
Emerging from a darkened place
A brand new soul, a brand new face
Welcome to the human race
Fingers counted, then the toes
A dimpled chin, a runny nose
And all wrapped up in warming clothes
A gurgle, sigh, a friendly hiss
A cuddle here, a gentle kiss
This early life is full of bliss
But then a noise to breach a dam
A ripping sound, a thank you Ma'am
My son, indeed, you are a man
Author: Vince Poynter Version m5.276 1 Oct 2019 [first publication]
The vinceunlimited Hillman Avenger Story
The First Car Is The Cheapest
How do you define your first car?
The question can actually be read in many different ways. Let me explain.
The earliest photograph of me holding a car so it must be mine
Take a look at the adjacent photograph. Here you will see a very young me sat in black and white next to my mother on our front door step. In my hands you will see a small toy. A fifties style car the make and model of which I cannot recall, nor determine from the picture.
I don't remember that car but by the look of my tight grip it looks very much like mine. Is this my first car?
The first toy car that I definitely remember owning and which became my favourite one was a red Volkswagen Karmann Ghia Corgi toy. So was this my first car?
But toy cars don't count as a first car, do they? One needs to be able to get in and drive. Well, I could do that in the go-kart that my brother and I were given. I may only have been around four or five years old but it was me doing the driving, providing all the self-propelled forward motion, steering and braking. In doing so I learnt width judgement, the consequences of speed, under and over steer and when ignoring all the above what happens when the corner is tighter than the grip. So surely my first car.
Then motorised transport came into my life. You can read about the origins of this journey in my Bikes section because like many others in those days I started on two wheels. On the road since my sixteenth birthday on a borrowed moped, then at seventeen my own trail bike, followed by a small road bike then mid sized tourer. You will also have noted that I finished this section of my life with a crash, a girlfriend, thoughts of future passengers and a story involving a bicycle and a Hillman Avenger. My first actual car. Or was it?
It was certainly not the first I drove as I had been driving for about three years by then. I started as soon as I was legally allowed at seventeen.
The first I got behind the wheel of was a Vauxhall Viva. Not the latest, rebadged 2016 Chevrolet Spark, but the much earlier HC version that Vauxhall produced during the 1970s. It was red and new and light to drive through its enormous steering wheel. I had already garnered a good sense of road craft from my year on mopeds and a trip or three on my Yamaha Trail bike. And crucially I couldn’t fall off it. Driving a car should have been so easy.
The trouble was that it was owned by a gross, un-sympathetic, interfering Driving Instructor and I couldn’t afford many or even regular lessons.
I hated every moment of the driving not because of the car but because of the instructor. He would arrive late, squish down in the passenger seat with his plump thighs overhanging both sides of the wide seat usually with his used handkerchief dripping out of his side pocket hanging over the handbrake.
He would then fuss and panic about someone driving his car and constantly grab at the steering wheel and gearstick then pump his feet up and down on his new toy, his dual pedal set up.
I already knew how to meander through traffic from my year and some of biking, I was aware of my surroundings, familiar with junctions and traffic signs. I just needed some practice at the bits of a car that were different such as clutch changing using my foot and steering with a big circular wheel. But I was not free to plot my own course without unnecessary intervention, or pull to a gentle stop without my passenger stabbing the brakes.
I was just seventeen and didn’t have the life experiences or confidence to change instructors or the funds to do back to back lessons and as a result every two months it felt like another brand new start. Just let go of the controls you gross, pig-headed bastard.
Overall I had just six lessons, one every two months or so during the year before I was advised by Mr. Slob to take my driving test and inevitably failed it. I can’t remember exactly why but do recall it was only a couple of minor issues. The main thing I needed was regular, unhindered practice.
I was also under pressure from work. My job required me to visit various construction sites around the local counties and my white collar image was being smeared by the arrival in motorbike clothing and helmet. Plus I was unable to transport the required oddments and official documents that my role dictated. The boss wanted me driving and I had colleagues' cars awaiting my piloting.
I finally got my chance when my mother persuaded my dad that I could be added onto her car’s insurance. With the assistance of my older brother in the passenger seat and a couple of L plates I could get all the practice I needed.
It was a first generation white Triumph Herald 1200 with bright red seats and I took it out as often as money, my brother and time allowed. I even took my friends, Jeff and Spike, in the back a couple of times. Although regretted it when they gesticulated at a passing police car which got me a lecture about how I, as the driver, should be in control of my unruly passengers.
But it did the job, I got the regular practice needed and re-hired the Viva to pass my car driving test.
Not that I swapped my exciting twin wheeled vehicles for a car immediately. Why should I? I already had 120mph travel potential and a 0-60mph time of around three and a half seconds. Cars were dull, slow things that in my budget were rusty and unreliable with excessive insurance premiums. And besides that I had started driving anyway. Virtually every day. In nearly new cars, fuelled by a large on-site petrol tank.
I worked in a small to mid sized building services company. Our task was to design and build the intricate pipe work and associated plant that courses its way around commercial and industrial buildings and my role was to manage or assist in the supervision of these projects. The company needed me to deliver tender offers, visit the sites for meetings and help with previously forgotten small deliveries. And so leant me the company cars for this purpose.
I particularly took advantage of tearing around the place in John's blue facelift model Vauxhall Chevette 1.3 L as he was generous enough to let me have the keys, thanks John. Malcolm was less forthcoming with his near identical green model. In fact I was more often offered the mid-size executive 1.6 Vauxhall Cavalier Mark 1 LS of Senior Engineer Jeffery. And once had to deliver our MD Peter's BMW 525 E12 post facelift model to Salisbury. I saw 125mph on the speedo. Err, it was just under the 130mph on the dial, officer.
However time was moving on, I had done all that I needed to at that moment on two wheels and as explained in my Honda CX500 article the market for potential new female friends would be increased exponentially by having my own four wheels so I advertised my bike for sale and included a thought that I would consider a swap for a car.
I had a reply. Some chap had a car and wanted a bike. We agreed that any difference in value would be included in cash and he duly arrived in his Hillman. I can't recall who got some dosh with their vehicle but he took away my shiny 'as new apart from the frame reshaped' bike and left me the keys to his slightly tatty Avenger.
My Hillman Avenger in all its glory when first purchased by me
I had received not only the keys but also the car. A Hillman Avenger GLS with vinyl roof. This pleased me immensely as for a start it exceeded the company cars I had use of in virtually every aspect. It was a GLS model, not a mere L, or LS and as anyone around this time knew this was important.
It had four headlamps, velour seats, Rostyle wheels and it's black vinyl roof. Plus an enormous 1.6 engine as big as Jeff's one.
It also had some extras not normally on these models. A bit of surface rust and a distinct lean towards the front right hand side. But let's not forget, it was a GLS.
Driving the car felt good. It's soft, probably knackered, suspension wallowed it around to suit it's big comfortable presence. There was a dashboard full of dials and accomodation to easily fit five adults. The multi headlamp set up lit up the darkest of night lanes and the powerful engine provided prompt passage to wherever you chose to travel. Everything worked and I was a happy owner that summer.
I loved having the car and was the first of my gang to have one. Yes, Spike had occasional use of a huge four wheel barge that had Vauxhall VX 4/90 written on the back. It was an FD series and actually his Dad's car. All the others were still tootling around on just two wheels. I became the go to guy for transporting numbers greater than two.
In fairness the others didn't have cars because they were still at school, or sixth form college as they put it. I was the only working one with a wage, although a fairly meagre one as I was doing an office based apprenticeship. But at least I could run the thing.
Jeff, not the Senior Engineer version, Vince, Theresa and Jackie, pictured at another time completely. The Pot Noodle is irrelevant to the story. But in the interests of complete disclosure was a Chicken and Mushroom version.
The most memorable of these journies happened at the beginning of August that year. My good mate Jeff had been dating Jackie for a few years by now and a suggestion was made that I could get together with Jackie's friend Theresa. A plan was hatched for us all to go to the British Biking Grand Prix together, ostensibly to help with the marshalling but mainly to snuggle up in handy pairs in a tiny overnight tent.
Jeff had just been signed up for his Polytechnic, err University, course and was already there sorting out his new accommodation so I was tasked with collecting the girls, passing by the big school to pick up Jeff and then for all four of us to travel towards Silverstone.
The problem was that it was fresher's week so Jeff was therefore torn between his long planned trip to the races and getting in on the first social events with all his new poly buddies. He felt he had no choice but to choose his new social contacts meaning I had to take a very tearful girlfriend and her sympathetic bestie onwards to the racing circuit where the only racing certainty was that the threesome in the tent would end up as a sad, sob fest.
Our weekend duties were also squarely curtailed. Without Jeff we could hardly form a reliable marshalling team for a major Grands Prix event so we were asked to 'assist around the pits area'. A euphemism for don't get in anyone's way. We didn't have much to do and sat around watching things happen. At one point I had popped to the loo and Barry Sheene was told off by the girls for 'sitting in Vince's seat'. In the Yamaha pit area.
But I should be reporting on the car. Well it was near perfect. Plenty big enough for three adults and all the camping equipment that we could muster and very comfortable on the long trip. The only issue being the windcreen wipers that decided to stop working just as the rain started to. Oh, and the fact that Jackie threw open the passenger door too hard when the car was parked facing downhill resulting in a slightly bent front door where it met the hinge and a bit of a gap where it now couldn't meet the back door. A judicious slam and a bit of securing rope and it closed providing access wasn't needed any more on that side of the car.
It wasn't quite the end of the car. That would happen later that year as autumn, winter and my circumstances started to take it's toll. The ownership coincided with a dramatic time of my life. I decided I had made an error in joining a company in the construction industry. I wasn't planning to stay beyond my apprenticeship so immediately junked the job. It was the week before news headlines reported the first time unemployment had reached the milestone of one million. I was out of work, likely to be staying that way, poor and had only just left home to stay in a shared house with some of my old school buddies.
The car was parked, unused, at my parents house and when the tax ran out I popped it up on the front lawn. Not as dramatic as it might seem at first because the lawn had become a regular spot for many of my brother's many broken down vehicles.
However, my car wasn't welcomed. Possibly in fairness because I wasn't living there any more. I was asked to move it.
As usual it fired up first time but then immediatly became sick and started to wet itself all over the floor. That day I learnt three important things. Firstly why antifreeze is a critical component in a coolant system. Secondly that you cannot trust a previous owner to know about the first thing. And thirdly that if you are oblivious to points one and two the ordinarily very durable metal crankcase can be split in two.
I had no funds to repair the car and had to come up with a solution. And it looked like I found one in my new friend Stuart. He offered to take the car off my hands and give me a bicycle. This pleased me because I had never had a bike, could actually afford to run one and there was more talk of a cash value to make up the difference. And I desperately need cash at that point in my life on the simple grounds that I had precisely none of it.
Sadly the deal didn't go down too well. Newly discovered ex-friend Stuart arranged to take the car promptly then procrastinated about the bike. It appeared he didn't have one to give me, or didn't want to part with any he did have and spoke about building one for me. I had previously envisaged a shiny brand new racing bike but was now looking down the barrel of a rusty frame fished from a canal, bent spokes and a soggy seat. The bike, when it was finally delivered wasn't that much better. It was a recycled frame with a lovely hand crafted paint job with a unique paint run effect. None of the components were of any quality or purchased recently from a store. And when the cash differential was raised Stuart disappeared and so became someone I never saw again. Shame really, he seemed like quite a nice guy.
So, in summary I had started with a fairly new motorcycle and ended up with a crappy bicycle. But in between loads of fond memories of my first car. Because that was what it was.
And that's how it should be because, as anyone knows, the first car is the cheapest. Queue the song Rod.
Author: Vince Poynter Version m5.274 20 Sep 2019
The header image shows the author sat on the bonnet of his Hillman Avenger 1.6 GLS, taken by a member of the author's family in 1981
The second image shows the author aged around three to four sat with his mother, Lilian on their doorstep and must be dated around 1964/5
The third image shows the front view of the Hillman Avenger, also from 1981
The final image shows the author and his friends Jeff, Theresa and Jackie, also from 1981 but a bit later
So, I needed to use the toilet because I was in Britain. If it were the USA I would have opened this piece with I needed to use the bathroom, despite not actually needing a bath. Anyway I was headed for the loo and confronted with the first of many choices.
Three doors. One marked with a stick figure of a human, stood face on despite not having an actual face. A figurine defiantly splaying open both arms and legs. Or there was another near matching faceless individual but this time with only one fat leg and apparently partially hiding behind a triangle. Plus another poor soul with a tiny pin head but no arms and seemingly sat down on an exercise ball.
At least the one on the exercise ball gave some clue as to what was in there. It said accessible toilet. Presumably indicating that the other two doors were totally inaccessible and therefore not really doors at all.
But I'm educated so was aware that the term accessible is a more delicate and inclusive term for disabled because, presumably, anyone who may need a little mobility assistance is clearly far too mentally sensitive to deal with long held terminology. Unlike the pointlessly ‘inclusive’ word accessible, which because of its careful curation will obviously never be considered the same way.
But right now I had a pressing need and I decided to throw caution to the wind and attempt to enter one of the rooms to carry out my business. And I choose to attempt to enter one of the presumably inaccessible rooms.
I chose to venture into the one marked with a twin legged human shaped figure as I wasn't hiding behind a triangle at the time and it appears that I may have chosen wisely as there were a row of other men doing exactly what I needed to.
They were all standing in a bit of a row, closely facing a wall of steel, steadfastly staring intently at the wall whilst nodding glimpses to the task in hand in a way that implied any sideways diversion may start a contretemps, or nuclear war or something.
For my purposes I had to join them, but deciding which two to slot in between created an anxious moment. Previous decisions had led to various unsettling outcomes. From barely concealed harrumphing to enforced banter with complete strangers. Or unintended splash back from either or both sides or the Niagra scale watering during the automated flush cycle. Or the awkwardness of suddenly being unable to enact and having to slope away without having 'performed' implying that the visitation was nothing more than sightseeing.
Then there is the issue of the order of completion. Pick badly and you may be left with a decision to be made if nearly all the others complete apart from the guy right next to you, thus presenting a choice on whether to remain standing shoulder to shoulder with a complete stranger whilst the rest of the wall had cleared, or to shuffle sideways as if to suggest the neighbour is in some way undeserved of your proximity. I tend to just 'style it out' and have even been known to shuffle ever closer just to see the effect. The effect being that they finish before actually finishing and beat a hasty retreat.
And I still had the unenviable task of closely staring at an out of focus wall from short distance interrupted by casual glances downwards to monitor operations whilst noticing the channel below is freshly running past with a dirty orange liquid which nasally is anything but fresh and seemingly sluicing various and peculiar detritus which clearly never emanated from a human appendage. All whist wondering if someone will arrive on the scene and push you facewards into the steel trough.
I decided to use one of the cubicles instead.
But which one? There is usually a handy guide to which are vacant. A green for go or red for wait based on the attitude of the door lock. In this case too many were apparently occupied, displaying their 'keep away' red warning flash. One was red but the door wasn't closed fully, hmm? And one was a bit indecisive, mostly green but a bit of red showing. Thankfully one was pure unadulterated green. It became my cubicle of choice.
However, the door was not fully opened so I nudged it carefully to see if there was already an occupant, albeit one who cared less about the intricacies of public cubicle door fastening.
But it swung open. No one inside but due to the hinge arrangement immediately swung back three quarters shut again. I made a quick mental note that the green/red cubicle that I had previously discarded may have been a possible venue after all. But I was here now and once more pushed open the door to reveal my newfound personal peeing point.
I closed, and locked, the door behind me and stared at the ominously closed lid. It's at this point I'm always minded to think of the generally accepted polite notion that one should always 'put down the seat'. Apparently for the ladies. Not that any were likely to be passing by this place of gentlemen of course, but nonetheless some well-meaning soul had decided to adopt formality and fully drop the seat and additionally close the lid. I wish he hadn't.
The trouble with seats in combined male/female facilities and particularly men only establishments is that those who are prone to overshare their wastage all over the pan, seat and surrounding county are exactly the sort who do not think of others and raise the seat first. The polite aiming sort, who make attempts to keep splash back to a minimum are the ones who are most likely to raise the plastic ring. The accepted practice of lowering the seat to assist a future female visitor should be reversed to everyone raising the seat afterwards in case an inconsiderate oaf is the next to arrive.
For there is nothing worse than picking up the edge of a closed pan only to be confronted with a dripping under belly. You will not be able feel you have fully rinsed that off your fingers for about a month of intent scrubbing. However, you will have learned a lesson and in future always tear off a wad of toilet paper in order to raise the lid. I am an expert so dutifully spent six minutes trying to extract a bit of tissue paper that didn't tear off into a fingertip sized sample from the wall mounted dispenser which must have had a bit of a cob on because it steadfastly refused to give up its contents without a battle.
The raising of the seat cover then presented the next issue. A blocked but still well used bowl of sewage. No previous indication of such a surprise treasure find. The loose fitting seat cover, with broken hinge and only two of the four rubber feet still in operation managed to suppress all notion of this hidden swamp and amazingly all associated aroma with the integrity of a spacesuit.
I thought of flushing this horror that had now hit me hard in the nose but reasoned that adding more liquid to this may actually result in a tsunami of effluent all over my trainers. And I didn't want that.
I remembered the half-caste green/red cubicle and exited my current position to head off in search of this Eden.
However because of the epic struggle I had with the tissue dispenser I had been in there for a few minutes and now the joint had become more crowded. The line of reprobates had grown to a full complement and I could hear the harrumphing and muttering had increased exponentially. The trouble was the ones waiting for a gap in this queue and one immediately shot into my vacated cubicle as I exited. Before I could even explain why he shouldn't. He was turning around and undoing his trousers as he entered and I heard the squish as he crashed down onto the seat without pause.
"Aww, shit!" he audibly exclaimed presumably accurately describing what he sat on. He then flushed, accompanied this time by the expletive 'bollocks' presumably to describe what had just been unintendedly washed. The seepage slewed gently out past the door.
I washed my hands and left the premises. After all, actually having a pee didn't seem all that necessary now.
Public toilets are a disgrace. Not always where they are needed, too often closed, unhygienic, badly treated, poorly maintained and seemingly unsafe. It’s time I took a good look at the loo and sorted something out.
Despite all the above these establishments provide a service we all need at some time. For some of us many times. We seem to be getting it all wrong so I wish to propose that we give the industry a big shake and get it to clean up up it's act.
The first requirement is that they should be there, where you need them. Too often one cannot find the facilities in a city centre. We know that they are often within large shopping malls or at rail stations but these obvious places aren't always available throughout the wide conurbations of our large cities.
Furthermore the smaller the city, or town or village the less likely there is a guarantee of a place to spend the penny. Legislation should be there dictating the siting of loos where councils or communities are failing to provide these places.
The next requirement of public toilets are that they should be open. Always. All the time, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. And twice on Thursdays. Whatever we do to improve our toilets will be pointless if one is stood outside a locked door with a bladder based imminent pressing need.
Next up on my bullet list is a redesign of our toilets. At present the buildings are often dark, dank intimidating places. Security can be suspect and the basic Victorian architecture and styles seem to contribute to this. As a society we still seem to be too culturally sensitive to a basic human need. We all pee and poo. Absolutely without exception.
So why are we hiding this function away in dingy facilities? Let's build modern, open, light buildings. I agree the actual place of discharging should have some personal privacy but why is the waiting area hidden from view? A glass fronted building would provide a greater sense of safety to those who feel vulnerable entering the building.
To achieve a good balance between privacy and security every cubicle should be fully equipped with everything needed when in there. In other words each should be like a disabled facility, large, spacious, fitted with a pan, sink, mirror, waste disposal bin and hand rails. An extra advantage of this way would be that there is no need to discriminate between the non able bodied and the not yet non able bodied.
Furthermore the facilities should be entirely gender neutral. A common place for male, female or any other way folks choose to see themselves, because we are all people. The advantage of gender neutrality would mean that couples or groups can visit together with the ability to wait for each other in the open glazed frontage area, possibly on provided comfortable seating.
One issue with this new design would be that some may complain that this would be more expensive to construct. I agree this would be the case but we do not live in a land of such struggling poverty that this couldn't be done if the will was there. I agree that lining up men, shoulder to shoulder staring intently down into a common trough is an efficient use of space but it is also de-humanising, subject to splash back from every angle, therefore un-hygienic and frankly embarrassing, particularly for those with abnormal biology or a need to wait patiently for nature to take its course.
Also too many males clearly see the rapid, casual nature of peeing an excuse to speed through the process and therefore skip the important bit of washing their hands afterwards. This all too common, disgusting habit is one reason many may not wish to share their facilities. But I have a solution.
The doors to these individual cubicles should only operate once the hand washing equipment is used, or make the toilet door exits only openable by the use of an adjacent hand sanitiser.
On a similar note the toilet flush mechanism should be automated or foot operated, to minimise cross transference of germs.
And we should all 'leave the lid up'. In fact it should 'spring up' after seating. Not in an ejector seat kind of approach but a slow elegant rise.
And the hand washing facilities should be controllable, sensor operated affairs and not timed to dispense soap when no water is available, or end up with an inadequate breathless cold air dry that leaves hands still wet afterwards. I have dry skin and damp hands exacerbate this condition, particularly in winter.
Yes there are now some 'unisex' facilities being built and welcome they are too, albeit a bit cramped for my liking but overall we can do better. And we should.
Let's improve the loo.
Author: Vince Poynter Version m5.273 13 Sep 2019
No photograph was included as you may have been eating your dinner
The recording of my first 5 minute Open Mic Stand Up slot performed at The Studio Theatre within The Point, Eastleigh, Hampshire, UK on 19 September 2018.
This original routine was written and performed by me.
The story starts on a Saturday, 15 September 2018. I was visiting Leigh Road Recreation Ground because there was an interesting display of World War II memorabilia. Whilst visiting I wandered over to The Point, Eastleigh, a community based entertainment centre, to see if there were any interesting comedians due to perform.
The outstanding comedic performer was Hal Cruttenden, booked for 20 September. However all tickets had been sold but I took a brochure for The Point to see what else may be available. That evening I saw a piece written about The Comedy Lab, a regular meet up for those interested in comedy both performing and writing including collaboration and on the Sunday I made contact to see what the arrangements were.
it transpired that the group met on Wednesdays but once a month they hosted an open mic evening and as it happened the upcoming Wednesday would be one such night. I was invited to come along and also offered a slot to perform if I should so desire.
I made a rash decision on the Sunday to have a go despite my complete lack of experience, my complete lack of a set, a full time job to be carried out that week and a day booked off on the Monday to visit the Southampton Boat Show.
I had performed a stand up routine before [see below]. More than seven years before. But I had harboured a desire to try it out properly. My problem was my distrust of traditional comedy venues which I understood were mainly pubs. I rarely drink and do not frequent many public houses and was not familiar with those establishments that I discovered over the years which offered comedy. The 'safe' environment of a cruise ship was much more to my liking. The Point in Eastleigh was both local and generally known for it's professional, stage performances alongside community style activities and dance routines for young people. Assurances from the organiser of the Comedy Lab also suggested the crowd would be comedy fans, not overtly fuelled by hops based liquids and, crucially, supportive of new talent.
I needed a routine. I didn't figure in the two to three days that I would have time to write and learn something from scratch so had to develop something I had already done. As a first open mic set I wanted to do something related to a first routine so looked to adapt my previously published Podcast 001 - Beginnings. You can find this within my Podcasts section on this web site. Click on the blue vSectors button above and choose Podcasts for a link. I figured that at least I would be familiar with the structure and some lines. Unlike the other 7.3 billion people on this planet that hadn't downloaded it from iTunes.
I had to edit it down to under five minutes, remove references to it being a podcast and other irrelevant stuff then learn it sufficiently to perform in front of a crowd. I made a concession by producing a 'set list' which, on the night, I placed on the floor in front of me, which explains some of the glancing in that direction.
The video was captured by my wife, Lynda, on my Apple iPhone X and lasts 5 minutes and 29 seconds.
The sound was captured direct by the iPhone but had to be adjusted in post production as the auto level set too low after the initial walk on applause.
The video was edited in the Apple Macintosh iMovie application using customised stock title cards.
This film was uploaded into the Comedy category of YouTube on 25 Oct 2018 and at the time of publication had received just 49 views.
You can read the routine by clicking the button below to toggle between hiding and showing the transcript.