Around London in 80 days
In these uncertain times, I need a lifeline and a horizon so I have — somewhat arbitrarily I’ll admit — set a date. April 1st will be my horizon; my lifeline will be the 80 days separating me from it.
And as I cannot go around the world right now, I give you A Mad Belgian’s “Around London in 80 Days” : eighty impressions of London, eighty stories, places, thoughts from my experience of this wonderfully mad and maddening city.
Day 3 : Loo Tours
Newly arrived in London, I’m invited to a folk dancer’s birthday party. Lovely evening, great food, music… and encounters !
Most people are dancers of one sort or another, and they happily exchange knowledge in a long improvised dance workshop (“I don’t do French-style bal folk but I’m great at Morris dancing : it’s easy, you’ll see !”).
One of the guests stands out : a happy and colourful (stripy socks and multicoloured jumper) American, full of positive energy. Between two dances, we have a little chat. Surprise : she’s a tour guide, too ! She even has her own company.
Being quite new the guiding world myself, I ask her for more details. And she explains, very seriously, that she is the founder of Loo Tours — a company literally specialised in London toilet tours ! Not just any toilet, mind you : genuinely interesting toilets only (historically, aesthetically, artistically,…).
Rachel, the Loo Lady
We keep chatting and she tells me she might have some work for me if I’m interested. Naturally I say yes — I could never resist a quality random encounter.
For training purposes, she invites me on a private tour and, a few days later, I meet her at the tour starting point in Waterloo station.
Proudly holding up her plunger (the loo ladies equivalent of the umbrella held up by most guides to shepherd their group), she starts the tour. I expected it to be entertaining, but it turned out to be truly FASCINATING.
She talks of secret places and little-known local schemes. She raises my awareness of sanitation issues in parts of the world. She describes Roman and Victorian London. She shows me tiny alleyways and invisible toilets that only appear at night. And, of course, she has planned a comfort break in the capital’s most patriotic public toilets, the Union Jack-themed Jubiloos, opened in 2012 to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s 60 years on the throne.
I am convinced : any topic can be interesting, all it takes is a good angle… and the right presenter ! A few weeks later, I make my debut as a Loo Lady.
Give us a shout next time you’re in London !
(and if Loo Tours aren’t your cup of tea, come and see my London Magic Tour — a unique walking tour through London’s real magical history, from alchemists and great illusionists to Harry Potter).