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Laura Craik on her Great British Lockdown Loo Hunt, why schools need an extra Christmas present and the festive films Yule regret seeing

People claim to have learned all sorts of profound, enlightening things about themselves over lockdown: that they can bake a mean loaf, speak a new language and extrapolate new beauty from their shrunken worlds. Me? I’ve learned that I have a weak bladder.

That’s it. That’s the enlightenment. Ask me about sourdough starter kits and I have nothing to offer. Ask me about London’s public conveniences, and I’ll tell you everything you need to know.

When the newsreader Kay Burley was revealed to have hosted a birthday dinner for 10 in a Soho restaurant, her ‘desperate for the loo, I briefly popped into another restaurant to spend a penny’ tweet sounded like a ludicrous excuse for breaching Covid rules.

And it was — albeit one familiar to anyone who has found themselves bursting for the bog. Not all bladders are created equal. Caffeine, giant babies and obsessive downing of fizzy water can make Burleys of us all.

“ Standing in line to p*** under a tree is peak British behaviour, and the closest any of us got to Glastonbury this year”

Not suffering from a raging heroin addiction, I never expected to find myself using the toilets in Trafalgar Square. But they were impeccably clean. The toilets in Regent’s Park are equally pristine, with the added benefit of allowing you to wee for free. Never go for a long, meandering walk through central London without a pocketful of short change: unlike supermarkets, London’s public conveniences don’t price fix.

Nor do they always fix their tech: a toilet attendant shouting ‘the contactless is broken — try London Bridge’ was a nadir. My best find was the loos in Coal Drops Yard: free, and also snazzy. Although really, my best find was a leafy ash on Primrose Hill, whose long, munificent branches proved such effective camouflage that it frequently drew a queue. Standing in line to piss under a tree is peak British behaviour, and the closest any of us got to Glastonbury this year.

If you are caught short? Visit lockdownloo.com before visiting a verboten venue. Using a public convenience should never come at public inconvenience.

Teachers are a class act

After two confirmed Covid-19 cases at her state secondary school, my daughter’s 150-strong year has been sent home to learn remotely for the remainder of term and won’t be back in class until January. She’s devvo: so are the teachers, whose pivot to online learning has taken great time and effort.

Teaching live lessons via laptop has been onerous enough for private schools, who have smaller class sizes and can reasonably assume all pupils have access to the necessary tech at home. It shouldn’t have taken the coronavirus to reveal London’s deep digital divide. I support the idea that schools should break up a day early for Christmas to give teachers an extra break. They deserve it.

Pining for a reel festive classic

Dolly Parton can do no wrong, but this superfan had to abandon Christmas On The Square after 14 minutes because it was hurting her teeth. I never thought a Christmas film could be too Christmassy, but somewhere between the sicky songs, sickly plot and homeless dogs in festive collars, I pressed quit.

I had high hopes for Happiest Season, but not even the presence of Dan Levy, basically reprising David Rose, could tip it into ‘Christmas classic’ territory. There is a huge gap in the Christmas film market that watching Love Actually 10 times can only partially fill. 2020 needs a new Elf.


His contribution to Radio 4’s ‘Moments of Light’ segment is everything.


The term is being
removed from the Oxford Dictionary after a campaign argued that it was sexist and classist.