Conveniences and inconveniences: Spending a penny in ancient memory
Time was when a penny could buy something useful such as a vital service. A pure convenience it was, and that was in the days when there were 240 pennies, not a miserable 100, to the pound. At least in those days spending a penny was easy to do. Seemingly, there was a convenience on almost every street corner. Now there are virtually none left and bladders have had to become reinforced in sympathy. Our towns and cities are manifestly inconvenient these days.
Mind you, we in Britain have never been quite so lacking in prudishness as our near neighbours, the French, who sported an impressive range of pissoirs that were entirely free, not a centime to be put into the slot, and remarkable open to public scrutiny. This gallery of period pictures harks back to a more civilised past when town planners took a realistic note of citizens’ requirements.
Those public “conveniences” that do remain in Britain cost considerably more than a penny. In London it isn’t unusual to be asked for all of 50p (that’s 120 old pennies) while outside the capital a more modest 20p rules. Unfortunately, even at 50p (which you would think is good business), urban toilets are now virtually impossible to find.
Instead of spending a penny we are now expected to duck into Starbucks and spend £3 for a pee.