Both sets of public lavatories in Dulwich Park remained closed for seven of the ten days from 25 December to 3 January. This was a holiday period when more people than usual were in the park, including children using the playground and the sports field. To keep all the park lavatories firmly shut like this seemed to show a lack of imagination on the part of Southwark Council's Department of Environment and Leisure, which no doubt has its own staff and budget constraints but also a public service function. This does not auger well for the undertakings which the Council has evidentially given to raise the quality of park maintenance provision to match Heritage Lottery Fund capital expenditure.

Notices on all the lavatory doors were a model of local authority non-communication. They read:

"Visitor Information Notice

Toilet Opening Hours"

And then listed each individual day on which they would not be open. These began with Saturday 25 December, mysteriously followed by Sunday 27 December, omitting 26 December altogether, perhaps because the two customary Christmas and Boxing Day public holidays were carried forward to Monday 27 and Tuesday 28 December, when the public conveniences would in any case remain shut. This saga continued into the New Year week-end, when closures extended to the additional public holiday on Monday 3 January and for good measure swept in Sunday 2 January on the way. Surprisingly, both sets of lavatories re-opened on 4 January but of course closed again for the following week-end.

If they had the patience to read carefully visitors might have deduced that the lavatories would be open for the three days Wednesday 29 to Friday 31 December, but they should not have relied on this and might not in any case feel able to wait that long. Their hope might have been frustrated by another notice on the door around the corner of the central block which announced with greater finality, that in any case; These toilets will remain shut until further notice because of a burst water main. An indication that this warning might actually be true came from the steady flow of water down the gutter of the main driveway towards the College Road gate, which by mid-January had continued for several weeks. During this emergency the public were invited to use alternative facilities provided in the toilet block now occupied by the London Recumberants near the car park by the College Road gate. Hopes of relief here were not to be raised too high, however, because these lavatory doors were similarly closed throughout the holiday period and bore the same notice about opening hours. Local authority notice- writing language sometimes lacks a sense of irony as was evident because this spate of 'Visitor Information' ended with the helpful formula "We regret any inconvenience caused".

Bill Higman

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