Sunday, 20 March 2011

Puke in London

Puke isn't really a word that people use here in Britian. If someone is throwing up they are being sick. Sick is  what you call vomit. 

People don't say they are sick, they say they are ill. You wouldn't say that I am going to puke, you'd say that  you're going to be sick which means you're puking. 

Anyway. The point is that you see a lot of puke around London. I'd like to think that there would be areas distinctively lacking in it, like Chelsea or Kensington, but I am sure that a few cookies get tossed there too.

To be honest with you I am not used to seeing piles of vomit on the sidewalk, usually along side of a building. It's really nasty. It's usually the evidence of a really heavy Friday or Saturday night out, but you also get it during the week. 

Last weekend Matthew and I went out to our favourite cafe in Brixton for breakfast. The Duck Egg Cafe in Brixton does a mean eggs bennny and is a lovely little place to go. It's small and usually is full so you have to time it just right. Matthew and I arrived to find the cosy little cafe full up and there was a queue outside.

We decided to run a few errands and then come back. At this point we were both pretty hungry and it had started to rain. As I walked past one of the shops there was a very nasty pile of puke that I nearly stepped in. This did not improve my mood at all.  We hustled from shop to shop before heading back, getting drenched. As a side note, I can't stand getting wet in the rain or stepping in puke.

So we get back to the Duck Egg only to find that it's still full. This put me in an even worse mood, plus Matthew was really hungry and he needed to get home and do some work.With blood sugar dropping  we had to decide what we were going to do. The options at that point were to to go the Ritzy or to the store and buy stuff to make breakfast. 

I wasn't in the mood for walking back to the shop in the rain to buy things to make breakfast. I had wanted my beautiful eggs benny! Not scrambled eggs and beans that I'd have to cook myself and then do the washing up. 

We went to Ritzy and that was full as well. Matthew and I had nice argument there over what to do that ended with him saying he was going to walk home and I could do whatever I like. Only he didn't have the keys to the flat and it was still raining. 

I walked out of the Ritzy to see him standing under the awning obviously realising that his dramatic exit wasn't going to work out since he'd have to stand out in the rain waiting for me to get back home. I wish I could say that we ended up getting a table at the Ritzy or even calling a truce and walking back to the Duck Egg for a third time.....but we ended up going across the street to McDonalds. Not what I had in mind for my charming Sunday morning breakfast, but desperate situations call for desperate measures.

I went home after finishing my Big Mac brunch thinking about puke in London and how much I dislike seeing it. I was out for dinner with my friend Becky, who's from Birmingham, and this subject came up. Becky has lived in London for about a year now and is all too familiar with piles of puke. She lives in East London, just off of Shoreditch High Street. She reckons she has seen more of this in London than in Birmingham and even as a true Brit she finds it deplorable. Which in a way makes me feel better. 

Now I am not going to get into a big discussion about the British drinking culture and all that jazz, because that could be a really long post :) I just want to say that it's not very nice to see it on the street and I don't recall encountering it in Minneapolis. 

If anyone has any comments or insights they'd like to share about people ralphing in big cities please post them! 

Also I thought the following article from BrandRepublic, although a bit old, gave a bit more depth to this colourful issue :)

CAMPAIGNS: Westminster gets tough on West End filth - Public Sector

Every night at the weekend in London's West End, Westminster City Council has to clear its streets of six instances of human excreta, 600 pools of vomit and more than a gallon of urine.
After the council signed a £124m contract with Onyx, a private cleaning company, to cleanse the streets it decided West End users should also do their bit to keep the streets clean.
To raise awareness about the filthy state of the streets among those who use the West End for entertainment. To change the behaviour of those who create the filth by warning them that it is a criminal offence, and informing them about the location of public conveniences. To build up support from local bars and pubs.
Strategy and Plan
In order to reach the perpetrators of the filth, which the council identified as mainly binge-drinking men aged 18 to 30, the council targeted bars and pubs in the West End that cater for this clientele.
To convince them that this was not just another authoritarian message from a council that's against people having a good time, the PR team approached the drinks industry's self-regulatory body, the Portman Group, and Environmental Campaigns, the charity behind the 'Keep Britain Tidy' initiative, to endorse the campaign.
Results from a focus group had convinced the PR team that a cynical, humorous approach would work best, so they sent posters to 35 pubs, as well as beer mats, postcards and T-shirts emblazoned with the campaign's icons and logos. These had straplines such as 'If you can't keep it down, don't down it'.
Since the West End is used by people from across greater London, the PR team approached regional TV, radio and press about the campaign.
The media was supplied with gruesome statistics about the filthy streets, campaign postcards were sent to environmental correspondents, and the PR team went out on the street in campaign T-shirts and cleared up mock vomit in front of the press.
The council cordoned off a section of Villiers Street with a pop-up toilet and held a party for the press to launch the campaign.
Measurement and Evaluation
The campaign generated national coverage in The Sunday Times and was broadcast on Sky Breakfast News. Five London radio stations - LBC, BBC London, Heart FM, Capital FM and Sky Radio, plus all four of Westminster's local newspapers, covered the campaign.
While only 15 pubs signed up to take part in the campaign before the press coverage, a further 20 joined up afterwards. The council claims West End streets are now becoming cleaner. 'I thought the vomit cleanup was a good stunt,' said West End Extra reporter Amanda McGregor.


  1. Dublin is also a contender in this category. I have to say though, I even noticed it on a Sunday morning when I was living in Bath. It does all go back to that nasty little undercurrent of a drinking culture that no one wants to talk about.

  2. I could see Dublin having its fair share :) Especially around the old Temple Bar area. I am surprised about Bath, but then again am I?


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