Ah, the public piss – that age old custom that marks a top night out and too long a journey home. It's unusual to be on a night out in London and not see at least one turned back and a new burgeoning river flowing down the pavement, steam rising. But do be careful where you lay your piss river or apartment blocks with a 'riverside view' will start popping up quicker than you can say 'pissing fine'.
Have you been one of the fifteen people a week to receive a fine for pissing in Hackney? Hackney Council released their slashing statistics, revealing that the number of fines dished out for peeing publicly tripled in the last year. Whilst one might imagine that it is the male of the species (with their easily accessible wee appendages) that reek the most urine havoc, the statistics show that women are the worse culprits – or are we just worse at getting caught? Unless you have thighs of steel forged over many skiing holidays, leaping up from a drunken squat, doing a little shake and then pulling up pants/tights/leggings takes up considerable 'fleeing from the law' time. In addition, a public pee doesn't come cheap: emptying your bladder publicly could set you back £80 in fines in London. In Belgium the fine is 250 € – thanks to Brexit, that amount is now worse than ever for visiting Londoners, as 250 € equates to about £220 these days.
Whether we've been fined or not, come on – we have all had a public pee in our time. And in our defence, Hackney does have some excellent shady nooks and dark alleys ripe for our peeing pleasure. We do need to think before we piss, though. Hackney Town Hall alone spends £100,000 every year washing urine off walls and pavements – that's money we could be spending on importing marmite. They even trialled 'peeback' paint in Dalston and Shoreditch last year. Indeed, if you are unlucky enough to hit a peeback wall when you are wetting the lettuce then your pee will splash back at you - an interesting deterrent. However, women don't tend to let loose against walls (unless you enjoy relieving yourself in a downward dog position).
The problem is that women don't have many options for a late night dash - even the public pee deterrent doesn't cater to us, let alone the temporary public urinals for men and she-pees only. It's the tampon tax all over again; are we being punished for our anatomy? Where is the urinal equivalent for women caught short on the way home? Instead of spending that £100,000 on cleaning they could install some female accessible toilets – who would say no to a clean seat over a dark alley? For the moment, it's best to take a leak elsewhere, in an allotment or garden, for example. And, no, even if you change the spelling, 'a leek' doesn't count as one of your five a day.
Samantha Baines is an award winning comedian/journalist and actor (The Crown, Call the Midwife and BBC Comedy). She writes for The Guardian, Time Out, Huffington Post and Standard Issue among others and is a regular BBC Radio and Talk Radio contributor. You can find her on Twitter here.