You've had a long train journey down to London. You're meeting friends for dinner and don't have time to go home and clean up first. You smell a bit rank — bad enough that a cheeky spray of deodorant isn't enough. If you've come into one of a very specific three London terminus stations, you can hop into a shower then and there.
But are these showers really fit for human use? I went to investigate each of them.
Queueing up at the GWR ticket office, it's odd to buy a ticket for the showers, instead of heading out westwards. Chatting to the woman behind the desk, I ask if many people do this and she responds that it's quite popular. That it takes her a good few minutes to work out how to sell me a ticket renders her statement doubtful.
£5 for a shower seems a tad steep, but then compare it to the price of using a loo at Paddington (30p). Do you consider showering to be worth almost 17 times the amount as a toilet trip? Yeah, I don't really know what to make of that comparison either, but felt it worth making.
I head down Platform 1 to the toilets, where there's also signage for showers. Upon arrival, the attendant stares at me confused. "No, that's for the train". I explain that I'm here to take a shower and he looks even more shocked. "No, head over to Platform 12, the good showers are there."
Despite my perverse curiosity to take a look at the not 'good showers', I trudge over to the other side of the station. I'd come to Paddington pretty fresh, but am starting to build up a tasty sweat from all my wandering, making the shower all the more necessary.
On Platform 12, I have a wordless interaction with the attendant. I flash the ticket, he lets me in, hands me a towel and points me in the direction of the shower. There's a monster of a ticket barrier bollard holding the door open. The attendant has already gone back into his office, so I silently struggle to lift the darn heavy thing out of the way, before entering the cubicle in privacy.
The place is quite spacious; there's ample changing room and even a fold-down seat. The room is bland, but I'm here to shower, not draw inspiration from my surroundings, so I get down to business. The shower has temperature control, a luxurious and unexpected touch.
The biggest downside is a lacklustre water pressure, but it's better than some dribbles I've stood under in the past. There's a soap dispenser attached to the wall, containing 'extra mild liquid soap'. What makes the soap extra mild isn't obvious, but it seems to do the job. Everything's going pretty well — and then some dastardly flying insect makes a dive straight for my face.
Looking around, there are a fair few of the little buggers. I hurry up and leave the shower, but there are even more of the monsters outside. There aren't enough to be considered a swarm, but I count upwards of ten — that's my cue to leave. I do the mature thing and finger-write Londonist in the steamed up glass door before heading out.
Overall it's a pretty no frills experience, which is fine. I would rate higher if it weren't for the difficulty finding the showers and the kamikaze insects: ★★★☆☆
King's Cross underwent a big redevelopment back in 2012, so the station has a much more modern feel to it than Paddington, so there's hope that I might get a slightly more exciting shower experience here than at Paddington. I walk past the ludicrously long platform 9 3/4 queue — they have people waiting outside the station now — and find the loos.
From there I'm redirected to the lost luggage office to pay for the showers. Again it's a fiver, but this time I get a little more bang for my buck — a nice bottle of body wash with my towel. This is pure extravagance, the sort of thing you expect from a swanky hotel, not a train station. The body wash contains 'extracts of burdock'. I don't even know what burdock is, but it sounds more refreshing than extra mild liquid soap.
The attendant leads me through the men's bathroom and unlocks a secret a door at the back for the shower. I get in and again, it's reasonably spacious inside. My expectations were partially correct — this shower is more modern. It's actually a semi wet room — there's no door or curtain to keep your stuff dry, which could be a problem.
The shower is operated by waving a hand in front of a sensor — looks fancy but means that I can't control the temperature — and water emerges accompanied by a pained whirring noise. The pressure is pretty strong and consistent, but the noise makes it sound like the whole system could die at any second.
I break out the burdock, and boy is it wonderful, lathering with such ease. This removes all fears from my mind, when suddenly I notice something amiss. What's that on the floor? Is it... a fucking plaster?!
I panic as the water suddenly stops. I would run out but I'm covered in the bloody burdock. Frantically I wave my hand in front of the sensor but it's not working. Fear spreads as I wonder whether I'll have to wash off the soap in a sink outside. Surely stranger things have happened in King's Cross loos? Finally after a good 20 seconds of different hand movements the water comes back on. In that time I've diagnosed myself with five different deadly diseases I could contract from the plaster.
Speedily I leave but and head back to the attendants office, but she's nowhere to be seen. I need to hand my towel in and go. I consider ditching the towel on the floor outside and making a dash for it, but my awkward sense of manners denies me. After much umming and ahhing, she returns and I make my getaway.
Overall it was going well up until the plaster. The burdock was fantastic and I get to keep it now, so that's definitely a bonus but... there was used plaster in the shower that caused a near panic attack: ★☆☆☆☆
My last stop is in the monstrosity that is Euston. Except I can't review it, because I can't use it. This shower is reserved for First Class passengers and is hidden away in their lounge. I'd tried to get in touch with Virgin Trains' press office in the run up to my showering-spree, but they ignored me. Probably a wise move on their part.
Out of spite: ☆☆☆☆☆