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  • Writer's pictureLogan Rose

How to Flush English Toilets: A Definitive Guide for Americans

If you encounter a button flush, consider yourself lucky. The instructions for this kind of toilet are simple. Push the button. If necessary, hold the button down until your waste is eliminated.


The lever, on the other hand, is a tricky subject. You will need special instructions from an Englishman and, perhaps, a demonstration.


First, push evenly and firmly. With this method, you might get a flush. More often than not, however, you will get a "fake out," in which the lever emits water but fails to finish the job.


When this occurs, you must crank the lever like a wind-up toy, then push it down (with feeling) to complete the flush.


This particular technique is difficult to accomplish and best learned through example.


In my case, I asked my London-born boyfriend to flush the toilet for me -- on several occasions. Only by watching Sam's careful skill was I able to learn the technique.


As far as I know, he still fancies me, and oh -- what an adventure we have had!


A Tale of Many Homes


Our trip to the United Kingdom started, as it always does, at Sam's parent's house in East Finchley. This toilet is the trickiest of all, but with Sam's technique (described above), it is always reliable.


We were also fortunate enough to be hosted in a series of homes throughout London.

Townhomes with London skyline in the distance
A view of London from Muswell Hill

East Finchley

Feet up over the heater in a London window

The East Finchley townhome also has steep stairs, plenty of light, and a lovely garden frequented by the neighborhood cats. We've befriended one small tabby, called Cookie.


I spent most of my time in East Finchley cuddled up next to one space heater or another (pictured). We also enjoyed playing with Sam's nieces and nephews whenever they visited. Additionally, we indulged in the specialities of the kitchen -- red cooked meat, Christmas ham, roast beef, Yorkshire puddings, mince pies, pork pies, endless cheese plates, and hot, delectable soups with fresh bread and spreads.


Barnet


We also visited Sam's sister, Tali, on two occasions. She lives in the London Borough of Barnet. Her home hosts a straightforward toilet and children who seem immune to the cold.


Tali and her partner, Jack, always offer us a warm drink and some sort of alcohol. They are excellent hosts, and there is always something to entertain the kids and adults alike, especially on Christmas.


Clapham Common


Next, we visited Sam's close friends, Elliot and Rachel, along with their young daughter, Helena. Again, no major issues with the plumbing -- and they have really cool wallpaper in the bathroom.


The house is stylish and fun, and the hosts served us a perfect lunch of leftover beef Wellington with a fennel and pear salad, paired with nice red wine that went straight to my head. I felt fast friends with Elliot and Rachel, especially -- she is also a writer. Helena has so much personality, and she took to Sam right away. It was a joy watching Sam play with her. He really is good with children.

Uncle and niece cuddling on the couch
Sam and his niece, Phoebe.

Archway


Right before Christmas, we got the chance to drop in on Sam's friend, Lara, for an impromptu board game night. She made us mulled wine with all the fixings, and we played Castles of the Mad King Ludwig and Bananagrams.


Lara owns her flat and her gentle, warm personality is infused throughout. I was also able to use the toilet without any problems or special techniques.


Ealing


On New Year's Eve, we headed to Ealing and celebrated with Liv, Aga, and their young son, Felix -- along with their guests Andy and Sophie (and their daughter, whose name I can't remember.


The adults enjoyed a lamb stew and, between us, drank about four bottles of champagne. Not everyone made it to midnight, but it was a lovely time.


Liv and Aga were newly moved in, but the house is quickly adopting their kind character. Not to stray from the topic at hand: the toilet is in a utility room and works wonderfully.


Homes and Hosts Outside of London


On this trip, Sam and I were not only welcomed all over London, but we also got the opportunity to explore more of the country.


We ended up in Maenporth, Malvern, and Leicester.


Maenporth


Maenporth was probably my favorite home we visited, but only because it had a view of the sea -- plus an excellent garden with frogs, toads, newts, and a menacing heron waiting to gobble them all. There was also a "pottery room," with large windows, gorgeous light, and the hosts' impressive pottery collection.


I got to use the technique I learned in East Finchley to flush the sometimes-finicky toilet. too.

frog and toad in grass

Green hills into the coast
Maenporth beach.

Further, I just love Cornwall, and Sam's uncle, George, and aunt, Fran, were wonderful hosts and cooked us some lovely meals -- one of which had been in the family for years.


While staying in Maenporth, we walked around Falmouth (pictured), ate the best fish and chips I've ever had in my life at Harbour Lights, found some excellent gin, and I discovered pastys -- small handheld pies that are pretty much to die for.

Sam also showed me saffron cake, and we found a shop that we both want to decorate our entire home with someday. (Cream Cornwall, for all those wondering).


We also went to St. Michael's Mount and St. Ives, both of which were beautiful and somewhat mystical. Because it was the off season, we avoided crowds and got to explore the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden all on our own.

girl in front of St Michaels Mount

Barbara Hepworth garden

On our travels, we had some truly incredible fudge made with Cornish clotted cream, enjoyed a a Cornish crab sandwich while looking over the sea, and got some fabulously fresh local mussels. I also tried whitebait (fried baby fish) for the first time, which turns out to be one of the least environmentally sound meals in existence (sorry)!

On our way out of Cornwall, we visited an indoor rainforest called the Eden Project (pictured to the right).


Before we left the west country entirely, we stopped in Devon for a cream tea, which is a pot of tea served with large scones, jam, and clotted cream.


I was sad to say goodbye to this part of the United Kingdom.


Malvern


Visiting Malvern was really special because I had already gotten acquainted with it through literature. Sam's aunt, Eleanor Porter, is a writer, and I recently read both of her books. The first one (The Wheelwright's Daughter) is set largely in and around Malvern, so seeing the landscape of the novel was an exciting experience.


Sam's uncle, Chris, took us on an amazing walk where we could see all the way to Wales. The English countryside seemed to stretch on for miles. It is so green, and I can still feel the wind whipping my hair at the top of the hill.




At Chris and Ellie's home, their new Black Labrador Retriever puppy, Pebble, kept us all busy and entertained. Ellie showed me the renovated shed in the garden where she writes, and we were enveloped in the warmth and chaos of their home.


We ate fresh pesto and kale from said garden and enjoyed playing games with Chris and Ellie, and their daughters, Lily and Tilda. We even got to celebrate Chris's birthday.


*I could get the toilet to flush pretty reliably, but Sam had a problem once and demonstrated yet another technique -- pouring water straight in!


Leicester


I am writing this blog from Leicester (button toilets here, thankfully), where we are visiting Sam's brother, Alec, his lovely wife, Abi, and their two children, Phoebe and Caspar.


We feel very at home here, and it's nice to have the noise of the children in the morning and perhaps the first quiet of our trip while they're at school.


I'm not sure what there is to do around Leicester, but today I am happy to relax in this cozy home that Abi describes as "small in size but big in character," and ease back into real life after a whirlwind holiday and our travels around the United Kingdom.


Best of all, I know I can flush any toilet I encounter. If that's not being accepted by the Brits, I don't know what is.


Note: I'd like to get into paid travel writing in 2023, so please feel free to share my work -- and if you want to commission something, check out my services and pricing page and send me an email at loganrosereadsandwrites at gmail dot com.


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