Pub Toilet Graffiti and the Art of Avoiding Sectarian Violence By Baz McAlister

Graffiti’s not new. When they weren’t out subjugating barbarians, the Romans festooned their walls with phalluses. The Vikings only started invading other countries because they’d run out of space in their own toilet cubicles. And one-third of all Neanderthal cave paintings can be translated loosely as ‘I’ve had Ug’s mum’.

I find it useful as a barometer for gauging the mood of a new pub. I spent my twenties in Glasgow, where announcing the wrong religious/football affiliation in the wrong alehouse could arouse the ire of chaps who made Begbie from Trainspotting look like a Wiggle. A peek at the toilet wall before ordering was a lifesaver. A phrase like “Knox, Calvin and Luther are all the devil’s beasts” was a clue not to slag off the Pope in the taproom.

Now I use this as my bellwether. If the cubicle walls drop enough f-bombs to annihilate a town, or have 15 phone numbers with boring old “For a good time, call...” daubed before them, the intellectual level is low. Brace for a dull, potentially violent night.

But clever graffiti is a gift. Brisbane’s videogamer haunt the Mana Bar had the legend “For a good time, press up, up, down, down, right” in its bogs. I laughed so hard a little bit of wee came out – which was fine, given the situation.

The best one in a while was in a quite nice city sports bar, where the air of jovial banter was summed up by some angry cretin writing “Australia sux”, under which some absolute genius had penned “New Zealand nil”.

in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia


Journalist and editor specialising in features, film, the arts and travel. Sometime stand-up comedian. Aspirant screenwriter. Irishman-about-town. Big fan of potatoes and whiskey.

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