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Famous toilet

A feature about my work in the Square Mile appears in The Shanghai Daily, the only English language daily newspaper here.

The photo they choose to illustrate the article is of the toilet. This was an unexpected and exciting choice. The toilet is now famous. This must be shared with Ms Guo and the rest of the team. Clara phones ahead to check that she’s around. She says she’s at their ‘home’. We should go there.

We’re welcomed with giggling “hellos”, in reference to our appearances at their English lessons, and there is the added hum of payday. They’re queuing for their wages in cash. I remember the near delirium of this moment when I worked for the Post Office and Blackman Harvey picture framers, and how quickly it passes. The article, although in English, speaks through the colour photo and creates a definite buzz. Ms Guo is beaming. We’re all excited. The supervisor doesn’t react very much, but she’s paying out their cash at the time.

Pay day

Pay day interrupted by the news

The queue

The queue

Surely this must give me increased leverage to finally take Ms Guo’s photo, back at the toilet? I ask Clara to translate this request and we are in business. Leaving one copy of the newspaper at ‘home’, we set off, but not until Ms Guo has changed back into her work clothes for the photo. As we leave, I turn around and realise that their home is not actually under the South Station at all. It’s underneath an elevated road that leads to the station. I wonder about my perception.

Where home really is

Where home really is

On the way we meet her sister and she asks for a photo of them together. She’s clearly not camera shy after all. Don’t we see the family resemblance?

Sisters

Sisters

After the first couple of pictures she insists that I’m photographed with her. She grabs my hand, fingers entwined, and asks Clara to tell me to put my arm around her. Then I photograph her and Clara. This is the best photo.

Famous toilet

Joint portrait

with Clara

We leave another copy of the article and also a print of that first photo she took of me with a regular customer. She mentioned he’d requested this a few days ago.

Regular

I feel momentum here. Something has shifted. We’re all in this together now. And it’s more than a toilet. It’s a work of art.

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