Worst Toilet in Scotland


Posted by in April's Magazine

What the Christoph Willibald Gluck is that? There on my phiz, can you see it? Positioned at base camp in the shadow of the lower slopes of this Greco-Roman hooter is the tiniest of hairs, no more than a full-stop. I can’t get it with my razor – damn you Messrs Gillette and Wilkinson and your multi-blade Formula-One shave-it-like-Beckham Samurai weaponry. But after several painful misses with the tweezers I have it. I pull. And I pull. Turns out it’s not so small, there are roots and…

20 minutes later I’ve filled the bathroom with a swampy stew of blood, tears, hair, mucus, blobs of stuff I lack the medical knowledge to name, pink and pulsating parts that probably ought not be outside of me and which I plop into the half-filled bat h, a Morris Oxford in Dinky car form (oh come on, I’d hardly have a real motor vehicle secreted about my person), every letter, email and phone call of rejection I’ve ever received plus a few that I reckon aren’t even mine, my daughter’s M&S teddy bear Spencer (left on the bus two Christmases ago), and a yellowing copy of Jackie Collins’ The Bitch.

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I should be in shock or unconscious or dead but there’s so much material to mine that I don’t bother with all that. I’m beside myself and not in the figurative sense. What would I say to the 999 operator? Hello, I seem to have turned myself inside out. Don’t bother with an ambulance, but could you send round all the king’s horses and all the king’s men to put me back together again? Anyway, the detritus is gruesome but holds less fascination than the atmosphere that accompanies it – a fog of forgotten visions and worries and treasures and neurotic episodes in my life, viewed as if flicking through the pages of a family photograph album.

Billy McNeil’s ear
Is that me wearing a silver foil blanket and turning blue next to the grey-black of a gravel pit, flirting with hyperthermia halfway through a lifesaving exam?

Is that me havering into Billy McNeill’s ear about Larsson, the last 12 minutes of the ’88 cup final, and the Lisbon Lions while he remarks on the bonny-ness of the bride? “Uncle Billy, is this man boring you?

Is that the moment I discover writing is this wondrous thing, and words, not the immutable laws of physics, are what make our ball of green and blue circle the sun?

Is that the girl whose kisses taste like strawberry bonbons? The one who tapes Rock Me Amadeus over Love Will Tear Us Apart on a compilation I make her and leaves with my heart in a sweet shop jar? (She must have given it back because I spy the thing floating at the tap end alongside the Hello Kitty facecloth and toy plastic shark.)   

Is that me nervous and be-gowned sitting behind Ted Hughes at my graduation? The Poet Laureate is receiving an honorary degree and making the commencement speech while I recall a comic-cruel piece in Private Eye the previous week claiming he had thrown a post-Plath bongo party.

Is that our Middle Child playing a Johnny Cash number on the guitar for the first time?

Is that us chatting and having our picture taken with a blue rinse Quentin Crisp on our wedding day? A friend is showing someone the photos a few weeks later and they say: “Whose aunty is that?

Is that my Grampa tripping on a curb outside Somerset Park and crashing to the tarmac? It was the first clue, for me at least, of his mortality.

Is that you and me performing a modern dance routine on the forecourt at Waverley Station in a slick of ice cubes, diet coke and fries – five stars says The Scotsman – before I can get us up and a spectator hands me a Kit-Kat for your blood sugar? Top of the hypo pops.

Is that our daughter putting her foot on the ball then in one movement dragging it back and flicking it over my outstretched foot?

A superior PA
Is that the strangest of spoken word gigs, at a festival last summer, when the moment I take the mic coincides with a ska band striking up through a superior PA a few tents away (the very same combo who were playing the Clutha the night of the tragedy)?

Is that me flunking a job interview? “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?” I inquire at the end. “I thought I was asking the questions” being the hissed reply.

So what to do with my disassembled personage? Fortunately I find a two-part lesson on YouTube in how to return one’s body and soul to factory setting. And I follow the instructions to the letter. Sort of. There are a few bits left over right enough, but that’s okay because I find them a home in the freezer between the Linda McCartney sausages and the Mackie’s ice-cream. Something is still puzzling me though. Why are our frozen foodstuffs alphabetised?

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