You know the way it is. You never want the loo, until you need the loo. You never really need to find the public conveniences until you are in the middle of a strange town centre with no obvious indication whatsoever of where they might be. You are never quite so desperate as when the key is stuck in the lock and the next-door neighbour has door-stepped you in order to complain about the state of your over-hanging hedge. It is difficult to explain to anyone who has never felt such unease, the instant discomfort you feel when you glimpse the motorway sign that says it is thirty miles to the next services. You were fine until that very second. It’s like being a child again – although the promise of a lolly does not make the feeling go away. It becomes a mental battle which, when your ammunition is as limited as my own, you are destined to lose. Distraction is probably the way to go – except that it is almost impossible to think about anything else when you are concentrating on listing the five hundred most obvious reasons why you do not need a wee.
Now, I don’t want you thinking that this little functional peccadillo dominates my life. It does not. In truth it is barely a feature, except when it is inconvenient for it to be so. I do not spend my whole life obsessing about toilets. I do not live in a widdle-centric bubble of my own making. It is an almost entirely mental thing. I want to use ‘the bathroom’ almost always when there is not one to be used. It emerges as a problem only very rarely and then only when it is entirely inopportune for it to do so. Give me a day on the beach playing ball with the kids and periodically sluicing the dribbled ice cream from them with sea water – no problem. Put me on a bus, stuck between stops – different story.
We have, I know, covered this ground before and I guess that you are now thinking, ‘Why is the soft old buffer discussing this again? Is his life so bereft of tales to tell that he has to fall back on his waterworks twice a year?’ Well, the answer is recycling; not of ideas, but of bottles. I am rigidly adherent to all the protocols. However I can contribute, I try to do so. The big ecological push at the moment is for reusable drinks bottles. As the current advice is (I believe) to drink at least thirty gallons of water a day and the current fashion is never to be seen without a water bottle in hand, then the ‘green’ thing to do is to stop buying single-use bottles of variously mineralised volcanic waters and to carry instead a sturdy receptacle that you can repeatedly refill at any other water rate payer’s expense. As I look down the High Street now, it appears that everybody is carrying such a flask in hand, bag or specially designed belt holster and – I know you are ahead of me: although small in number, mine is a discerning and educated readership – perhaps what I see is my fortune lying ahead of me. Perhaps this is my Dragons’ Den moment because I have just seen a vision of people of my age carrying an empty bottle everywhere they go, perhaps in a brown paper bag, in the certain knowledge that simply by carrying something that could – behind a convenient wall, tree or spouse – be used in an emergency, there will never be such an emergency. You know the way it is…
I don’t need you to remind me of my age, I have a bladder to do that for me – Stephen Fry