The summer of 2004 was one of those extremely hot and humid summers I’ll probably boast about to my Grandchildren: "I remember the summer of 2004…" I’ll reminisce, with a cock-eyed smile on my wrinkly face. "I bought the coolest lilac fan from Stoke Newington High Street. Ooh…it were hot".
But I doubt I’ll tell them the real reason I remember that summer….
On a particularly humid Monday in July, I was in a transit van approaching the Blackwall Tunnel in East London.
I was accompanied by a bassist and a saxophone player after an afternoon jazz gig at the Royal Opera House. We had enjoyed a nice lunch - avocado salad and spicy wedges - following our two hour set. And we were feeling pretty smug; a Monday lunchtime gig is a rare thing for the humble jazz musician.
As we entered the Blackwall Tunnel, the traffic predictably ground to a halt. And as the traffic predictably ground to that painful halt, my stomach started churning and a bead of perspiration trickled down my sticky forehead. I let out a sneaky fart hoping it would be all that was required for immediate relief. As a torrent of trumps started escaping my booty - each hotter and wetter than it’s predecessor - I realised I was wrong and became aware of a real risk: should I continue fart, would I follow through?
“I really need the loo”, I said to Pete.
"It looks like we’re going to be here for a while”, was his unsatisfactory reply.
"Can’t we try and pull over somewhere?" I pleaded.
"Where?" he queried. "We’re practically in the tunnel".
"Ok…. I’ll try and hold it in. But as soon as we’re out, I have to go to the loo".
I lent forward a little, hoping my stomach pain would ease but after another 30 minutes of standstill traffic, my stomach had bloated to twice it’s usual size.
“I think I’m going to shit myself!”
“What?” Pete asked, in shock.
Pete and I had only been boyfriend and girlfriend for a month or so. David - his best mate and saxophonist - was chuckling away quietly. It doesn’t take men long to realise that although I look angelic, I do actually fart and shit like the rest of them.
“Why don’t you go in my lunchbox?” David helpfully suggested, taking his sandwiches out and passing it to me. It was a pretty thing; his childhood lunchbox, as he had informed me at a previous gig. I didn’t WANT to shit in it, but I couldn’t refuse his kind offer.
“I’m going to have to!” I replied. “I can’t wait. I feel ill. We could be here for hours right?”
“You’re not going to go in front of us are you?” asked Pete.
"Only if it turns you on!" I replied; the joke wasted on Pete who by now was wondering what the hell he saw in me.
“Don’t worry. I’ll go in the back”.
I got out of the van, opened the rear sliding door and went inside. It was pitch black, had no windows and I had to navigate over and amongst Pete’s vast amount of PA equipment.
“Tell me if you start moving!” I yelled. “I don’t want to shit on your gear!”
I did my business, all the while worrying about the lunchbox; is it big enough? Oh fuck, it’s almost at the brim… God, this stinks… what will they think of me? etc etc… But in the end, I felt quite proud of my watery brown mush. It only JUST fit. I put the lid on, wrapped the box in several plastic bags, clambered out of the van and climbed back into the front.
"I feel so much better. Thank God for that!" I said with a smile on my sweaty face.
“Well it fucking stinks”, chorused Dave and Pete simultaneously.
“I’m sorry. When you have to go, you have to go” I replied.
It was at this point that the gridlock finally lifted and we steadily made our way to Pete’s place in North London.
When we got out of the van I took the lunch box over to Pete’s bin.
“You aren’t throwing it away?” David asked and ran over to grab the lunchbox off me.
“Do you really think you could wash this and put food in it again?” I replied.
”Er…. yes” said David, in an obvious way; as though I was a complete dunce for suggesting such a thing.
"Do you think that’s normal Pete?" I asked.
"Well, it is over 12 years old", he replied.
I passed the lunchbox to David, shit included. If he wanted it, he could empty and wash it himself.
A few months later I was at a gig with David. When it was lunchtime, he took his apple and sandwich out of the pretty childhood lunchbox. "The dirty bastard", I thought.