This week has been half-term and so I have taken the opportunity to do a bit of visitin'. What with the wife's ever-changeable shift patterns and the kids, this is never simple. But the planets and the sun were obviously in alignment this week because a little travel window opened between thursday and saturday. Which meant I had the opportunity to tackle the joys of taking UC on the road (ah, that would have been a different book if Messrs Kerouac and Cassidy had to keep nipping off to the loo every couple of hours... Jack would have had to call it 'On the John').
First things first: eating. Well, the old preds are making me tubby round the middle, thin on top and spotty (oh, I know, bloody gorgeous), BUT, they are also making my bowel behave itself. More or less. Is it me or is forgetting what "normal" is in terms of bowel function a common experience: I am sure I have become so used to elements of pain and/or discomfort that as long as I am not pooing through the eye of a needle I'm thinking "yeah, great, everything normal here". Most 'normal' people would be rushing to their doctor: "what the hell's wrong with me?". Ahhh, you've got IBD. Welcome to the world of thinking abnormal is normal. Erm, what was I on about? Oh yeah, eating. Well, my hosts were more than generous in their hospitality and we dined out at their behest and expense both evenings. So, steering clear of my most riviled food enemies (hello granary bread; hello ice cream; hello fruit with skin; hello blue cheese; hello thai food; big hello to booze, and curse you all) I threw my lot in and ate heartily - even eating olives! And as sure as eggs is eggs, I became totally... constipated. Not even one teeny, weeny nugget of the ol' brown stuff deigned to drop by. Now, there have been many times when constipation is by far the better situation to be in; there are even times when I have positively rejoiced at being bunged up, but this was typical of my ridiculously difficult-to-second-guess insides as pre-trip things had begun to loosen up and subsequently I had become quite preoccupied with travelling in that condition. So, for once, the old colon decided to give me a break.
Which, as it turned out, was bloody lucky. For the return trip home was fraught with toilet related difficulties. A colitic obstacle course, if you will.
1. I had rather brainlessly (for a committed follower of the game) booked myself on the most obvious London bound train for the hoards of Everton fans attending the FA Cup final. Fortunately for me the police were there to kill their joy and searched everyone, me included, for booze before we boarded. So they were a subdued multitude. But the train was packed, and some of them were clearly imbibing something because the toilet queues were lengthy for the whole trip.
2. Upon arrival in London, according to my pre-booked train ticket itinery (in order to reduce the extraordinary cost of travelling by public transport I booked a couple of days before online. When I picked up my tickets I was informed I had to travel on the exact trains stipulated - whether they check I don't know, but I've been fined on trains before and it's an expensive business) I discovered I had 35 minutes to get from Euston to Victoria. Plenty, thought I, I'll nip straight across and then get a nice cuppa. I strolled down into the tube, and as I got to the barriers something popped in my brain. I backed up, and there on a white board, hand written in medium sized letters was a notice informing 'Victoria Line closed 30th May". Shit. Quick scoot back to the tube map. OK, Northern Line to Embankment (4 stops), then change to Circle for Victoria (another 3 stops). That's ok, I can make it. 5 minute waits at both Euston and Embankment, get off tube at Vic with four mins till departure, underground packed, start to quicken pace trying not to push, begin swearing under breath, then slightly over breath, why don't people walk in straight lines, holdall in one hand sleeping bag and bag of souvenir tat for wife and kids in other, weave up stairs, into Vic station, start to run fast (recall Steve Martin in Planes Trains and Automobiles), stop for nano-second to check board for platform (16), increase running speed, jiggle ticket out of pocket in smooth in-run bag/hand swapping movement, shove through barrier, dive through train door, train departs... phew.
Under usual circumstances all this would be hot, sweaty, but fine... you know, an accepted part of using public transport in the UK. But, whilst concluding the first leg of my journey I started needing a wee. By the time I got to Victoria I was relatively desperate. Having run across the station, by the time I got on the train it was painful. And guess what. Every single toilet on the London to Brighton train was out of order. ALL OF THEM. So, I had to hold on until I got to Brighton station. And when I got to Brighton Station (at lunchtime on a saturday I might add) the station toilets were... CLOSED.
Thank the gods I was constipated. But what If I wasn't? What if I'd had flare-up whilst away? What if I was a commuter to and from London every day? UC aside, it would have nightmarish if I'd had the kids with me, they always need the loo.
So, hats off to all you UC battlers who use our wonderful rail network every day: you deserve medals. And thank heavens I only live a 5 minute scooter ride from work.