Sunday, October 17, 2010

Big trouble and little chairs.

By Andrew Laws

I need to tell you about last night.  Because you’re an old friend I want to give you the facts before they mutate through degrees of separation and paint a picture of what I’ve done that’s as unfavourable as it is inaccurate.  I’m going to have to speak very softly though, partly because my wife and daughter are in the next room plotting my punishment, but mainly because I’ve got a pounding headache.

This morning I woke up needing the toilet, now of course there’s nothing unusual about that in itself; gentlemen as old as we are always wake up at least once in the night and need to tinkle the ivories.  What makes this morning noteworthy are the circumstances - When I felt the urge and (thank god) woke up and opened my eyes I was bewildered by what I saw.  It was a bit like that feeling you get when you’re on holiday and wake up in the middle of the night, when your eyes work faster than your memory and for a few seconds you have no idea where you are.

Actually this morning was only a little bit like that because even after glancing around the room for five or ten minutes I still had no idea where I was.  I knew right away that I was lying on a settee but it didn’t look like I was in my lounge, or in any lounge I’d ever been before.  In front of me was a very industrial looking coffee table covering in old chipped mugs, each one appeared to be advertising a brand, either that or each one had come free with something at some point over the last twenty years.

I sat up to get a better look at my darkened surroundings and as soon as I reached about a 45o angle it became clear to me that trying to sit up was a mistake.  I could only assume that while I was sleeping someone had given me a lobotomy using gardening tools, and said person had then proceeded to steal all the moisture from my mouth and eyeballs.  I fumbled in my pockets for my glasses and panicked when I couldn’t find them.  Eventually I remembered that I’d had laser eye surgery years ago, and realised the reason I couldn’t see properly was that nothing in the room around me would stay still long enough for me to focus on it.  I squinted in painful concentration as filing cabinets, pigeon holes and the random collection of knackered armchairs and settees swirled around the room.

Instinctually I covered my eyes with my hand to help me concentrate, also I felt like my eyes would fall out if I didn’t hold them in.  As I held in my pulsing eyeballs I tried desperately hard to figure out where I was, but even peeking through my fingers at the spinning scene before me didn’t jog my memory; I just knew I was in a room I’d never seen before, but it did smell oddly familiar.

At the third or forth attempt I managed to stand up and stay stood, and with one hand in front of me (and one covering my groin in case I walked into something that would be unkind to my testicles) I fumbled my way out of the room.  I was bursting for the toilet by now, and as luck would have it I managed to follow my nose just a few yards to what appeared to be a communal toilet.  You don’t need all the details of what followed but there was something decidedly odd about the urinal I found to service my needs.  The moonlight was quite bright (certainly bright enough to hurt my eyes) and I know that objects I’m familiar with seem different under the eerie glow of moonlight, but I swear this urinal was a lot smaller than those I’m used to.  It also appeared to be a great deal lower than those I’m used to.  I didn’t ponder it for too long though – I was concentrating on keeping my shoes dry.  After washing my hands in a sink that was so small it was making me feel a bit delirious I wandered down a long corridor that seemed oddly familiar to me.  It was a curiously warming and reassuring feeling, a bit like the feeling I get when you and I go on one of our old boy’s holidays; each time we reach the same cottage that we always hire and after Will and Phil have turned up I always feel a little bit like I’ve come home.

My fumbling fingers found a light switch, and after I’d stopped recoiling from the burning glare of the nearest fluorescent light my stomach lurched.  This corridor was now looking very familiar indeed, but that wasn’t what made my stomach turn, that horrid feeling was brought on by a guttural belch that tasted of cheap red wine and greasy food.  I had to sit down before I fell down so made for the door nearest to me in search of a chair.

I bowled into a darkened room and almost immediately cracked my shins on a chair.  Reaching down for the chair in the half light I couldn’t find it, and it wasn’t until I reached lower that I found the chair and guided myself down onto it.  What happened next didn’t help my fragile state at all – I can best describe the sensation as the same feeling you get when you go to sit down and some bugger swipes your chair at the last minute.  I didn’t hit the floor but I didn’t land far above it.  This chair was tiny, it was so small that my knees were up by my shoulders, which was handy as it meant I could cling onto them for comfort (the table next to me was no good for leaning on, it was far too small).

You know me, I’m not a man to hide my feelings and in the wee small hours of this morning I very nearly cried, but I was too scared to let the tears come!  As far as I was concerned the wine that I had obviously drunk far too much of the night before must have been spiked or poisoned in some way – my sense of perspective was wrecked, I felt like a giant, like a giant hungover Gulliver.

All I wanted was to be at home, so I wrestled my mobile phone out of my pocket and found out the bloody thing was switched off.  I switched it on and within seconds it rang in my hand; it was a voicemail message from the wife and she certainly put a flea in my ear I can tell you!  She wanted to know what time my ‘damn reunion’ would finish.  Of course!  I was at Easton primary school!  I meant to tell you about my school reunion when we went to the pub last Thursday but as you and I didn’t meet till high school I didn’t think it would interest you.

So now I knew where I was, but how was I going to get home?  Why on earth had I decided to sleep in what I now knew was the staff lounge?  Of course I didn’t know where I was when I’d woken up; when I was at primary school I was a good little boy - certainly not the hell raiser who you got to know at high school - so I’d never seen the inside of the mystical lair where the teachers hid from the children and from where discipline was dispensed.

The memory of the night before was revealed to me at this point.  I’d been invited onto the stage in the assembly hall, and after giving the assembled the benefit of my wisdom I somehow managed to tank off the front of the stage, and got more reacquainted with the ex-students in the front row than I had planned to.  They say that talking over all times with old friends can make you feel young again, and the barrelling laughter from the room when I tipped off the stage certainly proved that their humour had regressed by about fifty years.  I reckon that’s why I made as much of the refreshments table as I did.  It was a totally reasonable thing to do if you ask me, but my wife and daughter didn’t ask me and don’t appear to agree.

Feeling a little restored I left the classroom and headed for the school entrance hall (and freedom), but the excitement wasn’t over yet.  As I walked up the long corridor I got such a fright that my heart damn near shot up from my chest and out the top of my (still sore) skull like a rocket.  As I looked up from my shuffling feet I saw the outline of a man emerging from the shadows at the far end of the corridor.  I froze, he froze and memories of the day a tramp broke into the school and slept the night came rushing back to me.  For what seemed like a season we both stood stock still, sizing each other up like two desperadoes in a Wild West duel.  The shadowy figure tentatively called my name, and would you believe it the man in front of me was none other than the boy who sat next to me for most of my years at Easton primary school!

You might not believe me when I tell you this, but the poor sod had fallen off the front of the stage just a few minutes after I did, so the evening before he had kept me company and commiserated with me via the ancient medium of fermented grape juice.

My old mate told me that he’d tried the doors and we were bloody well locked in.  I told him it was no trouble and called my wife.  Well at least I meant to call my wife, but in the excitement I managed to call my daughter instead.  I guess I was still a little drunk because when my darling daughter answered my call all I could do was mumble incoherently, and then the battery on my phone ran out before she had a chance to respond!

Long story short my poor daughter was so spooked she called the police, who called my wife, who added a few rude words to my name when the police asked her to confirm it.  About an hour later the police turned up at the school with a very bleary and irritable caretaker and set us free.

Another reunion has already been booked for next year and I’m looking forward to it immensely.  Both my wife and my daughter seem quite interested too, they’ve already told me they’ll be coming with me!

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