I went to an Important Meeting.
One of the only difficulties about living in a small Norfolk village is that most of the people with whom (grammar) I need to have Important Meetings are based in London. This entails a reasonably long travel for me.
It's kind of important that I arrive at these things in a fresh and bullish state of mind. That I appear professional and composed. In control.
Thursday's severe heat and humidity conspired against this. Unfortunately, so did my 'grab a quick haircut first' mistake.
Thus it was that I staggered in from the heat to meet my client, smelling of sweat and B.O., and with an almost perfectly circular area of bare skin within my right sideburn, as if somebody had precisely utilised a hole punch on the side of my head.
I shook myself, had a drink of water, and tried to get back on to the front foot, but almost immediately realised that the chair I'd been allocated was directly to the left of that of my Important Client, and thus he'd be immediately looking at my hair disaster. Luckily, I found I could sit at a sort of ninety degree angle to him, and turn my head further. So as we spoke I peered at him from the corner of my eye.
At this point I realised I needed a poo.
I sort of jiggled around in my chair a bit, which sometimes helps, and it seemed to hold it for a while, but then the feeling came back and I had to jiggle again.
I sat there, jiggling in my seat, peering at him out of the corner of my eye, sweating profusely. He continued talking.
At this point I got my first stroke of luck. His phone rang.
"Do you mind if I get that?" he asked.
"Not at all," I generously replied. "I'll just pay a visit while you take the call."
I exited to the gents toilet, which was simmering at about 10000 degrees Fahrenheit. So hot, in fact, that the lights appeared to have given up working. There was no window. I flicked the switch on and off in despair. I wiggled the light bulb. Then I looked at the angle for wedging the door open very slightly, but the toilet opened out directly onto a corridor, and I didn't fancy somebody else walking in and displaying me to all concerned.
My redemption arrived with a closer examination of the room - there was a shaving light!!! I pulled the cord, and an eerie dim glow filled the small room. Mopping my brow, I mounted the porcelain.
There is probably a biological reason why, no matter how desperate one is to do a poo, one always has to have a wee wee first. I had my wee wee. But thank you - thank you - to the God of Biological Oddities, as it was during this first (pre-poo) procedure that I realised that there was no toilet paper.
I checked myself just in time.
There's a certain level of despair that takes hold of one at moments like these. It incorporates so many emotions - hopelessness, helplessness and humiliation, but also the humour of the 'this is so bad it's funny' variety, stemming from the knowledge that there is no bigger comedy cliché than not having toilet roll when you desperately, desperately want it.
I checked under the bowl, behind the pipes. On the windowsill. I scrabbled around in the corners, and in a little alcove above my head. In the dark. Nothing. Nothing at all.
So I pulled up my trousers and returned to the meeting.
And this was it.
I was fully prepared to walk in, cough politely, mention that there was no toilet roll and ask if I could have some as I wished to use the toilet.
However, as I opened my mouth to speak, it dawned on me. With all the faffing around in the dark, I'd been a while. They'd been waiting for me to return. I had not just left the room. They would think that I had already performed my motion, and had been forced to abandon wiping my bottom in order to come and beg them for toilet paper.
And that was the last piece of dignity I had left. There, sweating, flustered and shaking, with a bare patch in my hair, clenching my buttocks, at least I had one thing left. That they did not think I was standing there before them in shit-encrusted underpants.
I couldn't do anything else. I kept my mouth shut.
"Shall we continue?" he asked.
We continued. I jiggled, and peered from the corner of my eye.