I just awoke from a horrible nightmare. It started as a pleasant, if occasionally slightly anxious, dream. Jo was having a party. Gill and the kids were there with me. I was a little intimidated by the crowd of freaks, but they were OK really. There was karaoke – Katie and Lucy were there too and they sang “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” by Elton John & Kiki Dee (I guess it was last week’s Canterbury Tales that put that into my head). As soon as Katie struck the first note, rather warbly and out of tune, there was a ripple of laughter and I felt sorry for Katie and annoyed at the rest of the partygoers, but then her and Lucy settled into a very weird but moving way of singing the song, using some kind of frog-like high-pitched fast vibrato, both of them singing the entire song rather than taking parts. Everyone was mesmerised.
My turn to sing was soon afterwards, but I needed the toilet. I went but it was occupied. People were starting to call for me “Dan, it’s your turn to sing, don’t chicken out”. I was slightly chicken – I’d never done this before, and I still hadn’t decided what to sing – but I was also excited at the prospect, and didn’t want everybody to think I was trying to wriggle out of it. I needed to go to the loo quickly. Then I remembered another toilet in the (very weirdly laid-out) flat – I went in there and relieved myself, before realising that the toilet was like no other I’d seen before. On investigating more closely, it turned out to be a bowl made of two halves of earthenware leaning against one another, and a carrier bag full of the night’s shit suspended inside. There were more parts underneath, and I moved bits to have a look and – oh damn, the bag’s spilt. Shit, shit, shit (literally). There was also a load of washing up and some clothes and stuff stored underneath, and the whole was resting on one of those little kiddy-sized chairs with a seat made of woven straw. Underneath it was a similarly woven straw mat. Most of the shit was easy to retrieve, but the little that had escaped had mainly seeped into the fabric of these two items.
I set to washing everything up before anyone noticed – a foolish endeavour. Everyone was still baying for my karaoke performance, and they soon realised that I was scrubbing flecks of diarrhoea from a mug. Once Gill found out, she very graciously stepped in to help, but there still seemed to be an eternity of poo-caked things to get clean, and hanging over me the knowledge that the last thing to clean would be the cack-ingrained straw of seat and rug. By the time we reached that stage, we really needed to be heading home (we had a drive back to Sheffield), and so I rushed it somewhat, doing a far less than satisfactory job – ironic really, as it’s the only part that really needed a good clean – the mugs only took a few seconds under a jet of water to free them of the few lumps clinging to the side. By this time Janet Street-Porter had appeared at the party, and Gill got to chatting to her. Jo’s boyfriend was walking menacingly with two of his friends, out of the party crowd and into his bedroom. I wanted to stay and meet Janet but, no, we had to go.
I wanted to spend a few moments saying proper goodbyes to everyone, but Gill, after letting people know that we would be buying the girls bags of crisps on the way home (Rowan had started moaning) because motorway service station food is crap, breezed out of the door taking Rowan (still moaning) and Lola with her. I kept my goodbyes as brief as possible and followed down the road 30 seconds after her.
Outside, the streets of London suddenly looked menacing. I couldn’t see Gill, but remembered that the car was parked two streets away, so I set off at a trot. There was a red-and-white Porsche 911 parked near the corner – just as I was admiring it, a lorry came thundering out of nowhere and drove straight over the top of it, leaving it looking a lot flatter than a moment before. Directly behind the lorry, a bus came out of a depot and also treated the Porsche as if it weren’t there. I turned the corner, saw the lorry ahead of me and suddenly realised that this was a crime and, despite the fact that the Porsche owner may well have deserved having their car flattened, perhaps I should report it. I tried to commit the lorry’s number-plate to memory (the distinctly un-memorable A-reg number was scrawled on the back in black paint over a patch of yellow paint). As I was repeating it over and over in my head, I heard a piercing woman’s scream from not far in front. It took me moment to realise that this was the kind of desperately scared scream that indicated another crime was taking place, another moment after that to realise that Gill is a woman and she was just in front of me, and yet another moment to remember that the kids were with her. I jumped into somewhat-inneffectual-feeling-action, and didn’t have to run far to stumble on a pickup truck, Gill, Rowan and Lola tied into struggling bundles in the back, Jo’s boyfriend and his two mates reaching over the side to further incapacitate the noisy Gill. I didn’t have any choice in the matter, I attacked them, feeling wretched and useless as I knew that my puniness was no weapon against three muscularly-built men, but having to go through the motions anyway. One final heart-shattering scream threw me out of my sleep and upright, panting, into bed, and I awoke, realising too late that I should have taken a less immediate, but more likely to be succesful, form of attack (for example… did I have a penknife in my pocket?) but that also willpower alone could not have made me wait another second before attacking these men, as that could be the second in which the truck drove away.