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Blog; Alec’s Ashes Part Two

Not for the squeamish. I took my phone but didn’t get any photos. I will get some from the Watsapp group and add them. Though not directly related to the subject matter, you’ll be delighted to know.

I hadn’t slept and felt like crap. I was suffering from not going to sleep—and yes, I’m a drama queen, but suffering is exactly the right word. I was suffering one extended 48-hour day from hell. It was daybreak, our hosts were still asleep, and I expected them to be for some hours.

We had no water because we had no sink. We’d had all day to fill our two water canisters on Friday; hell, we did nothing else all day. Somewhere in our heads, the necessity for water only came about if we had a sink to send it through. The point being, that morning, there was no chance of a brew, no water and no means of heating a kettle—though we have got a very cute, dinky little green tin kettle—that whistles, would you believe, like in the olden days. £24.99—and we probably paid five quid of that for the whistle.

I was spitting feathers and dehydrated because I hadn’t drunk nearly enough on Friday.

And I still needed to pee.

My problem was developing by the second. Somewhere in our van, we had two brand-new camping chairs. It would be nice to sit out—we also had a lovely smelling Lenor bottle and a She-pee. For those not in the know—and I can’t expect everybody to be a camping queen like me—a She-pee is a device for a lady to wee standing up. It’s like a funnel and hosepipe. Even if there was even a small chance of finding it in the disaster that was our van, it might take a couple of trial runs to learn how to use it without weeing all over the place.

Several hours later, I was delighted to see one of the other vans open and a sister-in-law alight to pee behind their van. I was mildly jealous and mildly smug. I had company. We talked in hushed whispers.


My prayers were answered. She took me into the house by a side door left open for us and showed me to the bathroom. I was able to pee, wash, brush my teeth and feel human. I still felt like crap and could probably have done with another few minutes in the bathroom to have more than a wee, if you get my drift. However, Gill was waiting outside the door to go in next, so that would never happen on so many levels.

I was brought up with a lot of foster parents, new houses and people to get used to, and they changed every few weeks. From there, I went to two residential schools where there wasn’t a second of privacy. I used to get up in the middle of the night to use the toilet. It left me with some deep-seated toileting issues. To me, toileting goes beyond privacy and lapses into the shameful.


I can honestly say that until that day, I have never used a public toilet or a friend’s toilet for anything other than a wee, and even then, I’m pee-shy. Even going to the pub in our town, I will only pee if there’s nobody else in the bathroom. And this, all girls together, leaving the door open and chatting to other women with your pants around your ankles, is alien and horrific.


Anyway, I had a wee, wash and toothbrush, so that was my initial problem over. The campsite and big house were waking, and the urn was on for coffee in the farmhouse kitchen. The world was looking better.

We did lots of hugs and hellos as former friendships were rekindled, and then I went back to the van. You know, it wasn’t so bad. We didn’t have half of the amenities we should have, but the brothers kept us topped up with coffee (a big mistake) and gave us a bacon butty.

We had a couple of hours to set up our camp. Mark had slept well and was fully rested and up for the day’s activities. I tried to ignore the fact that I didn’t feel good, put it down to lack of sleep, and thought I’d be okay after taking my tablets. The niggle was there, and I should have listened—but I ignored it because I didn’t want to be a party pooper or the one that didn’t join in. At this point, I could have put a stop to it. If I’d stayed in camp, I could have had all the privacy I needed, caught up on some sleep and been well enough to have fun at the party that night—but no, I had to conform so that I didn’t upset anybody, or be the one out of step. They are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. They wouldn’t have minded if I’d stayed behind, and if I’d asked, I’m sure they’d have left a door open for me to access a bathroom. But, I couldn’t be that awkward person who doesn’t go with the flow.

The lads erected our awning. I’d like to say, and suddenly we had space—but it wasn’t sudden, and, like an old man’s willy, it took over an hour to get up. We have added a new awning to the shopping list that sits in the van’s roof and pulls out.

But with the awning up,  I got a bit of the vibe. We weren’t cramped and falling over all our stuff anymore. I had a massive space with a bedroom to get changed in and an anteroom to lay everything out. Best of all, we could stand up in it. We put our table and chairs outside, but they could be brought into the living room in the awning if needed. Now I was getting it. If only I didn’t feel so off.


I put it down to Sparky playing up and brushed it aside. I should have stayed in camp. I wasn’t ill at that point, but I wasn’t right. I didn’t want to let Mark down, or have his people think I was weird. I wanted to join in and be fun.

I was anything but fun.

I put what happened down to my medication. I hate taking it and blame it for everything that goes wrong in my life. If I stub my toe, I put it down to the carbamazepine. It was probably just the stress of the two days building up and my inability to use the bathroom when it was available.

This was the plan for the day from eleven o’clock until about tea time when we returned to camp for a massive party.

We were all herded into assembled cars and drove the twenty minutes into Epping. The walk started at their old scout hut while the boys got going with the reminiscing and memories. Alec was the scoutmaster when the eight-year-old boys met. Three of them were his sons (Alan and Keith joined in subsequent years as per their ages) This group of lads, about a dozen of them, have stayed friends for over fifty years. Marriages came and went, and wives and girlfriends were welcomed into the fold. We still have various ex-wives in the group that haven’t drifted away, and other friends have joined. Then there’s the offspring as they come of age. It’s a gathering of fifty people that get together several times a year. Isn’t that amazing? Fifty-year-old friendships have made a bubble of people that grows with generations. It’s lovely. So we opened the plastic urn and left the first dribble of Alec at the scout hut.


My stomach bubbled, and I went to the loo, but there were too many people around to use it. So I came out in agony and knew I was in trouble.

From the scout hut, we walked into town. We passed a chemist, and I should have asked Mark to stop so I could pick up some Imodium. I was too embarrassed to discuss my impending doom with my boyfriend. From there, we walked the length of Epping high street for another fifteen minutes. Then it was over the sports fields and into the common. Epping common is the size of a small town, and we had to walk through that to get to the forest. We walked deep into the woods to the place where the lads used to make camp as scouts back in the day, and Alec was scattered around the tallest oak tree that the kids used to climb. I was in a bad way.

It was hot. A glorious late summer’s day with the sun directly over our heads. I needed to use the bathroom and was stuck in a forest, miles from the nearest toilet. I was in the middle of thirty people that I desperately wanted to like me and for me to fit in with this crowd of Mark’s best friends.

Every step was agony. I was cold in the heat, and goose pimples rose over my body with the act of holding everything together. My body was visibly clammy. I was sweating but pale. I was shaking and felt as though I was going to pass out. If I did, that would have been it; muscles relaxed, and game over.

I had the runs and held myself for over six hours between bouts of toileting from three o’clock. I’m trying very hard not to be graphic. Apart from anything else it’s embarrassing even writing about it.

Somehow, God knows how, but I got to the clearing where Alec was being scattered. It should have been poignant and beautiful. There were tears and nice words as everybody told their stories, and all I could think was, please don’t shit yourself—not here, not now. As Alec’s primary carer, I was asked to make a speech and played the demure, shy one. I couldn’t speak. Holding my muscles together was taking everything I had. The beautiful ceremony meant nothing to me. All I could think about was if I’d already had an accident and had stains on my clothing. The paranoia was maxed to the tenth. I didn’t want anybody near me in case of a smell, and whenever somebody got close, I moved away. I can’t express how bad it was.

Coming out of the forest, I wanted to be last, but the men were chivalrous, and every time I hung back to bring up the rear (no pun intended), they waved me ahead. It was awful. With every step, I expected to let go, for everything to come out, and for everybody to know. I could not poo myself in front of these well-to-do people. I felt sick by that point too.

After the forest, we had an organised pub crawl, and we stopped at every pub along the way. At each one, I waited for the rush to be over before going to the bathroom. But we were thirty strong, and then there were the other patrons. I had access to toilets—lots of them—but the nightmare was worse, not better. I needed at least ten minutes every time and couldn’t get any privacy.

I’d held it in for so long and, despite my paranoia, somehow it had stayed where it was. Now there was noise and smell and people banging on the door. It wouldn’t stop, and I was mortified. I just wanted to die.

I did this at every pub, holding myself like a force of nature between toileting. I padded myself up with half a roll of toilet paper. By the next stop, it was dirty, and it wouldn’t flush down the toilet more than once. Honestly, you couldn’t make it up. I had to dig it out of the bowl and break the toilet paper pad into pieces to get it down the antiquated plumbing. Some of these pubs were three hundred years old. It took five minutes for the cistern to refill. I needed to flush, and people were banging. The toilet was dirty. I had to clean it, and people were still hammering. The shame of opening the door after being in there for ten minutes was awful.

By the next pub, I was on repeat. I just wanted to cry. The stomach cramps were incredible. I was clammy, shaking, and felt filthy in front of those lovely people. In-between pub stops, I was back to clenching and hoping. But by the next stop, I was dirty again. In one pub, they had paper towels. I stuffed about twenty of them down my pants. The whole time I’d had my top off and tied around my waist to hide the bulk of the padding. It meant showing off my tattoos, which I never do—but that was the least of my worries. It’s a testament to the kind of people I was with that not one of the ladies had tattoos. I couldn’t care less about them. Being the blue-haired old lady with tattoos didn’t compare to being the woman who shit herself in public.

In the next pub, my pad of towels was stained. What the bloody hell was I going to do with it? I couldn’t spend five hours flushing them down individually. With the narrow plumbing, even one would probably be enough to block the toilet. I took the liner out of the pedal bin, wrapped them in that and stuffed them in my bag. I hoped to God they didn’t cause any additional smell to the one I was already dying over.

I had to confide in Mark—though not every horrible sordid detail. He said he couldn’t smell anything at all and to just relax. But I couldn’t have anybody next to me—and I certainly couldn’t bloody relax. I couldn’t speak. I was getting and leaving soda water at every stop, and my hand was shaking so hard that I couldn’t hold a glass. Everybody noticed that I wasn’t well, but Mark and I played it down.

Perhaps the worst part was having to get back in Jon’s brand new Range Rover. I’d had the front seat on the way there. It was a hell of a job giving it to Alan on the way back. ‘No, you have it, Sooz.’ I told him I’d rather sit next to Mark in the back.

Imagine the scene I had everything from the neck down clenched. I was bothered about throwing up on Jon’s leather upholstery—and about whatever was going on in my pants. All those cars, and we were put in the only one with cream upholstery. I put my hands on the seats, raised my bum and rode all the way home without my bottom touching the seat. And—he stopped for some bloody shopping on the way back.


I just wanted to get out of that damned car, but it was good because I told Mark to stock up on wipes and flannels and buy a lovely bouquet for Kate, our hostess. He also got me one of those tiny air fresheners. That was so thoughtful. But I had to keep myself elevated and maintain a conversation while trying not to puke or shit.

We got back, and you’d think the nightmare would be over, wouldn’t you?

I had access to a toilet—but so did thirty—soon to become fifty—other people. And said toilet was right next to the kitchen where all the food was being laid out, ready to take to the gardens.

It was worse than being in the pubs because my host and hostess were in the kitchen the whole time, and crowds of other people passed through and came banging on the door. I couldn’t get any privacy.

On one occasion, I went to the bathroom and used about ten wipes. What the hell was I going to do with them? I couldn’t put them down the toilet or in the bin. I had no choice but to wrap them in another wipe and take them to the outside bins. All the black bin bags were sealed, and I had to try and untie one. I couldn’t. The knot was too tight, and I couldn’t stand in full view rummaging through the dustbins for long. So I made a hole in the side and put my rubbish as far down as possible. I couldn’t face going past everybody to wash my hands in the bathroom again. There was no other sink, and we don’t have one yet. So I went into our awning and lathered my hands in handwash with no means of rinsing them. I dried the worst of the soap off on the grass outside.

I was so miserable. Mark made me a pack up with clean underwear, wipes, flannel, and tiny air freshener and told me where he’d hidden it in the bathroom. Again, that was so thoughtful of him. But what if somebody else found it first? The party was in full swing, and I grabbed a seat and refused to move out of it. As long as I sat still, I should be all right. Everybody kept asking me how I was, and I kept saying, ‘Oh, fine, thank you. Just something I ate,’


The party was amazing. I had one vodka and coke that I kept all night and didn’t touch. The food was out of this world, but I couldn’t have any. My stomach problems had given me a massive drop in blood sugar, and despite the fantastic bonfire, I was freezing and sat wrapped in one of our throws all night.

I was thoroughly miserable. Again, I should have missed the party and gone to bed, but I didn’t want to be rude or draw attention to myself. At one point, Mark was going to ask Kate if I could have one of their other bathrooms designated to me. Can you imagine? The last thing they wanted in their beautiful home was somebody ill in their upstairs rooms. I wouldn’t let him ask.

We went to bed at about half twelve—but only because Mark was so drunk that he couldn’t stand up.

The runs had finally dried up—hallebloodyhulha. The bed was gorgeous, and I got a good night’s sleep.

Part three to follow—it’s the nice part.



Books By Author Katherine Black

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