Sunday, 7 October 2012

The Langdon Lavatory Quest

Not long ago I was privileged to be invited to a rather sophisticated event that was held at Westminster Abbey in Central London.

It was a particularly drab morning; my poor umbrella took a beating from the flood that came down as I joined a crowd of individuals making their way to one of the city's most famous landmarks.

As we arrived, I looked at the limos that were pulling up at the steps of the great Cathedral. The event felt like the Oscars of the legal year; all the legendary players within the profession were present. All around me were the men and women whose lives have been dedicated to the pursuit of justice. I found myself moving through a tide of wigs and gowns.

I flashed my ticket like a police badge to the attendant standing at the entrance, and then I was swept inside as we were ushered to our seats.

Can I just state for the record that I love Westminster Abbey. Anyone that knows me understands that I spent a significant part of my young life in churches, and I've always been fascinated by the histories that often come with houses of worship.

The Abbey is perhaps the perfect example of this: it's been the host of several significant weddings, the most recent noteworthy example being Will and Kate, of course. But I love it even more for its status as a famous tomb. Many, many important people have decomposed in that there church, my friends. Charles Dickens was laid to rest in there. Don't think I haven't considered sauntering into the Poets' Corner and licking Elizabeth Gaskell's tribute stone as a way of acquiring more talent through some kind of supernatural osmosis (and for the record, I'm patenting that genius idea, so don't even think about trying it).

So yes - I heart W.A. It felt wonderful being in there, knowing all the ability that was crammed into that room, living and dead. We were quickly rushed to our seats so that the event could start on time.

There were speeches. There was Latin. There was a choir, who I'm convinced must have knocked out a bunch of angels and stolen their voices, so unearthly were their talents. There were hymns, sermons and prayers. It was an absolutely beautiful ceremony in one of the most incredible churches in the country.

And it was also one of the most inescapably uncomfortable experiences I've had in a very, very long time.

You may be wondering why I've given this post the title of 'The Langdon Lavatory Quest'. Those of you who have read The Da Vinci Code may remember that the novel's protagonist, Robert Langdon, follows the quest for the Holy Grail from Paris to Westminster Abbey, where the novel's central conflicts reach their crescendo.

Given the tension involved, you could be forgiven for missing one of the subplots in the story - a chapter between the Grail-searching when Langdon scours Westminster Abbey for a toilet so he can urinate.

If such a chapter is missing in your copy of the novel, kindly inform me, and I will forward you my firsthand experience of sitting in Westminster Abbey with my swollen bladder, desperate for a pee!

That's it. There on the left... The spot where I... Just kidding.
 It was awful. Throughout all the singing, all the speeches, all the Latin, while all the other attendants were experiencing an almost out-of-body, transcendental experience, I was experiencing this:

I need to wee I need to wee I need to wee I need to wee I need to wee I need to wee I need to wee!

Now I know what you're thinking, reader. Why didn't I get up and just go to the toilet? Well, such thoughts are not helpful when you're in the most formal setting of your life and you have no idea where said toilet facilities are. It was not the kind of ceremony where one got up, walked along the row, past the larynx-stealing choir, and around the corner to the nearest john.
One does not do that in Westminster Abbey.

So I sat there, engaged in a tug-of-war with my bladder, for ninety minutes, aware that at any moment I might wet myself all over some dead poet's tomb.

There is a lesson to be learned from my experience. In order to avoid having your water break in a public Cathedral, go to the toilet directly before the ceremony.

Or bring an Evian bottle.

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