The stuff of nightmares.

Does this strike anyone else as odd?

Does this strike anyone else as odd?

More on this later.

It seems to be the fashion in ebook publishing these days to release books in parts. Give away part one and charge for parts two, three, four and five. I’m not like that (yet). You can get all parts of this blog for free.

Part One:

One of my earliest memories is of having my head in a newspaper-lined bucket being violently ill. As a young boy I suffered horribly with travel sickness. I’d only need to be in the car for five minutes before I started turning green around the gills. Ten minutes and I was breaking out in a prickly sweat. Any journey over fifteen minutes and you could bet a month’s pay I’d vomit. Hence the bucket was always in the car. In the end I think it became psychosomatic. I’d only have to see a newspaper-lined bucket, I’d only have to smell it and my gorge would be rising. Even if the car was stationary on the front drive. I know because my parents insisted we try it once.

My parents tried sitting me everywhere in the car. I tried the back seat, the front seat, and my dad’s lap when he was driving. I even made a few journeys in the boot. (It was a Fiat 127 hatchback and they took the parcel shelf out so we could still talk to each other.) Nothing helped because I suffered from travel sickness. And when you suffer from something it doesn’t matter where you sit.

Anyway. I grew out of it. Eventually. Travel sickness is not something that has troubled me for over forty years.

Last week I blogged about my enjoyable and varied commute across Istanbul. But it was only for the orientation week. This week, I started at my new campus which, it turns out, is one hour and eleven minutes away by school minibus. On a clearish run. Can you guess what’s coming up? Apart from the contents of my stomach on a daily basis?

It started on Monday. I have to get up pretty early now and I don’t have time for breakfast. I get picked up at the top of the road just before seven. (Insane!) And then I have the journey.

I want to share with you a video. It’s not of my actual morning commute across Istanbul but it’s pretty close.

(It took me until the ninth viewing of this video to see that the dad says he feels sick before they take off and then, when he pukes some of it goes in his daughter’s face and then she looks like she’s going to throw up, too. I haven’t laughed so much for ages.)

Honestly, these Turkish drivers are crazy. They all think they’re Sterling Moss and have divine rights over other road users, even when the other road user is driving a twenty ton construction lorry. For a joke, I suggested we have a sweep stake on how many accidents we have this year. That didn’t go down well in a highly superstitious culture. Lots of mumblings from the Turkish natives. I caught the word ‘jinx’.

So back to Monday. I’m in the fourth row of a packed minibus. The trapped air is stale and stifling. The morning sun is low and its heat pounds on the glass and metal of our oven on wheels. (Remember, in Turkey one can’t have windows open because of the airborne viruses that will flood in and kill us all.)

We hadn’t gone a couple of miles of erratic stop start Turkish driving before a dim and distant memory was stirred. And then the previous night’s kebab. I got very hot and I could feel myself turning pale.

‘Blimey, you don’t look so good, mate. Are you going to be sick?’ said the arsehole next to me.

That helped. I’m trying not to think about being sick in the school minibus that happens to be full of teachers – people who I don’t know yet and he’s talking about it. To me.

I remember dry retching into my hand and what do you think my ‘concerned’ colleague did then? Yes. He shoved his morning newspaper under my nose and said, ‘Catch it in this.’

It’s Friday. I’ve been sick three times this week. All on different days. There’s nothing I can do about it. One good thing – with my vomiting and jinxing, over half the teachers have decided to make their own way to work, so I get the whole back row to myself. Lying down helps. Only another eleven months to go.

Part Two: (That you don’t have to pay for.)

Back to that image.


After my initial shock on discovering this facility at my new place of work, I wondered whether it was simply a refreshingly liberal approach to the unisex toilet concept. It’s not. It’s just for men. But that doesn’t make this particular juxtaposition of urinal and bog any more understandable, to me.

On a more personally meaningful level, walking into this lavatory fairly took my breath away, and it had nothing to do with the bloke standing at the sink, washing his hands and grinning.

This image is one of my repeating nightmares physically realised; a horror of my darkest subconscious brought to life. In my nightmares I’m desperate for the toilet (usually number twos) and the only toilet I can find is one in plain view of everyone. But no one is around and I’m so desperate I have to go. And I do. In my dreams, I’ve just reached the point of no return: I’m in the act of releasing the hounds – their leads are off – when the room starts filling with people. That’s usually when I wake up, sweating, gasping for breath and fumbling around in the bed sheets to learn whether I’ve crossed a line. (For the record I have never followed through, so to speak, with my bodily functions in my dreams.)

Back to this toilet. I have no intention of using it, no matter how desperate I am. (There is no lock on the door to the room, which opens onto a busy corridor.) I don’t even think I’ll use the urinal. I mean, can you imagine how embarrassing it would be to be making use of either item of sanitary ware and someone walks in to use the other? (Note roll of bog paper on the floor indicating someone is using it already.) You’d have to acknowledge each other. Eye contact would be inevitable. And then how could one not say something. If I was standing there taking a piss and someone came in for a dump I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from bursting out laughing. Even if I didn’t know them. It would be so embarrassing to have to stand there listening to them evacuating their bowels. And the smell. No, it’s not right. I can’t imagine what was going through the minds of those involved in the process of planning to installation. It reminds me of the wheelchair access ramp fitted at my old school. (Always worth including my favourite image of all time.)


Good news for me this week is that I’m back doing what I enjoy most – making up stories and then writing them down. Monday evening, after the Halfling had finally succumbed to sleep, I opened up a bottle of wine and then the file on my computer that holds the second Booker & Cash. I had fifty thousand words done before I stopped for the summer break and couldn’t remember much of it. (Probably not a good sign, I thought.) But I like it a lot. It made me laugh in a couple of places. Most of the unfolding plot surprised me as I was going along, which was nice to experience, although, again, as the author mildly disturbing.

As well as a couple of deliberate chuckles I came across a couple of accidental ones that I think are worth sharing here.

We were almost at the car when I let out a loud, ‘Shit!’  (Need to be careful with the punctuation on that one.)

A man clutching a couple of straining black bin bags came struggling up the stairs from the basement flat. He spared us a cursory glance as he tossed his load into a wheelie bin.

On second thoughts maybe I’ll leave them in.

9 thoughts on “The stuff of nightmares.

  1. One thing I like about you Oliver, is that you can get down to basics. I too had noticed how certain authors get you going then ask you to pay for the climax. I like to go all the way in one go: not instalments.

    Anyway here’s my PART ONE: The Vomitting:
    Soon after I married, my parents moved down souff – Hayling Island. They returned for a long weekend when my brother married. The night of the reception, going home in a taxi, my mother said she was feeling sick. My father at the time was also half-cut, and instead of asking the taxi driver to quickly pull-over, he grabbed the hat from my mother’s head. It caught all regurgitated contents and the said hat ended up in the dustbin. She slept with a bucket beside her that night.

    PART TWO: Bodily Functions:
    At home our loo and bath/shower are in the same room, but when you’ve been married as long as we have we never shut the door, let alone lock it. But, I too, would find it difficult to go to the loo with a total stranger watching. Researching recently, I was talking to an ex-SAS soldier who told me when on certain ops they had to leave no trace of themselves behind. They, in his words, ‘had to piss, shit, and wank into a bag then carry it in our Bergen until the op was over’. I found it odd soldiers had the time, or the inclination to wank, but was then told, ‘we soldiers soon learn the ’30 second wank’ as we get no privacy’. He also pointed out that it is not uncommon to become aroused in certain circumstances.

    PART THREE: Telling It Like It Is:
    To be able to write any story convincingly I have to know and understand what a person has to go through. I like to think we not only entertain, but inform. So, like me, Oliver, continue telling it like it is.
    Regards, Pat.

    • Hi Pat
      I’m sniggering at your innuendo. I’m sure it was intended. And thanks for all your sharing. Those SAS guys are tough, I’ll give them that. But now I’m stuck with several images in my head that I don’t really want there as lunch is nearly ready. Telling it like it is could become this blog’s new strap line. 🙂
      Have a great weekend, what’s left of it.
      Best as always.

  2. Wonderful stuff Oliver, probably the best thing I’ve read in a while. I keep buying shit books from Amazon that are so full of glaring mistakes, that I rarely get 50% through them before deleting them from my device. When writers get their books proof read, why don’t they get a reality check done on them as well??? Anyway all of that is by the by, but still on the same subject of shit. Turkey is a bit third world so the “public” toilets don’t surprise me too much. However, I shared your concerns/horror when I was a young man and I travelled across third world Midwest USA in the early 1980s and came across, sorry I’ll rephrase that, saw, lots of those door less and completely open crappers in men’s toilets and witnessed men using them. Ugh! The image has scarred my eyes and brain. Do bears shit in the woods? I’d rather that’s for sure.
    I once had a thought, “All wise men are old, but not all old men are wise.” Anyway, I’m fairly old now, with a modicum of wisdom and when you first told us about your new daily commute, I have to admit my first reaction was, you are completely mental mate! Sorry, but, three hours a day every day. Yep, you are mental. Get out of there whilst you still can, the vomiting is a clue and get back to writing some more of those excellent books of yours. 😉 Russell

  3. Who the hell am I to call you mental? Well, they do say “it takes one to know one,” but of course I mean it in the nicest possible way and I am talking from a near personal experience.
    When I was 21, my childhood sweetheart of 6 years worked at National Westminster Bank, in Dumpstable, previously known as Dunstable, Bedfordshire, since she left school. The bank was 5 minutes from her home and she walked to and from work and home for lunch every day. She was good at her job and they offered her “promotion” and a position at their offices in Threadneedle Street, London. This meant a bus ride to Luton station, a train to St Pancras and a tube to Bank. one and a half hours each way, or three hours a day. Every penny of her higher salary was spent on commuting and daily lunches in London, so she was no better off at all. Worse still, she changed, she became constantly tired and irritable, I put up with it for over a year and eventually, she did give up on her fruitless daily grind, however, not before I gave up on her after a 7 year hitch? Sad but true. 😦

    • Hi Russell
      Good to hear from you. Thanks for chipping in with your thoughts. Always appreciated and welcomed.
      No offence taken over the mental remark – I realise I must be quite mad to have done this to myself. I just had to get out of the last school I was in. Administration changed and so did the ethos. I have my principles. And look where they’ve got me.
      But the new school is fantastic and the staff are very nice so swings and roundabouts. I just need to find something to do on the shuttle bus to make the time productive and take my mind off my condition. I tried reading. It made me feel sick. I tried writing. It made me feel sick. I tried eating. It made me feel sick. I tried sleeping. Guess what? Maybe I could pitch a tent in the grounds for the week and come home at weekends.
      I like that saying. Never a truer word. I’m getting on and I must confess to feeling a bit stupider each year
      Best wishes.

  4. That wheelchair ramp! There are no words… Or maybe just one long high-pitched one and a thud.

    Our school toilets were alright, I remember, but a fair few friends have said theirs were so disgusting they learned to just hold it in all day. Maybe based on Pat’s story I should put them in touch with the SAS?

    To my shame I’ve never been to Istanbul. But after two weeks in Mumbai foreign traffic holds no fear…

    • Hello Rich,
      You back in the UK?
      For the record it was a wheelchair/pram access ramp. I remember the day it was installed. Hand on heart, I was the only one of the staff who gathered around to inspect it who thought it was a tad dangerous. (That tells a story.) They did remove it after a few months as some grade ones fell down it and injured themselves. So glad I got the photo while I had the chance.
      I’m sure there is worse driving in the world than in Istanbul but I struggle to accept that there is anywhere else in the world that would install a winter Olympic standard ski slope with a four foot braking area for disabled visitors.
      Best wishes.

  5. Always a pleasure reading your blog. I hope you have a wonderful year at your new school. As for the road, I advice motion sickness bracelets that are sold in pharmacies. If it doesn’t work, I’ll reccomend you a pill… (and yes, I’m like you, car journeys are nightmares for me) Anyway, we’ll miss you this year. A lot. Selin sends hugs…

    • Hello!
      How lovely to hear from you. You could be my only Turkish reader!
      Thanks so much for your very kind words and good wishes for the coming year at my new school.
      I’ll give those bands a try. I’ll try anything.
      Of course, I will miss Selin too. One of best students it’s been my pleasure to teach and one of the nicest girls I’ve ever met. She’s a credit to you. I’m sure she’ll continue to do well.
      Thanks again. 🙂

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