From the "Thinking Strange Thoughts" series
Many years ago when I was about eight years old, an event occurred which even now gives me occasional nightmares. At the time I was staying with my grandparents for the summer holidays. They lived a long way off from us so I had not met them too often. The first night I just could not sleep, I was used to sharing a room with my brother and felt a bit scared on my own. At about three o’ clock in the morning, I could stand no more; I got up, lit a candle and made my way through the house to my grandparent’s room.
As I approached the door I was a bit concerned, I had never been in an old person’s bed room before and I was not sure what to expect. I gently turned the doorknob and entered the room. The first thing that hit me was the smell of Vic’s Vapour Rub; it was so strong that it bought tears to my eyes. My Nan was a great believer in Vic’s Vapour Rub, she would cover her self in it from head to foot, and she would even rub it in her hair and was possibly the first person on the planet with dreadlocks. She had told me that she used it partly for medicinal purposes and partly as a beauty treatment, it appeared to be failing on both counts.
The next thing I noticed was the incredible noise, it was as if someone was using a pneumatic drill in the bedroom, I soon realized that my Nan and Granddad were having a snoring competition and my Nan appeared to be winning. On the floor was a ceramic water bottle, I don’t think rubber had been invented yet, I stepped over it and lowered the candle towards my Nan’s side of the bed, next to her head, on top of a small cabinet was a jam jar half full of water and floating in it was a set of teeth, it was like something from a horror movie. I glanced down at my Nan and it was a truly terrifying sight, when she breathed in, her lips would disappear into her mouth and when she breathed out, and her lips would fly out again, as if she was blowing a trumpet. The inside of her mouth and her tongue were dyed black from years of sucking little liquorice tablets, supposed to stop smokers cough.
There were several burn marks on her pillow, where her cigarette had fallen from her mouth at night. I rarely saw her without a cigarette; I don’t think lung cancer had been invented yet.
Anyway I froze to the spot, the only thing that eventually moved me was another strong smell which was gradually fighting its way past the Vic’s Vapour Rub, I glanced beneath the bed and spotted a half full Chamber Pot. Now I know this was a long time ago and they did have an outside toilet, but when I look back on this, the whole concept of the Chamber Pot seems a bit bizarre. I mean the difficult bit is getting out of bed on a cold night, now assuming that you are going to get out of bed before you go to the toilet-(which was not always the case with my cousin Gordon, but that’s another story) – you have done the hard work, so why not just pop on your dressing gown and nip out to the toilet. Also, and like I say, it was a long time ago, but even in those days they must have had the odd romantic moment, or else lets face it ,I would not be around. I sometimes picture them having a bit of a kiss and cuddle, then my Nan leaps up and says “Stay right there my love, I am just popping to the bathroom”. “Don’t be long my darling” says Granddad, “I shall be but a moment” she purrs seductively, as she sits on the Chamber Pot, smothered in Vic’s Vapour Rub, minus her dentures and a roll-up dangling from the corner of her mouth. She smiles lovingly at Granddad, who is clad in his best three piece Long Johns, cleaning his pipe with his toothbrush. It’s a scene guaranteed to take the romance out of any evening.
Anyway getting back to the evening in question, as I stared down at my Nan, I was fascinated by her teeth in the jam jar, I reached out for a closer look and accidentally knocked the jar onto my Nan’s head.
The local newspaper reported that you could hear her screams from several miles away, my Granddad leapt out of bed, grabbed his gas mask, and was half way to the air raid shelter, before he suddenly remembered that the war had ended fifteen years previously. Funnily enough it was a long time before I was invited back.
Steve…….Falling apart but still with his own teeth.