It’s been three days and I still have orange feet.
It all goes back to Saturday night, the night West London was gridlocked and the heavens opened.
West Ham earned a fighting draw against Fulham. It wasn’t a classic, but it was our fourth game unbeaten, and there are lots of optimistic signs for the future, despite us being bottom of the table.
I thought I’d have a cup of tea in the press room before leaving and listen to the managers’ interviews. That’s where it all started going wrong. The tea machine was broken, so I had to have coffee. It makes me irritable, but I fancied a sit down, so I drank it anyway.
On the way home I was listening to 606 on the radio. Robbie Savage was whingeing about not being called into the Welsh squad by caretaker boss Bryan Flynn. Mark Chapman was gently ribbing him and it was very entertaining radio. The trouble is 606 is on 5Live on AM. The traffic alerts only work on my car radio on FM and CDs. If I’d been listening to FM I’d have heard that a crash in Hammersmith had brought down a lamppost and the whole of West London was at a standstill. I hit the traffic on the embankment, that’s how bad it was. Earls Court, High St Ken, Cromwell Road, the whole lot was stuffed. No-one was going anywhere.
Then it started raining. Never mind cats and dogs, I think I saw a small horse.
After two and a half hours I had reached Fulham, moving a few feet at a time. My car didn’t enjoy it and showed its displeasure by spewing lots of smoke out of the exhaust. Trouble is, I was stuck in traffic and there was nowhere to go. And by now I was busting for a wee. I knew I shouldn’t have had that coffee. Some kids knocked on my window to tell me there was something wrong with my car. Who says kids today are thick?
I thanked them for their detective work. One of them was a bit chippy, told me my car was disgusting and it was killing the environment. He was trying to impress a girl. He told me I had to sort it out. As I’d forgotten to pack my boiler suit and set of spanners, I opted to ignore them and sit in the car spewing smoke. He ran off swearing, which won’t have impressed the girl from my experience, and I was left chugging away. It became apparent that if I didn’t take action, the car might well blow up, so I drove into a side road, parked up and called the AA.
After an hour they hadn’t come. I’d rung three times. I needed a wee and some food, but it was like a monsoon outside, so I stayed put. To make it worst, many of my best friends were all together at an event in Marlow, the annual convention of the Professional Speakers Association. While they were enjoying the gala dinner, I rummaged around inside the car looking for emergency flapjack that was nowhere to be found. I wanted to be with my friends, not stuck cold, lonely and hungry in a dark side road, while a perfect storm beat down on my car.
Eventually I had a wee in my travel mug. Well most of it went in the travel mug, it was hard to tell when it was full, so some of it went on my trousers. Fortunately it was lashing down with rain and it was dark, so no-one saw me. Eventually the AA rang back to say they couldn’t get to rescue me any time soon, as there was gridlock in West London. It’s not just children that are good at spotting obvious things.
I dug out an umbrella from the boot, which is massive but unreliable. It goes up a treat, but it’s a nightmare to get it down again. I set off for the nearest tube using my Sat Nav to guide me. It was tricky looking at the screen and holding the umbrella to protect me from the torrential downpour. TomTom kept telling me I was only a few minutes away from the station, but it expected me to be travelling at thirty miles an hour. Sat Navs aren’t as clever as kids or AA operators.
Peering intently at the screen, I didn’t notice the approaching car or the giant puddle at the edge of the road next to me. I was completely drenched. For some bizarre reason, I didn’t have my coat done up, and the cold water went right through my jumper and shirt. I also discovered my shoes were not remotely waterproof. Through the streams of rain I made out a shop and toyed with the idea of an emergency Mars bar. My blood sugar was low, but so was the doorway and I wasn’t sure I’d get my umbrella up again if I collapsed it. I decided to push on. I feared drowning more than starving.
When I got to Baron’s Court, I bought a single for Richmond and went onto the platform. Only then did I see a sign saying the District Line was closed from Hammersmith to Richmond. There was a replacement bus service operating. That was no good, Hammersmith was flooded and gridlocked, both unsuitable conditions for buses. So I got on a Piccadilly Line train and headed for Osterley, bracing myself for a tricky conversation at the other end about my ticket being for the wrong destination.
The other people in my tube compartment eyed me suspiciously. I was soaked to the bone and smelt of wee. I’d arrived wrestling with my umbrella and I was mumbling to myself, as I rehearsed a potential conversation with a ticket inspector.
‘Yes I know my ticket is for Richmond. Yes I know I should have got off at Hammersmith and used the replacement bus service, but the thing is Hammersmith doesn’t exist anymore. It’s been wiped out by a biblical flood and a plague of lampposts, so just open the barrier and let me through please because I need to get out of these wet clothes. Yes most of it is wee, with just a little bit of rain. Thank you so much, coming through. Mind my brolly it won’t go down.’
It was quite disappointing to find my ticket opened the barrier at Osterley no problem. I’d rehearsed a speech in my head, easily as good as some that I’ve been paid to deliver, and I think part of me was sad that I couldn’t use it. A £3.50 ticket from Baron’s Court, it appears, will work at any station that is £3.50 away. My wife met me at the station, sniffed me and kindly agreed to let me sit in the immaculate interior of her car. After leaving West Ham at 6.10 I had finally arrived back in Twickenham at 11.30. I would have to return to Everington Street W6 the next day to recover my car. Despite West Ham battling for a point, it seemed Fulham had the last laugh.
I’d been in the car for the best part of an evening. Children had laughed at me. I’d weed in a mug. I’d been soaked by a car in a manner only seen in Carry On Films. I was starving hungry and my umbrella was left dripping outside the front door to teach it a lesson.
I’d learnt my lesson. I will never listen to Robbie Savage again. Well, not unless he gets a show on FM.The final humiliation came when I took off my wet socks, I had orange feet. The shoes were soaked through and the colour of the lining had stained me. It’s still there, three showers later.
Jeremy Nicholas – London UK, 5th October 2010
To book Jeremy as an after dinner speaker and help pay for the repair work on his car, please visit his speaking website for details of fees, testimonials and how to contact the poor, wet, smelly lad. www.JeremyNicholas.co.uk