International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Life Stories
Bathroom Tried To Swallow Me Whole.
Fifteen Coventry Road, Ilford is a large detached Victorian town
house about half a mile from Valentines Park and was for many years
my paternal grandparents home. It needed to be large as my
grandmother had nine children in all of which eight survived, and
to be fair by the end of WW2 some had married and moved away, some
were doing National Service and some, including me were living in
this huge sanctuary.
the front door led into a long corridor which kinked round the staircase
and ran past the dark space where the coat hangers were into the morning
room and the kitchen beyond that. Off the morning room and tucked just
out of sight was the door down to the three rooms that made up the cellar
with its obligatorily coal-hole in the path which ran down the side
of the property. In the days of my childhood the coal man would drive
his horse drawn wagon and deliver so many bags of coal down the coal-hole
straight into the cellar. My job would be to stand there and count the
number of bags, twenty to a ton and tell my mother how many he delivered.
Later my father had a huge pile of horse manure delivered to the back
garden and carried it load by load down into trays he had made in the
cellar to grow mushrooms. I still remember the thrill of seeing the
pure white caps poke up through the black soil and of watching my mother
pick them and take them down the road to sell at the local green grocer.
The kitchen opened out into the conservatory which overlooked the back
lawn, the vegetable patch and the long garden shed which took almost
the whole width of the property. It was in here that my cousin and I
tried to ignite a bullet by cramping it in my grandfathers vice
and hitting the end with a hammer.
The shed rested up against the communal wall which ran the full length
of the street and separated our back garden from the back gardens of
the next street over and by way of a bonus provided me and my cousins
with a wall top path to every bodies back garden. For some reason my
grandparents garden also had an extra wall along the right-hand
side; this wall was taller than the communal wall and must have been
built to grow the pear trees against.
The house had three floors if you include the attic, four if you include
the cellar. I liked the attic rooms and they gave one a view of the
whole street, I liked it so much that at age two I crawled out onto
the window ledge for a better view, some of my aunts still remember
this episode. Down from the attic rooms was the big bedroom I shared
with my parent and across the landing and down a short flight of steps
was a second smaller landing with the bathroom of to one side, linen
cupboards opposite that and my grandparents small bedroom at the
end. Down from here was the main staircase to the ground floor and the
The bathroom had a toilet and a bathtub with a huge old fashioned gas
heater for the bath water hanging precariously over the end of the bath.
Under the hand basin was a gas meter into which one had to put coins
to pay for the gas. For a bathroom it was a cold and sinister place,
even with the gas boiler and hot water running it had a dank and dark
feel to it. It was in the bathroom when, at the age of three, the house
tried to swallow me whole. I was being all grown up and had gone to
the toilet and needed to flush the loo. Being some what short at that
age I climbed up onto the porcelain rim and stood up to reach the chain
but it was still just out of reach. I leaned further over and grabbed
it with both hands as my feet slipped off the rim and down into the
U-bend of the toilet. I can still feel the cold water flushing over
my legs and trying to suck me down round the bend. I knew they would
never find me and total terror possessed me as I clung on for dear life.
What made the terror even worse was the fact that the chain is designed
to drop down when flushed but that was of no comfort at all as the water
swirled around me.
When I got down stairs to the kitchen and ran to my mother to tell her
what the monster in the bathroom had tried to do to me they all laughed
but I got my hug and used the back garden thereafter.
© Christopher Williams November 2009
Christopher is studying
for his Masters in Creative Writing at Portsmouth University
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