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Is there anything worse than a traffic jam when you need the loo?

PUBLISHED: 15:57 15 September 2018 | UPDATED: 15:57 15 September 2018

Traffic at a standstill in Attleborough due to roadworks in Surrogate Street, Church Street, and Station Road. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Traffic at a standstill in Attleborough due to roadworks in Surrogate Street, Church Street, and Station Road. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2018

Neil Haverson on the hell of being caught short and not being able to do a thing about it.

In a previous column I referred to Jeremy Clarkson’s comment that there is nothing more uncomfortable than driving when you need to go to the loo. I agreed with him, illustrating the point with a memory of being on the road near Beccles and feeling rather desperate. I made it to a public loo only to be greeted with “Out of order” on the door. Just got home in time.

But that occasion pales into insignificance compared to a recent experience. In August I wrote of battling with traffic on the A14 and M1 on our journey to see the newly born Brat Mini Minor. What I didn’t mention, was the journey home; quite the worst we have had in all our years of travelling around the UK.

At breakfast I had intended to keep my liquid intake down but will power deserted me. Down went a glass of orange juice followed by a mug of tea.

We were popping in to see Brat Minor and Catherine and, of course, Mini Minor before we headed home, so I wasn’t too concerned

“Would you like some coffee?” asked Catherine.

Better judgement deserted me. But no worries, I’d go before the journey, and there’s always motorway services.

Just as we hit the M1 the heavens opened. There was thunder and lightning; traffic slowed and we crawled through miles of roadworks.

It seemed ages before we finally speeded up and I was grateful to see “Services” pop up on the sign.

“Best just stop,” I said to Mrs H.

Then it was slow going until we hit the A14 where traffic was moving at a snail’s pace. When it cleared there appeared to be no reason for it.

Then the mind started to play tricks. A little voice kept saying: “You’re going to want to go to the loo soon.”

That was all it took; I started to shuffle in my seat.

But thank goodness, more services. In we go. Phew! Only about an hour and a half to go, this’ll do us until we get home. But had we known what lay 
ahead we would never have relaxed over lunch with those large coffees.

The rain continued to fall; traffic ground tediously along. Then the radio sparked into life with the travel news.

“A lorry has broken down just east of Cambridge. At present delays are at least 45 minutes.”

For almost an hour we hardly moved and that little voice began issuing bladder warnings. Then another voice chipped in: “I shall need to go to the loo soon.”

It was Mrs H.

Once it’s in your head there’s no shifting it. I was wriggling in my seat while Mrs H was sitting still as a statue, fearing the slightest movement might trigger an incident. The stop start motion of the car did nothing to help. Every gear change posed a threat.

Finally the traffic cleared and we were steaming – perhaps not the best word – homewards. But by then we both really needed to go.

On the horizon I spotted a service station. I know now what it feels like to stumble across a watering hole in the middle of the desert.

We pulled up at a petrol pump, leapt from the car and dashed to the loo. The place was heaving with similarly affected travellers. We joined the queue and exchanged tales of swollen bladders and missed appointments.

In just travelling time, a three and a quarter hour journey took almost six hours.

I’ve since learnt that you can buy emergency mini-loos specially designed for getting caught short in the car. I discovered there are masses of them with wonderful names such as the Peebol, the Travel John and Travel Jane for women, not to mention the Easi Pee.

But hard as I try, I can’t picture myself pulling on to the hard shoulder, switching on the hazards and grappling with my Peebol.

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