True heroes can remain calm, even in truly terrible predicaments. Winston Churchill. Joan of Arc. Postman Pat. All with nerves of steel.
I am not one of those people.
When something terrifying happens it’s usually a surprise. No one goes up a ladder expecting to end up in A and E. No one takes a team of paramedics with them to the ice rink. No one goes on a hen night expecting to see a video of themselves on youtube the next day dancing on a table and flashing their boobs. Some things are simply unforeseeable.
I bathe my toddler son and baby daughter together. Nothing particularly frightening about that. It saves time and the gas bill and they both love it. Lovely.
Last night I thought I’d leave my daughter in her reclining bath chair a bit longer than usual. She hates getting out, and her screams of rage reverberating in a small bathroom are no one’s idea of fun.
As my daughter frog-kicked, I happily lathered up my son’s hair.
Suddenly, as the bubbles cleared, I noticed something in the water.
It lay on the bottom like a fat, coffee coloured sea cucumber, slowly undulating in the currents. Then I saw other blobs and threads of light-brown goo floating about. Then I saw the long, cappuccino coloured thing still snaking from my daughters bottom, spreading, almost alive.
I went tingly all over. Time seemed to slow down.
“Oh my God. Oh my God.” I heard myself whisper, my daughter gazing up at me innocently, her legs stirring the soup.
“I don’t know what to do.” I chanted, paralysed with horror, my son happily pouring gelatinous brown water through his play waterwheel. I may have screamed.
“Pull the plug.” My wife ordered, snapping me out of it.
Half an hour of panic ensued. I got soaked. Almost everyone cried.
Later, when I had regained my composure, my wife asked “I wonder if that’s the first time she’s done that?”
Again I was frozen with horror.