As those of you who’ve read my utter rubbish for the last few years will know, I have a habit of finding myself in embarrassing situations.
And on the penultimate night of my recent trip to China it happened again.
Some of the food in China is interesting – interesting in a ‘I hope this doesn’t kill me’ kind of way. They eat noodles for breakfast, dinner and tea and these noodles contain a variety of weird-looking items.
None of the restaurant staff speak any English and all the menus are in Chinese, so ordering a meal is like a particularly dangerous game of Russian Roulette.
One meal I chose by stabbing a nervy finger at the menu, consisted of noodles covered in a thick gloopy yellow sauce containing rectangular green-coloured chunks that could have been meat, but might just as easily have been fish. In looked like the chef had vomited on the plate and shouted ‘service!’. I managed three mouthfuls.
It was no surprise then that at the end of my stay I contracted food poisoning, though it was ironic it came not from one of these exotic dishes but from a tuna sandwich I purchased in an English-style bakery.
I was so excited to find an establishment which served something other than noodles I ordered two tuna butties and wolfed them down in seconds. I did note as I was scoffing them that the mayonnaise tasted a little odd but thought nothing more of it.
Until 12 hours later, when at just before midnight I began to have the most violent stomach cramps I believe a human has ever experienced.
What happened next was that I spent the following three hours running to and from the toilet in my hotel room, depositing – approximately seven tonnes of diarrhoea into the bowl.
Unfortunately I quickly used up both loo rolls that had been left in my room that morning and so it meant, shortly after 3am, I had to walk gingerly down to the reception and ask the two middle-aged men behind the front desk for more toilet roll.
This might seem a simple task but I spoke only English and they spoke only Chinese. You can see where the difficulty might arise.
‘I need some toilet roll,’ I said. ‘You know, dickie tummy’.
They exchanged glances and stared back at me, brows furrowed.
‘T-O-I-L-E-T R-O-L-L’, I said very slowly, then checking there was no one else around, added, ‘to wipe bottom’.
The expression on their faces remained blank. One of them edged his hand towards the telephone, as if to alert security.
They had no idea what I was going on about. Worse still, I could feel my stomach cramping again. This was a race against time. And so it was, that at 3.25am on the other side of the world, in the reception of a very posh five-star hotel, I found myself doing a mime of somebody on the toilet.
I squatted down on the marble floor, and mimicked a man wiping his bottom.
I continued with my toilet impression for several humiliating minutes before eventually, mercifully, one of the hotel receptionists suddenly raised his finger in the air, let out an exclamation, and ran to a cupboard behind him, then emerged holding two fresh toilet rolls.
I was so happy I could have jumped over the counter and not just kissed him on the lips but proposed to him and fathered his children.
I sprinted back to my hotel room cradling these precious rolls and made it to the toilet in the nick of time.
It was a full 24 hours and another seven rolls of loo paper before I properly recovered.
It was a wretched, horrible experience, but on the upside I now know that weishengzhi is Chinese for toilet roll.