The other day I had to go and oversee a radio ad being recorded. Trust me, this sounds more glamorous than it was. Being pious I decided to walk from my office in Westminster to the recording studio in Soho. Now it’s bad enough that I work in the public sector and turned up suited and booted whilst everyone else was rocking the Superdry t-shirts, distressed denim and converse all-stars. But I also arrived a little late and therefore couldn’t change out of my Asics walking shoes and had to go straight in. Trainers and a suit are never a good look. Unless you’re a wino or Phil Collins and even then only a few people can pull it off. Being a wino in a suit not being Phil Collins, I mean – really it’s only him who’s good at that and writing songs about tramps.
I was sitting in a recording studio about the size of Andi Peters’ broom cupboard (his old place of work along with Philip Schofield and Andy Crane – who was of course my favourite, not his actual broom cupboard which is probably bigger than my house). Along with me there was the sound engineer on the mixing desk, the producer, the script writer and one of the voice talents. Shortly after I’d sat down I realised there was a definite smell of piss in the room. Then I remembered my trainers had got wet a few days before and I’d ineffectually dried them. Then I realised my trainers were quite hot from my ill-timed stumble. Then I realised my trainers smelt of piss. Then I realised that by default I smelt of piss. Then I realised I was carrying off the wino look better than I had anticipated.
The room kept getting hotter. The hotter it got the hotter my feet got and the more the room smelt of piss. It was so bad it was inconceivable that everyone in the room wasn’t thinking “what’s that terrible and ever increasing smell of piss?”. Every time I moved a waft of sulphurous piss would gallop around the room, I tried hiding my feet under the small coffee table. Someone picked up a biscuit off the table, paused, sniffed it and pulled the unmistakable expression “I think I’ll leave that biscuit, it smells like piss”.
It got so bad and was so obviously me I decided to grab the bull by the horns and said:
“I’ve just realised a fairly unmistakable and offensive smell is coming from my trainers. They got wet the other day, I’ve just walked here and now effectively have two well trammled litter trays attached to my feet. Sorry. I’m going to wash them at the first opportunity or maybe just bin them instead”
Everyone, nearly including me as I was almost still in “pretending the smell of piss isn’t me” mode, pulled a face that they thought was “we hadn’t noticed and even if we had, which we hadn’t, we didn’t think it was you that smelt of piss” but in fact was “I knew it. I knew it was him that smelt of piss”.
A few days later I arrived in a meeting late after my daily lunchtime stroll. I was sitting round the table and noticed an unmistakable smell of piss then I realised I hadn’t changed my shoes after my walk and I’d broken a promise I made.