Famous Last Words



Whilst scrubbing the toilet last week I had an epiphany. A question popped into my mind.

“What if I just don’t do this?”

I hate housework, there’s almost anything I’d rather be doing than cleaning. Who on earth would be harmed by my choice to simply not clean the toilet that weekend?

Then suddenly, unbidden, came this random thought.

“But what if I had a sudden accident, was taken to hospital and my mother-in-law had to come round to look after the kids? I’d be lying in intensive care worrying that the downstairs loo was dirty!”

Being an introspective person, I naturally paused, toilet brush in hand, to unpack this thought. First I searched my memory to find out whether this was actually the stupidest thought I’d ever had. The search turned up the expected result – this was definitely in the Top 3 Dumbest Thoughts of my life so far.

I mean, my mother-in-law really couldn’t care less in the circumstances. And I’d be busy fighting for my life, so probably wouldn’t have time to think it anyway. I guess I just wanted her to have a nice place to do her business, seeing as she’d taken the trouble of rushing round to mind my kids whilst I suffered a fictional calamity.

The next mental task was to admonish myself for being such a pathetic, bourgeois slave to mere housework. What kind of feminist was I to be worrying about what my mother-in-law thought of my toilet? I deserved to be taken out into the public square and beaten by Germaine Greer with a Hoover Dual Steam Plus Mop, which I secretly covet but am waiting to receive as a gift, preferably from my husband, so I can hit him with it before having a sublime appliance experience.

For yes, I am a sucker for an expensive appliance! What will you think of me? I may have read The Female Eunuch and The Women’s Room at university, but spent my adolescence in thrall to Little Women and the glories of Meg’s linen cupboard. I did think she was a bit of a ninny though, for crying over the jelly that wouldn’t set. Jo would never have cried. She’d have chucked the jelly in the bin and served tinned fruit.

But I digress. Back to the toilet.

By this stage, I’d put down the toilet brush and proceeded to other important issues. What if the last thoughts I ever had in this life were about the state of our downstairs lav?

Picture the scene: the family gathered about my deathbed, tears flowing, heads bowed, when suddenly I mumble something.

“Nurse, quick! Take out the tube, she’s trying to say something!”

“Someone…” I whisper, “someone…please…scrub…the downstairs loo…before the wake.”

It’s not really what you want to be remembered for, is it? Humphrey Bogart’s last words were so much better.

“I should never have switched from Scotch to Martinis,” he apparently said.

Another favourite of mine is Margaret Sanger, an American pioneer of birth control in the early twentieth century, whose last words were, “A party! Let’s have a party!” I’d love to have met her, she sounds like a hoot.

I suppose much depends on how long you actually have to die. If it’s in a car crash, or of a sudden heart attack, or a suicide bomber, you’d probably only have time to think “Oh shit!”

With people these days planning their own funerals, perhaps writing your own last words in advance might be a good idea. That way if you feel yourself starting to die, you can simply say, please hand me that piece of paper. No, not that one, that’s the shopping list (definitely don’t want my last words to be ‘milk, bread, coffee, dog food, domestos…’)

Assuming I don’t succumb to dementia in my old age, in which case I probably won’t care what my last words are, I guess they’ll probably be something along the lines of “Take care of your brother, make sure he has everything he needs. There’s a list of the banking details in the top drawer of my desk along with my will. Divide my jewellery up between your wives and give my steam mop to charity. Pop round and see your father at least once a week and make sure he’s taking his multi vitamins, is eating at least one meal a day and isn’t letting the dog up on the couch. I’m proud of you all and I know you will be OK. I love you.”

It’s a bit long though. If I don’t have time to get it all out, guess I’ll just say the last three words. Hopefully my family will actually be in the room at the time. Could be a bit awkward if I die just as the cleaner pops in to give the toilet the once over!


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