Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Martin and the chocolate factory

"Oh, those are fabulous!" cried Mr. Wonka. "They fill you with bubbles, and the bubbles are full of a special kind of gas, and this gas is so terrifically lifting that it lifts you right off the ground just like a balloon, and up you go until your head hits the ceiling and there you stay."

"But how do you come down again?" asked little Charlie.

"You do a burp, of course," said Mr Wonka. "You do a great big long rude burp, and up comes the gas and down comes you! But don't drink it outdoors! There's no knowing how high up you'll be carried if you do that. I gave some to an old Oompa Loompa once out in the back yard and he went up and up and disappeared out of sight! It was very sad. I never saw him again."

"He should have burped," Charlie said.

"Of course he should have burped," said Mr Wonka. "I stood there shouting 'Burp, you silly ass, burp, or you'll never come down again!' But he didn't or couldn't or wouldn't, I don't know which. Maybe he was too polite. He must be on the moon by now."

Ah, the wonderful Fizzy Lifting Drinks scene from Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Haven’t we all wanted to be Charlie Bucket at some point? The Wonka Factory had such an impact on my young imagination that even now old Victorian factories fascinate me. Even though very few remain, and those that do are dilapidated husks or have been turned into trendy apartments, whenever I catch a fleeting glimpse of one from a train or bus window my mind conjures up images of life behind those gargantuan brick walls; the hustle and bustle; the round-the-clock whir and whiz-clank of the magical machinery bellowing plumes of soot and pungent smoke from the chimneys, out over the Peter Pan London skyline; the smell of jam or tea or hops or vinegar that once soaked the air. And of course the sweet aroma of chocolate. These last couple of days I’ve felt some affinity with one of the characters from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Sadly it isn’t Charlie, or even Grandpa Joe. No, I’ve felt a bit like the old Oompah Loompah who drank the Fizzy Lifting Drink and couldn’t burp. I’ve been extremely bloated this week. I’m writing this now with the top button of my jeans undone. It’s uncomfortable and feels like something is pushing into my bladder or something. I don’t know. My knowledge of human anatomy is based entirely on the game Operation, which doesn’t really help much. All I can say is my tummy feels like a balloon and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I too started to float up, up and away. But instead of burping the only thing that will bring me back to Earth is a massive fart. In an ironic twist, for once I can’t fart. All those thunderous trumps I wish I hadn’t done, and now when I really need to sneak out some gas, when I really need to let one go, I can’t. My wind is trapped. Sealed in. So I have every sympathy for the Oompah Loompah. I fear he may not be alone on the Moon for much longer.