I was running nervously down the long road to the start of the Marrakech marathon (well, half marathon in my case, but it's the same start place) when I felt unnerving twinges in the nether regions. I had been suffering from erratic bowel behaviour in the whole build-up to the race, and now it looked like boiled eggs and bananas were already making their presence felt in my colon ...
At this point I am passing the Mamounia Hotel - probably the loftiest and oldest and finest in Marrakech (there are many more now which are more ostentatiously luxurious, but nothing quite with its class). Winston Churchill used to stay and paint there. And nowadays people like Nicole Kidman and Joanna Lumley (not together obviously - somehow they would make an odd combination).
So, I know I cannot last much longer ... and right ahead through the old city gate (incongruously known as Bab Jdid - or New Gate) after the roundabout lies ... the Start of the Race.
There is heavy security presence in the Mamounia entrance. And when I say heavy I mean one of them must weigh about 100 kg. But I choose him. 'Excuse me please, but I am taking part in the marathon and my stomach is very upset - could I please enter and use the toilet here?'
Mr Big looks me up and down with the faintest of disdain. 'Madame this is a hotel not a toilet. There is a public toilet.' And he takes me outside to point back down the long road from whence I have come ... a long long way back.
'I know it is a hotel and a very beautiful place it is too - I have visited several times. But if you are kind you will allow me in because I am a little sick and it is urgent NOW please', I plead desperately.
He sighs. 'OK, please wait a moment madame', and he makes a telephone call.
I wait on tenterhooks and then he puts the phone down and motions me ... IN! I am exultant! I know exactly where the wonderful toilet is and am ready to make a run for it when ... he takes me gently by the arm ... and leads me to a tiny toilet concealed behind the grand entrance.
Inside there is no light, no flush. I perform urgently by mobile torchlight and then search in vain for the means to dispose of the, er, proceeds. Nothing. And no time and not enough Arabic to explain to another man who is washing in the sink.
I rush out, thank Mr Big profusely, and ask God to bless him. Then makes off as rapidly as possible.
It will be a bit of a while before I dare to show my face there again.