Death by hot-tub (or why cottaging in Canada is bad for your health)

I twisted my body but more of my trunks were sucked in. I was now jammed hard against the bubbling floor
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The Independent Online

I nearly wrote my own epitaph last week. "Minor comedian drowns in cottaging hot-tub shocker." It's not what you think. Well, it is, but it's not as bad as it sounds. I'm in Canada visiting the in-laws somewhere far, far north of Ontario where people look at cars like they're seeing their very first aeroplane. I've rented this rock star place right on a lake. Unfortunately, it must have been a Canadian rock star. They have slightly different standards from your Bono or Oasis. The place is pretty cool if you like the retro feel of an early Seventies log love shack. Shag-pile carpet coupled with everything else in wood makes it look a little like Austin Powers' less successful brother's pad.

I nearly wrote my own epitaph last week. "Minor comedian drowns in cottaging hot-tub shocker." It's not what you think. Well, it is, but it's not as bad as it sounds. I'm in Canada visiting the in-laws somewhere far, far north of Ontario where people look at cars like they're seeing their very first aeroplane. I've rented this rock star place right on a lake. Unfortunately, it must have been a Canadian rock star. They have slightly different standards from your Bono or Oasis. The place is pretty cool if you like the retro feel of an early Seventies log love shack. Shag-pile carpet coupled with everything else in wood makes it look a little like Austin Powers' less successful brother's pad.

Every building up here from regal palace to humble shack is known as a cottage. People who come up here from Toronto call it cottaging. They have absolutely no idea why I might find this term in any way amusing and insist on humming George Michael songs every time it comes up. So here I am, cottaging in the middle of the Canadian wilderness, trying to think of something to do to liven up the 18-hour nights. Like everywhere in Canada the place has a hot tub. This is very exciting for someone who only equates these wooden tubs with Surrey swingers. After a couple of root-beer cocktails, I suggested to my fellow cottagers that we have a competition to see who could hold their breath for longest under water in the hot tub. I know it sounds dull but you should see Canadian TV.

I go first as I'm pretty confident that I can set a decent benchmark and everyone else seems a bit unenthusiastic. To the slightly drunken applause of some of my relatives I dive down to the bottom of the bubbling tub. I immediately disappeared from view. The bubbles were quite fierce so it wasn't much of a spectator sport but I persevered. Things went well for the first 40 seconds or so until I tried to change position and realised that something was holding me firmly to the bottom. I had somehow got myself over a very powerful outflow outlet that had sucked in the string and top of my swimming trunks. I desperately tried to pull myself free but to no avail. I started to panic and tried to raise the alarm by kicking my legs above the water, but it was too deep. I twisted my body but more of my trunks were sucked into the pipe and I was now jammed hard against the bubbling floor.

Contrary to the received wisdom, my life didn't flash before me. I just got fleeting images of what people were going to say when they heard of the manner of my passing. "Cottaging", "hot tub", "drowning" - they wouldn't read the details, just see the headlines and tut, tut, before laughing about it in the pub and telling everyone that they always knew I had a dark side.

How would my old school magazine report it? Would it brush over the details or use me as a stark reminder of the danger of a walk on the wild side? What would my parents think? Would my children be teased mercilessly at school? Would Channel 4 reshow all the episodes of Trigger Happy TV with a continuity announcer desperately trying not to laugh as she announced that this was in my memory? Was I going to become like Rod Hull falling off his roof? Who would write the first email joke? I shall never know because, as I slipped into unconsciousness the pipe finally ripped my trunks off and sucked them whole into its ravenous mouth. I was free and I bobbed to the surface barely conscious. I could dimly hear people clapping and screaming as, I later found out, I'd managed a quite impressive time of three-and-a-half minutes. The screams quickly turned to laughter and then an embarrassed silence as my bare buttocks bobbed up and down in the bubbles.

Apparently my father-in-law pulled me out and I was forced to be sick over the terrace of the decking into the lake. I don't remember much more, I woke up the next morning and everyone was loath to make eye contact with me. I think they think it was some kind of auto-asphyxiation thing.

Only five days to go.

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