For some, breaking wind is amusing, for others, embarrassing, but for Lorraine Gilbert it has changed her life beyond all recognition. A tale so improbable even the National Enquirer might reject it, started innocently enough as a girls’ night out in Brick Lane in the East End of London.
“We were just looking for a curry place,” explains Lorraine, an unremarkable-looking, plumpish woman in her forties, wearing walking boots, jeans and a Garfield t-shirt. “There was this young lad outside one place, Taste of India, he called out to us, said how pretty we were. Told me I had the most beautiful eyes in the world. The usual rubbish, but he was very charming and cute and we were a bit drunk so we just went in. All those curry places are the same, anyway.”
Not this one. As Lorraine dithered over the menu, the young man offered a suggestion. “For special lady, a special dish,” Lorraine recalls. “I recommend very fine choice, ‘ontra duck nar madras’ or something, not on menu, perfect for the lady.” Lorraine was convinced and he brought it over personally.
“Best thing I’ve ever eaten in my life,” Lorraine declares. What was it? “I don’t really know, to be honest. Could have been duck, but I can’t be sure.”
As Lorraine was wiping up the last of the sauce an altercation broke out and the young man ran out from the kitchen pursued by waiters and kitchen staff. Pausing only to flash Lorraine a wide smile, he was chased out of the door and up the street.
The manager apologised repeatedly to Lorraine, wringing his hands in contrition and offering them the meal on the house. Bemused but grateful, Lorraine and her friends left and went their separate ways, Lorraine heading home on the tube.
“To be blunt, I needed to fart.” Lorraine relates. “But the carriage was packed so I just let out a little one. Before I knew it, I was in the next carriage.”
This was no case of jet propulsion. Lorraine was literally teleported across carriages. Looking back she could see the empty seat she had left behind. No one seemed to have noticed and Lorraine, after some drunken thought, put it down to too much Cobra beer.
But no amount of Cobra could explain what happened next. She walked back from the tube station, still full, still suffering from severe trapped wind.
“I was busting,” Lorraine says, “and there was no one around, so I just let rip with this massive one, really loud.”
Later that night, her sister Sandra was woken up by a call from an hysterical Lorraine, telling her “I’m in Japan, I don’t know how to get home.”
This was just the start of her adventures which have taken in all five continents and many hair-raising adventures, documented in Lorraine’s book, Korma Blimey – The Curry of Fate. Now a scientific phenomenon, Lorraine has left her job at the local supermarket and is a full-time research subject at The Institute of Physics in London. It can be a lengthy process, as she explains.
“Thing is, they want me to fart, right? So they can monitor what’s going on. So I’m hooked up to all these machines and the doctors ask me to go for it, so I let rip and bang, I’m in Dubai, or Nigeria, or anywhere really. And it could take me weeks to get back.”
Her unpredictable life has meant taking some precautions. “Well, I’ve had to be careful with my diet, obviously. Cutting out cabbage, beans, you know; the usual suspects. But I can’t live my whole life without farting, so I always have my passport, and a jumper in case I end up somewhere cold, water in case of somewhere hot. I can have problems getting out of countries sometimes when they ask how I got in without getting my passport stamped but generally I’ve pretty much got it down to a fine art.”
Things don’t always go smoothly though. “One time, near the beginning, I turned up on the tracks in front of a train. To be honest though, farting was a natural reaction in the circumstances so I was gone again before I knew what had happened.
“I end up in the sea a lot,” she continues, “so I’ve got quite good at swimming. A near miss with a shark, that was a bit hairy. But more often than not I end up in the middle of nowhere and have to walk.”
Trips to the toilet are fraught with uncertainty. “Yeah, the bog’s tricky. It’s where most people do fart, isn’t it? I’ve turned up at strangers’ dinner parties with my trousers round my ankles. At a funeral once. That was a bit awkward. People are very understanding though. Now, more people know, I’ve been asked for my autograph a couple of times, which is quite nice.”
Over time, Lorraine has even gained an element of control. “I’m starting to get good at it. I’ve got to be facing in the right direction and let go one at the right strength and I can get pretty close over short distances. Just the pub, the shops, my mum’s, nothing fancy.
“It’s not so bad,” she concludes. “Life's more interesting now. I’ve met loads of new friends. People are so helpful, once you can get them to understand you need help to get home. Language doesn’t have to be a barrier. I’ve had some brilliant times. Beats working in Tesco.”
And with that, she’s gone. Through the door.