When you find yourself strapped to a trolley in the back of an ambulance, it’s important to remember that, despite appearances to the contrary, things are looking up. Yes, you’re in a bit of a pickle, but at least whatever put you in the ambulance in the first place has stopped happening, and this represents a considerable improvement in fortunes. In my case, what put me in an ambulance was unexpectedly plummeting through the windscreen of a taxi as the driver was ‘texting’ (we can assume this means checking Tinder) while cycling round an otherwise unremarkable East Anglian roundabout a couple of Sunday evenings ago. I then bounced back out, and bounced along the road for a while before coming to a halt in a surprised heap, having bounced through a red light, something I would never do on the bike but appeared to have done as an airborne pedestrian. Satisfied that I had come to a standstill, I rolled onto my back, and everything stopped. The world is never as still as at moments like these. It is looking at you, waiting to see what will happen next. I was quite curious myself.
What happened next was that the cabbie, who had a name badge informing me that his name was Andrew, asked if I was alright, and in return I asked if he was ‘fucking blind’, both reasonable questions under the circumstances. My right leg was the only limb in working order, and using this to lever myself to the side of the road, I made further enquiries as to ‘What kind of fucking ISIS bullshit was that?’ and ‘Where’s your fucking van, you fucking terrorist?’, because I had discovered that adrenaline and indignation make you quite gobby. His passengers were also remonstrating with him along the same lines, and as they called sundry emergency services my guardian Rastafarian appeared. A long time ago in a London borough far far away en route to Greenwich Market, I slid off my bike on Peckham High Road, and was helped up, dusted off and jollied along by two passing Rastas. Rural Norfolk, however, is an unlikely place to chant down Babylon, and my baffled state was further enhanced when, at this latest moment of peril, a bona fide follower of Haile Selassi appeared from a passing car, asking me which football team I supported by way of determining possible head injuries.
‘West Ham’ I said.
‘Dey shit man. Try again’ he replied.
‘It’s that fucking stadium’, I protested through clenched teeth, because various parts of me were starting to sting a bit, ‘should’ve let Spurs have it. No use to us. Then you let Tomkins and O’Brien leave and unsettle the defence too close to the start of the season, then there’s that wanker Payet to deal with. Shove all that in a stadium with no atmosphere, change the club crest and what do you think’s going to happen?’
‘Is that why they’ve been shit for a hundred years, then? Could they see it coming or something?’ he said, and our conversation went back and forth in this manner for several minutes. He was an Arsenal fan, and by way of a riposte I mentioned that when you have a West Ham fan and an Arsenal fan in the same place, it’s usually the Arsenal fan that’s lying on the floor, severely injured. By now, Andrew the cabbie was being arrested and I was being placed in a neck and spine brace by an ambulance driver who looked like Jeremy Corbyn, adding to the overall surreal nature of the evening. This caused me to think that perhaps a middle-class ambulance had picked me up by mistake, and I prepared myself for quite a long discussion about, probably, Brexit. These fears increased when, on the way to the Norwich and Norfolk University Hospital, the first question asked by the ambulance lady was if I had any food allergies. My experience with glampers at Runton tells me that there are a lot of things middle class people can’t eat – nuts, gluten, meat, dairy, fish, stuff from Israel etc – as they seem to be something of an evolutionary dead end, which also explains why they don’t really breed. Upon reflection, I think this was the moment I realised I was going to be in hospital for some time, so I just said that while I have no allergies as such, I don’t like tapas because it is annoying and there is never enough of anything. Attempting to wrestle the conversation back to that evening’s headline news, I asked if I was badly hurt. The ambulance lady said that if I was a cat, I’d certainly have lost one of my nine lives. I pointed out that if I was a cat I wouldn’t have been riding a bike in the first place, and she admitted I had a point.
‘I live in the countryside,’ I said, ‘if I’m injured, they’ll shoot me’.
‘Well,’ she said, ‘the good news is that the crunching sound you can hear is not your bones. It’s all the glass in your shirt and hair. That said, if I was to hazard a guess, I’d say you’ve broken several ribs and your left shoulder, hip and possibly knee.’
‘And if you were to hazard a lie?’ I replied.
‘I’d say you were right as rain,’ she smiled.
‘Well that’s good news, then’ I said, and fainted.
This was a long post, so I have split it in half. Well, I say that, but I haven’t written the other half yet, so there is no way of knowing exactly how long it will eventually be. When I started this blog, I wanted to post every Monday and Thursday, in keeping with the traditional broadcast days of Blue Peter, and while it is plain to all that this has gone by the wayside somewhat, I’ll try and put the other half up on Thursday evening, and stick to the format henceforth.
Top – The Iron Lady, not the bike I was riding when I was mown down. I use this for charging about the countryside. These days it has khaki panniers, and is covered in mud, straw, and animal droppings.
Inset middle – a VW Passat, similar to the one that hit me, although this one still has a windscreen of course.
Inset lower – Norwich and Norfolk University Hospital, unrecognisable without the crowds of people smoking in the entrance.