When regaining consciousness in a hospital bed, it is customary to sit up, blink a few times, and say ‘Where am I?’, but this is a redundant question. You’re in a room full of nurses and medical equipment. It’s not like you’ve wandered in to Carpet Right, is it. With this in mind, my first question to a ward sister after waking in similar circumstances recently was a pragmatic ‘Is this a good hospital?’, quickly adding that I didn’t wish to seem ungrateful or anything. She replied that she hoped so, as I’d had a good accident, which was a decent response. By way of an encore, she treated me to a rundown of my injuries, featuring a more liberal use of the words ‘cracked’ ‘lacerated’ ‘detached’ and ‘dislocated’ than I would otherwise choose in a report about my physical well being, and phrases such as ‘potential nerve and organ damage’ which didn’t seem like much of a giggle either.
It’s also customary under such circumstances to pay tribute to NHS workers. I’m sure they were performing acts of selfless heroism somewhere thereabouts, but keeping up to date with my National Market Traders’ Federation insurance for all these years meant I was in a private room in a private ward, and didn’t see any of it. People would wander in and check things and look at stuff now and again, and visitors would come and go. I spent my time having morphine mainlined into me and watching classic war films, which backfired somewhat when the theme tune to Where Eagles Dare gave me the fear for about three hours. The film itself is enjoyable if cartoonish, and Richard Burton is at his finest in it, but blasting the theme tune through your Skullcandy Smokin’ Buds in a silent hospital in an opiate haze is not something I would recommend, because it is the sound of every paranoid thought you have ever had marching up the corridor to get you. Two minutes in and I even became suspicious of a pot plant my old dear had bought me – a Princess Diana clematis, deemed appropriate because ‘she was also in a car crash’ – and thought the Gestapo might be hiding in it.
As it turned out, they weren’t. However, I was all but screaming by the time the opening credits had finished, at which point a consultant popped in for a quick hello-how-are-you. On his part, this was conducted in the lovely chuckle-y Norfolk accent usually confined to the more rural parts of the county – ‘Yer shoulder tendenz – thass all gorn, look hee hee, none of that bodypoppin’ fer yew haha, new charnce boi, kill yew that wud hee hee might as well put a gun to yer ‘ead and pull the triggar ha ha’ etc – which made me think that perhaps his main job was hiring out wherries on the Broads. At various points he produced x-rays with a hearty commentary about how close to permanent injury I had come, delivered in a back slapping ‘and then I said’ manner – ‘See that thar? Thass yer spinal cord see, ha ha. Millimetre to the left an’ you’d have no feelin’ in yer legs fer the rest o’ yer life look boi hee hee!’, and so forth. It was not an appropriate tone to use with someone convinced that his mother has been hiding Nazis in a pot plant, but his joyous countenance revived my spirits no end, and I was glad of it. In his estimation, I had missed ‘four different fatal injuries ha ha!’ but by some miracle had sustained no significant long term damage. In fact, the only issues were a cracked ribs, extensive lacerations, some spectacular bruising, damage to the coracoacromial ligament and supraspinatus, and torn adductor muscles in my left thigh. All this meant that for two weeks I could hardly walk, my arms flopping about uselessly like those on the mighty Dinosaurus Rex, but with bed rest and codeine everything would get better. I had lost track of time what with all the drugs and sleeping, but knew it was the Fourth of July when he delivered this happy news because Instagram was full of drunk American white girls in stars and stripes bikinis waving guns about, in the kind of independence celebration that presumably made Scotland think better of the idea.
That, then, was my road traffic horror smash. It was a narrow escape, but an escape nonetheless. Writing this eighteen days later, I am more chipper by the hour, and able to dress and undress myself unaided, to the relief of all concerned. I am reluctant to refer to the whole episode as an accident, because to do so implies that it was unavoidable, when it wasn’t – Andrew the taxi driver was looking at his phone while accelerating onto a roundabout at forty miles an hour, and didn’t see me until I surprised us both by hurtling towards him in mid air. It was entirely avoidable. If he was indeed looking at his Tinder matches, as I suspect was the case, I hope he was swiping whichever way signifies interest, because if a relationship comes of it, he and his partner will have an amusing anecdote about how they met the night a Cockney came through the windscreen to tell their grandchildren. Who knows – they might make a thing of it and run me over every year on their anniversary. Then again, if the criminal negligence charges being brought against him by the old bill stick, he’ll miss the first few of them, what with being in prison and everything, but still.
I was officially discharged by the ward sister five days after admittance, nodding my way through the standard ‘take these twice a day and this with meals and don’t get run over by any more taxis’ advice, before being wheeled towards the car park, where ‘Anton’ was waiting to take me home.
‘There’s also this’ she said, holding up the whiteboard on the end of my bed as I was about to leave. This usually displays information such as name, date of birth, and blood group, but instead had ‘Very Small Penis’ written across it. ‘Anton’ had done this a couple of days previously while I was asleep, he proudly informed me over homecoming fish and chips later that evening.
‘I’m here for a transplant’ I said.
‘I wish you well with it’, said the ward sister, ‘I’m the one who cut you out of your clothes when you came in’.
Main – Never mind your expressos and cappachinoids – Gold Blend is the best coffee. Ask for it by name next time you’re in Costa, raising your voice and demanding to see the manager if necessary. Goes nicely with co-dydramol, I have discovered. Note Battle of Hastings 950th anniversary commemorative mug in the background. I am absolutely the kind of person that pre-orders that sort of thing so they have it ready on the day.
Inset upper – Promotional material for Where Eagles Dare. The text alone would have had me bewildered and weeping during my hospital stay.
Inset lower – Pints of snakebite with gin and tonic chasers, through a straw. More fun than co-dydramol, let me tell you.