A Day of Solemn Jubilation?

Today, I notice, it is 35 years since I was nearly killed by a driver somewhat under the influence.

Ony my way home from school, I’d dropped in to Lewisham Library to borrow a recording of the Berlioz Requiem (Davis/LPO), and a nice biography of the man. I was thinking about this as I got off the Bus. It had been raining heavily all day, and it was now dark. Still thinking about Berlioz, I stepped off the pavement on to a very complex crossing. A car came unexpectedly round the corner and crashed in to me. I had no recollection at the time of what happened next. I believe my spectacles came off and broke the windscreen ahead of my own impact. I do remember hitting the driver hard in the face, before somehow rolling out of the car and off the bonnet. My next firm memory is of sitting in a deep puddle, still clutching my book and gramophone records, and fiddling with a loose front tooth. I was perfectly calm, and was angry at one point with a silly woman who kept insisting I must be deep in shock. It was now that I realised I was bleeding from several places.

The driver then staggered from the wreckage of his car and collapsed on the pavement. When the ambulance arrived, I was still sitting in the puddle and holding my front tooth in place. The driver and I were both taken to hospital. I spent much of the night in Lewisham Hospital, subjected to various x-rays and other tests. I endured these by reading my book and answering questions from policemen – who, in 1977, hadn’t yet become the total pigs of our own day. I was eventually told that nothing was broken, and I was allowed home with my mother.

I woke next morning, unable to move from the bruising that covered most of my body. On the plus side, however, I got an unquestioned fortnight off school without having to play truant; and the gramophone records weren’t damaged. The librarians were even very understanding about the bloodstains all over the book.

Oh, and, though I declined to lay charges, I threatened to sue the driver until his insurance company coughed up something handsome.

To think that the 11th October 1977 might have been my last day on earth – just imagine what we’d all have missed!


  1. What a terrible story.

    Although we are often at daggers drawn, I certainly would not like you to have been killed.

    Still you had the presence of mind to prevent the book or records being damaged.

    And how much in character the book and recording was!

    As a boy it would never have occured to me to borrow cultural things.

  2. Glad you survived Sean.

    I have never been run down but, at age six, I was pushed into a (now long demolished ) salt water swimming pool–a small lido that dated from the 1930s. I was sitting on the side minding my own non-swimmer business and the next thing I knew I was face up in the pool looking up through what seemed to be a long tunnel of the brown pool water, swallowing and breathing large quantities of water while looking up at the smirking, insincerely apologizing face of the arsehole who pushed me in( If I could trace him even today I would go and batter him soundly and then half-drown him in the nearest water available). The only thought in my mind was visual images of characters from the comic “The Beezer”. The characters were from a regular weekly feature, “The Bad Lads” about the misadventures of three bungling criminals. This seemed to go on for minutes, although it obviously couldn’t have and then my feet somehow were under me and I was able to stand up. I am not sure if I was drowning but I have no taste (or skill) for swimming from that day to this.

  3. When I was ten, going home from school, I had to cross the road to the bus stop. I had been indoctrinated to rely on my “older and betters” when crossing the road. A man standing in the middle of the road beckoned me to cross. I stepped into the road, only to be hit by a black funeral car. I remember seeing the car bonnet spinning beneath me.

    I awoke five days later wearing a sort of turban of bandages. I had depressed skull fractures. This episode taught me not to trust my “older and betters…”


  4. When I was nine, I went with my schoolmates to an outdoor swimming pool. At some point, five or six of my schoolmates forced me to the bottom of the pool, and stood on me. I lost consciousness, and awoke to find myself lying on my back being given CPR. I had thought I was going to die.

    As you may easily imagine, I view statements by officials that “waterboarding” is not torture with annoyed disbelief.


    The same year, some lunatic threw a pint of creosote into my face, blinding me for several days… “L’enfer, c’est les autres…”

  5. There is a line from Hudibras:
    “Some have been kicked ’til they can tell whether the shoe be Spainish or neats leather”.
    You seem to have had a hard roe to hoe Tony.

  6. Who was in the wrong? Did you step unavoidably into the car’s path, or did the car miss a signal, speed or in some other way drive recklessly?

    • I wasn’t looking. On the other hand, the driver probably shouldn’t have come round the corner at that speed. Above all, though, he was drunk behind the wheel. Young as I was, I knew I couldn’t lose.

      • A practical frame of mind. When I was knocked down by a motercycle (on a crossing – green man showing and so on), it did not occur to me to threaten legal action – even though my head banged down on the tarmac that it seemed to bouce (“oh that explains everything Paul….”) .

        In fact what I said was the most sterotype English statement “I am terribly sorry – I hope I have not damaged you motorcycle”.

        But I did have a game to GM that night.

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