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Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Rubber Ball

Another great game of squash today! "63 beats 69": that's not the score it's our ages. We've been playing each other since 1974. For about 15 years he beat me, for the past 21 years I've tended to get the better of him.

Over the years we've played at about 6 different venues. Some good, some lousy. Amazingly there have been very few accidents. A couple on court.

A few years back I found his squash racquet in my face and the lens of my glasses in my eye. I was winning at the time; but we adjourned the game so I could be rushed to casualty to have the glass removed. Amazingly, no major damage. "But the lenses were made of safety glass" I explained. "Clearly not", was the doc's reply. I subsequently discovered that my day to day glasses had the safety glass in. I skipped a day at the office. My absence sheet recorded "Sports injury to eye".

The worst injury was not on court, but in the showers. I slipped on the floor and fell backwards hitting the back of my head on the sharp tiled edge of the shower. I was ok, until I put my underpants to my head - I know pretty naff but that's all I could lay my hands on. They were soaked in blood in a jiffy.

I screamed "I'm dying!" I thought I was. I had visions of my brain exposed to the air and blood spurting all over the shower room "Phone 999, get a doctor!!" My poor playing partner - he didn't have a mobile so he rushed out of the changing room and collared the first guy he could. He phoned the emergency services and an ambulance was dispatched.

The stranger had also taken charge of my panicking. "Head wounds aways look worse than they are." He reassured me. "Yeah, try telling Charles the First that", I thought but did not say. "Lots of blood in the scalp - you've just ripped a bit of your scalp off." At that point I think I swooned - images of white man's scalps tied to Red Indian belts and dancing round totem poles filled my mind.

The ambulance arrived about 30 minutes later - I could have bled to death! Which would have been rather ironic since University College  London (UCL) hospital in Gower Street was less than 10 minutes walking distance from the courts. Off we rushed, me, my scalp and my squash partner; after profuse thanks to the stranger with the mobile. I was wheeled into casualty, checked in by a triage nurse and placed in a queue.

This was about 9 pm on a Tuesday. A normal working day; yet casualty looked like a war zone. Broken noses, split lips, pieces of metal sticking out in all directions from all parts of the human body. London's Hell but someone has to work there!

I quickly realised that I was not in too bad a shape - especially as I was still alive and the bleeding had stopped. I resented that, I thought that if I had continued to haemorrhage as I had imagined I would have been seen at once. Also I wouldn't have felt so guilty about using up the valuable and limited  resources of our beloved heath service needlessly, with what I now imagined was a minor scratch.

At 11 pm I was seen by  a doctor, who tutted and sucked his teeth as he examined my torn scalp. You know the scene in Alien when Ash is fiddling with the dead creature and he  flips its flap over and over. That's what the doc was doing to my loose flap of scalp. After what I thought was an overly rough washing out the blood from my matted hair he gleefully picked a viciously curved needle with which, once threaded, he began practising his patchwork quilting on my bonce. 

Then it was over. With instructions to visit my local doctor to have the stiches removed in a week or so, we said a fond farewell to UCL hospital and the growing queue of disasters, hailed a cab and wended our way home. My wife having been forewarned had dug out my will and booked the funeral directors.

I didn't go to work the next day: but staggered in a couple of days later; shrugging off concern that I might have returned too early. What a hero!

After a suitable interval I returned to the squash court. And, except for one or two biffs and bumps have managed to avoid bat and ball quite successfully.

Not sure how much longer we can summon up the will and stiffen the sinews sufficiently to continue running, albeit at a snail's pace, to return the ball. But we soldier on.

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