Thursday, 21 October 2010

Times I Should Have Died. Part 1

Looking back on my youth, it has often occurred to me that I was incredibly fortunate to reach adulthood.  I can list countless times where I have been close to death and only survived through sheer dumb luck and a very flexible skeletal structure.

Being a typical young lad growing up in the mountain and fields of South Wales, it provides you with an almost limitless playground on which to grow, learn and cut your head open in a million different ways. 

All of the situations that follow are merely a taste of my dance with death down the years.  This is the first part in a 27 part series that shall look at the reapers failed attempts to claim my soul.

We open up on a young me, just 5 years old.  I am standing with my father on the side of a busy road on a sunny Saturday afternoon as we wait for my mother to return from the store on the other side of the road with the shopping.

My mother appears from the store and waits for the traffic to clear so she can cross and join us.  At this point neither my mother or father have any idea what they are about to witness.

From across the road I see a familiar figure….

She sees me and waves hello.  Unknowingly unleashing the first in a long line of horrific attempts on my life by the universe. 

I mistake her waves of greating as waves of beckoning.  A mistake that i'm sure we have all made at some point. Freeing myself for the shackles of my father I run at full speed into the oncoming traffic.  My mother had called me and I didn't intend to let her down.

I then played the most serious and final game of Frogger ever undertaken by man and ran through the quickly moving traffic with nary a log in sight.  My epic froggering ability is still talked about during family gathering, which is ironic considering that I was only ever given a Space Invaders console as a child.

Being a helpful and respectful child, I was often happy to do the vacuuming for my parents.  Partly because I liked a clean house, but also because I could make racing car noises with the vacuum cleaner engine.

Back in the 80s we used an old Hoover that had been patched together and fixed up more times than I care to remember.  This particular Hoover was held together by lots sticky tape and no small amount of “hope”. 

Racing around the living room, pretending that my Hoover was taking a hair-pin bend at Le-Mans, I may have slightly over exerted the machines capabilities.  It is slightly difficult for a child of 8 to figure out that a racing car and vacuum cleaner do not really behave in the same manner, so when the engine cut out with just 3 laps to go, I trundled into the pits to try and figure out what went wrong.

Playing the part of “Bert” the old, but wise mechanic, I was able to ascertain that a tear in the Hoover’s power line had stopped me winning the race.  Or to put it in layman’s terms, the sticky tape holding the electric cable together had pulled apart.

Eager to get back into the race as soon as possible I picked up the live, sheared wire and peered down into the sparkling wattage of death!  How exactly could I reattach this back to the Hoover and continue my race?  Thankfully my amateur repairs were halted when my mother walked into the living room and saw that I was about to put a thousands volts through my body and turned it off at the mains.  

Two things died that day, my love of cleaning anything and ol' Bert (he had AIDS).  However I still maintain that I was cheated out of my epic race victory.  So close! 

During one of my many trips out with my childhood chums, we cycled to the charming town of Llanwonno via Blaenllechau.  This doesn’t really have any baring on the story, but I just like the idea of non Welsh people trying to pronounce those names. 

Upon arriving we set-up camp on top of a hill, next to the river.  Relaxing and taking in the mountain air, to our delight we found that someone had attached a rope swing to a tree on top of the hill. 

Yes, there was quite a big drop on the other side of the hill, but providing you were not some kind of crazy idiot, the dangers were quite minimal.  However a series of events conspired during my turn on the swing that I have yet to fully explain to this day.

I started my swing outwards.  It was a thing of beauty.  I had taken quite a run up in order to achieve maximum height and speed on my swing.  My technique and form were flawless.  I was an angel in flight, swinging outwards with all the skill and finese of a child abandoned in the jungle and raised by monkeys.   

This is where things get a little hazy.  So thrilled and amazed by my own swinging ability I did something that still refuses to make sense even today.  I let go of the rope….

I felt such freedom and exhilaration that my young mind was unable to properly process all of the emotions that I felt for that split seconds.  I honestly believe that at that point I had become convinced that I had either entered into a perfect state of Zen or had somehow gained access to some hidden mutant super power that had unlocked my ability for human flight.  I stood motionless in mid-air.  All around me the world stopped beating, my mind raced with questions.  What would my superhero name be? (It was “The Scarlet Dragon” by the way) Would scientists hunt me in order to gain the secrets of my superhuman ability for flight?  Do I have any other powers?

I looked down on the earth below and laughed.  Gravity would no longer have dominion over me.  For I was The Scarlet Dragon and I was a GOD!

Then something unexpected happened.  I started to fall…

And fall I did.  I crashed down some 20 feet onto jagged rocks and earth head first.  Perhaps I did gain access to a superpower that day.  The superpower of realising that people can't fly!

The Scarlet Dragon died that day, but sometimes when I’m walking down the stairs or jumping off something, I can still feel within me the power to defy gravity and soar with the birds!  But the thought of being in a wheel chair for the rest of my life sadly prevents me from testing this theory again…


  1. I too once fell from a rope swing when I was 8 years old, but not because I believed I had superhuman powers but because a bigger and older boy thought it would be funny to jump on and create what was known as "the taxi". Being approximately 10 stone lighter than this evil person it wasn't long before I found myself lying in the brook - a little bit like E.T. in the film ,but not nearly as sad. I ran all the way home with a limp arm and sobbing hysterically! Being of the "aries" persausion, mishaps and accidents were and still are common place with me - I am sure I could outdo you on the "cheating death" stories by the way - however my mother and father were still alarmed to see me in such a state, my arm just dangling there and my damp lilac home knitted jumper which was suddenly 5 sizes too big for me. But no, that was not the end of my agony. My mother, being the houseproud, everything's just got to be perfect sort of person spent 10 minutes arguing with my father that they just couldn't possibly take me to casualty in such a state - I was still standing there with my arm dangling around my ankles in a very unnatural way and big bubbles of snot protruding from my nose where I was still crying my eyes out in pain while they slogged it out. Before I knew it I was being yanked out of this lilac monstrosity, which, as it was made from wool, the sleeve just kept getting longer and longer, and I was screaming louder and louder and my father was shouting "for God's sake Pam, you're hurting the poor bloody girl" until eventually I was free - only for her to inflict yet more pain and discomfort as she stuffed me into a more "acceptable" mode of attire for the A&E Department where the Doctors and Nurses don't give a feck at what you're wearing by the way, MAM! Funnily enough I don't remember much more after that, probably because I had passed out through sheet pain and exhaustion! That trip to casualty was one of many during my childhood - perhaps I should share them in my own blog?!!

  2. Actually, that should've read "sheer" pain and exhaution - not sheet - I have nothing against bed linen!

  3. Haha. Looks like cheating death on the rope swing is a rights of passage. I got plenty of other death stories, but i'm going to roll them out every couple of weeks as I didn't want to over populate the topic with the same stories over and over again.

    That sounds like typical parents, must be a Valleys thing.

  4. I fell down a cliff once.

    It hurt.

  5. I remember that. It was very funny though.