Budget travel brings an unavoidable level of intimacy. Oversharing in extremis. De-briefings requested and given after each visit to the toilet.
Age 22, I wrote a letter to my future self. In a moment of transcendent clarity, I committed my thoughts to paper so I could look back and remember that feeling. It was as if I’d been driving through a dimly lit, noisy tunnel. Coming out of the other side into silence. Sunlight. Sweet relief.
I’m naked. Well, almost. I’m wearing only a fig leaf. That’s the way it feels sometimes, writing this blog. Looking at my comfort zone through the rear view mirror. I enjoy it. But It’s exposing.
Standing outside the train station on London Road, I looked across at the skyline of Leicester. ‘Whatever happens, I’m not coming to this shit-hole’, I thought.
As I turned the corner I came nose-to-nose with a decapitated camel.
You’re unaware your arm is resting up against a boiling kettle. The skin is burning but you can’t feel it. When and how do you realise? When you smell your skin crisping up like pork crackling?
It’s a Sunday evening in January 2011. I’m sitting with 6 strangers in a house in Paddington. There’s an uneasy silence. We’re waiting to get started.
My tour of the English Language Teaching Centre was interrupted by an old lady who seemed to know everyone.
We ‘upgraded’ to the suburbs when I was 7 years old. The school I left behind was an austere Victorian building with separate entrances for boys and girls.
When I woke I touched the side of my head gently. Dried blood. The pain was intense. Like a visit by the mother of all hangovers.
It felt like my eyeballs had swollen to the size of cricket balls, being pushed out of their sockets from the inside.
I vomited in the bathroom sink before leaving for school. The accident had forced me to drop back a year. Today I joined the new sixth-formers as they began their A levels.
The impact of the collision with the car may have damaged my kidneys. Doctors were concerned about blood in my urine.
Wearing only a paper gown tied at the back, I climbed onto the cold radiography table. I rolled onto my side into the foetal position as instructed.
‘Must feel good to be going home?’ The ambulance driver chatted cheerfully as he wheeled me out through the sliding doors of the hospital.
A man with the demeanour (and the tape measure) of an undertaker appeared at my bedside.
I learned the identity of the driver while still in the hospital. A 19-year-old former pupil of my school.
I was part-way through my secondary school exams (O Levels). The culmination of 2 years of study. These exams would determine my future academic and employment prospects. That was all gone.
The femur (thigh bone) is the largest bone in the human body. It takes 3 months for a broken femur shaft to repair itself. So, regardless of my other injuries, I’d spend 3 months in a hospital bed.
After a week in hospital I was moved from a private room to one shared with another patient. A young motorcyclist, recently admitted. He was in pain, groaning constantly.