Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Carpe Diem

I love Squeeze. When I was in the Sixth Form it was an almost constant soundtrack to my life (oh, alright then, along with U2, Peter Gabriel, Led Zep, Talking Heads, Frank Zappa and Fleetwood Mac - what can I say? I was going out with P who was four years older than me and introduced me to a really wide range of music). Anyway, P had Singles 45's and Under, the 1982 Squeeze greatest hits album and we did listen to it a lot - on his Denon (oh how I dreamt of the time I would be able to afford a proper record deck - the guy had separates with an amazing amp!), on scratchy taped version in the car, on my Walkman during private study in the Common Room... blah blah blah...

But I wasn't the only one, either. Although I went to a state comprehensive, there was a boarding house for boys, left over from BEFORE it became a state boys grammar (it was founded in 1559, lots of things in our school were "tradition") The younger boys slept in large dorms in the oldest part of the school, above the Sixth Form Centre, whilst fourth years and above (Yr 9 and beyond in today's terms) lived in large houses (formerly and now reverted to private residences) on the edge of the school campus. A good friend, N, had a top floor study bedroom that he shared with K and during the summer of 1987, a whole load of us would go over at lunchtimes and hang out in his room, listening to Squeeze. Not often, but enough to mean I can close my eyes and return there every time I hear Mussels From The Shell. And don't be following any nasty thoughts here - all very innocent. Girls were allowed, N assured us, provide we all left our shoes at the bottom of the stairs. Heaven knows what the housemaster would have made of 10 pairs of assorted desert boots, espadrilles and baseball boots then...

But I'm digressing again.

During 1987, Squeeze released the album Babylon and On - I still love it, although the vinyl is showing its age now. 20 years ago today I went with P to see them at Aylesbury Civic Hall, a brilliant gig.

I think.

I don't remember much about it to be honest.

On the way home, we decided that we didn't fancy finishing the evening just then, but the centre of town was shut due to the Fair. We knew we didn't have enough time to park at his and walk back before last orders, so we decided to bypass the town and go on to a pub in the next village.

Now the turn for Moreton is on a bend on a stretch of road that is notorious. P drove a black Mini 1275 GT, his pride and joy and as he slowed down to turn left, a Ford Cortina came round the bend towards us. He hit the bend too fast and time slowed as the back end swung round, hit the front of the mini at an angle (imagine a line from driver's headlight to gear stick) and then his petrol tank exploded. I had pulled my legs up to assume a kind of crash position and the stereo (neatly placed in the space where the passenger glove box would be) made a tiny hole in the knee of my jeans, and the biggest bruises under my kneecaps that I've ever experienced. I was out of the car and in the ditch before I had really made sense of everything, but I then realised that P was still in the car. I dashed back and got him out - he had been unconscious briefly when his face hit the steering wheel (poor guy looked like a cross between a panda and a tapier for a couple of weeks) but he was able to work with me to get out. The engine came in and lacerated his legs nicely. Since one of the passengers in the other car was injured worse than P we went in an ambulance with the driver of the other car. Nice one. Turned out he'd been drinking - they'd been to a darts match or something.
The Mini didn't end up at this angle, it was only about 45 degrees off the original path, but I guess the Fire Brigade moved it to the side to clear the carriage way.

Friday night in A&E is certainly an eye-opener. I still remember the couple in full rock and roll gear who'd obviously been in a fight - or maybe it was just him, with another Teddy Boy. I couldn't make sense of her screaming much. Another girl from our town came in having slit her wrists, so unsurprisingly, she jumped us in the queue. I finally got someone to see P when he kept asking for a nice cup of tea and then slid elegantly out of his wheelchair, out for the count. I'd never shouted at an adult before that night. Still don't, really, but it felt good for a brief moment.

And, as usual with a Nic story (and this is God's honest truth), there has to be a small moment of ritual humiliation.

When I was finally called in at about 4 o'clock in the morning (P was no longer in A&E), I was asked by the nurse to drop my jeans ready for the examination and told to sit and wait for the doctor. He walked in a few minutes later, looked me up and down and, quick as a wink, asked "And what do you do for an encore?"


And if that night taught P and I anything, it was indeed to seize the day. Teaching may occasionally knock the stuffing out of me so I can't practise what I preach, but although my number was obviously not up that night 20 years ago, it taught me that it could be, and that I should never put anything off too long.

So I jumped out of a plane at 2500 feet the following weekend, but that's another story...


Lou said...

How shocking! There is not much I can say to that except it is a good lesson in life. Seize the day and live it as though it is your last. That way, life will always be fun! I'm just pleased that you survived it all!!

Anonymous said...

Seize the day indeed! I've got a seize the day story myself though not quite as exciting as yours.


Stomper Girl said...

What a scary experience including the smart alec doctor. Like you needed that after what you'd bee through!