I was born during the Second World War. My mother was not married and hid her pregnancy, so I had no pre-natal attention. I had an operation soon after birth, probably for the condition known as pyloric stenosis. The story goes that I spent some time by the fire wrapped up in a shoe box. I was fortunate to survive. I also spent some considerable time in Bretby Hospital with rickets, a not uncommon condition where good diets are not easily available.
I had a happy childhood in the main and, being small of stature competed with 'the big boys' enthusiastically. So much so that I had broken bones on five separate occasions. The usual 'boyish' fun, often foolish and occasionally dangerous was the 'norm'. It was not clever to put pennies on the railway line but it was the river that came nearest to ending it all. We 'swam' in the River Derwent at Spondon in Derbyshire, the water being warm caused by the discharge from a local power station. Correction, the 'big boys' swam. I was a non swimmer at the time and amused myself by climbing alone along branches of overhanging trees and fetching out, with the aid of a long stick, dead fish killed by the warm water. Until the inevitable happened, and, with my usual enthusiasm for any task, I overbalanced and fell into around ten feet of water. I had moved away from the swimming group and was, pardon the pun, in deep trouble. Fortunately my predicament was eventually spotted (I was certainly not struggling in silence) and I was unceremoniously hauled out. I spent the next half hour, naked, in full view of passing trains as I patiently waited for my clothes to dry. Not too long afterwards I learnt to swim in the local canal. A filthy experience in the year that polio was rife and canals were suspected of being one source of the infection.
As a nineteen year old I had a very serious motor cycle accident. I can remember to this day lying under a lorry and wanting only to get the hell out of there, my teenage pride being hurt by my inexpert riding. Mind you, it was not the only thing hurt and I was hospitalised for some considerable time.
In my life I have survived skin cancer, septacemia, two TGA's and my diabetes is a minor irritation. So, might you ask, what's brought all this retrospective thinking to the surface.
Early this week my wife and I travelled south to fetch a magnificent Ind Coope Brewery exterior light from an address in Surrey. A trip down the M1 and M25, the latter particularly horrendous. The traffic was diabolical, road surfaces horrendous, congestion out of this world. A two day 'thrash' taking in Esher, Windsor, Hampton Court, Kingston. Some nice places but ye gods, mankind was surely not put on this earth for such pressurised living.
I stayed with friends at Welwyn Garden City on the way home. A pleasant experience that meant a detour across country to join the M1. I had an uneasy feeling that all was not right. The road surfaces were improved yet the feeling prevailed that something was amiss. I needed fuel so I pulled into a petrol station. And out of curiosity I asked my wife to check the wheel nuts. (The van was recently serviced.) Problem solved, three wheel nuts were less than finger tight, others were far short of safely tightened. At any stage one or more wheels could have come off. Such a happening, particularly at speed on crowded motorways does not bear thinking about. I have no doubt we would not have made it home intact from the point where we so luckily became aware of our predicament. (Thanks to the young man in the small truck who tightened the nuts and saved the day.) Which begs the question, one of my favourites, 'What's it all about, Alfie.'
Do you remember the 1956 film, 'Someone Up There Likes Me' starring Paul Newman. My religious friends insist there is a god, presumably up in the sky who watches over all of us, all of the time. Amazing, so what happens when millions starve in times of famine. Killing poor little devils who don't deserve to die; don't get me started. Some believe in fate. Was it fate, then, that kept the nuts on. Will it be fate next time if the nuts come off. The older I get, the less I know. All I know is, boy, that was another near miss. I've stopped shaking and, thanks to whoever or whatever, I'm still here. Hopefully with a lot more living to experience.