Tuesday, 10 March 2009


How many of you can say with certainty what you were doing on a given day ten years ago? Twenty years? Thirty or forty years, or even fifty?
On Tuesday the 10th March, 1959 the Tibetan people rose up against the Chinese invasion of their country in what was to become known as the Lhasa Uprising. On this same day I had an altercation with a builder's lorry whilst hurrying to work on my 197cc Francis Barnett motorbike. The lorry won comfortably.
The young lady on the back of my bike was mercifully thrown clear. Myself and the bike finished up underneath the lorry. After the impact, as the steam settled I vividly remember looking up at the lorry underside, too close to the hot exhaust for comfort. Actually comfort is completely the wrong word. I was pinned under the bike and I distinctly remember holding my breath in the mistaken belief that if I breathed it would be my last. I had passed so far under the lorry (from sideways on) that the wheels passed over the edge of my helmet. Was it luck, providence that I survived, you tell me. A posse of men were summoned, they lifted the lorry (who needs Superman, the British public are wonderful when they need to be) and I was pulled clear.
My passenger received a serious laceration but fortunately nothing more. There seemed no lack of volunteers to examine her legs. I had a badly broken leg and ankle and less serious, as far as I knew, head injuries. (Who knows for certain whether they were accountable for some of my 'actions' over the past fifty years.) I remember some fool of a woman's audible comment 'Ooh, look at his face.' Consequently I refused to remove my arm from covering my face until I arrived at a hospital. Silly woman! The main feeling I remember is of acute embarrassment at the whole affair. I would have left the scene had I been remotely able. All in all not a day easily forgotten. The ride to hospital was uncomfortable in the extreme, a trip in the back of the lorry would have been less bumpy. But my surgery and treatment in three hospitals, brilliant. Hurray for the NHS.
Prior to this accident I fell off the bike or had near misses on several occasions. I was also in the habit of taking with me to work on occasion a young lad from Borrowash who, slightly younger than myself was also besotted with motorcycles. Being underage to own a motorbike, he could not wait to own a bike of his own, which he duly purchased on achieving the statuatory age for owning a motorcycle, that age being sixteen. Within weeks he was dead, killed instantly on colliding with a stationary lorry less than three miles from where I met my Waterloo. My interlectual capacity was even less then that it is now, but I could not help but wonder, why him and not me. Six months later, patched up, I returned to work. Not the job I had been employed in previously. March 10th, 1959 was one of the life defining days of my life.
As I sit at my computer all these years on my rebuilt appendage twinges in sympathy. I still have the helmet plus the marks made by the lorry tyres. Alas, I no longer have my youth. Stupid, wanton, foolish youth. so enjoyable, so unpredictable. But at least I'm still here, just! Have you swanned smoothly through the ages. Or have you had a life defining moment in your life that decided for you the path your life would take. Think about it and, whatever your beliefs, say a silent prayer.


A Woman Of No Importance said...

You survived, and kept the helmet as a souvenir - Fabulous! Having my son was a life-changing event for me, and now he is 17 I am beginning to get bits of my old self back again, and it's been a strange, old journey really...

My op recently, during which I believed I would depart (I know, silly!), was life-affirming... Things have been a little different since - I appreciate life a little more.

Marian Dean said...

Thank goodness you survived to tell the tale, otherwise no Grumpy Old Ken blog.
Shame about the other young lad though. I have always maintained they are very dangerous things these motorbikes, but I do see the attraction for their ability to exhilarate the dare-devils.
My nephew was killed at the age of 34, leaving a wife and young daughter. He was potty about cars and motorbikes and racing in general.
Love Granny

J.J said...

That's a hell of a story Ken.

Actually I have just realised that I was in hospital on the 10th March 1959 too, although my memories of it are not as clear as yours - they didn't let new born babies go home for two weeks in those days.

Anonymous said...

Have just discovered, and enjoyed your blog,


Anonymous said...

Just discovered, and enjoyed your blog,


Nota Bene said...

What a good read (and not just because you both survived!)

Am glad to report that on 10th March 1959 I was not even a twinkle in my parents eyes!

Kitty said...

Great story! I'm afraid on the day in question I was not yet born. My parents were not yet married, though they had met.

I think like so many women, my life defining moment was when I became a mother for the first time. It changes everything.


Daphne said...

My life-defining moment was losing my first baby, born prematurely, at the age of three weeks. It changed me for ever, I think, even though I had another healthy baby a few years later - now grown up. I'm glad you got out from under that lorry!

Linda said...

I agree with Granny. Motorbikes are dangerous things. My hubby used to have one and came off it a total of 13 times. On one occasion he too was pinned under it when he went into a skid on an icy night. Unfortunately, as it was late at night he had to wait for quite some time for a passer-by to spot him and lift it off him. He'd broke his ankle!
The dare devil in him says, "oh, it's ok once you feel it going you just jump off!" But ain't that gong to hurt??
My son thankfully drives a car and has no interest in them!

Anonymous said...

Sounds painful, thank God you survived to tell the tale. Life-changing events are quite incredible if you learn from them - I've had too many to list in my lifetime but the main one would be having my daughter, and life then changed for the better.

Thanks for visiting my blog. You have a lovely blog too. I'll be back!

cheshire wife said...

Glad you survived. You were very lucky.The very idea of being trapped under a lorry makes me feel claustophobic.From my days of working in hospital I remember coming across several young men that had been in motorcycle accidents. I remember one had to have his leg amputated because it was so badly damaged. Motor cycles are lethal.

Reasons said...

Great story Ken, thank you for sharing it. Thank goodness you lived to tell the tale.

Mean Mom said...

My husband had a motorbike, when he was younger, so did his older brother and they both came off several times. I was very upset, when my eldest son bought a motorbike a couple of years ago. I still can't help but wonder why I spent all of those years nurturing him, just so that he can risk his life every time he goes out on his bike. His life is very precious to me, but apparently not to him. Perhaps I am just a selfish woman. Nowadays, I try not to dwell on it, when I know that he is riding about on his bike.

That was a really dreadful accident that you had and I'm very glad that you both survived it. Were you in big trouble with your female passenger's dad? My son's girlfriend's father is not happy that she rides about on the back of my son's bike!

Grumpy Old Ken said...

It is not silly but honest to have feelings of mortality. fortunately we don't worry about it most of the time!

Motorbikes are dangerous but they are at risk in situations where a car driver would be ok.

It all seems like yesterday. for you too I expect!

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Not Waving
Thanks, come again.

Nota Bena
Oh to be young again!

Another young one!
Can we really imagine a life without children?

Grumpy Old Ken said...

I think certain things change us and we are never EXACTLY the same again. I suppose that is what life is all about.

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Darwin Reporter.
Your hubby was lucky. Youngsters of course cannot afford cars and youngsters really are the last ones that need a motorbike.

Thanks for visiting. Life tends to be one thing after another, of which many are traumas. But in the main life is great. When it ceases to be so that's it.

cheshire wife
The accident ward at the hospital was amazing. full of young men and the black, macabre humour I remember to this day. We laughed daily in spite of death all around us.

Reasons to be Cheerful
Thanks. Blogs are funny in a way, away of reliving life I suppose.

Mean Mom
Concerning your son, you think things don't happen to you but to others. Concerning the young lady, she was someone elses wife. There was nothing going on I hasten to add! I saw her recently and was amazed what a strange old lady she is now. Time is cruel.

BeckyG said...

I'm another who's very pleased that you survived to tell the tale, and thank you for telling the tale. As for my own life-defining moment, there have been many ... probably every time I face death with my asthma. It's a difficult thing to face your mortality, but if you can accept it as an inevitable part of life at some point then I think it helps you live life to the full when you can. I know that I say a prayer of thanks everyday that I'm alive.


Glad you survived and lived to tell the tale
I wasent born then.
I have been thinking of getting a moped a pink one i might add but think i will go on the quiet roads until i get used to it
Hope you are well and isint it nice to see the spring weather coming in.

® ♫ The Brit ♪ ® said...

Hi Ken,
Another wonderful blog post! I love your tales of the past!
I have never liked motorcycles and have never owned one, I'm not a big fan of danger...
So sorry to hear about the loss of that boy's life at such a young age! that's terrible.
My life-defining moment has got to be the night that I escaped from being abducted in my car with a broken bottle held to my neck for 3 hours... when I finally escaped and got to the police station I was told that I only survived because I kept him calm, as his intention was to murder me.
That shocked me awake and that very day my life really started for the very first time.
All the best!

Grumpy Old Ken said...

I Love France
Hi You get a moped if you wan. Just be aware that everyone else on the road is not necessarily always paying the attention they should be. You're right about spring!

Your attitude is very positive. Keep smiling, summers coming!

That takes some getting over. But we learn from life, its not a practice. Your attitude is very positive. Taking after gran!

grumpyoldwoman said...

My March 10 1959 was November 9 1974. I too parted company from a motorbike and ended up in a rockery with my left leg hanging over my shoulder. My initial thought was total puzzlement - and then it hurt! Prior to spending 3 months in hospital recovering from this trauma I had always had a phobia of hospitals; but after this I went on to nurse and am still in a caring profession today (albeit quite an unusual one). I dread the day one of one children comes home with a motorbike.

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Hi and welcome
Strangely enough Nov 9th is my birthday! All part of lifes rich pattern and all that ****. Mind you we both got away with it, many don't.