100. Off with his head



I was telling Rory a few days ago how lucky I am to be alive. Not just the very good fortune to be around at what looks increasingly like a scary but exciting watershed in human history, where we have the opportunity to change our ways or perish by the billions. I was referring in this case to a midwinter night in early 1979 when I nearly shuffled off this mortal coil.

It jumps the story ahead by just over a year, but was an exceptional evening. One worthy of occupying blog number 100.

Keith, Big Dad and I were all living in the same house, on the Pershore Road in Edgbaston. On certain evenings, we would indulge in much nostalgic conversation about the ‘good old times’. It was decided on one very cold Sunday night that we ought to revisit the Vale Site bars, to rekindle such memories. Just a few pints, though. Monday was looming.

The weather had left black ice on all the pavements. We skidded and slipped our way up to the halls, where we were persuaded to take Schnapps chasers with our beer. The effect was lethal. After several rounds a guy accidentally knocked our drinks over. Keith and I debated what action to take. We spent at least 20 seconds going through the options. The fairest and most equitable punishment, we eventually decided, was to pull his head off. If I remember rightly, I held him from behind, very tightly pinning his arms, while Keith tried out various positions and grips to get the thing off the bloke’s shoulders. Neil shouted instructions. The bloke was moaning and shouting, but we just couldn’t get the head off. Frustrating hardly describes our plight. To top off the disappointment, we were chucked out. I know, unbelievable.

We went three different ways back to our flat. I got there first, but then discovered that I had lost my keys.

Jesus I was energetic in those days. I decided without any hesitation to walk two miles or so to Saxon’s house on the icy pavements. For obviously drunken reasons, I chose to walk through the university campus, adding a significant dogleg to the journey. Worse, I could not keep my feet for the life of me. Over, and over, and over again I would go, arse over tit, banging my head and smashing the breath out of my lungs as I hit the pavement time after time. At one stage a police car drove past, and I could see the two coppers laughing.

The next thing I knew was ice and snow next to my cheeks. I was face down on the ground, near to the university’s computer faculty. I had been asleep. Snowflakes were fluttering under the lights along the path, some twenty yards away. The temperature was well below zero, and I knew only that I needed to get moving. That was literally all I knew. I genuinely could not remember where I lived. Nor could I recall my name. I did not know who I was.


 Very interesting under other circumstances. Luckily, I did know that I had two friends in a house in Selly Oak, who would help me get warm again. I must have knocked on their door at about 2.30 in the morning. They immediately stuck me in a warm sleeping bag, with blankets.

It took me a day before I recovered enough to be able to eat again. And to realise that I had courted death that evening.

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