I’m cycling across Waterloo bridge against the rain. I navigate the semi circle of Aldwych then swirl into the straits of Holborn. Water crashes into me under pressure of unapologetic car tyres. Through the raindrops on my eyelashes Holborn is a watercolour. Red. Traffic lights ahead. Car in front. Left side. Red brake lights on.
I’m on the floor on my side. I’m waking from a sleep with the kerb as a pillow, the kerb that juts out beneath the railings on the left side of the road. On my right is the car. In front is the Holborn junction with the traffic lights. I should get up now and wake up. I’m getting up.
The voice of a woman: She’s been talking for a while “I’m an NHS Nurse….. probably he’s in shock”. Things start to return like startled birds to the trees. “I’m an NHS Nurse” she says. I look right at her: “Can you feel this?” She’s holding my hand . I wiggle my fingers. Yes She works through my body with her checklist. Can you feel your legs…. your arms…. my body starts to awake.
As if sliding out of a helter skelter into a swimming pool the noise of the city fills my ears. The city is angry and unconcerned. What was slow motion is moving fast. Cars circumnavigate us in the way water does a rock. We are an island. Thankyou I think I say to her. “Thankyou”. My little finger is cut and bloated like a bust lip. There is blood abseiling down it.
“you are in shock. You shouldn’t cycle” she says. “But you are okay”. I thank her again. The driver, a young Somalian man, probably in shock too, holds out a hand to shake mine. I remind him of the cut on my finger. My back and head would have both cracked on the kerb were it not for my backpack. Someone had opened the car door in the second I was passing and I had slammed into it.
The throngs are nothing but a London Cliché now. The rain magnifies me into a million droplets. I am alone. I send a text to Jamie Byng whose birthday meal I was attending I’m going home. Had a bit of an accident. It sounds like another lame excuse. I cross the lights on foot. I’m walking up Southampton row. I feel a crushing sense of sadness. Family. Family. Family. It hollows me out. The adrenalin is leaving. I need coffee.
Excuse me are you my Chancellor”. I turn. “My name is Ola and I’ve always wanted to meet you .” She’s just passed her studies in Business and Chinese. She speaks Mandarin. “I’ve been meaning to catch one of your events but I’ve always been away….” She spent a year in China. She has no idea what happened only minutes ago.
We talk about her work in Uganda and other countries. I tell her about the equity and merit scholarship scheme. “Can I take a selfie” she asks. And in the rain she holds up her camera phone. If the phone were not there we would look like a man smiling with a young woman pointing to the magnificent future on the horizon.
(The date it happened was June 27th 2017. I couldn’t put the blog up at the time because I was in rehearsals for a theatre production called ROAD)