"Tangerine!" by Amanda Prowse
NO 17 “WHOAH! THAT WAS CLOSE…”
Trains, boats, and planes that we should have been on whose journeys have ended in disaster. Accidents on motorways that had you been travelling a couple of seconds faster or slower…
Fires in buildings we almost stayed in. Routes travelled regularly where others have met a fateful end…
We’ve all had them haven’t we, those near misses that make our hearts thud and our blood pump and cause us to wake in the early hours with complex feelings of fear and sweet relief at just how close we came to impending doom and disaster!
I remember when Simeon and I were posted in Germany and my favourite hobby was walking with my little iPod blasting out my faves; Abba, bit of Madge, Bee Gees, Dolly Parton, Dusty, and others… I’d pop my earphones on, lace up my hiking boots and hit the roads, ending up on a leafy forest trail that with dappled light shining through the leaves was most magical. One such day, I pulled on my boots, zipped up my fleece, placed my earphones on and set off. My mind was preoccupied. I was flying back to the UK the next day for a visit, did I have the tickets sorted? Had I put the bins out? What time was Simeon back from work? Did I have time to get a haircut? I should probably stock the freezer for him while I’m away. Were the kids okay? I’d call them later… on and on my thoughts rambled.
Without pausing, stopping to look, or even slowing down, I stepped off the kerb on a bend of a busy road. To this day, I don’t know how the driver of the BMW missed me. He slammed on his brakes, swerved around me and I felt the proximity of the vehicle moving at about 40mph, glide past me with cm to spare. I jumped back, an almost visceral reaction and sat down hard on the pavement. The driver screamed at me, yelling, and banging his horn. He was afraid, angry obviously, and his adrenalin was pumping. He’d done nothing wrong and yet had nearly mowed me down.
Seconds away, that was all. Seconds.
I felt a little numb, a little emotional but I clambered up, dusted off my bottom, apologised to the driver, and carried on my walk. It was only hours later that I felt quite sick, aware of how close I’d come to being squished. All I could think about was my family, my little boys, my husband…
On a different day, some years before, my dad and I took Josh, a toddler, for a trip to Bath. The plan was we’d go to our favourite Italian restaurant. Perfect. Josh was in his pushchair. The sun was shining. My dad had crossed over the main road in Bath to use the cashpoint. Josh, unbeknown to me, had cleverly wriggled under the strap that buckled him in. Quite simply, he saw my dad and ran towards him. It happened in seconds, he literally sprinted on his little legs, across the road and right out in front of a woman driving a green Volvo – I can still see her face. Horrorstruck.
There was the collective gasp of everyone around and in that split second, I closed my eyes, deciding I couldn’t stand to see what came next. It was only the feel of someone patting my arm, and saying over and over, ‘it’s okay, he made it. You can look. He’s on the other side of the road. He’s okay!’
Eventually with my whole body trembling, I looked up to see Josh in my dad’s arms. What came next was strange. Dad and I without discussion, quietly walked back to the car and we drove home. All thoughts of lunch gone and both of us cloaked in a fog of shock and thinly disguised distress.
As I put Josh to bed that night, he put his little hand on my face and said, ‘I nearly went to Heaven today didn’t I Mum?’
I had no words. He was three.
He’s had other WHOA THERE! Moments, including, but not exclusively, nearly falling backwards off a very high harbour wall, scooting too close to an open window, losing his balance and slipping off the top of a steep Mayan mountain and somehow managing to land with the aid of his rucksack on a small ledge only a few feet down, and others… to think of these makes my heart race.
My brother yesterday was in a stationary car at the bottom of a hill and could see a car hurtling towards him in his rearview mirror that he knew was going to smash into him. With nowhere to go and no escape, he braced, waited, and the car smashed his to pieces. The back came off, the roof crumpled, wheels splayed, the steering wheel broke, and he had to be cut out of the vehicle by fireman, but he’s alive, he’s okay. He’ll mend.
I guess we all have those moments. I can think of several others, notably where I stumbled on a cliff path and was saved by my boots tangled in undergrowth - head dangling upside down, staring at the jagged rocks below. Times where the world turned in slow motion and I felt, in that very instance, at the mercy of the universe.
I’ve decided rather than dwell on the infinite awful possibilities, to instead be thankful for them and not to ponder what ‘might’ or ‘could’ have happened. Instead, I am going to feel elated that life goes on, celebrate the fact that I’m here to tell the tales.
I’m sure that you dear reader have your own examples - and how very fortunate are we? Those little life shocks that heighten your senses and make us stop for a moment, take a breather, and pledge not to take those we love or our glorious lives for granted.
…but of course, we will, and we do because that is life! Bumbling along in the everyday until something makes us stop, look up and take that sharp breath.
May we long continue to recount the stories, marvelling at the wonder of survival.
Oh, and to the man in the BMW whose day I nearly messed up, not to mention the damage I’d have done to his paintwork, I’d like to say in response to the comments, (justifiably) screamed at me, “no I’m not stupid and no I’m not blind, but I was a busy working mum, entirely lost to Abba’s SOS, ironically. And while we are on the subject – slow down! It’s a blind bloody bend!”
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