The Ups and (ouch) Downs of Life

What goes up, must come down. And I came down with quite a bump. An extremely painful bump.

Some days we just feel better than others. This afternoon I was happy, and not for any particular reason. My wife and I had enjoyed a very nice weekend, including a fabulous time at the company ball, with good entertainment, friendly conversation and a bit of dancing. We were in a good place, relaxed and happy together. And now it was Monday and the feel good factor was flowing like liquid chocolate into the week.

She had gone to work, and I would be gone to the airport by the time she got back, heading for Copenhagen. My suitcase was almost packed. I just had to throw in a few final clothes and retrieve my iPad and laptop from the upstairs study at the end of the house. I was on time, under control and everything was good in the world. All good reasons to be happy – but nothing out of the ordinary. For some reason, I felt almost manically happy. Maybe it was something I had eaten.

In fact I was so manically happy I skipped towards the study down the long corridor along the length of our house, like an over-excited 5 year old.

There are several reasons we stop skipping well before we reach adulthood. Maybe we become less carefree, less demonstrative with our feelings, more self-conscious. But I think the more biological reason is to do with height acquisition. As we grow up we become closer to the ceilings of our houses.

We live in an old house with ceilings of various heights, but mostly quite low. This is fine for us – as a family we are conveniently un-tall. The ceiling of our upstairs corridor is a good foot above my head. Half-way along, it is dissected by a doorway with a thick wooden beam, where the two cottages were joined into one house.

When you skip, by my estimation, you add about 6 inches to your height. Skipping along the corridor, like the aforementioned over-excited five year old, I didn’t even notice the aforementioned beam. It’s always been there but I never needed to know it was there. Until now.

My rediscovery of the beam was with the top of my head, accompanied by excruciating pain. I had reached the top of my exaggerated skip trajectory at the precise point of the sharp, edge of the beam.

There is nothing quite as body-shaking as a hard bang on top of the head. It resonates all the way through your skeleton and down into your toes. Stunned by the combination of the physical impact, intense hurt and my own stupidity, I collapsed forwards onto my knees. My first sensible thought was that I was still sensible – and had not lost consciousness. If my wife had been home, I would have shouted and writhed in agony, like some premiership footballer waiting for the medical staff. But of course she was not home. I was on my own with this one, fending for myself.

I felt the blood flooding out of my head as I clutched it with my hands. It flowed like a delta of a river through my fingers and down the back of my hands. The first bright red drip formed a perfect circle on our lovely cream carpet. My skull ached, my skin throbbed and my ankle hurt for some reason.

I managed to stagger/crawl to the bathroom, keeping ridiculously low so as not to risk hitting my head again. I grabbed the white towel off the rail and wrapped it round my hair. I didn’t want to think about the damage – imagining the worst sort of scalping. I tried to think straight – should I call 999, the walk-in centre, my wife? Or should I just put a plaster on it and head off to the airport.

And how exactly would I put a plaster on top of my hair? And how would that stem the tide? The amount of blood soaking into the towel suggested a plumber might be required.

Whatever, I was late now, and I had to finish my packing, if I were to catch my plane. Back in the bedroom, I threw a few pairs of socks into my case with my spare hand. I sat down for a moment. My head really hurt now.  It is hard to pack when your brain is addled (emotionally and physically) with one hand clutching a towel in an attempt to keep the remaining blood in your head and off the carpet.

In a moment of sanity, I paused and dared to look at the swab. My blood had painted a lurid red pattern on the canvas of the towel. But there was sufficient white background to suggest I was not in serious risk of terminal blood loss. I shuffled to the bathroom and looked sheepishly at myself in the mirror.

The red streak down the side of my head looked quite macho. I gingerly lifted the towel off my head and squinted apprehensively at the damage. It looked like someone had poured red berry composite over my head and matted it into my hair. I soaked a flannel and wiped my face, then placed it like a cold compress on top of where the blood was oozing out. Some vain attempt at cleaning and reducing the swelling. Ouch – that hurt.

It was 10 to 5 by now, and I had to leave by 5 to catch the plane. I decided I was okay to drive as the blood was seeping now, rather than flowing. But how did I look – was I fit to go out in public? Would I scare the passengers? Would the airline even let me fly? I knew the hand luggage size regulations, but had never checked out the blood flow limits.

The blow was above my hair line. With some judicious repositioning of my hair, I could just about hide the worst of the damage. I needed to release the hairs without disturbing the scab which was starting to form and slowly solidify. Delicate operations are not best conducted under mild trauma and against a deadline. Nevertheless, I managed to make myself look vaguely presentable.

Finally – I needed to cover my tracks. I didn’t want my son coming home from work to what could be misinterpreted as a murder scene. I dabbed the blood spots on the carpet and tossed the towel in the linen basket. Then I quickly grabbed my cases, half a box of tissues, and left.

It takes an hour to get to the airport. As I drove, I dabbed away the spots of blood as they formed and dripped like bloody condensation on my forehead. As I parked up, I cleaned myself up again, rearranged my hair and ventured out into the public arena. Inevitably, the wind was in my face, undoing all my tapestry.

I headed straight for the airport toilets – waited until the coast was clear and patched myself up again. Walking through the crowds I avoided anyone’s gaze, and walked nonchalantly to security.

I have no idea what the rules are for allowing injured people onto planes, not to mention the potential medical risks of allowing fresh blood on board. I would not have been allowed to return on to a football pitch in my condition , that’s for sure. I was expecting a question or two at least. But no. I didn’t set off a secret alarm and the eagle eyed security man, who can spot a trace of gunpowder on you finger nails was completely disinterested.

As chance would have it,my laptop bag with 15 separate compartments was “randomly” selected for a complete search. I stood and waited whilst the man meticulously emptied all of the contents. I was more worried about how my head doing? Was a drip of blood about to emerge and draw attend tip to itself? Would I be whisked off to some special room to be forcibly stitched up and returned landslide, with a severe reprimand for endangering the lives of the passengers?

It took ages, but all was clean. I walked through the fragrance market. As usual each perfectly presented saleswoman, desperate to catch my eye and offer me the latest irresistible perfume deal. I felt a warm drop of blood roll down my face. Suddenly they all looked rather less keen.

I patched myself up again in the toilets, and managed to move to seat on the plane with nobody next to me. This meant I could carry out running repairs less self-consciously, dabbing away the blood with the aid of a handkerchief. My fears that the high altitude would result in a renewed gush of blood were unfounded.

I spent the next 3 days abroad trying to hide the damage, shower carefully, and to sleep in such a way as to not press my head against the pillows. Inevitably, left behind some bloodstained linen. In retrospect, I probably should have stayed at home and taken a couple of stitches.

But then you have it – life with all its unpredictability. One moment up, one moment down. I guess we just have to take it all in our stride. I was pleased that I didn’t get angry, I didn’t despair, I managed to keep functioning. Once upon a time I would have railed against the world and its injustice. Bled with self-pity. Instead I laughed at myself and at the world. Maybe I am finally growing up.

Sometimes that’s the best we can do after a blow. Patch ourselves up, stem the bleeding, keep on going, look respectable and stay philosophical. What goes up, must come down, and hopefully back up again. But not so high this time. No more skipping down corridors for me.

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