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Around The Sun: Broken Bones

Steve Harrison confesses that it doesn’t pay to be too cocky when you’re out on those ski slopes.

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If your going to break something, make sure you break something you don’t use much – bit more of the old Yorkshire wisdom.

I’d broken the odd bone in my body before - a toe, an ankle, a finger, even a couple of ribs, but nothing came close to preparing me for this.

I confess that I was too confident. I had been skiing for years, and never had an accident. I was a real professional. I was tearing up and down the ski lifts faster than you could say Jack Robinson.

My girlfriend's daughter, Laura, was there with her new friend. I was supposed to be looking after them. So there we were, on the last day of our skiing holiday, and the conditions were excellent. We were skiing at top speed, weaving and chasing one another. I burst out of some bushes, came over an unexpected jump, flew above their heads, then found myself involved in another blind jump.

It was pure magic!

We were on a run called The Interceptor. Immediately after the mid station there was a famous jump, right under the chairs. Over the years I’d seen hundreds of people attempt it. Ninety per cent of them landed in a heap. Some of these managed to stand up again. Some didn’t.

Phil, my skiing buddy, and I had always been wary of that jump. Today was different. I hit the slope at full speed.

I could hear people on the chair lift ohhhhhhhhing and haaaaaaaaing as I made my approach. Then I was airborne.

I flew through the air, but somehow this wasn’t right… I remember looking down. A long, long way down. My body tensed. I landed on my feet. There was a sound like a tree branch snapping, but there were no trees.

Cheers went up from the people on the chair lift above my head.

I felt good, though at the same time confused. My balance was out of whack. A blue scarf seemed to be fluttering around my neck and over my right shoulder. At one end of the scarf was a pink pom-pom.

There was a problem. I wasn’t wearing a scarf.

My mind was doing what the human mind does. Reaching for an illogical conclusion to explain circumstances which were obvious to everyone else. Obviously someone on the chair lift had dropped a scarf. But why was it flapping around like the arm of a rag doll?

I was in a woozy dream-like state. I tried to cast off the blue scarf. But I didn’t seem to have an arm with which to cast it off.

Reality set in. I stopped and sat in the snow. My left arm was slung around my neck and down my back. I grabbed the limb with my right hand and put it approximately where it belonged. I felt my shoulder. A large lump seemed to need some adjustment. The left arm was cold, lifeless. There was no feeling in it.

I had a mobile phone with me. I rang my friend Phil

“Phil I’m sitting here at mid-station with a broken arm.”

“Are you sure it’s broken?’’

“Without a glimmer of doubt.’’

I couldn’t believe how useless my left arm was. Surely I would wake up, and all would be OK.

Laura came along and tried to comfort me. Now I was feeling ill. Then the medics called down from the chair lift above my head.

“There in a minute.’’

“Bring a double brandy,’’ I shouted.

Removing my one-piece ski suit was a lesson in torture. Then there were X-rays, pain-killing drugs…and I floated off into la-la land.

Twelve weeks elapsed before some semblance of normality returned to my left arm. Today that left limb is 25 millimetres shorter than its companion on the right. It serves as a barometer, informing me well in advance of changes in the weather and the onset of rain.

I had intended to take a long vacation in Bali in the October of the year when I had that skiing accident. One of my favourite places in Bali was the Sari club in Kuta. On October 12th a terrorist blew up the club. Scores of people were killed.

My broken arm became a talisman for safety and security. A divine blessing.

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