Finding Peachy… and how Peachy found Me…

The funny thing about songs is that often, at the time of writing, you think you know what it is you’re writing about… it is only later, however, that you finally understand what it was you were trying to say….

‘Peachy’ is one of those songs.

When I began seriously applying my passion for wordplay into a songwriting context, I found myself trying to write lyrics that were in some way profound, clever, haunting.  The end result however was usually a disappointing one – a slightly pretentious song that sounded nice but seemed somehow flat as though there were something missing.  It was a while before I understood just what that missing element was: there was no emotional involvement – nothing for the listener to really relate to.  Sure, a nice lyric can resonate on the ear  but it wasn’t long before I realised that it wasn’t the ear I should be aiming for, it was the heart…

My BooK Of Words...

My Book Of Words…

To my mind, it doesn’t matter what you write, just so long as you are writing the truth. By ‘truth’, I mean an honest interpretation of what you truly feel in your heart – an honest, (sometimes brutally so), reflection of your innermost thoughts and feelings.  Anything less and the words are just words on a page with nothing substantial to back them up – nothing to drive them home with impact.  A fantasy author can create a vast world, rich in vibrant detail, and people it with colourful characters of all shapes and sizes, but if it isn’t written from the heart the reader will find no purchase in this fictional world – they will have no emotional footholds with which to relate to their own personal experiences.  In other words, if the writer is not moved by their own words, how can they expect somebody else to be?  If the writer does not believe that what they write is true, you can sure that no one else will either.

When I began to write Peachy, I already had a chord progression and a rough melody in my head and I knew that I wanted to write a song with a story about someone who has lost in love and how he would cope by putting on a brave face the next time they met.  I wanted to experiment with lyrics that said one thing, but meant something else.

I’ve always liked telling stories.  When I was a boy, I’d make up all kinds of ridiculous tales – the kind of tall stories that made me feel as though my life was somehow more interesting and exciting than the dull, ordinary existence I inhabited.  I’m pretty embarrassed when I recall this now – back then, I foolishly believed that others actually believed my stories of murdered best friends, kung-fu vengeance, evil drug barons and UFO sightings – it is only now that I see that they were all just humouring ufo sightingme and that, in all probability, they would have caught each others eye and made ‘here he goes again’ faces whenever I told them about my ESP abilities or my concerns that I may actually be a werewolf…

As foolish as I feel about this now though, there is a positive – I still like to tell stories.  Only, now I apply my stories in their proper context instead of trying to somehow incorporate them into my own reality (which really isn’t all that dull or ordinary after all, I now realise).

When I write a song, I often try to present it in a traditional storyboard format – with a beginning, a middle and an end.  I like to see some character development or a twist of some sort that transforms the lyrical hook or chorus so that by the end of the song it means something entirely different.  Even my most depressing songs usually have some kind of positive slant towards the end.

When I wrote Peachy, I was happy enough in life – or at least, I thought I was.  This was almost three years before my eventual marriage breakdown but in retrospect, I suppose even then some part of me already knew what was on the cards.  Deep down I was unknowingly writing about what I secretly feared the most – that I would find myself in a situation where I was all alone in life nursing a huge, heart shaped hole.

...ouch...

…ouch…

Perhaps that was why it wasn’t so difficult to imagine how it would feel to have lost my love and then to suddenly bump into her by chance after some time had elapsed.  I imagined how shocked I would feel and how that person would seem somehow, even more beautiful to me and how the hole they had left behind would suddenly feel like a yawning chasm once more.  This would be magnified by the fact that they would have found someone new and had truly moved on, while I was still trudging along and getting nowhere… I felt the ache as though it was really happening to me.  At the time it didn’t really register on a conscious level, but I suppose I was really writing about what I feared was already beginning to happen.  I understand now that, for me, writing the truth requires absolute honesty with myself and, as much as this is often a painful process, it makes for a more compelling tale (and sometimes, I understand myself a little better too).

Having said all this, I still wanted the story to have a feel good factor – the melody and chord work was all very jolly and so the story needed to be fairly upbeat also.  I asked myself, how can I turn this story around and give it a happy ending?

...another shining example of an 'Easy Way Out'...

…another shining example of an ‘Easy Way Out’…

I briefly considered the other person having a sudden change of heart and come running back with open arms, but that just didn’t seem true somehow.  It felt like too much of an easy way out.

I read a lot of fiction and, for me, the best stories have character driven plots – there needs to be character development so that, by the end of the story, the character has evolved to the point where they are often hardly recognisable from the person we met in the first chapter.  This felt like the best direction to take with Peachy.  The change of heart had to come from the main protagonist.  I considered having him suddenly realise that his lost love was not quite as awesome as he’d remembered then concluding that he was better off without her – but this didn’t ring true either.  This sounded like he was simply trying to convince himself which, of course, is not a development of character at all, nor is it a happy ending – he would be in exactly the same boat when they parted again.

Then it occurred to me that maybe what I was writing about was not loss or love, but about acceptance.  With acceptance comes a sense of peace.  By finding true acceptance the character would undergo a change deep in the very core of his being and he would finally be able to move forward instead of just treading water.  He would find peace.

As it was a story of personal growth set in a social context I figured that, lyrically, the tone should be an informal, conversational one – and so this is where I started:

“Well, hello there.  I’m just Peachy, thanks for asking.”

I liked the fact that this opening statement was just so typically British – when someone inquires as to our general well being, our instinctive reply is often: “I’m fine thanks”, even if we’ve just lost three of our fingers to a rabid squirrel…

 What was more, this informal approach felt natural and in keeping with the upbeat feel I was going for. The rest just seemed to fall into place…

“It’s more than I care to admit,

but seven months and twenty days, not that I’m counting,

And seeing you still smarts a bit”

I wrote this song back in 2008, almost three years before my marriage fell apart.  At the time it meant something different to me – it was just a story I’d made up and put to a catchy tune.  Then eighteen months ago, I became friends with Marta – a lovely person who, at that time, was struggling with the breakdown of her own long-term relationship.

Something she said reminded me of Peachy...

Something she said reminded me of Peachy…

Naturally, we compared our stories and talked about how hard it is to let go of all that history and how we sometimes felt as though we were broken in some way – that we’d never be able to move on.  As we talked, something Marta said reminded me of Peachy.  I’d not thought of, or played the song for years.  It had become one of my ‘old songs’ – a song that I’d cut my songwriting teeth on but would probably never be used for anything.  But now, suddenly, it blazed brightly in my mind and I couldn’t wait to get home and dig it out to find out why it was tugging at me so…

When I played it for the first time after all those years, I cried.  It wasn’t so much that it reminded me of all that I had lost since writing it.  It was more because I felt as though the sun was finally rising after an eternity of darkness.  I was experiencing an earth-shaking, honest-to-God epiphany  –  a character development of my very own.  Everything I’d written way back then was suddenly, irrefutably relevant.  It was almost as though I’d somehow reached across the fabric of space and time with a gift for my future self…

“And if fate can set you free, Then I guess we’re never meant to be.

Now the sun is in my eyes, And I begin to realise,

That there’s a little bit of hope for me”

I had taken my first step towards true acceptance – I had found a way to Peace.

I was suddenly gripped with the urge to share my vision of self-realisation with the world, IMG_20130614_193057and especially with Marta, so I hurriedly recorded a Youtube version and uploaded it with a dedication to her - if it hadn’t been for Marta, Peachy would still be just an ‘old song’, covered in cobwebs and dust, and I may never have had my epiphany…

Peachy‘ is the title track from Jamie R Hawkins’ EP, ‘Peachy – The Demo Sessions‘ and is available to buy at his live shows.

 


 

Jamie R Hawkins is an Award Winning Singer Songwriter whose songs have won him critical acclaim in the UK and around the world.  He has been described as “a powerful mixture of storyteller, philosopher and poet”, his lyrics as “poignant and witty’ and his performances, “emotive and captivating”.

Jamie can usually be found in the studio scribbling away in his dog-eared note book and both he and his acoustic are available for events.

www.JamieRHawkins.com

Still Life: Fruit Bowl Blood Bath…

I’m angry!”, said The Apple, To the centre of my core!

I tumbled from the highest branch and landed on the floor.

They put me in a basket then they dumped me here with you.

I’m bumped and bruised, a bit confused and now I’m fuming too.”


* * * * *

Stop moaning”, said The Melon, You are not the only one.

I was minding my own business, sitting, dozing in the sun.

They came along and squeezed me, then they took me from my bed.

Don’t focus on the negatives, Be positive instead.”

* * * * *

“Suspicious,” said The Orange, There’s conspiracy afoot!

We’re all here for a reason, and I fear it’s nothing good.

I’ve heard the horror stories, how they like to drink my blood.

I should be planning my escape, not sitting on my butt”

* * * * *

They all looked at Banana who was drooling in his sleep.

Of all of them, he was the one who didn’t make a peep.

He was suffering from jet lag having come from far away,

And snoring was the only thing he was prepared to say.

* * * * *

We’re not worried in the slightest,” said a pair of Loved Up Pears,

As long as we’re together, we don’t really have a care.

There’s nothing like a cuddle when your worries get to you.

You really should all try it, maybe you’ll feel better too.”

* * * * *

An ancient voice said “Silence!”, and they turned toward the noise.

There, Old Man Walnut glared at them – he clearly was annoyed.

The trouble with you youngsters is, you think you know it all!

But I’ve been here since last Christmas and I’ve seen what lies in store.”

* * * * *

Then lights came on, affording them a glance around the room.

They saw a block of gleaming knives and registered their doom.

So, screaming, they were forced to watch as, one by one they met,

A gruesome, nasty, slicing, dicing, slow and painful death.

Then once again, in silence, Old Man Walnut closed his eyes,

And waited in the fruit bowl for the next batch to arrive…..

* * * * * * * * * *

Moral:  5-A-Day isn’t for everyone…

* * * * * * * * * *

I’ve entered this at DudeWrite, the place where real Dudes Write …feel free to visit their man cave (even if you’re a girl!), read the other guys posts and vote for your favourites.  It’d be cool if you’d Tweet or Share the ones you like too…maybe even this one…

Dude Write

Jamie R Hawkins is an Award Winning Singer Songwriter whose songs have won him critical acclaim in the UK and around the world.  He has been described as “a powerful mixture of storyteller, philosopher and poet”, his lyrics as “poignant and witty’ and his performances, “emotive and captivating”.

Jamie R Hawkins can usually be found in the studio scribbling away in his dog-eared note book and both he and his acoustic are available for events.

Beelzebob Vs. Godfrey: ‘Eternal War of Conscience’ or ‘Festive Goodwill and Cripple Crap’…

 Beelzebob – or Bob as he likes to be called - is the little devil who sits on your left shoulder and whispers advice in your ear.  He’s the one who told you that it would be a good idea to pee in the plant pot and blame it on the cat.  He may also have convinced you that consuming copious amounts of alcohol at your partners grandparents 50th wedding anniversary party and Cossack dancing on the kitchen table wearing only a strategically placed sock would liven things up a bit…  

It would be fair to say that Bob has gotten you into trouble on a number of occasions…

His counterpart and sworn enemy is the little Angel who sits on your right shoulder, Godfrey.  Godfrey is a pious creature by nature who tries to live up to the high moral standards of the divine being he professes to emulate.  Do not be fooled – he is not a divine being, merely a one-sided extension of the human conscience.  Some (Bob) would call him pretentious and self-righteous but the truth is, Godfrey only wants you to do the right thing – counteracting Beelzebobs nefarious advice is the sole purpose of his existence .  Godfrey is the one who suggests that you offer your seat on the bus to the elderly lady.  He will also encourage you to return the fat wallet to the gentleman who is completely oblivious to the fact that he has dropped it in the first place…

It would also be fair to say that Godfrey has gotten you into trouble on the odd occasion too….

The following is a shining example of one such occasion:

It was the day before Christmas Eve and Bob and Godfrey were perched on the shoulders of Working Man on his way back from his annual trip to the city dump.  Working Man was in a good mood.  He was right on schedule with regard to the pre-Christmas organisations –  Presents wrapped; decorations hung; groceries purchased and now, old and unused toys recycled.  He had also received a generous bonus from his employers and was on his way home to enjoy this twelve day work-free stretch for the holiday season.  Life was good.

Working Man was shaken from his good-natured reverie when, without warning, a white van suddenly swerved into his lane.  He slammed on the brakes just in time to narrowly avoid a collision and was about to follow Bob’s advice by sounding the horn and yelling a string of obscenities when he was distracted by the object that the white van had swerved to avoid.

It was a wheelchair trundling along at 5 miles an hour in the outside lane of a busy two lane stretch.  Working Man sped past the wheelchair and then watched in his rear view mirror as vehicle after vehicle swerved to avoid hitting it.

Godfrey saw an opportunity and was quick to exploit it - ‘That physically challenged person is going to be killed if someone doesn’t do something…if you don’t do something…’ 

 Bob saw this coming though and promptly interjected with: ‘Aww, the cripple will be okay… it ain’t your problem… let somebody else deal with it’… not the most original of arguments, true, but it was one that had served him well numerous times in the past.

And so the ancient battle between good and bad resumed once more…

Godfrey was on form today – he retaliated with: ‘But it’s Christmas!… a time of charity and goodwill to all men… there is no better time to help someone than at Christmas time…’  Godfrey liked Christmas – it filled people with a temporary (if somewhat misguided) sense of goodwill toward their fellow beings and made things much easier for him.

Bob loves Christmas for all the wrong reasons….

Bob also liked Christmas but mostly because alcohol was often heavily featured throughout the holiday season, and this made things easier for him – especially at office parties….boy, he’d had some fun at those!  But Bob knew that, for the moment, he’d lost this bout and decided to keep his mouth shut.  Let’s just see how it plays out, he thought as Working Man doubled back on himself at the next roundabout.  Bob had won many a battle simply by sitting back and picking his moment carefully…

When Working Man eventually ended up back at the place of the near accident he looked ahead and saw that the wheelchair had pulled into a gravel lay-by at the side of the road so he turned in there.  He got out of the car and walked around to where the wheelchair was situated.  Bob began to rub his hands together with undisguised glee when the wheelchair occupant immediately began to hurl verbal abuse at Working Man who all but rocked back on his heels under the onslaught.  Maybe Bob would have something to work with after all…

Godfrey showed no sign of concern however, and merely uttered one word in Working Man’s right ear: ‘Compassion’.

Working Man gauged The Wheelchair Man to be somewhere in the region of mid to late thirties.  He was hunched over in a bulky electric wheelchair, clutching a plastic carrier bag to his chest with gnarled, misshapen hands.  He glared out from a twisted, angry face with eyes that rolled around in their sockets reminding Working Man of a panicked horse.  ‘He is obviously very frightened, poor, poor man,said Godfrey, ‘You did the right thing, stopping to help him’.  Bob thought he detected a note of smugness in Godfrey’s tone but of course, angels don’t express smugness – they express righteousness…which, in Bob’s view, is pretty much one and the same thing.

Working Man held out his hands, palms out, in the universal gesture of peace, and in even tones said, “Friend, I only want to help you. You seem as though you need it. You almost got killed back there”.

I don’t need your f**king help!” screeched Wheelchair Man, spittle flying from his lips, “F**k off!”

‘You heard the cripple’, said Bob, ‘He doesn’t need your help… let’s just be on our merry way.’  He then filled Working Man’s head with an image of his warm, cosy family home and the cold beer that was just waiting for Working Man to christen the beginning of his holiday.

‘This man is in a bad way,’ said Godfrey, ‘imagine how frustrated he must feel being trapped in a broken body and unable to get about as easily as everybody else… it’s no wonder he is so upset…’  Each time Godfrey spoke, he would fill Working Mans head with images of Christmas goodwill and of Jesus Christ feeding the hungry, healing the sick and other such goodwill gestures.  He threw an image of Ebeneezer Scrooge into the mix too, just for good measure…

Working Man kept his voice measured and calm. “Friend, whether you think you want my help or not, I cannot in good conscience leave you here. You could be killed on this road, or, if that doesn’t bother you, someone else could be hurt too.”

Wheelchair Man just glared at him and clutched his carrier bag tighter to his chest.

‘Screw him,’ said Bob, ‘He doesn’t want to be helped’…   ‘

Help him’, said Godfrey, ‘He doesn’t want to be screwed’…

I’ll tell you what I’m going to do”, said Working Man, “I’ll call the police so that they can come and help you”.

An expression of panic swept across Wheelchair Man’s face for a moment but was gone before Working Man was even sure that it had been there at all.  Bob produced an alarm bell and began clanging it in Working Man’s left ear.  ‘That’s a great idea! Call the cops! They’ll look after the cripple…it is their job after all…’  Wheelchair Man’s expression became almost sly for a moment and then he said, “Can you fit my wheelchair in the back of your car and take me to the services on the motorway?  My own car is parked there, you see.”

Bob laughed uproariously at this. ‘A car?…a likely story!… This guy can barely drive a wheelchair, let alone drive a car!’…

A note of irritation crept into Godfrey’s voice.  ‘I think you’ll find, Beelzebob, that people with physical limitations can do all sorts of things, driving cars is but one of them…’

‘Well, if that’s the case,’ said Bob, ‘how come he left his car at the services instead of driving it straight to where he wanted to go?  How come he’s stranded here in a lay-by with his car miles away?…Doesn’t that strike you as ever so slightly… odd?’

‘I am sure that there is a perfectly plausible explanation.’  replied Godfrey, although he sounded somewhat less convinced than before.  Godfrey pondered for a moment and then made the decision that would result in his downfall.  ‘You have offered this man assistance – it would be wrong to take that offer back now that he has finally agreed to let you help him…’

The problem with two opposing sides is that, by their very nature, they are incapable of agreeing even if their enemy’s logic does make sense.  Not even angels are perfect when it comes to admitting their own faults because they simply do not have any – Devils, on the other hand, will happily admit to their own faults – are proud of them in fact – and will often include extensive lists of them on their C.V.s to impress prospective clients.

Working Man reluctantly agreed to give Wheelchair Man a lift, although by now he was beginning to regret having stopped in the first place and, to be honest, just wanted to get this whole sorry business out of the way – Wheelchair Man had turned out to be rather unfriendly, not to mention ungrateful.  Godfrey gently chided him for this last thought – ‘An act of kindness is not a truly selfless act if one expects gratitude for it…’

‘Shut up, you pompous idiot,’ said Bob.  His instincts were telling him that Godfrey was painting himself into a corner with his ridiculous restrictive rules of behaviour… now it was only a matter of time.

Wheelchair Man manoeuvred his chair as close to the passenger seat of Working Man’s car as he could and proceeded to unfasten his seatbelt.  Working Man leaned in and slipped his arms around under Wheelchair Mans armpits and around his back and lifted.  Wheelchair Man was heavy.  Working man grunted under the exertion. Halfway through the process, he felt a flash of pain as something in his back gave out.

Breath that could strip paint from 20 yards…

Somehow or other though, he finally succeeded in lifting Wheelchair Man onto the passenger seat.  During the manoeuvre he caught a whiff of Wheelchair Man’s foetid breath and almost retched.  ‘Phewee!’ said Bob holding his nose in disgust, ‘Would it kill you to brush your damned teeth once in a while?… I’ve known festering cancer demons with better personal hygiene!’… 

Godfrey said nothing – he was too busy losing his corn flakes – Angels have no stomach for foul stenches that could very well have been belched from the depths of Hell itself.

Then, straightening up and rubbing the aching part of his back, Working Man turned his attention back to the electric wheelchair to figure out how he was going to fit it into the back of his car and almost blew his groceries.  In the seat of the wheelchair was a puddle of nasty, sickly yellow-brown excrement.  Working Man looked from the puddle in the wheelchair to the Wheelchair Man himself who was sat glaring at him from the passenger seat of Working Mans car.

Both Bob and Godfrey stared at the puddle in stunned silence for a moment.  Then Bob screamed with laughter, holding onto his sides with tears streaming from his eyes.  Godfrey threw up again.  Working Man just stood there looking from the puddle, to the Wheelchair Man, to the puddle, to the Wheelchair Man.

The Wheelchair Man glared up at Working Man and said, “So, are you just going to stand there all day or what?”   Working Man felt his blood begin to boil – Wheelchair Man must have known that he had soiled himself and yet he had said nothing!  And there he was, sat in his car!

Bob somehow managed to regain some control of himself but could not refrain from jumping up and down on the spot with glee – this one was in the bag!… ‘Okay, here’s what I suggest… drag him out by his hair and rub his face in his own excrement, then drive over him on the way out… actually, you’d better reverse over him too just to be sure…’

Godfrey weakly protested between bouts of dry retching, ‘Compassion… blurgh…’ 

‘Nuts to compassion!’ shouted Bob, ‘There’s cripple crap on your frickin’ passenger seat!’

‘Well, don’t do anything hasty at least,’ replied Godfrey straightening his halo and wiping his mouth on the sleeve of his tunic, ‘You don’t want to spend Christmas in prison… think of your loved ones…’ 

Working Man levelled a cold gaze at Wheelchair Man. “You know what? Thinking about it, I’m not entirely sure that I can fit your wheelchair in my car after all.”

Wheelchair Man rolled his eyes, “Oh for f**k sake! Well, you’d better put me back in my f**king chair then.”

Working Man reached down, and with much less care than previously, picked up Wheelchair Man by the front of his jacket and dragged him back to his chair, dumping him unceremoniously back into his own puddle with a sickening squelch.  He looked at his passenger seat and at the disgusting brown smear that was rapidly soaking into the upholstery and, without wasting another word on Wheelchair Man, made his way around to the driver’s seat.  Just before he climbed in he heard Wheelchair Man shout, “Don’t call the police! Ya’hear me? Don’t.. Call.. The.. POLICE!”

Working Man slammed his door shut, wound the electric windows down as far as they would go, gunned the engine and screeched out of the gravel lay-by.  He glanced in his rear view mirror and felt a grim satisfaction to see Wheelchair Man waving and spluttering furiously at the cloud of dust and dirt that his spinning wheels had kicked up.  The stench in the car was gut wrenching and the biting chill of the December air blasting through the open windows froze his hands stiff as they gripped the steering wheel in anger.

‘I still think you should’ve reversed over him.’ said Bob.

Godfrey was strangely silent. He knew when he’d been beaten…

As soon as Working Man got home, he called the police who told him that there were officers already on the scene and that Wheelchair Man was already well-known to them having escaped from his carers on a number of occasions.  ‘That’s why he didn’t want you to call the police!’ said Bob who was thoroughly enjoying  the full employment of his gloating skills – he has an A-level certificate in Gloating.

The rest of Working Man’s day was spent calling around, desperately trying to find a car valet who had not yet closed for the holidays.  All the while, Godfrey kept his own counsel while Bob climbed onto his soapbox and did his level best to convince Working Man that No Good Deed Goes Unpunished and that helping others isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  After about the eighth phone call, Working Man got lucky.

Okay…where da poop?….

As the valet, dressed in what appeared to be a full radiation suit, worked on the seat with a powered suction cleaner, Working Man recounted his tale of misfortune.  Bob made sure that Working Man punctuated the tale with the odd swear word.  Godfrey remained silent in the wake of his own defeat.

An hour later, once the valet had finished removing the offending brown stain, Working Man dug out the agreed fee and handed it over.  The valet looked at Working Man and said. “You know what? Just give me half. You were only trying to help somebody in need and it bit you in the ass.  Besides,” he added with a smile, “it’s Christmas.”

Godfrey perked his ears up and Bob stopped doing his little jig for a moment…

Working Man returned the smile, shook his head and pressed the full amount, plus a little extra, into the valeter’s hand.  “I appreciate that friend,” he said, “but  I only did what seemed right to me at the time… despite all this, I’d do it again….Happy Christmas to you and yours”.

Godfrey placed his palms together, raised his eyes heavenward and smiled serenely….

Bob clenched his fists and stamped his foot.  ‘Oh, Cripple Crap!’  he said…

                                                                                   

Next: Still Life: Fruit Bowl Blood Bath…

Jamie R Hawkins is an Award Winning Singer/Songwriter whose songs have won him critical acclaim around the world – visit JamieRHawkins.com to find out more…

The Plaster Cast Diaries Part 3: Nil-By-Mouth, Hector The Pee Pot and How I Got Superhero Powers…

SOooo, after breaking my leg on a playground swing, being admitted to hospital, getting force-fed copious amounts of morphine and suffering from sleep deprivation, I was beginning to show signs of cracking up…

As with Part 2 of this story, I have had to rely mostly on tweets to try and reconstruct most of what happened during my five night stay in hospital as my poor, already wonky brain has struggled to remember most of it….

Hector The Pee Pot and How To Urinate From A Vertical Position…


Although I received visitors everyday, much of my time was spent alone…

To begin with, this was fine – I am a very private individual who enjoys his own company, even if I do fall out with myself from time to time.  After a while, however, I began to crave company….a friendly face to talk to….so much so, that I even tried holding a shouted conversation with the Angry Old Lady in the room adjacent to mine but I think she died – either that or she pretended to die so as to avoid conversing with me.

Desperate times called for desperate measures, so I did the only thing I could do in these circumstances – I anthropomorphised inanimate objects.

My favourite was Hector the Pee Pot.  Hector was a good listener and became rather popular within my small Twitter circles – if I had opened a Twitter account for Hector, he would have probably gained more followers than me within a very short space of time.  It didn’t do much for my ego to know that a cardboard pot – specifically designed for the sole purpose of being urinated into – had more sex appeal than me… but then it didn’t come as much of a surprise either.
Naming my pee pot turned out to be not one of my better ideas – when it came time for me to answer the call of nature, I found that I simply could not use Hector – for one thing, Hector was a male pee pot and so, naturally, the thought of putting my tackle in his mouth filled me with reservations.  I tried making him female but this presented a new problem of different proportions so I had to call the nurse and ask for another pee pot…

……It was a bit embarrassing having to explain why I couldn’t use the one she had given to me earlier. After shooting me a peculiar look, she gave me a new, faceless one.

And here I found myself presented with yet another problem… due to my injury, and the fact that my bones were still unfixed and floating around in the swollen and bruised mass of flesh that used to be my leg, I was confined to my hospital bed in a horizontal position.

…Hector liked to explore his feminine side…

My bladder was bursting, yet when I tried to pee, it simply refused to come.  For a good half hour, I lay there with my bits stuffed inside a cardboard receptacle thinking about running taps and waterfalls but to no avail… Not a drop… No siree… It was time for a change of strategy.   I figured that I would have to trick my brain into thinking that I was stood up in order to achieve results so, I shuffled carefully to the side of the bed, put my good foot flat on the floor and used the beds remote control to elevate myself into an approximation of a sitting position.  By closing my eyes and focusing all my concentration on the fact that my left foot was kind of ‘standing’ on the floor, I was finally able to release…AAAAHH!  ….Unfortunately, the capacity of my bladder seems to be several cubic centimetres larger than that of your average pee pot so I ended up with a slightly different problem which I won’t go into right now.  Suffice it to say, a bed bath was required…

Nil-By-Mouth and How To Survive Hospital Food

When I arrived in my hospital room on the first day, a nurse informed me that I was due to be operated on that afternoon so I was forbidden to drink any water or eat anything.  Nil by mouth became a much despised expression to me as the week wore on.  Later, at around 5 in the evening, I was told that, due to traumas of a more urgent nature, I would be operated on the next day.  I didn’t mind so much at that time as this meant I could at least have a drink of water – my first in around 6 hours – and eat a tuna sandwich which I am convinced was actually a fish based glue product smeared between two pieces of cardboard.
For the next four days I would be put on Nil-by-Mouth status from around 2am until whenever they decided to tell me that my operation had been postponed again – usually around 5pm. I am fairly certain that this is an NHS tactic to make patients so hungry that, by the time they are presented with their slop, they are too desperate for food to complain and too weak to throw the plate at whoever has been unfortunate enough to have presented it.  I quickly learned to order Jacket Potato every day as this most basic of meals seemed impossible for even NHS chefs to screw up.  Before this valuable lesson had been learned however, I foolishly selected ‘Pasta, Mushroom and Leek Mornay’ from a multiple choice menu that contained only one choice.
My ex-wife, Heidi, visited with my daughter, Millie.  It was nice to be talking to her again.  It was strange having her there, laughing at all my jokes and plumping up my pillows for me.  I thanked her – for what was probably the thousandth time – for being there for me when I’d needed her the most.  She smiled and said that she was glad to have been.  It was nice…

The Dinner Lady arrived and plonked my Pasta, Mushroom and Leek Mornay down on my table – it looked like somebody else had already eaten it.  As hungry as I was, I decided that fruit pastilles would be less traumatic on my rumbling stomach.  I told myself that they counted towards my five a day…
The next day, My little sister, Siân, came to visit me.  She brought me a selection of sweets – Maltesers and Wine Gums – and some flavoured water, none of which I could touch, unfortunately.

There was a pay-per-view TV next to my bed but I had no money with which to purchase any credit. Siân offered to pay for me but I declined as I would be having my operation that day and then I would be able to go home.

Five minutes after Siân left, I was informed that my operation had been postponed until the next day – again…..yay….

How To Keep Yourself Amused with The Lack Of TV

Boredom was my worst enemy during my hospital stay.  I began to look forward to the hourly ranting episodes from the Angry Old Lady in the adjacent room to me.  Now there was a lady who knew how to amuse herself…

I was regretting declining Siâns offer of putting credit on my TV as I was beginning to suffer withdrawal symptoms from a lack of Spongebob Squarepants.  I stared at its blank screen for hours until my imagination – assisted by the wonderful hallucinogenic properties of morphine – began to populate it with TV programs:

…When I first turned on my Imaginary TV, there was some rubbish UK soap opera on…

…I don’t like soaps so I used my Imaginary Remote Control to change the channel on my Imaginary TV and was delighted to discover that Finding Nemo was on…Yay!…

..Then, when that had finished, I just surfed imaginary channels until I found some imaginary porn….

….but then I fell asleep for a while and when I woke up again there were only (slightly scary) imaginary kids programs on…

…so  I turned off my Imaginary TV and rocked back and forth for a while thinking about cigarettes…

The Cigarette Lectures, The Operation and My Magic Morphine Machine…

Finally, after four days of waiting, I was told that my operation was definitely going to happen today.  In fact, at around 6am I was told that I was first on the list… Later, I was informed that the list had been re-arranged but that I was still on it… Later still, I was told that they had drawn up a new ‘evening list’ and that I was on that

An anesthetist visited me to explain to me what they would be doing to ensure that I would be unconscious during the operation although I suspected that she was actually sizing me up and working out what size hammer she would need in order to knock me out…

My brother, Lee, came to visit – he had already been through the same operation as me and recounted his own experiences. This wasn’t as helpful as he probably thought, bless him – I’m a ‘just do it but don’t tell me’ kind of chap. He wheeled me outside for a pre-op cigarette despite the protests of the nurse…

…Get the hell away from me…

Once a day, I would ask whoever was visiting at that time, to wheel me outside for a smoke and each time I would receive a lecture from a nurse about how smoking can slow down the bone healing process.  I was quick to point out each time that, not only had I gone from smoking 20 a day to just one a day, the very fact that they kept postponing my bone fixing operation wasn’t doing much for my bone healing processes either.  To be honest, it became more of an act of rebellion for me than anything else.  Although each cigarette, combined with the effects of the morphine, made me feel dizzy and slightly sick, it was a brief moment of freedom.  I would sit and enjoy the cool breeze on my cheek, inhale the smoke with closed eyes and let the sunshine turn my eyelids orange.

Not long after I got back, I was wheeled down to theatre. Lee followed me as far as he was allowed and wished me luck.  I was terrified, having never had an operation before and having him there – my big brother who was always looking out for me – was more reassuring than he will probably ever know.

The anesthetists, sensed my fear  - probably because I was sweating and gripping the bed rail with white knuckles – and did their best to reassure me by taking the piss out of me for breaking my leg in such a ridiculous fashion – and the next thing I knew…..

…I asked for a bionic leg but they misheard me and gave me a moronic leg instead …

…..I was waking up and cursing at the top of my lungs. I’d been dreaming that I was late for a gig and that I had rather inconveniently broken my leg. It turned out that only the second part of the dream was true.  A disembodied voice spoke gently to me as if from far away; “It’s okay Mr. Hawkins, you’ve had an operation but you’ll have to stop swearing because there are other people recovering too.”

I opened my eyes and found myself in a large ward.  Two other beds had patients in – both of them male and just as confused as I was.  I became aware of a throbbing pain in my throat and, after croaking an apology for my outburst, I asked the nurse if I’d had a tube down my throat during the operation to which she replied yes. I felt sick and my legs were completely numb.  It was almost like the drunken waking-up-on-a-roundabout-hugging-a-traffic-cone incident all over again, only this time, I knew how I had got here and that I’d certainly not been having any fun.

…I don’t remember ordering a kebab….?…

Eventually, I was wheeled back to my room.  I had been told, prior to my operation, that I would be hooked up to the Magical Morphine Machine I mentioned in Part 2 of this story.  This machine was nowhere in sight.  I asked the nurse where my Magical Morphine Machine was to which she replied that there was nothing in my notes about it so I wasn’t having one and that was that.  An hour later, the feeling began to return to my legs – the pain became unbearable – somebody had, after all, been hammering a metal rod down the inside of my shin bone and then screwing it into place with what I imagined to be a Black and Decker screwdriver.  I called the nurse who still refused to call the doctor to question why My Magical Morphine Machine had not been added to her list of instructions.  Eventually, my sobbing and wailing woke the Angry Old Lady who, seeing me as competition, immediately began to counter my pathetic moans by screaming at the top of her lungs with an impressively imaginative vocabulary of swear words.  Eventually, the nurse relented and, after another hour of excruciatingly pain filled minutes, a doctor entered the room and exclaimed, “Good God! Why is this poor man not on a morphine drip?”…

An hour later I was in a much better place…


How I gained Super Powers…

…Wolverine enjoying a quiet moment of reflection…

Okay… so I didn’t really get superpowers….I was kind of hoping that having a piece of metal inserted into my leg would leave me with super powers akin to those of Wolverine from the X-Men – the ability to produce, at will, a set of deadly, razor-sharp blades from the spaces between my toes.  So far, these powers have failed to manifest which, although disappointing, has probably saved me a small fortune in shoes…

…So I have decided to settle for the ability to stick fridge magnets to my leg instead………..

Thanks for visiting my blog – If you enjoyed this post, you may want to read Part 1 and Part 2 also…

IMG_20140506_175933Jamie R Hawkins is an Award Winning Singer/Songwriter whose songs have won him critical acclaim around the world – visit www.JamieRHawkins.com to find out more…

The Plaster Cast Diaries part 2: How Twitter Preserved My Sanity and How Morphine Almost Destroyed It Again…

I learned some very interesting life skills whilst in hospital:  

  1. How to maintain my sense of humour in the face of adversity
  2. How to urinate whilst in a horizontal position
  3. How to replace TV with my imagination
  4. How to create my own visitors out of inanimate objects
  5. How to survive without food, sleep, nicotine or Spongebob Squarepants

So, after breaking my leg on a child’s playground swing (The Plaster Cast Diaries Part 1) I suddenly found myself being wheeled into the A&E on a stretcher, out of my mind on morphine and struggling to string a sentence together using anything other than monosyllables.  Noah, my 14-year-old son, was at my side, trying hard to ignore the fact that his father had become a dribbling lunatic within the last twenty minutes or so.  By now, the pain in my leg was so far removed from me that it could very well have been a table leg that I’d broken and not my own.  Nurses and doctors poked and prodded me, stuck needles in me, questioned me and all the while I grinned like an idiot. I remember being amazed at how many different colours hospital scrubs came in and I began to feel like I had somehow found myself an extras role in a Bollywood production – except nobody was dancing and doing those smiley hand movements.

Much of what happened to me during my weeks stay in hospital is a distant haze punctuated by brief moments of lucidity. There are huge chunks that are missing from my memory – hours and hours of my life that just aren’t there any more. I’ve searched high and low for them in the somewhat barren, tumbleweed strewn landscape of my mind, but they’re just. Not. There….This bothers me. … A LOT.  Unlike those times when I’ve been so drunk that I’ve woken up on a roundabout hugging a traffic cone with only myself to blame, this is somehow worse – it’s like somebody else has snuck into my head with an eraser and rubbed out large pieces of my memory. I can only put this down to copious amounts of morphine coupled with an unhealthy dose of sleep deprivation – every day, hour, minute and second spent in that place has merged into one jumble of recollections that have been difficult to arrange into a coherent form.

Thank God for Twitter

By sifting through endless pages of tweets, I have been able to piece together some of the loose fragments of my memory and recount the story of my week-long stay in hospital. Some of these tweets have helped jog my memory and I can begin to recall certain events…many of them I simply cannot remember tweeting at all and to this day remain a complete mystery to me. I’ll leave it up to you to work out which parts are real…I gave up some days ago. So, although I am unable to tell this part of the story in the traditional ‘beginning, middle, end‘ fashion, I will instead provide my observations on life inside a hospital from the warped perspective of my morphine addled brain….

What The Doctor Said…

I vaguely remember a man in burgundy scrubs – for all I know, he could have been a janitor – telling me that I was about to go down to x-ray and that he was going to put me to sleep for this. He connected a tube to a valve in my arm that I didn’t remember getting. I started to talk to Noah about something and then…..

Broken Leg + Running Magazine = Irony….Ha bloody Ha…

…..the next thing I knew, somebody was calling my name as if from far away.  Somewhat reluctantly, I left the magical land of Narnia and opened my eyes. I was in a different room.  Noah was still there but now Heidi, my ex-wife, was there too.  She was stood right next to me and I instinctively reached out and put my arm around her waist.  Somehow, the situation had removed all of the animosity we had harboured towards each other during the last year. She didn’t pull away.  “What was I saying?” I asked Noah. Apparently, a good hour had passed but to me it felt as though I had just dozed off for a couple of seconds.  I looked down at my leg and saw that it was encased in white plaster.  My jeans, the only decent pair I owned, had been cut open from ankle to groin and I remember feeling more upset about this than I did about the fact that I’d snapped my leg.  Noah took advantage of my state of drowsiness to take what he considered to be a photo that demonstrated irony perfectly.

My memory from this first stage of my hospital stay is extremely sketchy, but I do remember Noah chuckling as he pointed out that my hand had somehow managed to find a resting place on his mothers bottom.  I also remember feeling disinclined to remove it.  Again, Heidi did not pull away… A lot of unexpected positives have come from my leg breaking incident – becoming friends with Heidi again after so many months of bitterness, anger and regret is one of the best – worth breaking a leg for.  Life’s too short for staying angry…

Another gap in my memory… It disturbs me that there are so many. I found myself in a different room on a hospital bed. Noah was there but Heidi had gone. It was her birthday the next day I remembered, so she had probably gone out to celebrate which was fair enough…

Tell me Mr. Hawkins….Where does it hurt?….

People came and stayed for a while – my sister-in-law and my nephew. A doctor came in and explained to me that I had broken both my Tibia and my fibula and that it was not a clean break – I had somehow managed to shatter the lower part of my Tibia. He explained that this would need operating on pretty immediately and went on to explain what the operation would entail. I already knew what to expect as my brother had suffered a similar injury some eighteen months before – A metal pin would be hammered down through the length of my shin bone, connecting the two broken pieces together, and this would be screwed into place at both ends. Needless to say, I was not looking forward to this part of the healing process. The doctor told me that the recovery period for an injury such as this would typically take 12 weeks.  I groaned at this – I had been due to move to another county at the end of the week to begin my new life and pursue a career as a performing singer songwriter. This was a setback I could do without…

How Twitter Kept Me Sane(ish) and Chased My Black Dog Away…

And then it was evening and everybody left, taking Noah with them.  Suddenly, I was all alone.. .I had never had to stay overnight in a hospital before and I don’t mind admitting that I was a little frightened and still very shaken from the traumatic experience of breaking my leg.  I think I cried for a little while. What was I going to do? I had already resigned from my day job and was due to attend a job interview on the following Monday so I couldn’t even claim statutory sick pay. I already had a new flat to move into with rent and bills to pay.  Everything seemed so hopeless.

Several years ago, I was diagnosed with chronic depression. Since then, after countless therapy sessions and medication, I have improved enormously my perception of the world, myself and life in general. Despite this, however, my Black Dog still pays me regular visits, particularly when it senses that I’m feeling a bit low, and this was one of those occasions. As far as I know, however, hospitals do not allow animals on the premises so I became determined to get rid of it immediately before it got me into trouble with the nurses…

So I did all I could do – I reached for my phone and began to tweet…

Twitter helped me to preserve my sanity… well…some of it anyway… At first I was tweeting simply to amuse myself as I often do – making the most mundane observations and then making them as funny as possible.  People would reply to my tweets and I would find myself with someone to talk to - the next few hours were spent answering the same questions over and over – ‘I broke my leg‘; ‘No, I’m not joking‘; ‘On a playground swing‘; ‘Yes, it did hurt‘; ‘No, there was no alcohol involved‘; ‘Yes, I do feel stupid‘; ‘…and so on… The interaction helped make me feel less alone and provided a distraction for my troubled mind.  Black Dog soon turned tail and slunk off into the night which was actually quite an achievement considering the fact that it wasn’t even night time yet – I didn’t see much of him after that…. he doesn’t like my jokes anyway…

Morphine Dreams and Sleep Deprivation

Every now and again I would doze off only to wake up twenty minutes or so later. This was to become my sleeping pattern for the rest of the week and, to be honest, although it has improved since, it’s not a whole lot better.

That first night was the worst. I would doze and then wake, doze then wake until each moment merged into the next. My mind kept sweeping me back to the moment my leg had snapped and I was forced to relive, time and again, having to realign the bones, the sight of my skin bulging against the protrusion of the broken ends, the endless, agonising wait for the ambulance. I still get this every now and again, but that first night, it was relentless.

Every couple of hours, a nurse would appear and take my blood pressure, ask me to rate my level of pain on a scale of 1 to 10 (my answer was usually somewhere around 12) or give me some pills and a tiny plastic cup filled with sweet tasting liquid. I dutifully did as I was told and swallowed them. The liquid was Oramorph – morphine in the form of an oral dose – it was this drug that I blame for the temporary loss of my sanity… I came to rely on this drug, not only as a pain relief, but as a way of making my day slightly more bearable…

Later, after my operation, I was to be fitted with a machine which would allow me to self-medicate with morphine that would be fed directly into my bloodstream.  I would have a button with a green light on it which, when pressed, would give me a dose of the drug. The green light would go out and it would then not let me administer the drug for another 5 minutes at which point, the green light would come back on again.  I forget what this machine is called now so I’m going to call it ‘My Magical Morphine Machine‘. A short time after being hooked up to My Magical Morphine Machine, I began to tweet stuff that I simply cannot remember tweeting – reading those tweets now disturbs me a bit… It’s like somebody came into my room while I was dozing and tweeted for me. I remember waking up several times with my phone held in front of my face and a nonsensical sentence typed on the screen.  I also remember waking myself up because I was laughing like a maniac without even knowing what the joke was – this just made me laugh even harder – so much so, that a nurse came in and told me to shut up…

So, once I had decided that it was time to get to grips with the morphine situation, it was a relatively simple task of asking the nurse to take My Magical Morphine Machine away from me.  Patients are normally given a Magical Morphine Machine for a 24 hour period – I had mine for 12 hours. My sanity is somewhat shaky at the best of times – I didn’t need to lose it altogether thank you very much…

Continued In Part 3 of The Plaster Cast Diaries: Nil-By-Mouth, Hector The Pee Pot and How I Got Superhero Powers…

IMG_20130615_210010

Jamie R Hawkins is an Award Winning Singer/Songwriter whose songs have won him critical acclaim around the world – visit www.JamieRHawkins.com to find out more…

The Plaster Cast Diaries part 1: How Not To Get Off A Swing And Why I Hate Isaac Newton….

The very moment my leg snapped I was conscious of a number of simultaneous threads of thought: the more prominent of these were;

  1. OUCH!
  2. I can’t believe I’ve just snapped my leg by jumping off a child’s playground swing
  3. This couldn’t have happened at a worse time
  4. Don’t let the kids see

And all the while, my body was having ideas of its own.  Looking back, I am amazed at how I coped with what was actually an enormously traumatic event.  It is difficult to describe how it feels to look down and see what should be a perfectly straight, normal leg doing its own thing.  About halfway down my lower leg it was bent at a 90 degree angle to the rest.  Whilst my mind was trying to sort through the influx of thoughts, I saw my hands reach out and carefully grip this rebellious part of my body and move it back into a more normal position.  I’m not entirely sure if this was because it hurt slightly less by doing this or if it was because the sight of its weird angle was simply not acceptable to my brain and therefore had to be sorted out.  Either way, as my hands were performing this horrific task another thought popped into my head and merged itself with the rest: ‘Oops!…be careful not to pop the skin…

It was Saturday, the sun was shining and I’d walked down to what used to be my home and collected my kids for a trip to the local park.  I would be moving to another county soon to embark upon a new career as a singer/songwriter and I wanted to squeeze in some extra time with them before I left.  Their mother and I had separated the year before and I was finally beginning to construct a new life from the ashes of my broken marriage.  As the three of us were walking across the expanse of field towards the play area I was feeling a wonderful sense of freedom, excitement and confidence about this new life I was forging for myself, completely oblivious to the fact that life had plans of its own for me.

The ‘Nest Swing’ – most evil of all swings…

The play area has one of those ‘Nest Swings’ that you can stick several kids on at once.  It’s kind of like a tyre swing but with a mesh of rope spanning the hole in the middle that stops kids from falling through and removing most of the skin from their little bodies on the ground beneath.  This piece of playground equipment is by far the most popular in any playground with all ages so, for it to be not in use upon our arrival was a pleasant surprise.  My 8-year-old daughter, Millie, went straight to it as fast as her little legs could carry her shouting “Daddy, come on the swing with me!”  Not wanting to disappoint her – and secretly pleased that I would get to have a go also – I climbed on with her and spent the next five minutes or so giggling with delight as my 14-year-old son, Noah, pushed us as high as it would go.

When it was time to get off, I waited until the swing was at a manageable point and jumped off at the crest of its arc as I’d done a million times before.  I’m still not sure what went wrong exactly but the moment my bottom left the swing I knew that something wasn’t right – my body was in a horizontal position instead of vertical as it should have been.  I became aware of a small group of kids who could have been no more than five years old, waiting to get a turn on the swing and thought, ‘Great….now I’m going to land on my ass in front of these kids and make an idiot of myself’.

Then the ground and my person met with disastrous effect.  I heard, as well as felt the snap as most of my bodyweight landed on my right leg which was bent beneath me.  Milliseconds before that tangled flood of detached thoughts hammered through my brain, my eyes met with those of my son and I knew that he had heard and seen the break too.

Everything happened quickly after that; the re-positioning of my leg, the tidal wave of thoughts, and I heard my voice say “Son, call an ambulance, I’ve just snapped my leg.”  I remember feeling surprised at how calm I sounded despite the noticeable tremor in my voice.  Wide eyed and pale as a sheet, Noah blurted, “Oh my God, Dad, are you serious? Is it really broken?”.  Although he had seen it happen with his own eyes, his brain was doing its best to deny what it had just witnessed.  I figured it would be quicker to show him than to repeat myself and so I took one of my hands away from my leg and immediately regretted it because the lower part of my leg flopped to one side and the pain increased tenfold.  It had the desired effect though because Noah whipped his phone out of his pocket, exclaimed that his battery was almost dead, then dialed 999.  Whilst he was doing this, I struggled to re-position my leg into a more comfortable position.  The margin was very narrow – the slightest deviation to either side and the pain became intolerable.  

An artists impression… erm… slightly exaggerated… ahem…

During this rather painful process, I shouted in both pain and frustration.  The word that escaped my lips was a powerful one that I felt adequately expressed my concerns at this point. It began with the letter ‘F’ and is most commonly heard at football matches and in movies with a 15 certificate upwards.  The group of five-year olds were still huddled together waiting to climb aboard the swing which I had so recently, and painfully disembarked.  One of them, a little boy with glasses who reminded me somewhat of the Milky Bar Kid (despite the fact that his right ear was pierced), frowned at me with disapproval and said, “That’s a bad word Mister.  You really shouldn’t say that”.  After briefly considering employing the word again but this time as a precursor to the word ‘off’, I took a deep breath and replied between clenched teeth, “I’m dreadfully sorry little boy but, I’ve just snapped the bone in my leg and it hurts rather a lot you see.”  The Milky Bar Kid considered this briefly then simply nodded as if this explanation had satisfied him for the time being.

Meanwhile, my daughter had gotten off the swing with somewhat more success than I had managed and I became aware of her stood next to me giggling and telling the group of waiting kids that Daddy was only joking and that he hadn’t really broken his leg.  I started to correct her but then thought better of it – it was better that she didn’t see me in this state – so I told her to go off and play with her friends while Daddy had ‘a bit of a rest’.  Meanwhile, the group of kids, most notably the Milky Bar Kid, were eyeing me with new suspicion.

Most of my focus was on keeping my leg held in place and keeping my breathing slow and steady.  Every now and again I would curse rapidly under my breath whilst trying not to feel judged by the Milky Bar Kid and his posse.  A detached part of me could hear my son talking rapidly to the emergency operator: “JLC playing fields!….Road?….What road?….I don’t know!….hang on.”  He crouched down next to me, “Dad, what road is the park on?” I didn’t know so I suggested he ask one of the two adults present, a man and a woman I had seen sitting on a bench on the other side of the play area.  Noah ran off, spoke to the couple and the man ran off to find out.  While we waited I asked Noah to gently roll the football we had brought with us under my knee to take some of the weight of my leg. This helped slightly and I could focus on keeping my leg straight whilst relaxing my knee and thigh.  The man returned and shouted the name of the road to Noah who relayed the information to the operator. By this time, a good five minutes had passed although it felt like hours.  I could feel sweat pouring down my face and my back and I was beginning to shake.  I knew that shock was beginning to set in.

“Dad, he wants to talk to you.”  Noah had to hold the phone to my ear as I couldn’t release the grip on my leg – to do so would’ve been unbearable.  “Hello sir, we’re trying to get an ambulance to you as soon as possible but there’s been an accident on the M5….”  My heart sank. Typical. ‘”but I need you to just confirm for me your name and date of birth….”  I went through the details with him and gave a brief description of my injury, punctuating each sentence with the odd swear word.  I was trying so hard to keep myself together for the sake of myself, my own kids and the growing group of small children nearby that it almost blocked out the pain.  

Ooooooh, the leg bone’s connected to the….oh… erm….nothing apparently….

After what seemed to me to be an eternity, but was actually about another 15 minutes, I heard Noah say, “Dad the ambulance is here!…oh crap, it’s just a car!”  I looked up to see a paramedic car driving past the park. “That’s fine Son,” I said, “As long as they’ve got drugs on board”.  The car drove out of sight and reappeared in the car park on the other side of the playing fields.  

The car park at JLC playing fields is fenced off with wooden posts, each about six feet apart with a single length of chain connecting them together.  I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the car attempting to drive between two of these posts and over the connecting chain.  I heard a loud clunk as the chain got caught beneath the wheel arch and an even louder crunch as it tried to reverse back out of the predicament it had driven into.  My heart sank even further and I almost began to cry with frustration at this point – to see help so close yet still so far away was absolute torture. The man who had found out the name of the road ran over to help guide the paramedic through the fence posts.  Of the two adults who were present in the park at that time, this was the only help I was offered throughout my ordeal.  Nobody approached me at any point  to offer comfort or even to stop their kids from gathering around me as though I was an interesting specimen in a jar.  In fact, it was these children who were doing their level best to comfort me by saying things like, ‘It’ll be alright mister, the doctors will fix your leg, you’ll see’.  It amazes me that sometimes, when it comes to the crunch, kids can be so much more empathetic and responsible than adults.

After negotiating his way across the field, the paramedic finally arrived and apologised for taking so long.  He stuck a plastic tube in my mouth and told me to keep inhaling deeply which I did like a good boy. It was gas and air – it tasted like flip-flops and didn’t really help with the pain much but it gave me something else to focus on.  He said, “We need to straighten that leg mate”, and went to do so.  I protested loudly around the mouthpiece and said that there was no way in hell he was touching my leg.  Whether he understood my words or not I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure the tone of my voice communicated my feelings well enough. I allowed him to peek at the damage through my fingers and he quickly changed his plan of attack by saying, “Righto.  Back in a mo….I’m going to get you something stronger for the pain.”

Around the mouthpiece, I told Noah to call his mother to come and pick him and his sister up. Poor chap. It broke my heart to see his pale face so lined with worry. I tried to imagine how I would have felt at his age seeing his father in such pain and I almost cried for him.  The paramedic returned and, before I knew it, he had stuck me with several needles and was emptying vials of clear liquid into me….this was my first experience of morphine and I was to form a somewhat tumultuous relationship with this drug during the next week.

‘Nee-nar-nee-nar-nee-nar-nee-nar….’ said the ambulance who was clearly enjoying itself…

My whole body was beginning to shake with the effort of staying in an awkward sitting position but still I could not allow the paramedic to straighten my leg.  The morphine was good, but not that good.  So he stuck me with more morphine.

Suddenly, I was aware of arms slipping around my shoulders and a familiar scent in my nostrils.  A soft voice in my ear whispered, “It’s okay baby, everything’s going to be okay.”  It was my wife, Heidi.

Since our marriage break up, things had been tense between us.  During the last year, our relationship had ranged through a whole spectrum of painful emotional phases – mostly an intense hatred and a deep regret coupled with an acute sense of loss.  Neither of us could communicate without it becoming a shouting match – the solicitors terminology, ‘an irretrievable relationship breakdown‘ summed us up perfectly.  Yet, the smell of her, the sound of her voice in my ear and the feel of her arms around me was more comforting than I could ever have imagined possible.  For the briefest moment, I loved her more than I’d ever loved her before and, finally, I felt that I could relinquish control of myself.  I buried my face in her neck and sobbed for a while. It was a feeling of total surrender and I knew even then that doing so would leave me with a broken heart all over again.  Right then, I didn’t care.  It was such a relief to let go.  This part of the whole incident is still the most vivid in my mind and I will always be grateful to her for being there for me when I needed her the most, despite all that had occurred between us during recent months.

Meanwhile, the ambulance crew had turned up and, through a haze of morphine that had wrapped my senses in a fuggy cloud of cotton wool, I could hear them talking with the paramedic who gave them a rundown of my injury and the drugs he had administered.  Then came the words I’d been dreading to hear: “Let’s get this leg straightened out”.

By now I was resigned to the fact that this course of action was necessary and unavoidable and I spat the plastic tube from my mouth to say, “Okay….let’s do this thing…”  In my mind, it sounded brave and tough – the kind of thing a hero would say in a movie.  The fact that the words came out sounding cracked and shaky, like a teenage boy on the cusp of puberty, kind of spoiled it a bit.  I had been in a half sitting position for all this time and it felt to me as though I should be lying flat for them to do what they needed to do so, letting the paramedic take over the grip on my leg, that is what I did.

The paramedic looked past me and spoke to my son: “Son, you’ve done a great job

Me and my now grown up son, Noah…

so far but I can see that this is upsetting for you.  Maybe you should move away for a minute until we’ve done this part.”  I was filled with pride and gratitude for Noah at that point.  He had risen to an unexpected and stressful challenge and had coped better than I could ever have hoped for.  He was becoming a man. This helped me cope with the next part.

With the plastic tube clamped between my teeth, I did my best not to scream as the ambulance crew straightened my broken leg and lifted it onto a contraption with straps.  Heidi held me tight all the while and again I was filled with gratitude for this woman whom I had convinced myself that I had hated less than half an hour ago.  Once my leg was secured and strapped up tight, the pain lessened considerably.  My phone had been going off in my pocket for a while now and now that my hands were finally free, I could take it out. Without even looking at it I passed it to Noah who had reappeared next to me and asked him to ‘do the admin’.

Unbeknown to me at the time, Noah had used the remainder of his own phone battery power to execute what I now consider to be a stroke of genius. Once the ambulance crew and his mum had arrived he understood that certain others would need to know of the accident. He used the most efficient and effective tool at his disposal to spread the word: Twitter. Knowing that his tweets would post onto his Facebook wall he tweeted one simple sentence – ‘Holy shit! My Dad’s just snapped his leg in JLC‘. He understood also that this would cause some panic among those who would read it but he also knew that this was necessary to get those people talking and to find out for themselves what had happened when he had neither the time, nor the resources, to do this himself.  His priority at that time was to get back to my side.

How Noah reported the incident to the world….

At the time, Noah was criticised by some for his brief report of the account and what was considered as unnecessarily causing panic by not providing more detail but, in my opinion, his actions deserve a medal for quick, concise thinking.  

Noah rode with me in the ambulance and, due to my inability to string a sentence together without dribbling, answered my phone each time it rang, providing a more detailed account to concerned callers. One of these was my older brother, Lee who had, only eighteen months before, broken his right leg by slipping up on ice. I don’t remember much of the short conversation I did have with him but I do remember him joking about my always following in his footsteps. I probably laughed uproariously at this, I don’t really remember, but I do remember being secretly proud of myself that my leg break had been so much worse than his.  Sibling rivalry is a peculiar thing…

In the meantime, the ambulance crew stuck me with so much morphine that the whole episode was beginning to take on an air of hilarity – I began to feel like I was in a Monty Python sketch.  I found myself giggling each time the ambulance drove over a bump in the road – the pain each jolt caused seemed somehow detached from me and this in itself seemed amusing. I vaguely recall telling Noah that although I was thoroughly enjoying myself under the influence of the morphine, drugs are not a good idea and that he should avoid them at all costs ….unless of course he happens to break one of his own limbs in which case, morphine was just the ticket. I also explained that Isaac Newton was a cad for inventing gravity in the first place and that if he were still alive, I would gain no end of satisfaction from hurling apples at him on a daily basis. Noah sat opposite me in the ambulance with a bemused expression on his face as I swiftly removed any remaining doubt in his mind that his father was not the wise and respected individual he was cracked up to be and instead replaced his perception of me with one akin to a cartoon character. To me however, it was a moment in which I bonded with my teenage son and I took the opportunity to impart all of the pearls of wisdom that I had accumulated over my years on the planet, such as:

  • Don’t eat yellow snow…
  • Women are like cream cakes….um… I forget why, but just take my word for it son…
  • The thing with legs son, is that you just can’t trust ‘em….one minute they’re there for you, the next, they snap…
  • Don’t eat yellow snow….oh…I’ve told you that one already have I?…

…..He has not looked at me with an ounce of respect since…

So, by the time I had arrived at the hospital, I was feeling not only euphoric but I felt as though I had learned some very important life lessons too:

  1. Playground swings are dangerous animals that should be respected at all times
  2. My bones were nowhere near as strong as I thought they were
  3. I should drink more milk
  4. Kids can be more empathetic and grown up than we often give them credit for
  5. My son was becoming a man
  6. Morphine was my new best friend
  7. I still cared very deeply for my ex-wife
  8. Isaac Newton was an absolute bastard

Continued in The Plaster Cast Diaries Part 2: How Twitter Preserved My Sanity and How Morphine Almost Destroyed It Again…

Note:

I have, during my recent crash-course in blogging, been pointed in the general direction of a great blogging site called DudeWrite – if you are a seasoned blogger you will have no doubt heard of them – their reputation of being champions of some honest-to-goodness damn fine writing precedes them… As the name suggests, they are Dudes….and they like to write… So, as they all seem like such a nice bunch of guys and I am after all, a Writing Dude,  I thought I would enter this – my first ever post – into their contest in order to see how I measure up to the seasoned pros….and I won these!:

…wonder if I can use this to purchase underpants….?

…or if this will gain me access to any Top Secret Organisations…?

So, please check these guys out and, while you’re in their really cool tree-house, read the posts and vote on your three favourites…it would be nice if you would leave a comment, share and/or tweet on the ones that grabbed you by the proverbials too…  DudeWrite 

Increase The Peace,

Jamie R Hawkins

Jamie R Hawkins is an Award Winning Singer/Songwriter whose songs have won him critical acclaim around the world – visit http://www.JamieRHawkins.com to find out more…