It was an unusual assembly. Our headteacher Mr Bugg was a man of few words, and as we sat cross-legged on the floor, he slowly made his way to the wooden lectern. Turning his head slightly, he revealed the contents of his right hand. A single egg. He held it in the air for us all to see. Then his fingers outstretched without warning, and the egg fell.
On my final lap of Richmond park, I came to the top of the hill. In the centre of the road, a cyclist was stretched out facing skywards, and her bike laid beside her. A lycra-clad man knelt by her head, and a lady who’d left her husband and pram on the grassy verge was encouraging the traffic to stop. The cars slowed down, more from morbid curiosity than respect.
I skidded to a halt, and hastily parked my bike on the side of the road.
‘Has anyone called an ambulance?’
‘No…no, I don’t think so.’
‘Don’t move, just stay there for now.’
‘What’s your name, love?’
The driver had stopped but she remained in the car. Her eyes drifted to us from her rear view mirror.
I dialled the ambulance, and as I turned I saw traffic forming. A man wheeled down his window and shouted ‘Get off the road!’, only to receive withering looks from us as he realised it was an accident site.
As I spoke to the operator, the injured cyclist made it clear she wanted to move but I gestured to her that she ought to stay where she was. The lady by her side had seen the accident, and said that she had been clipped and had launched upwards, landing on her head first. Her body then flopped down afterwards. Given the possibility that she may have suffered a spinal injury, you’re not supposed to move until the emergency services arrive. However, she was insistent, and the other lady helped her to lay on the damp grass against my better judgement.
The door of the car opened.
I continued to describe what had happened to the operator, and gave directions for the ambulance as best I could. Whilst I did this, I noticed the male cyclist picking up the injured rider’s bike. Her curled handles typical of a road bike had lodged themselves around the central frame, so it must have been a substantial impact.
The driver meekly approached, her long lavender skirt collecting the dew on the grass. She did not head straight to the victim, but answered the man instead.
‘I’m not sure. I don’t think I hit her. It was my wing mirror.’
‘Well, you’re responsible for your whole car. We need to take your details.’
The driver was visibly shaken up, but she didn’t seem overly concerned about the injured cyclist, who blinked fast as she began to replay what she could remember. Neither party was going particularly fast, but the car went to overtake, and instead cut into her. She recalled being hit twice, but couldn’t piece together how she escaped from her cleats and ended up facing the opposite direction.
The elderly woman dutifully gave her details, and after a few tense minutes had passed, began to apologise. It was clear that she did not fully accept the blame, however, the next thing she did was unexpected. She told us that her grandson had a poetry recital that afternoon, and said she needed to be on her way.
None of us had been in this situation before, but it seemed as if leaving the scene wasn’t the right thing to do. Despite having her details and reg plate, it felt wrong to let her go. With a final flourish of ‘I’m sorry’, she drove away.
The police arrived first. By this point, the mother and the male cyclist had left as I had offered to stay with the injured woman. She was getting cold despite her layers, and I chatted to her, mainly to pass the time as we waited, but also to keep an eye on any signs of concussion. The buxom policewoman offered her warm navy fleece which we draped over her, and gave me a blanket from the car too.
I recounted the full story to her partner, who scribbled notes into his pad. We had all the necessary details, as well as witness names and numbers. I signed a witness page and testified that I’d be willing to appear in court, if it came to that. They were not satisfied with the driver leaving the scene, and said they would pay her a visit later on after the poetry recital. From the reg plate, they deduced that she was seventy eight years old.
An ambulance came up the road, and I flagged it down. It wasn’t ours though – it was already filled with another unfortunate cyclist and was on its way to the hospital. Around half an hour after calling, ours arrived and the paramedics took charge. Luckily, despite the dramatic flip and the fact she landed on her head, she was relatively unscathed but taken in for observation in case of any delayed concussion. Like any keen cyclist, she was most concerned about getting her bike in the ambulance with her.
What shocked me was the state of her kit and clothes. Her fitness watch, a thick glass bubble with a heavy plastic strap, was badly scuffed to the point that the screen was now illegible. Despite wearing thick full gloves, her right hand had a deep graze. Her elbow and hip was scuffed and bloody through two thick layers of sporty neoprene.
Her helmet was cracked in two.
The egg had all the kids spellbound as it dropped to the floor. We’d been shown magic in this hall before: the old sellotape-balloon-pin trick was a revelation. This time, it was no sugar-coated illusion. The egg smashed, spilling its gooey contents over the scratched floor. This was a demonstration we’d never forget.
First aid: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Accidents-and-first-aid/Pages/The-recovery-position.aspx
Picture credit: http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-cracked-egg-dark-brown-shell-white-background-image49164063