The next day, I went back to school. It was a Thursday and before anyone asks, no, I can’t remember what lessons we had that day. It doesn’t really matter, because I didn’t make it past the lunch break anyway.
I had eaten lunch when it happened. I was in the playground and I guess I must have had a packed lunch that day, because I can’t think of any other reason why I would have had my black sports bag in the playground with me. I was on a grassy part of the playground which ran down beside the tennis courts – not a patch of ground that was used for anything in particular other than general playing on, being too narrow and tree-lined to be good for anything else.
I was with at least two friends, Steve Clarke and Anthony Hicks. There may have been others, but I don’t remember them if there were. The three of us had been at junior school together, in the same class in the final year and, barely three weeks into out time at our new school, it was inevitable that we were still hanging out together.
Somehow, we ended up playing a game where Steve was trying to get hold of my bag and pull it off my shoulders. He leapt onto me, I span round slightly, lost my balance and fell. Steve, who was a solid lad (we once played a pantomime horse together, and he was the back end), landed on my left arm.
I do not know why, but I instantly knew that my elbow had been dislocated. I think I must have sent one of the others – probably Steve who, despite his size, was quite athletic – to fetch help, but the next thing that I remember is being supported by a school dinner lady and walked back across the playground to the school building and the medical room.
When I got to the medical room it transpired that everyone thought that I had hit my head. To some extent this was understandable. Another pupil had suffered a head injury the day before (something which Mrs Thomas, the headmistress, had announced in assembly that morning) and I had gone deathly white with the shock. On the other had, the arm hanging at a strange angle really ought to have been a giveaway.
Eventually, the school nurse, Mrs Yarwood arrived. I was able to explain to her what had happened and she placed my elbow into an inflatable splint to immobilise it. And then we waited for my mother to arrive.
At this time, my parents did not own a car and, in fact, would not own one for almost another seven years. I don’t think that Mum had started working as a childminder yet, because Kevin, my brother, would not yet have been at school. Which means that she almost certainly had to find someone to look after him, and then make her way the mile or more to school.
Once she arrived, Mrs Yarwood drove us to Warwick Hospital. I remember my arm jarring every time we hit a bump, and wondering which fool it was who thought that a hospital entrance was a good place to put a set of speed bumps (which, thinking about it, might explain my longtime abhorrence of the things).
Once at the hospital, my arm was x-rayed and we were told that I had suffered a supracondylar fracture of my left arm – basically, as I understand it, I had dislocated my elbow, causing lots of internal damage and breaking the ends of all three arm bones. Moreover, I had also broken the arm at the site of the fracture which I suffered when I started school.
An operation was needed to put everything back into place but, with exquisite timing, I had eaten lunch, meaning that we had to wait until early evening for the operation to be carried out – a wait I remember nothing of, because a nurse very kindly whacked a load of painkillers and goodness knows what into my rump.
I spent four days in hospital (somewhat less than the time I spent after my scheduled nose operation the year before) and received a stream of visitors. I know that I asked my Gran to come up from London, and I remember also asking Mum to make sure that Steve didn’t get into any trouble over what had happened, as it had just been an accident.
I was discharged the following Monday, which was fortunate as not only was it my birthday, but it was also the day that we adopted Lisa and Kevin. My release from hospital was, therefore, to attend a slap-up lunch with the rest of the family, followed by a big party in the evening. Thinking about it now, it was the closest I have ever come to being a celebrity.
In the coming months, I underwent a lot of physiotherapy, but I wasn’t allowed back to school until December and was banned from playing rugby ever again. My arm is still bent out of shape, but I have got quite good at disguising it. In fact, a former colleague worked with me for six years before she realised. Caro, on the other hand, says that she can recognise me from a long way off because of the way it swings, and my son has a habit of not straightening his arm when he points at things.