Surprise, sur-bloody-prise


Look, I’m not great with the unexpected. A surprise birthday party fills me with horror – unless it’s a ‘surprise’ birthday party, which means someone has, mmm, not exactly given it away but perhaps whispered that I would be a lot happier in a few hours if I brush my hair and wear a skirt. (This, incidentally, is an act of imagination. No one has ever thrown me a surprise anything, except my brother with that big rock, and that was more of a drop than a throw, and I was extremely nice about it because he meant to get the scrumpled up balls of newspaper we’d been setting on fire not the back of my head, and anyway it didn’t quite knock me out, though the lawn went a funny angle and I don’t remember getting back into the house.) My friend Susie used to hide behind doors and jump out at me. God, I hated that.

So when I was waiting to cross the road one summer evening a few months back, I was not well equipped to deal with the shout, thump and rolling cyclist that landed at my feet. In fact, I think I might have spent valuable seconds just gaping. I’ve no idea how long it took actually – the whole thing seemed to go on for ages. Anyway, thank God the cyclist was not badly injured. She dislocated her elbow, I think, and left a lot of skin on the road, but was able to stand and walk, wobblily, to the kerb. People from the nearby restaurant came out and took her inside, gave her an ice pack and generally tended to her needs. I think I was in shock, because off I mooched, but within five minutes I felt so guilty I rang the restaurant and gave the injured party my details.

The upshot of all this is that many months later I have been sent a form by an insurance company seeking my reminiscence of that evening. Fine. I can do the shout, crump, roll, gape thing perfectly well, but they also want me to draw a diagram. Good news for their sense of humour – well known characteristic of accident investigators – I’m as good at drawing as I am with surprises. Too late now, anyway. It’s sealed in an envelope and on its way: a confusing mix of crisply written linear narrative accompanied by a painstaking but apparently unrelated drawing of what looks like a scattering of beer mats, a man putting up a deckchair and, away to the west, some sort of cairn. I added some arrows, so that should help no end. I had to tick a box to say that yes, I’d be happy to provide further clarification if needed. Fifty quid says they turn down my kind offer.


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