So, let’s start this story with an event that combines a vast amount of pain with an equally big dollop of public humiliation (you’ll find this to be a common theme as we go along).
It’s a beautiful sunny day and I’m snowboarding in the French Alps with my mate Richard. The piste in front of us is long and steep before flattening out for about a half-a-mile, requiring maximum speed to have any hope of reaching the next ridge and avoiding the dreaded walk of shame. (You can tell this is not going to end well already can’t you).
The feeling of whizzing down the slope at full speed in full tuck is something only a snowboarder can fully appreciate – as is that feeling when you catch an edge and in less time than it takes to scream “oh shit” (I know, cos I tried) you slam face-first into the piste with a force that could stun a bull.
Now, I’ve had plenty of crashes in my time but this one was special. Special in the speed; special in the hardness of the snow and special in that it took me completely and utterly by surprise. Less than a second passed from being a streak of lightening flashing down the slope to becoming a streak of bad-luck disappearing in a cloud of snow.
So, after coming to this unceremonious and abrupt stop I lay there for a few seconds face down to assess the damage and avoid being recognised by other boarders as they zoomed past. Feeling in legs – check; limbs facing right direction – check; brain not damaged, semi-check, ribs….ah, very uncheck.
I’m winded and making noises like a bad porn film; the pain in my chest is making me feel rather sick and it is definitely not being helped by the uncontrollable laughter from my ever supportive mate who’s just pulled up next to me, deliberately showering me in more snow. However, this understandable lack of sympathy is quickly forgotten as I hear the words “shit mate, there is blood everywhere!”
Getting onto my knees I am indeed surrounded by a growing pool of red snow and unfortunately the source is not my nose, but seemingly somewhere beneath my jacket. At this point a number of other concerned skiers have stopped to provide aid to someone who is obviously in serious need of medical attention.
“It’s my ribs” I groan to my attentive audience, “I think my ribs have burst through my chest” – a dramatic statement I’m about to regret but the only obvious answer to the pain and the blood seeping out my jacket onto the snow. Tentatively I take off my gloves, take a deep breath and slowly unzip my saturated jacket.
As the crowd waits anxiously for the verdict, I put my hand on my chest and tenderly feel my ribs…hurting like hell but curiously all where they should be. Even more curious is the fact that the clothes under my jacket are completely free from blood.
It’s then that my dramatic “ribs bursting through chest” statement comes back to haunt me as I realise my life blood staining the snow around me is in fact a carton of blackcurrant juice in my jacket pocket that had exploded on impact.
Let’s just say my sympathetic crowd did not stick around for long and the uncontrollable laughter returned in force.
Next: Where’s His Heart Gone?