In My Father’s Words
03/07/1938 – 18/10/2018
Life and Death
They seemed to be looking at me, accusingly, from the other side of the road. It wasn’t my bloody fault, I muttered. I had seen them before, well one of them anyway. Yet there they were, sitting on the pavement, opposite me, perfectly close together. Neatly, that was the word. They sat neatly, primly, together; their blunt toes lined up exactly to the edge of the kerb. They were sensible shoes, an old woman’s shoes. They were brown. Well, one as brown; the right shoe was stained with blood.
I parked the motor bike and crossed the road, stopping the traffic on my right by pointing at the first car, and simply looking at the traffic on my left. The double-decker bus, half on the pavement, and the knot of onlookers gave the clue that something was happening and the passing drivers were slowing down to look.
“Keep those bastards moving” I snarled at Richard. He did so.
I looked at the shoes again. “Who did this?” I addressed the question to the crowd.
“I did, guv.” The bus driver stepped forward, detaching himself from his conductress.
“Why what?” he said.
“Why line them up like that?”
He shrugged. “It seemed more respectful, like. Better than leaving them under the bus. What with the old girl likely to snuff it.”
“She’s not dead yet.” I picked up the shoes, the blood, deep red and sticky, already congealing. I went back across the road and put them in the pannier of the bike. A lot had happened in the last twenty minutes.
It had been a quiet morning, and I had been on the streets since 6 am. I was hungry and it was nearly nine and I was due breakfast.
“Juliet 29, Juliet 29.” The radio crackled.
I picked up the handset. “Yeah, 29”
“Traffic accident, Morning Lane, opposite the newsagents.”
“Roger that, MP. On my way. 29 over.”
“Thank you, Juliet 29. Use your proper callsign in future.”
“MP, MP from Juliet 29. Roger that, MP. Juliet 29 over.” Pompous git, I thought.
I was at the accident scene in less than two minutes.
“Jesus wept.” There was someone under a bus, a number 30 double-decker, which was half on the pavement. The driver knelt in front of his vehicle.
“She just stepped out in front of me, guvnor. I didn’t have a chance.”
The woman looked in her eighties, and was moaning slightly, but mot moving.
“Ok, let’s get her out. Has anyone called the ambulance?”
“It’s on its way. We can’t move her, her foot is trapped underneath the wheel.” It was. Bollocks!
“Have you contacted LT for the heavy lifting gear?”
“Yes, but it will be at least an hour.”
She wouldn’t last that long. We had to get that bloody great bus off her.
“Right, back in the bus. Slowly reverse until I tell you to stop.”
The driver started to protest. I stopped him. “Get back in the fucking bus. The poor old cow will snuff it if we ponce about waiting for someone to shift this bastard. It’s got to be now and there’s only you and me.”
He scrambled away nervously as I got on the radio. “Urgent assistance, I need a car.”
There was no car, it was on a shout. “You have to deal on your own, Juliet 29. “
The driver leaned out of the window. “Back now, very slowly.” He inched backwards and the right front wheel rolled free of her leg. A couple from the crowd helped me gently pull her clear. She was unconscious. There was no moaning now. The ambulance pulled up at the same time as PC Richard Hills arrived on a bicycle. He was red-faced and breathless. The ambulance crew packed their stretcher and loaded it into the back of the vehicle.
“Where are you taking her?” My question was to the ambulance driver.
“The Hackney, mate.” He shook his head. “I think she’s a goner.”
I nodded. The ambulance screamed away, blue lights flashing. Thank God, the hospital was less than half a mile away. It was then I discovered the foot, the right one, still in the shoe.
“Sweet Jesus.” I picked it up and ran to the newspaper shop. “Give me a newspaper.”
The proprietor, eyes wide with horror, looked at the bloody foot in my hand. “Which paper do you want?”
“Any bloody paper.” I had read somewhere that newsprint was sterile.
He gave me the Sun. No point in wasting the Times on a dead woman’s foot. I delivered my grisly parcel to the Hospital. The surgeon looked at it. “I ‘m sorry, mate, but I’m not Christian Barnard. There’s nothing I can do with that. Anyway she’s going to die.”
“But you will try, won’t you?”
“Of course I’ll fucking try. Now clear off and let me get on with it.”
All this passed through my mind as Richard and I recorded our report, got the bus shifted, the road washed down and the traffic moving.
She didn’t die, not then at any rate, but I did attend her funeral four years later when she was ninety-one. I also visited her in hospital as she recovered from the accident. I brought her shoes. She laughed. “I won’t be needing those any more, dear. I didn’t like them anyway.”
Written by BM