Taking a tumble is mortifying

Thursday 24 March 2016

Some people never have nosebleeds. My fellow Daily Express colleague on Saturdays, Jennifer Selway, is one of them.

Others never ever fall over in public – well, not since they were in the playground.

I am one of these. From getting out of bed in the morning until climbing between the sheets again at night I am the very model of homo erectus.

I may stumble, stagger, trip and totter but for half a century I have not fallen over in the street.

Until this week. It was one of the most excruciatingly embarrassing experiences I can remember.

My fall from 50 years of unbroken vertical grace was spectacular and complete.

I had just crossed the road on my local high street and the tip of my boot hit a raised paving stone.

I was walking fast and I was pitched forward to an angle of 45 degrees: the exact balancing point between forward momentum (muscle memory trying to return me to the upright) and gravity (which was keen to bring about the opposite result).

For several seconds I teetered rapidly and ludicrously forwards on tippy-toes, like a clown at the circus, desperately trying to recover my balance. It was hopeless. Forty-five degrees became 46, then 47.

My pantomime steps got faster and faster. Forward mass, downward pivot, and gravity made a triple equation with only one answer. An answer in three parts. Crash. Bang. WALLOP.

I smashed into the north London pavement so hard that I bounced, my right ribcage acting like a sort of spring. Boiiing. Then a second sickening crunch, this time my right hip taking the full impact.

My sunglasses skittered yards across the pavement. So did the letters I was carrying. One landed in dog mess. My mobile phone shot out of my jacket pocket and danced merrily towards a bus stop where people were chorusing in reflex sympathy.

“Oh!” “OUCH!” “Oh my GOD!” “Oooooh!!” And here’s the thing. I’d barely stopped bouncing when I was flooded, not with pain (that came later) but humiliation.

As fast as my stunned brain would let me I scrabbled to sit up. Helping hands materialised all around me, I smilingly shrugged them away. “No no, I’m fine, really. Quite all right. Oh, thank you.”

Other kindly hands were returning my possessions (the soiled envelope had been thoughtfully placed in a carrier bag with a murmured explanation). I stood up.

“See? Right as rain. But thanks everyone, anyway. Right… bye, then!” I maintained an insouciant nonchalance until I got round the first corner, waving behind me as I did so. “Thanks again! Bye!”

And then as soon as I was out of sight I crumpled, holding my side and hip. I managed to limp back to my car and sat in it for a good 10 minutes, waiting for the shock to subside and trying to manage the waves of pain that surfed through my whole body.

Almost a week on I still feel as if I’ve done 10 rounds with a professional cage fighter.

But after sharing the experience on Twitter and with listeners to my Sunday Radio 2 programme, I’ve discovered that almost all of us who trip and fall over in public have three little words in common, something we are exceptionally keen to say immediately to those who rush to our aid. I certainly was. “I’m not drunk!

Read more in Richard and Judy's column for the Daily Express here.
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