I came home from teaching yesterday and shared this anecdote with my friends on Facebook. I enjoy telling anecdotes and have a great store of them, many of which see the light of day more than once a year. Sometimes I forget to count how many times a particular anecdote has been taken out and aired in any one year.
I am very fond of my Level 9 class - they are in their final year at the academy and they are quite a chatty group, enjoying whole class discussions on impromptu subjects. Yesterday, we were 'planning a day trip' - I offered to pay - and we were having great fun deciding on which film we'd see in Granada before going for a meal. The only problem was transport. There were 9 of us and I was the only one old enough to drive, but we didn't have a car big enough. This brought us to the bus situation here in Alcala. In August, the buses to and from Granada were reduced in frequency and the latest bus from Granada to Alcala in the evening now leaves at the outrageously early hour of 6pm! FR has been doing a spot of activity, including writing lots of letters, speaking to the press and gathering signatures on a petition, so I took the opportunity to motivate my little band to register their protests too. I suspect they may choose to ask their parents for a lift when they need to go, but it proved an interesting topic for a while.
So the bus was no good. One enthusiast suggested we went on bikes but not everyone fancied the 35km ride. And this brought us onto other forms of transport and my experience of riding a moped. As a student, I mentioned that I lived in Staines which was some distance away from my college in Hampstead. I travelled on my trusty steed, Mortimer - a Yamaha moped, blue in colour and really rather sweet. Top speed was just under 30 miles an hour on the flat. Uphill was a little slower. I used to ride along the A4, which went past Heathrow airport and then joined the North Circular - a busy road even all those years ago! For years, in wind, rain, snow and fog, I pootled safely around the roads of London on Mortimer, although I remember arriving home once on a particularly freezing day, and not being able to straighten up or move my hands, so cold I was. Brrrr...
Our conversation had led me onto Mortimer (though I didn't name him to my class) and our accident. It was a bright, sunny day in April and I was riding along the quiet back streets of Mitcham, where I lived, on the way to Wimbledon, where I worked. Suddenly, a blue Metro pulled out in front of me, leaving me no time to swerve or brake hard enough to avoid a collision. I remember hitting the bonnet of the car and sailing through the air. I landed some distance away on the other side of the road, on my backside, looking up at the front grill of a black taxi cab. There wasn't a scratch on me and the taxi-driver, bless him, came running up to me and the first thing he said was 'Wow, that was fantastic; are you a stunt woman? Have you done that before?' He was a charming man and stayed with me until the ambulance came.
I was wearing a skirt and boots and hadn't even laddered my tights, but I had a sinking feeling when I remembered that I had my 'spare' knickers on - the ones you really don't want to be wearing if you have an accident. They had a big hole in them and came up to the waist and were an unappealing shade of beige (pronounced on this occasion as 'beidge' please, to get the full effect.) And I started to giggle. And then I caught sight of Mortimer, who at first glance looked fine - but the second glance showed him to be at least a foot shorter from front to back! Poor Mortimer. He never recovered. I giggled more and the people around me told me it was shock.
I had fractured my knee cap on the handlebars on my way 'up' but executed a perfect landing on my way down - apparently turning a full somersault as I flew through the air. Hence the taxi driver's comment. I remember being surprised that it didn't hurt when I hit the car and I had time to say to myself, 'Well, you're not going to die but it will probably hurt when you land'. But I don't actually remember landing. I guess the brain doesn't record everything though for weeks afterwards, I had a full, slow-motion flashback of the accident - from lots of different angles, including watching it happening to me from a viewpoint somewhere above the action. Very strange.
Now, there is no way I would subject my English class to all this detail, but as we talked about the sensation of being on a bike as a lorry whizzes past you, I mentioned my travels in London on a moped. As I began to say I'd had an accident and damaged my knee, a voice piped up - in perfectly inflected English - 'Yeh, yeh, you've told us that one'. I was momentarily mortified to think I'd already told them but decided instead to be pleased at the excellent intonation and pronunciation. I think this little summary version will become an anecdote in its own right...forgive me if you've heard it before!
Sharing this story on Facebook - in a much simplified version, of course - a friend asked if I had told them about the Cadbury's Creme Egg car. I suspect I haven't.
I'm not sure how, but a friend had an arrangement to drive one of only 5 Cadbury Creme Egg Cars in the weeks around Easter. These are real cars made in the shape of a creme egg - completely bizarre. This particular year, I was a bit down, having split up with my boyfriend of 20 years (he of half a house in France fame). It caused quite a stir when this friend came to my place of work and parked out at the back, where staff on all eight floors of the building could be seen hanging out of the windows - though as it was only 1995, there were no camera phones to capture the scene! He thought it would cheer me up to have a drive out in the car with him on Easter Sunday and suggested we go to Scarborough.
This probably would have attracted enough attention as it was but my sister had the brilliant idea of lending me one of her fantastic handmade fancy dress costumes. If you've made a gorgeous chicken outfit, you want it to be worn more than the once, I guess.
I went wearing a yellow hat which incorporated a large, red, padded beak; a shiny yellow tunic with yellow felt feathers; bright red tights and red shoes with huge padded, three-toed feet attached. I advise against doing anything like this unless you feel very cheerful and happy and don't have the weight of having called the emergency services to deal with your unstable ex the night before...and take a spare pair of shoes, especially if you sister has bigger feet than you. I don't advise you wear this sort of a costume or travel in this sort of a car if you are troubled or weeping - it's not what excited little children expect as they drive past, waving.
It was a bitter-sweet experience all in all and one I think I shall not share with my students. But even I regret the lack of photos for this particular journey!
I forgot to tell you that in Bridlington, where we stopped at a stately home (with the awful name of Sewerby Hall,) there was an exhibition of birds of prey. The attendant there very seriously came over to me and suggested I keep out of sight.
Birds of Prey.
Here, the Stig drives a Creme Egg car around a car park. Honestly, we went all the way to Scarborough and back in it!