Unwanted injuries

Penelope Walsh takes a knock on the head

Last word, The Knowledge

Don’t be surprised if Penelope Walsh looks at you blankly, she’s just banged her head.

I’m starting a new support group.

‘My name is Penelope and I’m a trip hazard.’ Well this is how I imagine my first meeting at AA (aka Accident-prone Anonymous) would begin.

You see, most people injure themselves in a variety of interesting circumstances, which may hurt at the time, but make a great story forever more thereafter. A black eye from sumo wrestling, a broken leg rescuing cats from trees, and so on. I, however, have a special skill for slipping on wet floors in bathrooms. Exciting stuff I know, but recently I managed to hit my head (at least once, possibly twice in two different places) on the bath.

‘How?’ everyone seems to keeps asking... ‘did you manage to do that?’ And with that, I’ve learnt that for most humans it is improbable that anyone under the age of 60 is incapable of getting out of a bathroom, safely, alive and without the assistance of others. But if you’ve ever hit your head before, you might sympathise that it is difficult to explain ‘how’ coherently when your head feels like an eggshell full of soggy polystyrene foam.

It’s a strange sensation, one where you remember your own name, and you know what’s going on around you, but it feels as if it’s happening in a parallel universe, a million miles away, and you are only watching it on TV. To then jump into the action on screen and start engaging with the actors (even to say ‘hello Mr taxi driver, take me to the hospital please’), just seems like such a hugely impossible feat that you want to curl up in a ball and sleep.

So for the next days after my accident I slept and slept. And in between sleeps I lay on the sofa in a sort of waking-sleep mode (like standby on a TV), open mouthed and glazed eyed-half watching MasterChef on loop. But it was really once my flatmates returned home from work (all sweetly checking in on me, but tilting their heads with a look of searching confusion as I struggled with the effort of holding a conversation) that I realised just how jelly-brained I was. The words were all in my head, but somehow getting them out of my mouth seemed like trying to push a camel through the eye of a needle. Perhaps that’s why my return to the office prompted colleagues to ask, ‘do you remember who I am?’

A few evenings later, I sat watching TV and suddenly I was struck that everything on screen was incredibly, hilariously funny. Maybe it was just pain-induced hysteria? But just as all the messages and missed calls come through at once when you switch a mobile back on – it seemed the circuitry in my head was reconnected and working in overdrive, all at once.

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