My Bike Crash

A visit to the Cottage Hospital

By Richard Bailey

The Cottage Hospital in Church Road
Ken Wright photograph

It was the end of the days study at Mid-Herts College on the Campus, (now Oaklands of course) and I went to the bike racks to get my trusty racing machine to go home. I had some course work to finish before coming back to College that evening to sort out my Evening Classes for the next term, so I thought I would get a move on, so that I would have sufficient time. I had my books in a special cloth cycling bag that stayed on my back, but I also had a “Lab Coat” that was a bit awkward to hold, so I wound it around my handle bars where I could keep an eye on it. So off I went as quickly as I could, onto the Campus Road which in those days was not that busy and headed for the Parkway turn off. My bike had a “Fixed Wheel” set up, which meant that when the wheels turned so did the pedals and I was very used to it, racing track cycles used the same system.

I was taking the right hand bend in front of Welwyn Department Store when suddenly I was flung into the air and came down extremely hard onto the road surface, right in front of a bus queue. Although I put my hands out to protect myself, my face and arms were badly scraped and my precious bike was on top of me with a lot of damage to it. Although I was partially unconscious, I realised that one of my front teeth was broken and as I was lying next to the curb I tried to find the missing piece amongst the grit and dirt that had collected there. I really was a mess when a friend and fellow cycling fanatic pulled up next to me to see if he could help. He was soon followed by another friend from College and between them managed to get me sitting up on the curb. I was literally seeing stars by now, the only time I have experienced this and it was a really strange feeling. It took a little while for me to get my bearings and then I saw what had happened. My Lab Coat had unravelled itself from my handle bars and had got caught in the front wheel. This caused the front wheel to stop turning instantly and the bike was catapulted into the air as the rear wheel was still trying to push the bike forward.

My friends decided to get me to the Cottage Hospital for a check over as it was not that far away. I glanced at the bus queue and everyone looked the other way, not one person had offered any help at all, I couldn’t believe it. Somehow my friends managed to get me to walk with an arm under each of my armpits and also managed to wheel their bikes and mine, no easy task. We arrived at the Hospital and were greeted by the Matron I think. Whoever she was her “bedside manner” wasn’t very good and had very little sympathy for me, although my face and hands were covered in blood and by now my right wrist was extremely painful. She told me to “Grow Up” and proceeded to fetch some supplies to carry out the necessary cleaning up and inspection. A large piece of white gauze was soaked in a brown liquid and quickly applied to my entire face and I passed out! It was Iodine and the pain was excruciating, but it was probably for the best. After quite awhile I was told I could go and was told not to be so silly in future.

My face was a picture, covered in strips of sticking plaster and my arm in a sling, my friends thought it looked hilarious. Anyway, as we all lived close to each other we walked home together and I did manage to carry my bike, what a mess it was in. I walked into our kitchen where my Mum was and when she turned around she nearly feinted with shock. I related the story to her and she gave me a telling off as well. The time had obviously ticked by since I left College and I had to get back to enrol for the Evening Classes, so I got my old spare bike out of the garage, had a very quick cup of tea and set off back to the Campus. The very first person I came across was my Maths teacher, who was also the last person I spoke to when I had left College earlier. He was stunned at my appearance and asked what had happened to me and as I was relating the story, several of my friends and fellow students gathered around and listened and most of them burst out laughing. I suppose I must have looked quite comical with my patch work face and as I had regained my senses by now, I could appreciate what amused them.

On close inspection my bike looked worse than it really was. A new wheel, new handlebars, new front forks and a good clean up and it would be fine. What really annoyed me was the attitude of the people at the bus stop, they just did not want to get involved at all, and I wished I had said something to them afterwards, but what good would it have done? This was quite a typical attitude in parts of the Garden City in those days, mores the pity, a kind of snobbery where people didn’t get involved in other folks business!

This page was added on 22/04/2016.

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