At last, the final part of the honeymoon story in which we find out why I have of a fear of Lakeland Plastics.
If you haven't read parts one and two then you might like to click here and here to catch up on this tale of lakes, love and the emergency services. I'm not sure why it has taken me so long to write part three, perhaps it is because I'm still living with the consequences, or may be I just forgot. Grit your teeth (l really mean that), and let's go.
Have you ever heard of Lakeland Plastics? Nowadays it's just called Lakeland and sells kitchenware and useful type stuff for the home. 15 years ago it was primarily a catalogue based company with very few retail outlets, the biggest being the factory outlet at Windermere in the Lake District, the company's head quarters. Polly, as soon as she learned of our honeymoon destination, determined to visit this homeware Mecca. If I remember correctly she particularly wanted a muffin baking tray, but more eagerly she wanted to gaze upon the many kinds of plastic based storage solutions the company had to offer. We were, after all, just setting up home. So, after visiting the home of Wordsworth or Beatrix Potter, after cruising the lakes on steamboats, after dining on locally caught freshwater fish, visiting tarns and becks, fells and dales, taking in some of the country's most beautiful vistas and panoramas, Polly would ask, “When are we going to go to Lakeland Plastics?”
Towards the end of the fortnight, the early October weather turned more unsettled and a day taking in the shops of Bowness and Windermere seemed quite an attractive proposition. There were several bookshops I'd spotted and right at the top of the hill, next to the railway station was the afore mentioned Lakeland Plastics. Polly, with uncharacteristic patience, indulged me as I browsed shelves of local history books and biographies of Wordsworth and Arthur Ransome, and flicked through endless watercolours of the local landscapes, gently herding me up the hill towards her ultimate destination.
Finally we were inside the strip-lit outlet of all things kitchenware, polyurethane and pastel coloured. I feigned as much interest as I could in breakfast cereal storage options and plastic freezer boxes. Polly was remarkably restrained, only buying a few bits and pieces but taking note of things she would order later, so we eventually left the store relatively unburdened with carrier bags. A fine Cumbrian drizzle had started so we decided to head back to the warmth and dryness of our hotel. Polly hung the bags on the back of the heavy duty, out door powered wheelchair, the Cheetah, and we set off down the busy hill, lined with mostly inaccessible craft and gift shops.
The pavement (side walk) was much too narrow for us to walk side by side so Polly hung back a few feet. Something in one of the shop windows caught her eye and she paused briefly while I trundled on ahead. The drizzle turned to a light but coat soaking rain and my mind was fixed on getting to somewhere dry. As I approached the junction with a small side road the pavement steepened and slightly banked towards the road, the well worn, ancient, flagstones were greasy with the wet and before I knew it the wheelchair began to slide with a sickening, unstoppable inevitability towards the nine inch high curb and the busy traffic filled road. I pulled back on the joystick controller but the weight of the chair and the slickness of the ground beneath the wheels only produced a high pitched squealing sound and caused the chair to slew towards the side road. I heard Polly shout and felt her pulling on the back of the chair but gravity won out and the small leading wheels slipped over the curb, tilting the chair forward and sending me beyond the point of balance. There was a slow motion, plenty of time to see what was going to happen but nothing you can do about it moment, and I fell face forward from the chair. Polly just managed to stop the chair from following the over the edge and on top of me as I did a bone crunching three point landing, two knees and a chin, on to the rain soaked road. There was a shriek of brakes as startled drivers skidded to a halt around me and a kind of crunching, cracking sound as six of my teeth shattered. An awful lot of blood was being washed away from me and down a drain a few feet away.
Within a second Polly was kneeling beside me and crowd of curious and horrified on lookers had gathered. “Are you all right? Stephen? Say something.” “Uhggh. . .,” I replied. “Umph 'roken m' teef.” Little white pieces of enamel fell from my mouth. A local shopkeeper came rushing over carrying a small green box. “I'm trained in first aid,” he declared excitedly. “Sod that,” said someone else. “Call an ambulance.”
I don't know if you have ever lain face down in a Cumbrian towns main road, causing a massive tailback of traffic, but if you have, like me, you will probably not remember the experience fondly. It was cold and wet, shock was setting in, and the ambulance was taking forever to get there because some fool was lying in the road holding up the traffic. Polly had to stop well meaning people from 'helping to get him back on his feet' or practising their Cub Scout first aid training. My teeth began to chatter and that hurt like hell.
Later, much later, at a casualty unit in Kendal my chin was stitched up and I was given some painkillers. I asked to see a dentist but they looked at me as if I was asking for an audience with the alien leader of a small planet circling one of the stars in Orion's belt, so I was resigned to waiting until we got back to London. The inside of my mouth felt distinctly unfamiliar.
We still had a couple of days left of our honeymoon but by the following day my tongue had begun to swell and turn a fetching shade of black. Somehow the romance had gone out of it. By the time we were back at home my tongue was rubbed raw on the jagged edges of my teeth and I was slightly feverish. Miraculously I didn't lose any of my teeth. Six were cracked and broken but I didn't lose them. Even today if I run my tongue around my mouth I can feel the damage. And a shiver runs down my spine every time I see a plastic freezer box.
And so ends the saga of our honeymoon, our first holiday together. Fortunately this was not a foretaste of things to come. Over the last 15 years we have had plenty of lovely holidays, some of them without incident. (Not many, but a few.)