Chapter 32 Off the Road
I’ve had a few motor bikes since we returned to England, never being able to afford a car. I also have never taken a motor cycle driving test as my full driving licence allowed me to drive motorcycles up to 125cc. with 'L' plates attached. So I’d had a couple of Honda 125cc bikes and then two Susuki 125s. When the Susukis became too expensive I down graded to a JAWA 125 not so fast but it got me to Hemel Hempstead and back each day.
Then in the late 1990s the law was changed so that to drive anything bigger than
50cc you would have to pass a proficiency test before the end of the year. I hurriedly arranged this and duly passed the test which was conducted in a school playground. I had arranged some tuition from a local motorcycle driving instructor who, when I had passed the test and been given a piece of paper saying I could now drive my JAWA 125cc with L plates, my instructor said I might as well take a full on road test which would allow me to drive a bigger motorcycle up to 500cc. Once more another driving test which I passed successfully. I remember being told on that very first bus test I was going a bit slow and this time I was also told I was going a bit slow through some of the country lanes around Aylesbury but this time it wasn’t because of a different bus but because my poor old JAWA couldn’t go any faster.
Well no sooner had I passed my test then I was off to Mick Surman’s my motorcycle dealer in Aylesbury to purchase a brand new JAWA 350cc. I bought it on Friday the
22nd of August 1997 and spent Saturday driving around Aylesbury, getting use to a bigger machine. Sunday the 24th I was on a late turn and enjoyed my ride to work on my brand new motorbike. I finished about 10 o’clock that evening and set off for Aylesbury on my new bike. I was approaching the petrol garage just before the entrance to Hemel Hempstead railway station when I noticed a car facing me waiting to turn right into the garage. Just as I was almost about to pass the car it suddenly pulled across in front of me. Goodbye brand new bike and me I thought as I crashed broadside into the car, the bike stopped, I didn’t and lost consciousness as I went sailing over the car to land on my back in the road. I came to after a while and proceeded to wiggle my arms and legs, well no broken back although my stomach and groin sure felt sore.
Within a few minutes an ambulance had arrived. Well they told me they happened to be just passing on their way back from a call. I had by that time got to my feet and felt relatively ok although I was unaware of my injuries due to shock. I told the medics I was ok and just wanted to get back home and signed a disclaimer form for the ambulance crew. By this time a police officer had turned up and was talking to the young male driver. Meanwhile his female passenger was running around saying “it was all my [her] fault.”
I later thought what on earth was she doing to him to distract him. Anyway I left my brand new written off bike in the garage forecourt and got a taxi from the station home to Aylesbury and presented myself to a very surprised and upset family. I had rang Annette from the railway station to tell her I'd had an accident but that I was ok.
The next morning, Monday, my daughter Heather told me I had broken my wrist or arm because of the bruising but I was not convinced however Annette persuaded me to go to the hospital anyway. When I turned up at casualty and told them I’d been in a motorcycle accident I was immediately given a full examination. I told them my groin hurt and they did lots of tests and told me I was ok. When you fly though the air tearing your stomach on the windscreen supports I am sure your stomach is not alright which was to prove correct later on.
In the meantime following x rays I was sent to the plastering room to have my wrist and arm set in plaster. I noticed there were lots of photos and thank you notes posted on the wall from previous motorcycle accident victims. When I arrived home with a brand new plaster cast everyone seemed pleased to have been proven right and that I had taken their advise and gone to hospital. My new plaster cast soon became adorned with names and drawings. My new granddaughter Amy had such a pained look on her face when she saw me, she was nearly one year old.
later that day I rang the garage to tell them I’d be off for a while. They told me one of the drivers had seen me lying in the road as he went past and assumed I was dead so they were pleased to hear I would be coming back to work some time soon. I contacted the union solicitors who began working on the case straight away, eventually winning for me, at no cost, a decent amount of compensation. After a couple of hiccoughs in the legal system the young man received a fine but was allowed to keep his licence as according to his solicitor he had a low IQ and needed his car to get to work and also he would need to earn money to pay off his fine not only for this accident but for his previous convictions for speeding. He should have lost his licence and the police commiserated with us for the fact that he was still driving.
I also rang up Mick Surman on the Tuesday to tell him about the accident and to sort out the insurance claim. Mick said not to worry about the insurance. The insurers had already contacted him so he knew of my accident and the insurers informed him that the bike had been written off and Mick had already got me a brand new bike ready for collection. I told him my arm was in plaster but he said never mind that you can pop over and look at the bike from time to time until you are ready to go again. After a few visits to the hospital my arm was finally released from its cast. Then followed some physiotherapy on my hand to get it mobile again. After a while I was soon back to full working order and off to work again. One odd thing did happen a few years later. I received a phone call from the police in Manchester to say that my motorbike was being held in their vehicle compound and if I wanted it released I would have to pay a sum of money. I told them the bike had been written of by the insurers some years previously. They asked if I knew who recovered the bike and said it looked like some sort of scam and they would look into it and I heard no more.
Over the years I've been very fortunate to have had very little time off sick.
Although a couple of times do spring to mind. One was the eating of a cream bun at Chelsham garage. At the end of the day any leftovers from the canteen were put out by the canteen staff for the late turn drivers to enjoy, unfortunately fresh cream buns do not stay fresh for ever and having enjoyed a free cream bun for my evening tea I set off with the 706 to Tring and then home to Aylesbury. During the night the cream bun had its revenge and I was off sick the next day so losing a days pay. A very expensive free bun Annette pointed out. Another self inflicted sickness occurred when I had overdone the spice in a meal I'd cooked. I was feeling a bit unwell the next morning but went to work and signed on. I managed to get to London although I did stop for a few minutes when I reached the end of the M1 at Brent Cross and put my head down on the wheel while a bout of nausea passed, and do you know not one passenger asked what was wrong. By the time I got back to the garage I was feeling very ill. I must have looked ill as well because Pat Auger came over to me and asked if I was ok when I moaned that I wasn't she said "don't worry Dave you rest, I'm on standby, I'll do your second London" that's what I call a real friend. By the time Pat had got back from London I was feeling well enough to pay in and go home.
I also managed to get two hernias, some years apart though. The first was my own fault. I had gone into town to by a new television, they were big and heavy years ago, but being too mean to have it delivered I carried it from the shop to the bus station and then from the bus stop to our house, only across the road but that was enough to start a small tear in my groin. The second was the result of the above mentioned motorbike accident although I couldn’t claim for that as I’d already settled the claim for the accident. Fortunately in between the two hernia operations they had speeded thing up so instead of a three day stay in hospital it was operation in the morning, a sandwich in the afternoon and goodbye in the evening. Mind you I did enjoy the rest at home recovering. Looking back I remember how I couldn't wait to get back to driving those big red buses after even a few days on holiday. But now somehow the stress was beginning to build up and I looked forward to my days off.