A cat is supposed to have nine lives. Well, I can more than match the most fluky feline. Here, in chronological order, are my many brushes with Big D:
- Llaneirwg, Gwent 1958: Fell into a pond as a toddler, rescued.
- Pwll Bet, Penfro 1962: Drowning in a tidal pool, rescued.
- Afon Gwy, Gwent 1965: Lost paddle canoeing, heading towards cataracts, rescued.
- Philadelphia Association household, London 1975: Attacked by a psychotic with a knife, disarmed him.
- Wimbledon, London 1978: Motorbike skidded on oil, thrown off and slid across a busy crossroads, nothing hit me.
- Notting Hill, London 1980: Held hostage, raped and menaced by an obsessed stalker for 20 hours, escaped.
- Putney Towpath, London 1984: Queer-bashed by a gang of youths, thrown in the Thames on my push-bike, tide out, survived.
- Porth Mawr, Penfro 1998: Drowning in a rip-tide, swept out to sea, rescued by lifeguards.
- Solfach, Penfro 1999: Appendix burst, rushed to hospital in nick of time.
- Ynys-y-bwl, Morgannwg 2002: Car hit black ice on sheer mountain road, slid towards ravine, just halted traction at edge.
- M4 Motorway, Morgannwg 2003: At the back of a queue, a lorry smashed into the car in the lane next to me.
- M4 Motorway, Morgannwg 2010: High speed brake failure, no vehicles ahead, able to come to a halt on slip road.
So that’s 12 lives used up, and counting. But you would be wrong to get the idea that I’m lucky. On the contrary, my presence at the scene of each incident was triggered by some trivial serendipity in the first place. What these close encounters with oblivion have taught me is that we are all a blink of an eyelid away from shattering events (hardly a revelation), that none of us makes our own luck but luck’s fickle, random whims sure make us (chaos theory, ho hum), and, most significantly for me, that my own demise is a matter of supreme indifference, even to myself. For instance, during incident number 8, when all hope was lost, my legs and arms had turned to jelly in the struggle, I had been dragged out into deep seas and was being swamped by ocean swells, I looked up into the blue June skies and back at the fast-disappearing coastline and was composed enough to think banal thoughts like “this is a wonderful way to die” and even to smile knowingly at the appropriateness of my surname’s French derivation (Mortimer = Dead Sea). Take it from me: death’s a doddle; it’s life that’s tough.