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Fourth Column

Scar Head

             The other day I was hit on the back of the head by a lump of concrete and nearly knocked out. I wasn't mugged. I wasn't attacked. The lump of concrete was actually stationary at the time - it was me that was moving, because I had just slipped over on a sheet of black ice and landed on the back of my head on my concrete-lined yard. So I suppose you could say that in fact it was the lump of concrete that was hit by me, and that if the concrete was doing this radio piece, it would call it " The Day I was Attacked by Miles Kington".
             But for me it was at least a chance to find out whether the description in books was accurate - he felt a light bulb explode in his head, he saw stars, he felt himself sinking into a dark hole and so on. I didn't get any of those. In fact, I was more conscious of the noise, which was very loud, and the first thing I saw was not stars but the face of my daughter leaning over me, "Dad, are you all right, God, you're getting blood all over the yard ...! "
            The next thing I remember of any interest was being plonked in an ambulance and having a long conversation with the ambulance attendant about show-jumping. I have no interest in show-jumping. It was just that ambulance attendants usually are in a more fit state than their passengers to choose the subject of conversation, and he was fascinated by show-jumping. In fact, it was his business. When he wasn't manning ambulances he was running his own business manufacturing show-jumping equipment somewhere near Stroud.
            I tell you all this out of relief at the fact that my memory has not been affected buy the blow to my head, as in books. The fact that since the accident I can only remember the silliest things and none of the important things means that nothing has changed.
            "Wow, that's some hole in your head," said the nurse, gazing at the back of my hairdo. " I'm not sure we need stitches. I think we'll fill it up with superglue."
            This, it turns out, was not literally superglue - it was just the slang term they used in hospital for "tissue adhesive", which is a fast-setting kind of - well, superglue, really. They bung it in, it sets immediately, and falls out later when your wound is healed. Apparently it looks quite impressive.
            People say to me, "Where's this knock, then?" and I point at the back of my head, and they look at the back of my head, and they go  "Phooooooo..." through their teeth, which is most unfair, as I can't see it. It's a wasted wound. The back of the head is about the only place on the body you can't see. Even bits of the back you can see. Not the back of the head.
            It's like the Eiffel Tower. When the Eiffel Tower was first built, many Parisians hated the sight of it, and there was a joke at the time that the best view in Paris was from the top of the Tower. It was the only place in Paris you couldn't see the Eiffel Tower from. Well, the front of my head is the only place you can't see the back of my head from, which is a shame, as we all like looking at our wounds. Oh yes, we do. We like watching our bruises change colour, like a sunset growing up. When we have a fingernail go black and drop off, we are horrified, but we have a look compulsively every now and then. At the moment my younger son is losing one of the last of his baby teeth, and he is so upset by it that he fiddles with it the whole time, for hours on end, usually in front of the mirror.
            "What does it look like?" I asked my daughter, who lost her baby teeth twenty years ago and had been staying with me over the New Year. My daughter is not one to mince her words.
            "Well," she said, peering at the invisible bit behind me, "I'd say it looked more like a cat's bum than anything."
            This is not what I wanted her to say. We like our wounds to look noble and scary, as if we have been wounded in battle. We like to have long-lasting faint scars. I used to have a scar in my eyebrow, which I was quite proud of. My mother said I had had it since I was eight. I asked her one day how I had got it.
            "A friend of yours threw a wooden train at you," she said.
            "Why did he do that?"
            "Because you had just thrown it at him."
            And I once saw Orson Welles on TV talking about his early career as a fortune-teller. There were two things you could always say to people that were bound to be true, he said. One was that they had a pet as a child, which died. The other was that they had a mark or scar on their knee. In very rare cases they had a mark on the knee which had been caused by a bite from a pet which subsequently died. Well, I had a mark on my knee which acted as a monument for a cut I had received in Tenby in South Wales, when I was on holiday at the age of 8 and had jumped on to a piece of broken glass on the sandy beach, and nearly bled to death…
            But I didn't bleed to death and the wound turned to a scar and the scar gradually faded and now it has gone altogether and not even Orson Welles could see it, so what I need now is another scar, because everyone needs a distinguishing mark to put in their passport, and what I have now is something on the back of my head which, according to my dear daughter, looks like the back end of a cat, which is not the sort of thing you can put in a passport. I think she means well. Cats are very clean creatures. Their backsides are almost invisible…
            "What are you doing with the cat?" said my wife.
            "I'm looking at its bottom," I said.
            "Why?" said my wife, as if she had caught me doing forbidden things on the Internet.
            "Because I want to find out what the back of my head looks like."
            The trouble is that if I do retain an interesting scar, it will be completely invisible until I go bald. As I said to my daughter, you can't put in your passport under distinguishing marks: "May well turn out to have a scar like a cat's bum when his hair begins to recede at the back."
            "You certainly can't," said my daughter. "For a start, there is no space in passports for distinguishing marks. They don't want to know. It's a myth. It's like the myth that you put your profession in your passport. There's no space for that either. Anyway, it won't leave a mark if Tom is anything to go by."
            Tom is her younger brother, my older son. I didn't know he had any scars.
            "He hasn't," she said, “ but he nearly did. When he went to Mexico - you remember, when he was living in America? - the day before he went to Mexico he got in a fight in a bar in New York. Someone near him said something rude about the Irish, and an Irishman in front of him turned round, thought it was Tom to blame and punched him. He had cuts beneath both eyes and had to get them stitched. The doctor discovered he was going to Mexico the next day so he said he would put soluble stitches in which would melt after a few days. Fine. Except that at the end of his first week in Mexico it became apparent that the guy had put the wrong stitches in, because they weren't melting and the skin on his face was beginning to grow over the stitches. So he had to take them out himself, in a hotel room in Mexico, very carefully and rather painfully. But luckily it didn't leave a scar."
            I felt faint. Luckily, my daughter went back to London shortly after that. I have been feeling much better ever since.

 

 

END - back to top
Miles on Air
Radio Television
Postcard from Abroad
The Archers
Beginnings and Endings
Franglais
Wife of Bath
Patpong Road
Memorable Verse
Barbed Wire Ballads
Dying Words
How to tell a Funny Story
A Handbag
Dead Slang
Letter from a Magpie
Choosing Baby's Name
Letter from a Cuckoo
Hunchback of Notre Dame meets Richard III
One-liners
Scar Head
Wonderland World Cup
Bunter in Hamlet