Drained Of Life – Almost

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

 

The last couple of blog post have concerned people featured in the Darwin Awards, “Never Hitch Your Wagon” about someone who wasn’t eligible because he survived his and his wife’s stupidity, and “Little Dumb And Large Dumber”  because their dumbness did make them successful Darwin Award winners.

I had a friend who almost featured in the Darwin Awards too. The only reason he didn’t was because they didn’t exist in those days and probably none of us would have had the presence of mind to nominate him anyway.

I won’t tell you his real name, have to expose the innocent and protect the guilty and all that, but his nickname was “Goners” pronounced “Gone-ers”. It was a nickname he gained after the incident I am now going to tell you about, and for most of his friends he’s still stuck with it to this day.

It happened when we were all young guys, in our teens and spending a leisurely summer messing around and generally enjoying life the way you can before you get older and wiser and burden yourself with responsibilities and debt and so forth. Then the Dads were paying the mortgage and bringing home the bacon (sometimes literally) and we were carefree and happy.

This day we decided to go for a walk along a nearby river. None of us were keen fishermen but we liked the river and walks along the riverbanks and the little stony beaches that the river’s meanders had left here and there. That particular summer was hot and a bit of bathing in the cool clear unpolluted water was also on the agenda.

It wasn’t a big river, no Amazon that’s for sure. Just about 50 feet across, or thereabouts, and maybe four or five feet deep towards the middle. There were a few deeper holes that serious fishermen tended to use, but we were always content messing around in the shallower water. It was fun and safe. In fact thinking and writing about it, I wish I was back there right now.

But I’m not, so on with the story.

Part of the river bank was relatively flat with only a slightly sloping bank down to the water. Other parts were a straight drop. And yet others consisted of a fairly steep slope down to the water’s edge.

Local farmers had dug drains at intervals to let rainwater run off their fields into the river, and between where the man-made drains ended and the river began, the water flow had over the years dug its own ‘V’ and then ‘U’ type trenches by eroding the top soil.

These had to be negotiated when one was walking along the riverbank, but it wasn’t a problem. That was how things were and everybody just accepted it and got on with it. I’m sure nowadays there would be a bureaucratic do-gooding group wanting all sorts of rules and regulations both to disrupt the farmer’s lives and to spoil the nature walk for the rest of us. In those days some interfering busybody was more likely to end up in the river and they knew it so they stayed away.

Of course, when I said the drains weren’t a problem, what I meant was they weren’t a problem for most of the people most of the time. But there’s always one idiot who will find a way to mess up even a nice summer’s day stroll along the riverbank.

Enter “Goners” into the story.

Although the day I am recounting was idyllic weather wise, during the previous night there had been a thunderstorm and some furious rain for a little while. The result of that was that the following morning there was considerable run-off of rainwater from the fields, via the farmer’s drains into the river. This made the areas close to the drains a little wet and slippery, not to mention mucky.

We had been walking for a few miles, successfully crossing all the open drains we had encountered. And then it happened!

“Goners” tripped or lost is concentration or something, but his balance went and he headed over the side of the riverbank.

At first this caused unbridled hilarity amongst the rest of us. We were laughing and pointing and cheering. If we had had pens and paper with us, no doubt we would have held up makeshift score cards critiquing the ‘dive’. But we hadn’t so we just laughed and laughed, not only at the dive but at the frantic wriggling and gurgling of “Goners” in the trench.

Then somebody twigged on what was happening and said, “OMG I think he’s drowning!”

“How can you drown in three inches of water?”, came a chorus of incredulous replies.

But he was.

“Goners” was in BIG trouble.

He WAS actually drowning in probably less then three inches of water.

“Goners” had fallen into the drain nature had made with the water erosion. Obviously he didn’t intend to, and, unprepared, he fell head first, with his arms by his sides, as opposed to being in a normal diving position with his arms outstretched in front of him and slightly raised.

As he had slid down the riverbank towards the water he had embedded himself farther and farther into the drain, trapping his arms by his side.

And when he reached the water, which was indeed barely three inches deep at the edge, his face including his nose and mouth were submerged under the level of the water.

The frantic wriggling wasn’t just to try to free his arms, but to try to get his mouth and nose out of the water to grab some much needed air. And he clearly wasn’t having much success.

Once we realized that he was in real trouble, of course it was all hands on deck so to speak and everyone rushed to his assistance. Two of us each grabbed one of his feet and pulled him back up the bank a little so that his head came out of the water. Much to his relief, and ours, “Goners” made a few huge grabs for air and the crisis seemed to be over.

Now I don’t know to this day whether what happened next was a deliberate act, something sub-conscious, or just another minor accident, but with his movement and gasping for air his feet, which like the rest of him were slippery with the muck from the drain, managed to slip out of our hands and he slid back into the water again. Gurgle, gurgle, wriggle, splutter, gurgle….

We knew he was in no danger this time and yes, we did laugh again. It was funny for everyone but “Goners”. Some of us – not me you understand, no definitely not me, of course not, don’t be silly, how could you think such a thing – could have played that game all day, pulling him out of the river and then letting him slide back in. Thinking about it now, we probably invented a new water-boarding technique, to us at the time it was just fun.

But we must have thought better of it after a couple of ‘dunks’ because the we pulled “Goners” out of the drain completely and back up on to dry land.

When he got his wits about him once again he said, “Thanks guys. I was nearly a goner.”

And that was his nickname for ever more, “Goners”.

It shows you just how easily and innocently things can happen that under different circumstances would have had a lot more tragic results.

Postscript:

Strangely enough, many years later, in the very same river as it happens, a guy called Willy (the same as featured in my blog post “Willy And Woof”) did the very same thing while walking back home from a bar, very, very drunk. That time however there was no one around to help.

Now he could have been a Darwin Award winner!

 

 

Lost In The Fog!

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

 

Tommy was just an ordinary bloke. When I got to know him he was getting on in years, in his late seventies I would guess. He was a nice man, very amiable, very kind and great chat. In fact that’s what Tommy liked to do best – chat. He could tell stories all night long.

Tommy was of a generation past who, like my dad, was brought up spending their evenings visiting their friends and having social interaction that did not involve computers, iphones, blackberries, laptops, skype, msn, goggle+, twitter, myface and spacebook or whatever they’re called. You know, all the paraphernalia that we don’t seem able to do without these days. Or maybe better, have become obsessed with these days.

He had been born in the countryside, on a small farm. Too small in fact to sustain the family economically, so when Tommy was of an age he was sent out to find work elsewhere, and elsewhere of course meant the city. Tommy did get himself a job, and a wife and a family and he spent the next forty years or so living in the city suburbs.

He was content enough with his life and so he should have been. He was never out of work, and raised a nice family, two boys and a girl who all of whom did well for themselves. Eventually they all got married and moved away to their own homes and a few years after that Tommy retired. That’s when he got the urge to return to the countryside where he had been born and raised.

So it was that Tommy and his wife bought a small-holding of a few acres in the countryside, quite close to where an uncle of mine lived at the time. Tommy and he were of a similar vintage and they quickly became friends, visiting each other’s houses frequently. Sometimes the get togethers were a bit more formal and the wives came along too. Other times Tommy would just wander across the fields on his own to visit and have a chat with my uncle. There were only three smallish fields between the two houses, whereas the trip via the road would have been at least five times the distance.

This routine went on for several years without noteworthy incident. Then one evening in late autumn Tommy wandered across the fields to talk to my uncle. Nothing unusual in that. They chatted away for several hours, probably had a few beers or a shot of whiskey, which they were both known to frequent, though not abuse.

When it was Tommy’s time to go home the fun started. He put on his jacket and hat and my uncle conveyed him to the back door, which he habitually used. It was more or less in a direct line to his own house. As Tommy was leaving it was getting fairly dark. There was no moonlight to speak of and a fog had started coming down.

I should point out here to people reading this who have never lived in the countryside that at night it is dark, I mean, DARK, very! In cities and towns and their suburbs there is usually street lighting and also an ambient glow that helps to keep real darkness away. In the countryside nothing but the odd light at someone’s house a long, long way off.

As Tommy was leaving my uncle’s house visibility was about ten yards ahead, and he had little trouble in getting to the first field gate and starting his journey back to his own house. He went on more or less on automatic pilot, he had done the journey so many times, and he made it into the second field without difficulty. But all the time he had been walking the fog had been descending and thickening. Now visibility was almost zero, and it was completely dark as well.

After you are out in the dark for a while your eyes adjust. That’s why soldiers and paratroopers and sailors use a red light before they venture out, to allow their night vision to kick in. But fog has a different and very disorienting effect if you aren’t used to it and we weren’t used to it, it maybe happened on this scale once a year, if that.

So there Tommy was in the middle of the second field, in the dark, with the fog, and he was completely lost. Completely!

He kept walking, and walking, and walking, and walking but he never made it to the edge of the field. If he had managed that he could have followed the hedge and fence until he got to a gate. But he never got to the hedge.

All he managed to make contact with that evening were stacks of hay bales that were set up in the field here and there, first to dry a little and then to be collected and brought into the barn.

It’s hard to say how many miles Tommy walked that night, but it could have been at least five, probably more. He was at it for hours. Walk….BUMFFF, into a stack of bales. Walk….BUMFFF, into another stack of bales. Walk….BUMFFF. Walk….BUMFFF. Walk….BUMFFF.

Eventually, fatigued, bewildered, and now frightened he would never see home again, he sat down at the next bunch of hay bales he walked into, pulled a few of them around him and fell asleep.

It was now after midnight and Tommy’s wife was getting anxious that he return home. It wasn’t unusual for him to be late getting back to his own house, once the two old fellas started to chat they could go at it for ages. But this was getting late even for him. My uncle told her that he had left shortly after nine o’clock. It was now approaching 1 am, and they both became alarmed, fearing the worst, that Tommy had become unwell on his walk back to the house.

By this time my uncle was in bed, but up he got, dressed, got himself a torch and away he went outside to look for Tommy. In the intervening three hours or so the fog hadn’t quite disappeared, but it had retreated substantially and visibility with the torch wasn’t too bad. My uncle got his dog, a collie who was delighted at the chance for a night stroll, and they both set off into the first field.

No sign of Tommy. My uncle shouted and shouted, but no response. He walked round the edge of the field, just to make sure Tommy hadn’t fallen into any of the ditches and maybe broken a leg. No, no Tommy.

Then into the next field. My uncle and the dog were just about to start the same process of walking round the periphery of the field again, but before they started he shone his torch in a sweeping motion across the field from right to left. He noticed one stack of hay bales knocked over. He moved his light a little more. Another stack of hay bales on the ground. Then another and another.

“What the hell?” he said to himself, as he surveyed the devastation.

You see, out of something like twenty-three stacks of hay bales, Tommy had managed to blunder into nineteen of them and knock them down. After every one he walked into he must have set off in a completely new direction, like a veritable pin ball he just ricocheted off one lot and meandered on until he hit another and so forth. I have known people with little sense of direction but this was just ridiculous!

They found Tommy a little while later. Well, the dog did first and then my uncle picked out the boots and lower parts of Tommy’s legs sticking out from below some of the upturned hay bales. He got him gathered up and conveyed him back to his own house.

Tommy never did live that journey down.

And he never did venture out in the fog again.

 

 

Have you had similar experiences? Send them along. Let the world know what is happening before it is too late.

El Camino del Rey

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

 

Occasionally you get something really stupid that you just have to admire. The guy doing the video linked below is one of them.

First, here’s what it’s all about….

 

El Caminito del Rey (English: The King’s little pathway) is a walkway, now fallen into disrepair, pinned along the steep walls of a narrow gorge in El Chorro, near Álora in the province of Málaga, Spain. The name is often shortened to Camino del Rey (English: King’s pathway).

In was originally constructed in 1901 for workers who needed to cross between the hydroelectric power plants at Chorro Falls and Gaitanejo Falls, to transport materials, and for inspection and maintenance. Construction of the walkway took four years and it was finished in 1905.

In 1921 King Alfonso XIII crossed the walkway for the inauguration of the dam Conde del Guadalhorce and it became known by its present name.

The walkway is one metre (3 feet and 3 inches) in width, and rises over 100 metres (350 feet) above the river below. Constructed of concrete resting on steel rails supported by stanchions at around 45 degrees into the rock face.

It is currently in a highly deteriorated state and there are numerous sections where part or all of the concrete top has collapsed. The result is large open air gaps that are bridged only by narrow steel beams or other support fixtures.

Very few of the original handrails exist but a safety-wire runs the length of the path. Several people have lost their lives on the walkway in recent years and after two fatal accidents in 1999 and 2000, the local government closed both entrances, but not the gift shop.

In June 2011, the regional government of Andalusia and the local government of Málaga agreed to share costs of restoration (including car parking and a museum) of €9 million. The project will take approximately three years to complete. Many of the original features will remain in place and the new materials that are used will be in keeping with the old design

I think I’ll wait until it’s fixed before I start thinking about having a go. In the meantime if you want to see something daringly stupid watch the video. They guy who took it is a lot surer footed (and braver) than I am, I can tell you that!