15. 999 Emergency & 100mile Cycle Dash!

My dad collapsed on the floor and was vomiting blood! It was one of the most frightening experiences of my young life – I was only 14 and was convinced that my dad was dying in front of my eyes. My mother was crouching down beside him, frantic with worry.

Help! No telephone

Not many people had a landline in those days, so no telephone. Obviously no mobile phones either. Mercifully my Auntie Rene lived in the next street, Drake Avenue, and she had a phone. Not sure why she had one, not many people did in those days. I think it was because she worked as a telephone operator in a local London exchange before retiring to live near us on the Isle of Sheppey so she managed to have a ‘special arrangement’ with the telephone company!

Yes, the old black Bakalite phone

I can still remember the old black Bakalite phone with the round dial with holes where you put your fingers to dial. As you dialled a number and let it go, the round dial would wind back with a satisfying sound like a spring recoiling. In many ways Bakelite was the perfect material for telephones at the time. Basically they could be moulded into any shape possible, even the soft streamline shapes preferred. The material is homogenous, evenly coloured and hard, with a lovely lustre. It is also comfortable to hold, does not draw moisture and is easy to keep clean, a contributing factor to its early use for both telephone receivers and toilet seats. In fact, colour was the only problem. For technical reasons, black was the only possible colour, or perhaps some related drab nuances.

I raced round and as soon as Auntie Rene saw me, she knew something terrible had happened. She immediately phoned for an ambulance. They came quickly and rushed my dad into hospital blue light flashing and bells clanging. He had a burst ulcer, which could have been life threatening had we not managed to get help quickly.

We had to get work to my half sister, Kath who lived in Falklands Park Avenue in South Norwood, London. She didn’t have a phone, so I jumped on my push bike and cycled off the Island and 50 miles up to London. My sister was distraught of course and soon arranged to come and see dad in hospital. I cycled back home the same day, thus completing a round trip of 100 miles.

It’s amazing the strength, motivation and sheer determination you can muster in a life threatening situation.

Thank God my dad recovered after a few weeks. Doctor said the ulcer developed because of stress and unhealthy lifestyle.

I completely get why he was so stressed.

I completely get why he was so stressed. We’d moved from London a couple of years before and dad was trying desperately to earn money to pay the bills and provide a permanent home for us to live in. Every brick, every breeze lock, every rafter and every tile was hard earned as we built our home around the prefab shell.

Stress and anxiety can be a killer.

I think my dad was prone to stress and worry most of his life. But he managed to survive to the ripe old age of 92!

About Steve Flashman

Steve Flashman is a singer/songwriter, published author and has appeared on TV many times over the years. He toured extensively as a professional musician and set-up a Short Term Service Charity which worked in some of the poorest areas of the world. He is currently living in Buckinghamshire UK with his wife Sarah and is Vicar of two rural parish churches.

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