Falling over in public, really!

Falling over in public continues to keep my feet on the ground, so to speak, stopping me from ever taking myself seriously. Generally these falls take place in the metaphysical episodes that frequent us all, an assumed position defended, or argued for, way past its correctness … the ‘egg on the face’ syndrome where our cognitive ceilings are tested and found wanting. Then there is the physical falter – embarrassing, slapstick, farce …

A recent tumble made me realise I have not physically fallen over that much in my life, and when I have I seem to instinctively roll with it, the only injury being to any pride I have managed to accrue! I think I’m right in concluding falling over in public is a necessary humbler … and its a shame that some people don’t experience it more often.

While working at Smiths in the 1970s I had a couple of falls from the bike, one, in narrow alleyway where I was too lazy to get off and push, had me over the handlebars and helplessly sprawling, bike on top of me, unable to get up for what seemed a really long time, all in front of an astounded young girl who was walking up the other way. Another time heavy virgin snow on early morning roads had me wrongly guessing where pavement curbs were … the thud of the front wheel and my flight from the saddle would have been excruciatingly funny to any curtain twitchers … I would have laughed too. Early 1980’s, when a political animal, I remember meetings going on and on so that we had to run for the last bus home. Running and falling, not seeming to notice the hard road, just tucking in my right shoulder and rolling … making it all look so contrived – it wasn’t, but we had a bus to catch.

Carrying some books down the narrow twisting staircase at Thoemmes Press my footing failed noisily, a signal to those in the production department below that something worth gawping at was happening, and as I slithered to the bottom jolt, my concern to save the books and look cool relaxed my sphincter just enough to trumpet my arrival which did not disappoint, the fart being more embarrassing than the fall … ‘much deeped joy of a full moon fundermold dangly in the heavenly bode’ as Stanley might have said.

Not so long ago with friends, instead of going around I thought I could climb a low wall and jump down the other side. There is a problem when your mind has refused to grow up, you feel 18 but your body is 60-odd … I landed with the realisation that my legs, my knees, just would not take the weight, of yes, I forgot that bit … also a bit overweight, damn! Over I went, subconsciously rolling and up again as if I had meant to be that melodramatically agile … and then, sheesh, if only I had the quick mind to claim the acrobatic manoeuvre that my friends tried vainly to congratulate me on, but no, I had ashamidly admitted my goof before I saw their faces of fading admiration. Maybe next time …

Just the other day, after having shuffled a good way around the Meadow Hall shopping centre and negotiating our way back to the car I fell again, schizzen! Coming out of some covered stairs upon a road crossing, blinded by the beckoning green light I missed the last 2 steps down to the pavement. Holding an empty coffee cup in one hand I cartwheeled into the road, my eyes following my right shoe leaving my foot to make that elegant slow-motion arc, unable to stop myself, fortunately rolling with the fall again but still ending up on my back, my eyes caught Ann’s shock as I lay in the road, the lights changed with cars waiting to go, others waiting now to cross the road looked on, stupified. Collecting my shoe from the middle of the road, my elbow hurt but somehow not my pride as I joined Ann back on the pavement. ‘Oh shit!’, another opportunity missed I thought, damn!

Such a wonderful leveller as falling over in public deserves the credit for keeping us/me sane and true … the next time I fall over in public (and maybe, if you are there to witness it you will see) … I promise to take a low and flourish embellished bow!

Alan Rutherford