‘’Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and contentious stupidity’’
Martin Luther King Jr.
It was October 2015. The trees surrounding the picturesque British landscapes were thinning, baring their brittle and twisted skeletons. With street grids filling with golden bronze leaves, end of summer temperatures transitioned into cold and dreary autumn ones that changed the public focus from summer to winter. Christmas was just around the corner and with that came the increasing pressures of getting things boxed off before the festive period.
Not long now.
A break was just what I needed.
By now finals day at golf seemed so far away. Reminiscing back to that muggy and humid Sunday, I felt satisfied with my achievements; achievements that seemed all but impossible in the run up to the day. Unfortunately though, the high of winning only lasted a matter of days, and now I had a discouraging gut feeling I wouldn’t be picking up a golf club for a while. It wasn’t necessarily my leg that influenced those horrible feelings, but the falling out with the game I was experiencing. A falling out with a sport that I felt everyone goes through at least once. Maybe one day, I’d fall in love with golf again. Who knew? For now though, my handicap would remain stationary and the practice ground at Grange Park, vacant.
The way life was changing before my pearly blue eyes must’ve seemed minuet to the onlooker, but these changes bore stark significance in the world of a 19 year old bricklayer. By mid-October I’d finished college – for good. Over three years of being an apprentice had resulted in successfully qualifying with a diploma and NVQ level three in detailed brickwork. I was satisfied, contempt and overall, pleased with finishing. Conclusively, finishing college meant I’d now be working more hours with an increased sense of responsibility, and in turn that meant the doors to career progression could now swing open just that little bit more.
When some things are on their way down, others are improving. Change is the law of life, and October signalled the start of my hunt for who I’d not yet become.
‘Don’t even know why’a bother comin’ round town anymore. It’s boring’’ I proclaimed in my broad northern accent.
‘A norrr’ I know ‘it is ain it’ agreed Jack, similarly disappointed at the area we found ourselves in.
It was a bitterly cold, crystal clear night on Saturday 31st October 2015: Halloween. I was out with my younger sister’s boyfriend, Jack, and another of his mates – both of whom, like me, were from St Helens. We were in the run down St Helens town centre on a strip of bars and clubs known simply as Westfield Street. It was a short street, a few hundred yards in length of crooked, ageing buildings. Hazy yellow streetlights lined the hill of a night along with bundles of randomly scattered litter and bouncers in their black coats with yellow ID armbands.
It was one of those places that everyone proclaims is utter shit , but they still decided to go. Realistically, this was because there isn’t much of an alternative other than travelling to Liverpool – which cost a hefty lot more. Unfortunately, I was one of those. Such irony. I loved going out round Liverpool, and that was my first choice through and through, however there was only so much a young nineteen year old could afford, and that had brought me to Westfield Street this cold October night.
I entered a bar that evening called ‘wobs’ , or ‘wobbly bobs’ – an infamous bar in St Helens that’s renowned for its sticky floor and cheap watered down drinks. Practically perfect for a nineteen year old. I was wearing skinny mid wash blue jeans that wrapped around my scrawny legs like cling film and a plain light blue smart shirt that portrayed simplistic class. The scene was pretty dead, and considering it was Halloween, you’d of thought there’d of been more people out. Probably too early yet, I thought.
The first thing I noticed when I went in was some sort of take on a Halloween art exhibit. It looked strange and very much random as I passed it on the way to the bar. Thinking nothing of it, we all got ourselves some watered down vodka red bulls for about £1.50 each and continued to chat amongst ourselves. Stood there all dressed up smart, I noticed we were one of a few groups in the bar, and that drew a woman with a fancy looking DSLR camera towards us. Can I really be bothered?
‘’Hiya lads, d’ya wanna picture with the exhibit’’ the polite lady asked. Exhibit? Really? I didn’t really want a picture, but I figured she wasn’t going to let us go until she got to use that big camera of hers. Feeling obliged, I confirmed ‘‘yeah sure’’ along with the others two who seemed slightly more enthusiastic than me. Pushing all reluctance aside, I walked back towards the entrance; my feet slightly sticking to the floor in keeping with the bars reputation.
Thinking nothing of it, I crouched over to do my best David Beckham next to the ‘exhibit’; placing extra stress on my knees and torso as I did so. ‘’One, two, three’’ *SNAP*. ‘’An’ again. One, two three’’ *SNAP* . Confident I’d just posed the picture of the century, I stood up to turn back round to the lads when…. ‘’ARGGGHHHH FUCK’’. I screwed my smooth baby face up in sheer agony – not for the first time this year.
Pain was all I could feel; an overwhelming and surprising spasm shooting up from my left knee causing the kind of discomfort that made one freeze on the spot. I hadn’t had enough to drink, so the pain wasn’t masked by alcohol but heightened by a burst of adrenaline now firing through my bloodstream and deep into my central nervous system.
I eventually came fully upright and tried to calm down. I looked around wearily. Nobody had seen or heard me, not even fancy camera lady – she was too busy checking the works of art she’d just took. It wasn’t like my ‘french’ could be heard either; for the music was all too deafening to pick up anything below 100 decibels. I took a deep breath through my nose as my heart beat increased tenfold, thumping out my skin with every second. ’’ Try to calm down Chris’’ I urged in my head. The lads turned around just as I wiped all pain filled emotion off my face. No words were said.
I saw through the rest of the night in pain without anyone really noticing. One thing was for sure though: something was clearly wrong, and my sincere ignorance had transpired into contentious stupidity.
Something needed to be done. I would stop pissing about and call the GP practice on Monday.
I did actually call the practice that following Monday only to be knocked back again with ‘’we have some appointments for a few weeks’ time Mr Carberry’’
A few weeks’ time?!! I knew what was wrong, I was being sussed out over the phone and my proposition wasn’t seen as urgent. At least not urgent enough to warrant an emergency same-day appointment. Fuck this, I thought. I really can’t be bothered waiting two weeks. As much as I loved the NHS, I was beginning to become increasingly pissed off with the way I couldn’t get in to see a doctor quickly. It was nothing personal – that, I knew – but it sure wasn’t helping my cause.
The noose was tightening, threatening to choke me before I could save myself. Weeks later I was still carrying on as usual, working tirelessly through the pain without having seen a doctor. By November, laying bricks took me to the small northern village of Rainford. And though the skies were as clear as mountain water, a storm was brewing. I could sense it.