It seems a long time ago that I was packing my laptop, projector, extension cable and heading off to some dark village hall to talk about my bike ride across the USA. The ‘tour’ of all these village halls had started when I declared on BBC Radio York that I would happily talk about this expedition in return for a donation to York Carers Centre. So began a trip around the local outposts of the Yorkshire Countrywomen’s Association and Women’s Institute. There have been other groups but these are my main victims. I get booked up months in advance. Last week the Easingwold W.I. evening came around. Over 30 women quietly listened to my tale of a long bike ride that included tales of mountains, McDonalds, bears, camping, prairies and coal trains. After I finished I got a cup of tea, a cheque and then quietly packed away my gear.
I often get waylaid by old dears telling me about their own American adventures. On this night a lady in her 50’s stopped to thank me and talked about her husband’s similar exploits and vast number of bicycles. It was all in the past tense? Yes, he’d got a melanoma and it progressed quickly to his demise in months. She still seemed exhausted and devastated yet capable of reflection. My talk had been an insight into a man’s world of bicycles, obsessive planning, lists of things to pack, a desire for adventure (with stupid levels of excitement) about the unknown. It took her back to happier times.
My tour guiding tours require me to have an Outdoor First Aid certificate. The one in question required 16 hours of class. I found a course in the Peak District and circled the dates on the calendar for an April weekend. Tony doesn’t do blood, unconscious bodies or mouth to mouth resuscitation: it could have been a difficult experience. So in a scout hut in the small village of Youlgreave I turned up with ten other people who were either renewing their certificate or starting afresh. Most seemed to be tour guides although a couple mentioned ‘life skills’: I need to ask my eldest daughter what those are but I’d guess it was something acquired spending two days kissing a dummy in the countryside.
However, seriously… The course is focussed, full on and ultimately might help me save a life. CPR and mouth to mouth resuscitation part of the teaching but if you had a nearby defibrillator and an the ambulance turned up in minutes you’re still only looking at a 40% chance of survival and that’s after I’ve broken your ribs by pressing down 6cm on your chest 30 times consecutively before blowing twice into your mouth. Apparently the breath we exhale still has 40% oxygen in it. It was all hands on (in the building and then an afternoon doing it outside in a woodland) and repetitive for the process of assessing the casualty. This repeated assessment did drive it home and it was always with another course member. My unlucky partner/victim was a young bloke called Paddy who runs a gym in Meanwood. He knew it all and constructively appraised my shortcomings and helped me get better.
Preserving life is the number one aim. Maintaining airways and ensuring they cannot choke is the number one priority. Therefore you can move someone with a spinal injury if they’re going to choke to death. Let’s hope I don’t need to kneel beside someone in distress and utter the immortal words of “Hello I’m Tony, I’m a First Aider, can I help you?”
In less profound developments I realised an ambition. I saw a wallaby in real life not in a zoo or Australia but three miles from our house! Great nephew Ted needed entertaining and at a local agricultural college they have some curated wildlife in the grounds. I was disappointed on my time in Australia to have never seen the animals in the flesh and so this realised a bucket list item. This was alongside otters, meerkats, raccoons, marmosets, llamas, goats (!) and giant tortoises. I think I was more excited than Ted but that’s nine year olds for you!