I see Evel Knievel has made his final leap into the great blue yonder, so where were you on May 25th 1975?
The day Evel tried and succeeded in jumping the thirteen double decker buses at Wembley Stadium but catapulted over the handlebars of his bike when he landed and somersaulted into a heap on the concrete.
I wasn't there because I was walking across from the Edith Cavell Home in East Mount Street to go on duty at The London Hospital, Whitechapel with my best friend Wiz.We had been seconded there for a year from Gt.Ormond Street to do our general nurse training.After tiny babies and little children who never complained, grown-ups were proving a bit of a challenge.
Suddenly we were nearly mown down by a trolley surrounded by hundreds of people and all we could see were Evel's feet and did I imagine his distinctive star-striped helmet sitting on the end of the trolley? Sorry, I've made it sound as if he was separated from his feet, he wasn't, as far as our acutely honed nursing skills of observation could tell they were still joined to him.
Now to be completely honest I can't remember what Wiz and I said, but knowing us and our mood it was most likely along the lines of "mmm, that didn't go so well then." We were completely unseduced by the notion of celebrity.We'd nursed quite a few celebs in our time and quickly discovered that when they are ill they are just like the rest of us, what goes in comes out just the same way as it does for you or I. Dare I say it, they can also be a tad more demanding?
However London had been buzzing for weeks with the excitement of a man jumping over thirteen double decker buses on a bike, which just goes to show how different life in the metropolis was in those days.
Nowadays, first find thirteen buses in a row.
We didn't know if he was dead or alive until we heard a distinctly American voice from the trolley.Now, hands up, I can't remember what Evel said either, but it was most likely along the lines of 'flippin' nuisance this' and thinking back there was no one jumping up and down on his chest and they weren't exactly sprinting that trolley along so we guessed he was OK. All in all we felt it was probably one of those strangely memorable days, and it must have been because I haven't forgotten it.
I went on duty onto Paulin Ward, Women's Medical and this is the very same ward some forty years earlier. I'm sure sister must have been the same, probably still there now aged 154, but possibly some of the students had moved on and there were never this many of us, but this is how I remember it. At the London this bit of the ward was called The Big End (which seems lacking in imagination to me) and we still knelt for The London Hospital Prayer every morning. So I didn't get to take Evel's pulse or mop his brow, which was a shame because it would have brightened the day no end. With apologies to all women, when there were thirty of you on a medical ward back then you were not the jolliest of crowds, even the information that Evel was in the building didn't perk you up and the hourly cups of tea you required whilst bed-bound translated into one heck of a lot of bedpans required over an eight hour shift.
Men's Surgical? Now that was a different matter entirely, I've never laughed so much before or possibly since.
So RIP Evel Knievel and if you can bear to watch it here it is.