In July 2013, I went swimming with my 3 sons. I was a screenwriter on my day off. The sons went in the river – and I had a stroke. I was 49.
Three months’ rehab taught me to talk and walk again (sort of). But it was only when I went back home that I realised life would be very different. To add insult to (brain) injury, I found I couldn’t write.
But now, 6 years later, I can. Differently…
It was 26 July 2013, a Friday in the summer holidays. A film I’d written was showing in Colchester that evening and I was due to answer questions after it. I always looked forward to that sort of thing. I was so used to talking about my screenplays and meeting indifference that to talk about them and meet enthusiasm (however mild) was refreshing. My wife was out giving a talk about her novel and I decided to take our 3 boys swimming. We have a hut at Wrabness on the Stour estuary, which is tidal; you can only swim at high water. Today it was scheduled for 4pm.
We went by train. It’s only one stop but then it’s about 20 minutes’ walk, longer when you have a 6-year-old in tow. It was very hot. We stopped for ice creams on the way. Finally we got there and the boys went in the sea while I opened up the hut.
Then I started to feel very strange, sat down on the floor and threw up. And I remember thinking: I must pull myself together before the boys come out…
Finally my eldest son – 12 at the time – came out and found me. I couldn’t talk or move much. He found my phone and rang my wife who was driving home, half an hour away. She asked him if there were anyone else on the beach. It’s always very quiet there but in the distance he could see a couple. (I don’t remember them to look at but their name was Hitchcock!) They came over, took one look at me and quickly called an ambulance. They could see I’d had a stroke.
The Hitchcocks looked after me and the boys until a first responder arrived. Then the ambulance couldn’t make it down the track to the beach so I had to somehow get in the first responder’s car and be driven up to the ambulance. My wife had turned up by now and she came to the hospital with me. The Hitchcocks took the boys home to our house. And went out of our lives back to London…
I never did make it to my film. It was called The Liability.
2 thoughts on “That day at the beach”
Wonderful, John. Keep writing. I want to read more.
There is meaning in your blog taking momentum from a day on the beach, where “there is a tide”. I hope you will take it “at the flood” and look forward to reading more. G