Can you tell us a little bit about your latest book? When did it come out? Where can we get it?
My latest (only!) is called Flight of a Lifetime and is an inspiring autobiography about my life, my death and my resurrection due to a massive head injury following being hit by a car in December 1994. I started 'writing' it in February 1995 and finished the pretty much final draft in July 1997. It can be bought, as a book or e-book, mainly from Amazon, though it is stocked in one local bookshop and my local library has copies.
Other than what you already told us?
My inspiration for writing the book was due to being hit by a car and killed! I wrote it to help others.
I have always loved writing, since a small boy, and have always thought that I had a book in me to write - just not the one I wrote!
I see. Do you have any favorite authors?
I love books by Frederick Forsyth and have been reading his books since I was 11. I read many other books when I was younger, but remember little about the books or the authors. Sadly now bad eyes due to my accident somewhat prevents me from reading :(
I write when I have time - and there is precious little of that these days. The place is in my mind so the location is immaterial. Time of day? When awake.
Are there any words you'd like to impart to fellow writers? Any advice?
Write from the heart and truly believe what you are writing...I don't know. I wouldn't really class myself as an author. My autobiography wrote itself to me.
Friday, 9 December was sunny, calm, cold and rain-free, much the same as every day had been since the events of Halloween a few weeks before. In fact, we had experienced several months when the weather had not varied a great deal. It was turning out to be a very mild winter. That Friday no doubt started the same as every other day that week. There was no reason why it should not have done. However, there might always be the chance that some unforeseen event happened on the Thursday evening to change the course of my life irrevocably - an event that may have upset the balance, invoking an alteration to my lifestyle.
Unfortunately, I do not have the ability to remember and so do not know of such a phenomenon. This event is so unlikely that it makes that particular Friday perfectly normal, meaning I left on time and proceeded to walk to work, traveling through the back streets of Catford towards the South Circular Road. It may not have been the most pleasant route to walk, but it was fast and direct, avoiding the railway lines, Hither Green sidings and the local cemetery.
I caught a bus though. Don’t ask me why; I never used to ride on buses around London. Waiting behind a cue of cars annoys me; I would rather keep moving, even if it takes me longer. As far as I know there was no real reason for me being on the bus, I was not even late for work. It had just gone eight in the morning, and on a Friday as well. I had no reason to hurry to work. Yet I was on a bus. Why, remains one of those mysteries that I will probably never find an answer.
The bus stop nearest work is up the hill along St Mildred’s Road, Lee, opposite Rayford Avenue - a road that opens out into Ronver Road, leading to Willowtree. The bus pulled over and I ‘jumped off and ran across the road’ - at least that is what the eyewitnesses say. Sounds like a load of rubbish to me, but I cannot remember any of the events that occurred on that fateful morning. It is frightening to think that I am the only person who can know what happened on the day of my accident, when I cannot now remember the circumstances. Various eyewitnesses all say the same: I just ran out into the road without looking. I do not do this.
I have spoken to some of the people who witnessed the accident and have read the police accident report. Using a bit of common sense and knowing the kind of person I am, I think I ‘know’ what happened, and it shows that evidence can easily be misinterpreted. Eyewitnesses can only say what they saw and cannot get inside the mind of the person they witnessed. In no way am I saying that their statements are false, but saying I ran out into the road without looking is ludicrous. I walk fast; I take fast, fleeting looks. My interpretation would be that they did not see me look and only thought I ran. However, like the Big Bang, nobody knows what really happened and, to be honest, it doesn’t matter that much anyway.
How the car came to hit me is in dispute, but there is one thing we all agree on: as I crossed the road I had a slight bump with an eastbound car. Thankfully the car was going relatively slowly, only twenty to thirty miles per hour. The A205, South Circular Road, is South London’s major artery, spreading right the way across the south of the city from Kew Bridge in the west all the way to the Woolwich free ferry in the east. Of course, being major, everybody uses it and nobody can go fast along the South Circular Road in rush hour whether they want to or not. Curiously, so many cars were on the road as their drivers ‘rushed’ to work that my life was spared.
This slight bump, which judging by the damage to the car was all it was, may only have been small, but it did cause my knee to swell up, dislocate my right shoulder and cause a large abrasion to appear on my upper lateral right humerus. As the car (no doubt) braked and I bounced off the bonnet, I was flung into the air and twisted around, banging my right temple against the side of the bus as it pulled away, the fold of metal where the top and bottom halves of the bus meet embossing the side of my head.
As accidents go this had been a bad one. It was to totally change my life and would make me reassess the values that had been foundation stones of the person I had been before, a person I would never be again. Changes occurred that could have turned out to be disastrous, maybe ending with me being ‘chained’ to a wheelchair for the rest of my life, or even worse. Thankfully, this is not the case, though never must I forget that I had a life to go back to in the first place.
In spite of its grave outcome, this had just been a simple accident, a small prang that should have been forgotten by the next day. It was not for me to forget, though, but the start of a process I somehow had to undergo to better myself; a voyage of self-discovery I maybe had to travel before I would be able to continue with my life. After all, it was up to me to learn from my accident; there was no other way to treat it. No blame could be laid and there would be no recriminations. Neither the car driver nor I had any reason not to be where we were. We were both carrying out our normal lives to the best of our abilities. Neither of us was in the wrong place.
Time, a factor I never quite did get the hang of, was the lynchpin. We were both where we should have been, just at the wrong time. It is a very simplistic view yet it has a ring of truth. Of the many thousands of eventualities that could have happened to prevent us from meeting each other at that exact same spot at that exact same time, none of them came about. Was it pure chance that I came to be in front of that car at that instant, or was the event preordained? Was I supposed to greet the bus that morning with my head? Was I going to live or die? It does not bear thinking about, though it did evolve to offer me a reason for my continuing life, a shred of hope for the purpose of my enduring existence.
No matter how bad the accident was it could have been far worse; all said and done, there did not appear to be that much wrong with me. My bones did not break yet the car had a dent in the wing. Even so, as my head melded, momentarily, with the side of the bus there was a loud noise. My head must be harder than I thought, though maybe there was a hollow ring…
To some extent the traffic had ground to a halt. The car that hit me, the bus and my prone body were causing a fairly effective roadblock. Amidst all this confusion, Louise Dunn heard the noise my head made as it hit the bus. A district nurse, she pulled to the side of the road on the opposite carriageway and rushed over to offer her assistance. To her surprise I had landed in the recovery position. Unfortunately, this meant that she was not able to examine me thoroughly, but she was able to check my airway, making sure that it was clear and that there was no blockage, as well as my breathing and my circulation. Happily, she was able to ascertain that I was lucky in that I was still breathing, my heart was still beating, life was still flowing around my broken body. My breaths were shallow (they were not deep enough and possibly too fast), but she did not dare move me, not knowing whether my neck or back were broken, and she prayed that I kept breathing. If I showed any indication of getting worse she would have had to move me so as to be able to start mouth-to-mouth resuscitation or CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation), neither of which she wanted to start without the proper equipment and services, as she might injure me irreparably. She kept me comfortable and warm, but there was little else she could effectively do. Luckily, I never stopped breathing; my heart never stopped beating.
The driver of the car that hit me had pulled over a few yards further ahead and was by the roadside suffering from shock, being comforted by a passer-by. The bus driver, Gary Plowman, also suffering from shock, was doing what he could; the minds of his passengers had started to mingle, trying to ascertain the situation, their bodies not really able to move around and find out exactly what was happening, too stunned by the incident. Mr Plowman radioed his headquarters informing them of the minor delay to his route. London Buses Control then relayed this information to the police and the London Ambulance Service at 8.10.When the LAS received the 999 call, stating ‘… adult male, hit by car, unconscious on the floor, query serious,’ they passed on the information to New Scotland yard, and also to Lee Ambulance Station, where it was received by ambulance November 401 at 8.13. The ambulance was driven by Bill Brooks QAP (Qualified Ambulance Paramedic) and attended by Glynn Harris QAP and Richard Ranshaw, the Station Rep, who volunteered to assist hearing the nature of the call. They immediately left the station and headed for the location given: ‘... junction of Brownhill Road and St Mildred’s Road, SE6’. Seeing nothing on arrival five minutes later except for the traffic at a standstill on St Mildred’s Road, they continued up St Mildred’s Road until the incident was found at the junction of Rayford Avenue, SE12. There I lay on the road, surrounded by a crowd of onlookers.
Philip Watling had a standard childhood before going to university. There he passed a Degree in Zoology but not before he started looking after horses in a riding stables.
Since being hit by a car he is now classed as disabled and unemployable. He spends his time at the local gym swimming and talking to everyone, socializing with friends in the city center, keeping in touch with contacts online and trying to help as many people as he can.
He lives in Milton Keynes with his American wife.