2007-10-09 Dying in the Drizzle

by Matt Triewly

Unrelenting drizzle. Tuesday. 9th October 2007. Puckpool Park. Isle Of Wight.

I'm the conductor on the Ryde Road Train or Dotto Train. Every seaside resort seems to have one. It's orange and yellow. It's so kitsch you can't help but like it.

It's nearly the end of season: Grey, grey sky and damp. Hardly a punter all morning. Not worth running but we do.

We're stopped at Puckpool Park. Waiting our time. Casey, the driver, is leaning against a post, drawing heavily on a cigarette.

A slight middle-aged woman hurriedly approaches us. A potential passenger?

"Have any of you two fellows got a mobile phone?" she says, and a bit out of breath.

"Yes," we say in unison.

"Well, there's a man on the sea wall. He's surrounded by bottles of drink and pills. I can't wake him. I think he's attempting to kill himself."

We swing into action. Casey and myself leap into the Dotto Train like Starsky and Hutch. Well, sort of. The lady comes with us.

We speed out of the park and head towards the exit where the sea wall begins. When I say speed, I mean about ten miles per hour.

We stop the train on the sea wall.

We get out and all walk along the wall in the direction of Seaview. The drizzle continues to fall.

The first thing we come across is a large motorbike. Casey notices that the tax disc is expired. He's observant like that.

Then we come across him. He's lying across the path. He's got long dark hair dressed in jeans and a leather jacket - he looks like a biker.

I think he is tall but you can't always tell when an individual is prostrate. He's on his back and snoring loudly - he's out for the count.

Casey phones the emergency services.

The guy is surrounded by half drunk bottles of spirits. I notice on the bench in the nearby shelter a load of pills - he's consumed a fair few of those too.

It's at this point that it hits home that I could be watching the last few minutes of a man's life... dying in the drizzle...

Casey, on the phone, tells me we have to place him in the recovery position. I want to say but don't 'How do we know he is going to recover?'

Casey manages to get him in position and also places a cushion under his head. At least he is going to die in comfort.

Next to the pills on the bench is a mobile phone. I pick it up and notice a large number of missed calls. As I have it in my hand it rings. I answer it. A frantic male voice asks if that is Pete? I tell him,"'No, it's the conductor on the Ryde Dotto Train." and immediately realise how stupid that sounds. Another voice, calmer, takes over. "It's PC Dixon here. We're looking for Pete What's-his-Face. Can you tell us where you are and how he is?" I tell him, and I'm informed that people are on their way.

Within five minutes four police cars and an ambulance turn up. The ambulance initially goes the wrong way.

Matey meanwhile snores away oblivious in the light rain.

The medics don't seem to think he's consumed enough to be in serious trouble. It looks like a cry for help. Or a form of emotional blackmail. I learn from Rambo, the gardener, later that he had just been dumped by his wife.

The tablets are anti-depressants and ironically I muse that their effectiveness is only really guaranteed if you take them all in one go - permanently.

The police and medics take over so we decide to get back to Ryde.

I have to laugh when amongst the flashing blue lights and vehicles of the emergency services I espy the flashing orange beacon of the Dotto Train. It just seems so absurd. The Dotto Train... Orangewatch... the fourth emergency service.

I fantasise, Billy Liar style, a road accident and somebody shouting out, "Call for an ambulance... no, call for a Dotto train - they're quicker!"

Another surreal vision pops into my head: Police, Camera, Action. Alistair Stewart: "If it hadn't of been for the quick thinking of the Dotto Train crew then these robbers would have got clean away!" Aerial camera footage of an orange Dotto train slewing across the highway and blocking the path of a get away car...

On the way back to Ryde as I pass Appley Tower I'm suddenly aware of a lump in my throat: What if the guy does die? What a tragedy for his loved ones.

As far as we know he didn't.

Back at Ryde we treat ourselves to a hot chocolate - we deserve it!

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