On the Friday morning I had the usual debate about whether to go into work following an injury. I was tossing and turning in bed mulling things over and decided that I wouldn’t sleep anyway and that I’d just go in for the morning and finish some work that needed doing and then take the afternoon off.
The great thing about where I live in Armley is that it’s near the canal and on a Saturday morning I like to get up and hot pedal down the canal into town, whether to meet a friend or going shopping. You’ve got a clear run from here going into town and it’s so uplifting seeing the ducks and the water and feeling the air run through your hair. I had been having some second thoughts about moving from Armley simply because of the canal. But this latest violent incident had made up my mind for me. Over the years there had been a string of incidents like this – whether it was next doors bins being set alight, me being pushed off my bike in 2004, or waking up one morning and seeing to my horror that somebody had smashed in all the windows of my car. I’d always had an inkling that Armley was like this. Shortly after moving in I made a film of the house including outside on the street and there was evidence of smashed glass from the previous night’s living it up on the street outside. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve heard horror stories from all over Leeds and Leeds is probably no better or worse than any other city but I had only stayed living here really because it was near work and because of the canal. It’s not that something happens every day or every year but you can guarantee that eventually something will happen. And this recession and increased deprivation makes that possibility ever the more likely.
I cam back from work and fortunately managed to sleep a bit but the blow to my head had also been a blow to my spirit and I was struggling to feel positive. Nevertheless in the evening I went round to see a couple that live near me in Pudsey. I told them about the whole sorry affair and then after dinner I went for a walk with Rachel. John said ‘look there’s no point worrying about it, if you’ve got more brain damage then worrying’s not gonna help, and if you haven’t then you’re just wasting your time.’
What happened was almost a replay of what happened to me in 2004. It was almost exactly the same spot and as in 2004 I was attacked from behind so I had no real opportunity to defend myself. There was also a group involved. The difference was that this time it was in the middle of the day – about 4.30 to be precise. I was just coming back from work and came towards a block of flats where some children were playing with a ball in the road. As I cycled past them I felt the sickening thud of the ball hitting my head. I was wearing a helmet but even so it felt like a hard blow.
I got off my bike and went up to the kid who kicked the ball ‘why did you do that?’ he answered ‘i was just passing it to my friend’, ‘no you weren’t’ I replied, since it was obvious that the direction that I was cycling was nowhere near where his friend was. ‘I wouldn’t do that to you, so why did you do it’ I asked again, and then one of the other boys said ‘just say sorry’. He then apologised in a half-hearted way. I then went on for a bit about how I could talk to his parents. I got ready to go but then thought they could easily kick it again ‘how do I know you are not just going to kick it at me again?’ then one of the other boys just threw the ball into a nearby garden to indicate that it was no longer an option.
When I got home I was upset because what I didn’t want was another head injury and out of the blue one happens. Just a week before I’d knocked my head visiting the new flat that I’m moving to whilst looking at the loft space. I was aware of the danger of cumulative blows to the head. I rang 999 to get the police to go down and talk to the kids. I’ve rung 999 a lot of the years with various incidents living where I live – whether it’s been my car being vandalised, kids trying to break into the house at the end of the street when it was unoccupied, or being assaulted myself. One of the frustrating things about it is that they ask you so many questions and you are just thinking ‘all this is taking up time when the police should be getting down to the incident before the kids get away (which invariably they do)’. So it was again on Thursday.
I’d been given some dahl at work and so I consoled myself a bit by eating it, whilst vaguely thinking that I shouldn’t be eating because there is some evidence that a 24 hour fast after a head injury can stop secondary injury from setting in. I also thought I should just rest, but because I was so hyped up I thought that was unlikely, so I cycled off to the university’s Green Action to collect my organic fruit and veg boxes. When I got there I could feel posttraumatic headache kick in. Maybe I should’ve just stayed at home.
When I got home I kept thinking how somebody at work who lived near the flats that I’d cycled past used to say ‘don’t go past the flats ever, there’s all sorts of stuff that I see going on there’. Thank god I hadn’t lost consciousness. I also kept thinking that I had to somehow keep being positive because my mind was spiralling down into depression and I remembered Professor House’s research that concluded that the people who don’t do well after a minor head injury are the ones with pre-existing anxiety and depression i.e. people like me.
It also got me thinking about all the people that I knew about in Leeds who had been the victims of random violent attacks, often during the day – like Beverly who had been walking down the Meanwood Road in the middle of the day and had been hit over the head with a piece of wood by a ferrel youth. This spurred her on to leave Leeds and move to the apparent security of Aberdeen.
My fundamental mistake was that by turning my back on the kids I’d given them an opportunity to attack me. If there is any moral in this, it is not to give potential assailants opportunities.