Whilst out driving at the weekend I passed an all too familiar yellow police notice informing motorists that a serious accident had occurred here at such a time on such a day and if anyone had any information etc etc. A little further on, bouquets of flowers were arranged at the roadside and amongst the floral tributes, a child's football shirt. In the brief moment that this scene impacted my vision, a flood of emotion was triggered.
I'm sure there are very few people whose lives have not been touched in some way by a tragedy involving a road traffic accident.
I have a vivid childhood memory of witnessing the aftermath of a woman on a moped having collided with a car. I was with my mum at the time and she later described the unfortunate woman's spilled brain matter as being like minced beef.
On that same stretch of road, on my way to school, I also remember seeing a child who had been hit by a car. It wasn't so much the large portion of glistening bone protruding from the mess that had just that morning been his leg that bothered me as much as his shocked vacant expression and how small he looked lying shaking on the pavement.
Images like these have a habit of sticking in your mind.
My baby sister was hit by a car.
We were walking home, me, my mum and my sister. We had got to the top of the road where our house was. It was a small row of houses with a large field of horses opposite. This memory of the horses places the incident in time for me because by 1974, the horses field was gone, replaced by a housing development to accommodate the growing population of Slough. In 1974, I would have been ten years old and my sister is five years my junior.
I must only have been eight or nine when I ran across to the other side of the road to stroke one of the beautiful horses that I adored as it stretched it's noble head over the gate in an attempt to attract my attention. I didn't anticipate that my little sister would follow me and how could I have known that a car would at that moment be travelling along this normally quiet road.
The car struck my baby sister.
Miraculously, she was not hurt. The driver of the car stopped and offered to take my sister to hospital but my mum refused his offer. I remember hearing the screech of tyres and the bump. I remember trying to work out in my head what I was seeing. I remember the relief that my sister was not dead and I remember the terrible feeling of guilt that replaced it, knowing it was all my fault, knowing I would be blamed and knowing that the blame was deserved. I ran away.
For such a strong memory, it surprises me that I don't recall what happened after that. I must have returned home at some point - perhaps my mum can enlighten me, although that is doubtful as she rarely ever talks about our family life as we were growing up.
If that car from nearly four decades ago had been travelling faster or if my mum's decision not to have my sister checked out at hospital had proved to be a tragically wrong one, my life would have been very different. If nothing else, there would be no Inside the Wendy House.
It's easy to forget when you dodge across the road in a hurry, or driving along minding your own business or simply walking along the pavement, how close you are to a potentially deadly encounter. Life is so precious and we never really think when we wake up that this could be the day that something might happen to shatter our existence. If we did think like that, we'd never get out of bed. The mother of the owner of that football shirt probably started her day much like any other, little knowing that in a life changing instant, her world would be torn apart.
My baby boy is sitting on my lap as I type this. No one can know what the future holds but I do know that in this moment, right now, I want to hug my son a little bit tighter, let him feel my love a little bit stronger and appreciate every single second.