A holiday cut short
I have always had a horror of broken bottles. Among the faces I know there is one that will always bear the mark of a bottle attack, but it is not the use of bottles as weapons that terrifies me, but the damage that discarded bottles can do.
We were watching the other team racing towards us along the sand dunes. Once they spotted us we would have to make our move very quickly if we were to escape. It was the third day of scout camp in Norfolk, close to the sea, and a “wide game” was in progress, a game of moving and hiding and disguising our intentions. Soon the light would go and we would have to cope with the dark.
One of the older boys, Ian, was charging towards our hiding place below the ridge of the sand; had he seen us? He took another stride towards us and we saw his foot come down and then his leg crumpled under his weight. At the same moment his scream of pain reached us. We were on our feet and had reached him before the others had caught up.
Already sand was sticking to a line of blood which was emerging from his instep, from just behind his big toe almost to his ankle. Somehow, under the wide, blue East Anglian sky his screaming troubled us less than the agony written over his face and the way he held up his lower leg as if, by lugging on it, he could staunch the flow of blood and shut down the pain.
Soon the other team had arrived and our scoutmaster, one of the game’s referees, had found a first-aid kit and started work. For him it seemed easier to ignore Ian’s anguished cries, his anger when a hand had taken a firm hold of his foot, and soon another adult was there with keys to a car. Soon the adults had left with Ian and we made our way back slowly to camp. There was no singing around the camp fire that night and we saw no more of Ian until his return next day with a crutch and a heavily bandaged foot, waiting for his parents to collect him.
Before we left the dunes one of the lads called out and pointed. To one side lay the cause of Ian’s accident, the reason that he was rushed to hospital and then taken home to recover. Somehow the bottom of the bottle had broken off and what remained had been inverted and become buried upside down, the broken circle worse than any set of teeth. Somehow a familiar sight, a common-all-garden beer bottle had become a vicious weapon, not aimed deliberately, like a gun, or left deliberately like a mine, and yet it had caused serious injury and could have caused worse. The next day, troubled still by Ian’s accident, our scout master told us how frightened he had been initially that the bottle had cut a major blood vessel and that Ian might bleed to death.
No doubt someone dropped the bottle just as many of us discard and then forget about our rubbish which becomes someone else’s rubbish, someone else’s problem. In this case it became Ian’s problem, fourteen years old, away from home and a holiday ruined. Now, looking back over the years, as a parent, I realise that it could have been one of my own fourteen-year-olds.
What horrifies the writer about glass bottles?
How does he describe the effect of treading on a broken bottle?
Why do you think the writer refers to our thoughtless abandoning of rubbish?