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In case of accident, get the frozen peas

"I'VE had a slow-motion accident," reveals my wife, coming in from putting out the rubbish and looking a tad dishevelled.

"You've had a what?" I say.

"I was between the wheelie-bins," she pants, clutching her arm, "and I put my foot on the wheel to give it a budge . . ."

"A budge," I frown, as if hearing the word for the first time.

"Yes," she says, clearly becoming irritated, "a budge. Then the whole thing started tipping me up instead, so my other leg went into the air and I slipped between the bins . . ."



"So you were tipped up," I say, just to clarify, "and fell into the bins . . . in slow motion."

"Yes," she says, rolling up a trouser leg and examining her knee for marks. "It was awful."

"Well," I tell her, turning my head in exaggerated disbelief to take in two of the boys, currently suspended in the act of spooning cereal through their fringes. "I'd like to say we shouldn't laugh, but . . ."

One of the boys chokes on his spoon, then recovers. My wife shoots us a warning glare.

"What I mean is," I say, trying hard to stifle a grin, but failing miserably, "it sounds like you've had a lucky escape. Shall I fetch the frozen peas?"

I can't help but picture the sort of helpless expression she must have had in what was surely a perfect 'Wile E Coyote' moment, complete with timing sufficient to hold up a sign with the word 'HELP' on it as she vanished ever so slowly from view by one drowning leg.

And lest I seem insensitive, let me just point out that no one is very charitable in our house when it comes to dishing out sympathy for another's mishaps. And there are only ever two remedies on offer in what constitutes our family first-aid chest, a half empty bag of frozen peas and the offer of a lie-down.

"Or would you like a lie-down?" I say, suddenly remembering now.

"No, I would not," she says, straining to see her elbow.

I'd like to be able to say that, in truth, our family's not really so accident prone, but the sad fact is, we are – most of us, anyway. The youngest can't so much as pick up a pot while drying the dishes without inadvertently bashing herself in the face. And her older sibling was so prone to flinging himself into walls, tables or any stationary object – that not only did we get to know every last short cut to A&E, we should have had reserved parking there with our names painted on.

That said, I can't recall the second eldest ever so much as biting his lip, though you wouldn't know it by the painful sighs he emits from behind his hair, particularly as we mime blow-by-blow accounts of our latest painful calamities.

And our college kid seems not only to have escaped childhood mercifully free of the usual collisions and cuts, he is somehow capable of shooting off to the train every day, often down the middle of an icy road, balanced on nothing more than a wooden board with a few tiny wheels on it.

I, meanwhile, need only stroll to the kitchen in my socks, like any normal, half-dressed human, and I end up hopping around, having hit my toe on a doorframe.

Naturally, I shriek as though I've caught it in a mincing machine.

"What happened?" my wife will say, meaning 'how have you humiliated yourself now?'

"I've smashed my little toe," I'll lament, rocking and cradling it. "It's completely shattered this time," I'll wince through gritted teeth. "No, no, no! Don't TOUCH it."

"I'll fetch the frozen peas," she'll mutter.

"I'll be lying down," I'll sniff, hobbling away.

Of course, being a man, I am capable of withstanding extraordinary pain, which my wife can attest to, since I'll typically give her running updates.

"Oh man, now it's really hurting," I'll say. "It's like a bee sting," I'll tell her, "but red hot, like a knife – no wait, a branding iron. I think I've fractured myself. I may have chipped off a shard of bone. I hope it doesn't enter my bloodstream. Oh, sweet Jesus . . ."

Grimly, I'll somehow soldier on, sometimes for days, often fancying myself as the bloke in that movie Touching the Void, where he has to drag himself off a mountain with one leg dangling by a nerve.

And this is generally my frame of mind as I eventually haul myself to the doctor, by which time I'm sure I need a specialist of some kind, if only to vindicate me with something like, "My God, man, how have you been able to withstand such pain? I prescribe the strongest pharmaceuticals available."



Of course, what's far more likely, is I'll fork out €50 for the privilege of being told that it's just 'a bad bruise', 'a little swollen' or 'slightly sprained', all of which is little comfort to the dying.

"Perhaps you might try lying down," the doctor will say, "and putting some frozen peas on it."

"You're not going to write about this in your column," says my wife now, still rubbing her elbow and glaring at me. It isn't a question.

"Of course not," I say defensively. "It's about something else entirely," I tell her, sounding a little hurt this time, then mumbling: "It's about Wile E Coyote . . . and why we hate frozen peas."