Lost In Moo-sic & Moo Am I?
Sharon’s life was a beach, until something big and spiky made a beeline for her bloke…
Flip-flops smacking on the hot white sand, me and my hubby walked along the golden beach. ‘Here’s to one more thing off the bucket list,’ Alan, 56, smiled.
It was November 2016, and as everyone shivered back home in Blighty, me and Alan roasted that day on Lembongan island, just off Bali, Indonesia.
It was a million miles from the life we’d lived in Northampton.
Alan’s job as a postie for 30 odd years had meant he was up with the sun. By the time I got in from my job as an attendance officer at a school, there’d barely be time for pleasantries before Alan was off to bed.
We’d been ships in the night for decades. But these ships wanted to roam.
So when I’d been made redundant in 2011, Alan had taken a sabbatical and we’d flitted off like students, spending the cash on 12 months of travel around Asia.
We’d headed home to our two grown-up kids in December 2012, expecting to pick up where we’d left off. But rows of Poundlands and Greggs didn’t quite live up to palm trees and white sands!
‘Shall we pack it in for good?’ Alan asked in early 2016.
Both in our mid-50s, time wasn’t exactly unlimited.
‘Go on, then,’ I grinned. The cash from renting out our mortgage-free home would more than cover hotels and food if we were thrifty. As for flights…
‘Come and get what you want from the house,’ I told the kids. ‘Otherwise it’s getting flogged.’
After that, we put everything they hadn’t taken on ebay.
Our car, Alan’s beloved records, furniture, clothes, appliances...
We left a single box of family photos in a friend’s loft, packed everything else we owned into two backpacks, and bought a pair of plane tickets.
Now we’d seen Europe, Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore.
Knowing Alan had a lifelong desire to snorkel with manta rays, the huge fish, we’d come to Lembongan island especially.
‘No, we won’t be doing a Steve Irwin,’ I laughed to the kids that night over Skype.
Manta rays were in the same family as stingrays, the fish that had killed the Aussie wildlife adventurer, but were practically harmless.
The next day, me and Alan climbed into the back of an old
bloke’s rickety wooden boat.
I was delighted as we sailed through the stunning crystalclear waters on our way to the manta ray hotspot.
‘Look at that,’ I grinned, leaning over the side of the boat to snap the tropical fish flitting through the water. BANG!
Spinning round, I saw Alan lying flat against the deck.
‘What’s going on?’ I gasped.
Alan clawed at his neck, just behind his right ear. ‘There’s something in there,’ he choked. ‘I can feel it.’
Then he gave a huge cough, blood spraying from his mouth.
When he moved his crimson hand from his neck to cover his mouth, my stomach lurched.
There was a deep, bleeding hole – the size of a five pence piece – in his flesh.
Had he been… shot? Stupidly, I looked around. There was no one there. We were in the middle of the sea for heaven’s sake!
The poor bloke at the controls looked as confused as me.
Scrabbling around for some rags on the floor of the boat, I held them to Alan’s bleeding neck. But splashes of red soon bathed his white T-shirt. As we pulled up to the sandy beach, the boat’s owner jumped out. ‘Hospital,’ he said, pointing off into the distance.
Then he legged it! Heaving Alan onto my shoulders, I half-dragged him from the boat. Stumbling up the sand, I scanned the tumble-down shacks for anything that looked vaguely medical. After five minutes, someone pointed us to a shabby community hall. ‘This can’t be it…’ I mumbled.
But it was this or nothing. So I helped the doctor, in military fatigues, lead Alan to a derelict medical table and lie him face-down.
I turned away, stomach churning as they rummaged in Alan’s neck.
‘It’s a swordfish,’ the doctor said minutes later, holding aloft a small bloodied spear.
Though neither of us had seen it, the doctor explained that a swordfish must have jumped up on the boat and used its barbed bill to stab my Alan!
There was still a portion of the fish’s bill in Alan’s neck, but the doctors couldn’t reach it.
With nothing more the small clinic doctors could do, we took a 45-minute boat ride to the mainland. At hospital, Alan had an X-ray, then had to rush to yet another hospital 40 minutes away for a CT scan. Finally, at the third hospital, we were told they needed to operate.
‘It will be difficult, though. Alan could bleed out in three minutes,’ the surgeons explained.
Alan could… die?!
He was walking around and talking, but the doctor was clear. The barb had missed Alan’s major arteries by millimetres.
Surgery was delicate, potentially deadly.
But we had no other choice.
So, the next day, I sat there for four hours and tried not to let the terror get me.
Finally, the doctor appeared holding a 6in shard that he’d plucked from Alan’s neck. ‘He’s going to be OK,’ he said.
We’d been through
36 hours of hell and high water. But, finally, it was plain sailing! ‘Right don’t freak out…’ I said, calling the kids back home to tell them all about it. They wanted us to come straight home, of course. But after just a day to rest in hospital, Alan was fine. Thankfully, our insurance covered every last bit of treatment. And, as a treat, we jetted off to Australia a week later.
Now we’re in Thailand. Alan’s fully healed up after everything that happened
– he hasn’t even got a scar as a reminder. Though he does have the swordfish’s bill, and a new tattoo of a swordfish on his bicep as souvenirs.
It all adds to the adventure. And we’re planning on continuing exploring for a long time yet.
Alan’s due a pension in three years, and that’ll give us a bit more spending money. So, until we’re too old to climb on a plane, we’re staying away from the UK.
We recently met an 80-yearold Brit in India, who was off travelling the world on her own – cane in tow! ‘I hope we’re like that in a few decades,’ Alan smiled.
There may be plenty more swordfish in the sea, but I’m glad I’ve still got the perfect fish for me. Without him? Well, I’d be one out of water!
Blood sprayed from his mouth…
We’ve explored the world together A CT scan showed the razor-sharp bill in Alan’s neck The 6in swordfish spear My adventurous sailor inked his skin with a story
Alan, 57, said, ‘The doctors told me I was either the luckiest man alive, or the unluckiest!’