Lost In Moo-sic & Moo Am I?

Sharon’s life was a beach, un­til some­thing big and spiky made a bee­line for her bloke…

Real People - - NEWS - Sharon Pope, 54, Northamp­ton

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!’

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