Judging by the number of bread rolls, sausages and burgers you might have thought that Sue and Tom Bishop were feeding the proverbial five thousand – or just having a bun fight. They had jelly and cake too along with a standby in pizza. It was their son’s first teenage birthday and they were having a barbecue. A day to remember they hoped. Unlike a few birthdays past when they had arranged for a magician to show off his tricks. After attempting to convince a group of streetwise schoolkids that he knew magic he seemed glad to escape with his life.
Along with the food, Tom also planned to play a few games such as football or cricket. Something that would occupy Philip’s friends as they played in the garden. Which, under a vivid blue sky and having just cut the grass wearing his Barcelona football team shirt gave Tom a feeling of Spain. He then queried why they had invited a certain boy to the party. ‘Sue, are you sure we’ve done the right thing asking Adam Smith?’ Adam was the school bully who occasionally picked on their Philip. ‘His parents are really nice people who tell me that Adam feels a bit isolated and lonely. So with safety in numbers in mind I’m hoping he’ll make a few friends.’
Tom had planned the day to suit him. Around midday he would begin to prepare the barbecue. The party would begin around 1:00pm and finish no later than 5:00. Giving the adults time to relax and mull over the day. The expected stampede of kids duly arrived and the excitement and noise immediately pulled them together. It was time for the parents to go into battle. Under a hot, cloudless sky Tom began cooking. Spicy and smoky he described any overdone food. Sue excelled as the lady in waiting whilst she served food and kept the children in order. Then came the birthday cake with thirteen lit candles on it. Which, with their son’s face just above them, showed his delight as he blew out the candles. Cheers and congratulations were given along with some adoring kisses from some unknown girls.
With the main event now over the frenzy continued as the kids played in the garden allowing the parents the chance to clear up. It was just after 4:00 and in ‘Tom time’ going to plan when he asked, ‘Sue, how do you think it’s gone?’ ‘It’s gone fine and even Adam has enjoyed it. As time passed the noise from the garden seemed to decrease as if some of the children weren’t there. Tom stepped out of the Kitchen and went to investigate. He then noticed a lad running towards him and shouting.
‘Mr. Bishop, come quick, something’s happened’. Fear engulfed Tom’s mind as the breathless lad then explained. Within minutes Tom and the lad disappeared as Sue looked on with worry. Years ago Sue and Tom had elected to live next to an old wood as the wildlife and birds were a continuous joy. But, along with nature, the overgrown wood housed something else. Contained within it was an abandoned stone quarry where any activity had ceased many decades ago apart from the trees that had kept growing. When viewed from a distance they appeared to be quite small but, if stood on the rim of the quarry they stretched nearly a hundred feet high.
Whilst they were running Tom asked again what might have happened. ‘I’m not sure’ the lad said. ‘One minute we were in the back garden laughing and playing and the next we were screaming.
‘Did you see Philip?’ Tom pleaded. ‘I did early on but after a while we formed our own groups and went for a walk.’ It made sense. Having a walk in the woods and making your own fun was something that Tom and the family regularly did. The rim of the quarry came into view along with the tops of the trees. Tom looked for Philip. He wasn’t there. But what he did see was one or two girls crying. Tom eased himself into the group and asked ‘What happened?’ Someone confirmed what the young lad had said. ‘Someone suggested taking a short cut by climbing down the quarry face to save time.’ A fresh wave of fear entered Tom’s mind as he thought ‘Please don’t let it be Philip or someone else for that matter?’
‘Has anyone seen the birthday boy?’ Tom hollered. No one had. Very carefully Tom took hold of an oak root and gazed down into the gorge. ‘Philip, it’s your dad are you there?’ Tom repeated it many times but only silence replied. He moved further round the edge of the gorge before laying full length on the ground with his head and shoulders hung over. He shouted ever louder. Silence again until, ‘Dad, over here to your right,’ Phil’s voice echoed. As Tom did what he’d been told he noticed Philip on the ravine floor waving his special birthday present of a Real Madrid shirt. ‘Are you alright, are you hurt?’ Tom shouted. ‘I’m ok but Adam needs help.’ ‘Stay there. Don’t do anything silly and I’ll ring the emergency people.’ Tom cried.
After ensuring that everyone kept a safe distance from the edge of the quarry Tom raced home and informed Sue what had happened. He then alerted the police who, in turn, involved the fire brigade and the air ambulance service. He then headed back into the dense woods in search of his son. ‘Help is on its way,’ Tom assured Phil when he’d finally found him. ‘What happened?’ Tom asked as he tried to console Adam whose arm and right shoulder looked in a bad way. ‘I dared anyone to take a short cut and climb down the quarry wall with me.’ Adam said. Whilst Tom removed his Barcelona shirt and made a DIY sling for Adam’s arm.
Philip confirmed what Adam had said then added, ‘When Adam fell and I heard his screams I took the long way around into the quarry to find him. It was then that I heard your voice dad’. Sombre thoughts ensured a long silence until, high overhead a loud hailer announced, ‘This is the air ambulance service. A fire officer should be nearby’. A sudden downdraft of air from the helicopter blades blasted the tops of the trees drowning out any more words.
‘Where are you’? A voice asked from within the surrounding trees. Tom noticed the flashlight and shouted. ‘Follow your beam and keep walking. We’re about 50 yards to your left’. Rescue seemed imminent. Or did it as the Fireman finally penetrated the deep undergrowth. He then applied a cocoon around Adams body just as a high whining voice broke the air. ‘Roger Alpha 1. A basket is on its way down’.
That was the intention. Adam would be air-lifted to hospital via the overhead chopper. Alas, no one had asked mother nature as she wouldn’t allow it. The high overgrown foliage of the trees restricted the baskets descent and obstructed the pilot’s vision. ‘Alpha 1 this is Alpha 2 – We have a problem.’
And for some time the problem stayed on the ground floor.
After a while another voice crackled over the air saying, ‘this is Fire Officer 1020. I will now make a manual descent down the quarry wall to assist you’. As good as his word, 10 minutes later 1020 had joined his colleague, Tom and the two lads making a five hand for cards. Both firemen weighed up the problem. ‘The lad is badly injured’, one said. ‘And there’s no way we can carry him up the quarry wall’.
‘What help is nearby’? A fire officer then asked through his mike. There is an ambulance in the school car park about 600 yards from where you are based. Once again nature had thwarted a simple rescue attempt as the surrounding terrain was unfit for any vehicle to drive on it. It was back to the drawing board when a possible solution unfolded which involved the birthday boy. Philip listened intently as the fire officer explained before sending the lad on his way.
More voices were heard as Philip returned. The birthday boy had done what he’d been asked. At first he needed to run to the school car park. Then pass on the fireman’s message which was to bring back a stretcher and two men before finally guiding them back into the wood. It then came to the next bit. Each service man taking hold of a corner of the stretcher whilst Phil and his dad helped Adam onto it. Having the title School bully seemed very appropriate for Adam as he was heavy and big for his age. The stretcher nearly collapsed as he laid on it.
‘Here comes the hard part’ a fire officer declared ‘as we are going to carry this lad through the woods to the awaiting ambulance’. The second fire officer then added with a rallying cry, ‘We can do this in one go. Are we ready’? Nods of agreement were offered along with a deliberate thumbs up from Adam’s left hand.
After carrying the injured lad through the hard, rough terrain Adam was eventually taken to hospital. There his shoulder and arm were re-pinned and where he made a steady recovery. As to the group, whenever they meet up or have a school reunion, at some point this birthday event will always be mentioned.
Making it a Day to Remember.
© 2016 Yeadon Writers
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