This actually happened*

Yesterday I met up with an old school friend and we went for a long walk along the clifftop. At one point we decided to run instead of walk. After all, it’s what we’d have done when we were 14 or 15. And you’re never too old for a run!

It was all going well until I suffered a heart attack.

My friend stopped and announced that he was going to go for a cup of tea. This seemed entirely reasonable to me. I didn’t question it. It didn’t even occur to me to ask where on earth he might find somewhere to buy tea. We were miles from anywhere. I let him go, but to be on the safe side I decided to call the air ambulance.

The emergency dispatcher asked for my exact location. I had no idea. I only knew that I was near the Cornish coast, or possibly the south Devon or west Dorset coast, and that there were no roads nearby. Then in a moment of inspiration I remembered what3words. In case you don’t know, what3words is an app that divides the entire world into three-metre squares and gives each a unique code consisting of three words. There’s a what3words for everywhere on Earth, from your bedroom to the centre circle at Wembley Stadium.

I opened the app and found the unique combination of words that indicated precisely where I was. Isn’t technology amazing? However, I took an instant dislike to one of the words. It was an ugly word with, I thought, far better alternatives. So when I related the what3words to the air ambulance dispatcher, I substituted a synonym for the word I found distasteful.

It seemed only seconds later that the helicopter arrived. It settled noisily on the grass and presently three paramedics emerged. They gathered their first-aid kits and walked over to where I was standing. Paramedics attending emergencies always walk, have you noticed that? You’d expect them to run, but there are good reasons why they don’t.

As soon as they reached me I offered an apology. “Sorry I didn’t give you the correct what3words,” I said. “I’m amazed you managed to find me.”

“No worries,’ said what I took to be the chief medic. “We guessed you wouldn’t like one of the words. We didn’t like it much, either.” Her colleagues nodded in agreement. “So we thought of a few synonyms, too. I guess we got lucky in choosing the same one you did. Anyway, would you like some medical treatment?”

“What sort?” I asked.

“We can give you CPR, we’ve got a defibrillator in the chopper, or we can lay you down and perform open heart surgery. Up to you.”

I considered these options. Truth was, I was feeling perfectly fine now and none of the choices appealed much. Particularly that last one. I really didn’t like the idea of them cutting my jumper and t-shirt, making an incision down my chest, prising open my ribcage and doing whatever was necessary to get my heart beating. Especially as it was already beating. I could imagine them bent over my still-conscious body performing their intricate work, the four of us being kept cool by the slowly turning rotor of the helicopter and me suffering the indignity of being sniffed at by inquisitive dogs.

“No thanks,” I said. “I reckon I’ll be fine from now on.”

“OK, no problem. By the way, where’d your mate go to get his cuppa? Do you know if there’s a toilet there?”

That was strange. How did she know about my friend?”

“Yes, there is.”

That was even stranger. How could I possibly know there was a toilet at wherever my mate had gone? But there was. It was just down the promenade from the beach café at Boscombe Pier. And in the blink of an eye I was there in that café, drinking tea with my friend. I could hear ‘Something In The Air’ playing from someone’s transistor radio. It was 1969 and we were 15 years old and these were happier times.

Yes, of course it was a dream. Me, run?

The air ambulance taking off, with one of the medics giving me a hearty thumbs-up.

*I mean the dream actually happened.


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