Ken’s Tales 02

Don Martin – Out But Not Down

This is a true story of one Don Martin, left-handed bat, who opened for Hornchurch on the odd occasion.

He had been a prisoner of war in a Japanese prison camp. The poor food and terrible conditions that prisoners experienced had taken toll of his health. His circulation had suffered and this had an effect on what happened on this particular Saturday.

Hornchurch had been playing at Southend, I cannot remember the result, things like that did not matter in those days, but, as usual, the team retired to the ‘Castle’ for the serious business of drinking with the opposition.

Don Martin left the pub about 9.15pm. Miscalculation as to the number of cars available for the homeward journey meant that Bert Towner had to accommodate four others, apart from himself, in his new car. Bert did not mind this. He always enjoyed a good natter, particularly after a few pints, his favourite trick being to talk to a passenger on the back seat, looking at him rather than the road. (I can confirm that this was a terrifying experience.)

Doug Stewart and I were in the back of the car, Archie Thurner was in the front seat with Don Martin sitting on his knee. It takes a normal person 40 minutes to drive from the ‘Castle’ to the ‘White Hart’, Hornchurch. Bert Towner did it in 30 minutes, driving at great speed along the 127 and talking to Doug Stewart most of the time. I was bursting for a ‘James’ as was Archie in the front.

We arrived at the ‘White Hart’ at about quarter to ten. It was a lovely summer evening and there was another 45 minutes drinking time to look forward to.

‘All out’, said Bert, ‘Mines a pint’.

‘Hurry up’, said Archie to Don, who you remember was sitting on his knee, ‘I’m bursting for a wee-wee’.

‘I can’t move’, said Don. ‘My right knee is caught under the dashboard’.

‘Well’, said Don, ‘Get it un-caught sharpish or there will be an accident’. Doug Stewart and I nipped in to the smoke room bar and in to the ‘Gents’ with a sigh of relief. ‘I needed that’, said Doug.

We were ordering a drink when in came Bert Towner, looking rather worried.

‘Give me a hand’, he said, ‘That silly sod Don has got his leg stuck under the dashboard and cannot move’.

This proved to be true. One glimpse of Don Martin and it was clear that he was not playing about. ‘I have no feeling in that leg at all’, he said. ‘I can’t move it’.

We examined the situation from all angles. We pulled at his ankle, pushed on his knee, but to no avail.

It was clear that the upward slope of the floor and the fact that the knee was well under the dashboard meant that the only way to move the leg was sideways. We tried this in vain.

‘OK’, said Bert, ‘Leave it me, I’ve an idea’.

As Bert did not have many ideas we thought it best to let him get on with it. His idea, as it happened, was brilliant.

‘I will loosen off his laces and with a bit of luck we will be able to get his shoe off’.

‘I hope it works’, said Archie. ‘If you can’t get him off my lap soon I shall pass out in agony, I’m bursting’.

Bert Towner’s idea did not work. Don’s laces were undone but loose though the shoe was, it proved impossible to remove it.

‘That’s it’, said Archie, ‘What are you going to do now’.

‘I have an idea’, said Bert Towner. ‘It’s obvious that Archie cannot last much longer without peeing himself. Let us support Don whilst Archie gets out from under him. You never know, this could solve the problem of Don’s leg as well as Archie’s bladder.

By this time Don Martin was looking very distressed. His bladder was weak from his imprisonment and his face was grey. It was obvious that all circulation had stopped in his leg and that there was no feeling in it whatsoever. How long could this situation be allowed to remain without the consequences becoming serious.

We all supported Don as best we could in the limited space. He was quite heavy and it was very awkward until Archie had the bright idea of moving the seat back. With some difficulty he wriggled free and rushed in to the Pub. Doing our best to keep Don supported, we waited anxiously for Archie to return from the ‘Gents’.

For one brief moment we lost our concentration and let the weight slip from our grasp. The result was grotesque. Don was momentarily suspended in mid-air, supported by one knee beneath the dashboard. His language until he passed out was unbelievable.

Archie, as soon as he reappeared, was persuaded to resume his position and the seat was pushed forward. With much relief we gently eased the still unconscious Don onto his lap.

At that moment Bob Bowes arrived, having lost his way in Southend.

‘What’s going on’, he asked.

‘Don’s fainted and we can’t get him out of the car’, Bert explained.

‘I would faint if I sat on Archie’s lap’, said Bob.’ Anyway, why don’t you call the Fire Brigade’.

‘What would they do’, asked Bert.

‘They would bring out their Oxy-acetylene gear and cut out a hole in the floor’, Bob explained.

‘Not in my bloody car they won’t’, said Bert. ‘it’s almost brand new’.

‘In that case’, said Bob, ‘there is only one thing to do. Whilst he is ‘out’ use force to move his leg to one side, or hit his ankle with a cricket bat to knock it to one side’.

This measure seemed to us most drastic. Nevertheless the situation was getting serious. Bert Towner went to the boot of his car and found his bat. With two people pulling at his ankle from the near side, and with the bat hard up against his ankle from the offside and being pushed by Bob Bowes, suddenly it happened. The offending foot slid sideways and the knee reappeared from under the dashboard.

We lifted Don Martin out of the car and up the steps in to the Smoke-room. Here we brought him round with a brandy, massaging his leg to restore whatever circulation there was in his veins.

Don married Archie’s sister, which most of us thought was going a bit to far in the gratitude stakes.

Bert Towner wrecked his car later, but that is another story.