Crash: Facing death

Illustrated by
Debora Szpilman

Written by
Alex Holder

The moment he saved my life was actually very undramatic and a little annoying. I didn’t know his name then and I still don’t. 

I was fifteen and this was my first (and only) Glastonbury. My sisters then boyfriend was a session musician with a band who were playing The Pyramid stage. We’d been given free VIP wristbands, drank too much cider sat on dry grass and spent the day revelling in our access to toilets. After the gig we went back-stage where I met Jarvis Cocker, someone complimented him on his belt and I can still hear him saying ‘It’s Paul Smith mate.’ 

Blondie was playing the next day, but it was 1999 and I had a curfew. My sister, her boyfriend and I were to be given a lift back up north in the tour bus along with most of the band, and I soon learnt that the after party would get going somewhere on the M5. 

The upper deck was essentially a dorm and my sister and I were given a single spare bunk to share. As drugs were never her thing and I was fifteen, we topped and tailed and tried to sleep while music blasted from the ‘lounge’ below. 

I was shaken awake by the tour manager saying, ‘what are you doing? You have to sleep with your feet pointing towards the front of the bus, otherwise if we crash, you’ll break your neck.’ I turned around so I was sharing the same pillow as my sister and then, wham, at 70mph we hit the central column of a bridge that was crossing the motorway.

When I climbed out of the bunk there was no front of the bus. It was a serious crash. Photos made the news. Cars stilled around the crash allowing us to cross to the embankment where we sat, a mess of bloodied noses and bucket hats.

I’d like to say the main concern was for the driver who was stuck in the mangled mess of where the bus met the bridge, but mainly there was panic about where to hide the drugs before the police arrived. He survived though, the driver. And so did everyone else.