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Sunday, 10 October 2010

A little amputation never hurt anyone

Random coincidence time. The big stories that we were always told in our family, when we were kids, were about getting fingers chopped off. That's stories, plural. Both of my Grandfathers had been involved in accidents involving fingers getting cut off.

Granda Andy (Mams Dad, aka The Nice One) was a builder. Not a massive builder, he didn't actually build houses or anything but he would knock up an extension, or a replacement roof, or a partitioning wall or whatever. Had a nice sideline in fitting bathrooms as well, but that's by the by. Anyway, he had a shed in the garden at home and in this shed he had a circular saw built into a workbench. You see where this is going right?

So anyway, long story short, yes, he cut off his finger. Now, having been in the building trade all of his adult life (and in the days before Health & Safety became the ridiculous Big Brotheresque monsters that they are today), he had seen his fair share of accidents of this type. He knew what to do. Packing his finger in ice from the freezer and staunching the flow of blood from the stump,he made his way to the Hospital. This being in the times when Hospitals with Emergency facilities where the norm rather than the exception, he didn't have far to drive. Yes, he did drive himself.

Once arriving at the Hospital, he was sorted out by a Doctor, or rather, I'm assuming, a Doctor and a couple of Nurses (credit where they it's due) and his finger was reattached. It was bound up and he was sent home. (The Doctor insisted that a couple of my Uncles go and pick him up, they weren't letting him drive home) Arriving back at home he promptly went back into the shed and started cutting up wood again. Decreased use of his hand because of the earlier wound and massive dressing, coupled with being on pain medication meant that, well, again, it doesn't take a genius. The same finger. He was too embarrassed to go back to the Hospital so he sewed it back on over the bathroom sink. It hasn't worked since.

Now, I would assume, looking back, that the second part of that story was an exaggeration. A little gruesome aftershock to properly gross out the kiddies. I certainly wouldn't bet money on it being true, I mean, who tries to sew on their own finger? Is it even possible? How do you hold it in place if the other hand has the needle? As a little kid though, we hung on every word. He did like to make us squirm. His finger is useless mind, so make of that what you will.

Family lore at the other end of the street, at chez violent bully, was similarly bloodthirsty. Most Council or Housing Association owned homes at that time were furnished with a wood/coal burning fireplace. My Grandfather, like most people, would begrudge the purchasing of too much coal, or, for that matter, pre-cut logs. Instead, he would saw and chop whatever odds and ends of scrap wood he would get his hands on. Quite where this endless supply of wood came from I never did find out, especially puzzling since pretty much everyone we knew had the same habit. A small forest probably gave it's life to the hearths of that street, just in the time we lived there.

One of my Aunts, whilst a child, had been holding some wood steady. My Grandfather (the implication, never explicitly stated, was that he was the worse for drink at the time) got a little too energetic with the saw and swoosh, one thrust later, bye bye fingers. All four fingers on one hand were gone from the middle knuckle. Unlike in the first story, there is no slightly humorous end to the tale. She was taken to Hospital by my Grandmother, (not, you'll note, the culprit himself) where they sorted things out as best they could, but since no-one had thought to take the fingers along she ended up going through life with no fingers on one of her hands.

This story I don't doubt at all. I saw her hand for one thing and for another, my Grandfather, ever the gent, would make great sport of tormenting us with the tale while we were holding wood for him to cut and then laughing at us when we got nervous. The one time anyone refused to help him because of this story he went into a mad rant, followed by a spanking session that ended in a fair few tears. (It wasn't me by the way, I was always far too much of a coward to stand up to him.)

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