"Would you like to view the boarded out area in the loft?"
"I'll just lower the ladder then..."
Bernard, the estate agent, opens the attic door and lowers the ladder into position. No one checks to see whether the joints have correctly secured in place, it is presumed the ladder is solid, fit for ascending into the headier regions of this home. Besides, as Bernard reminds with vexing salesmanship, there's already been a steady stream of potential buyers who've safely climbed into the roof.
This attic has been partially converted. From the floor, I can make out wooden beams and storage space and a lone, high wattage strip light. I place one trainer on the first rung, gripping the frame with both hands. Behind me, a concerned little voice makes its self heard...
"Be careful climbing up the ladder mummy."
"Don't worry, she's absolutely fine," Younger Dad says reassuring Little A.
One foot in front of the other, pulling myself up, neck craning, the loft interior reveals its secrets rung by rung; I can see more storage alcoves and the angled crossing of beams.
I reach the middle.Then. SNAP. The ladder collapses in two. Without any time to comprehend what is happening, I fall to the floor landing on my back, banging my head against a cupboard. But it's my left leg that takes the brunt - it's entangled in the fallen heap of metal. Apart from a faint hint of the prickly electricity of pins and needles, my lower leg is numb from the knee down. Later, Younger Dad tells me how my left leg shot forwards through a rung as the ladder gave.
Shock. Total shock.
ARGGGHHHH, HELP, HELP, ARGGGHHHH...
...And then the tears. Big, fat distressed tears.
The ladder is promptly removed. Bernard is frozen, pale-faced. Little A cuddles my shoulder as I writhe, clutching my left leg, on the in-need-of-a-serious-rinsing cream carpet. Younger Dad is worryingly asking where it's hurting, he thinks I've damaged my back.
But I'm quite oblivious to the caring attentions of Little A and Younger Dad. My eyes are focused on the black coat and white mop of Bernard. If it wasn't for the fact that I'm currently horizontal, I might have given into a visceral urge to return him a left hook. But of course, I don't - I couldn't - my exterior is far too polite for such a gut response. I imagine clocking his expressionless face one instead.
Sensation eventually reignites my left calf. With adrenalin flooding every cell, I'm able to stand. On both legs. Phew. Nothing broken. Bernard offers a tepid mug of tap water, muttering some kind of apology. And then? In the best of British, we carry on with the viewing. I'm not keen on the downstairs living space, the rooms lack the fluidity required for a family of three. And the pencil thin garden? Well where exactly would we fit a swing?
When we leave Bernard behind, the tears reappear with amplified flurry. I feel strangely embarrassed by the accident, the kind of humiliation I might have felt if I'd publicly fainted. I'm clearly still in shock. I've also decided that Bernard is plain bad luck - this is the second viewing with him, the first - another house we loved, placed an offer on but consequently lost - left a bitter taste on our tongues; Bernard, with the slipperiness of a blackened banana skin, wasn't the slightest bit transparent as to the sold or not sold status of this-much-desired property - he kept us hanging on for over a month....until he finally mentioned in passing that it'd gone to the vendor we were competing with, the one with no chain.
I DO NOT WANT A THIRD VIEWING WITH BERNARD.
At home, the adrenal glands abate, leaving pain and swelling in their wake. When I sit down, my coccyx reminds me where I fell on my back, the purple blue hues of bruising appear above the knee, my calf and foot are stiff - ligaments and muscle feeling very hard done by. Pain killers are promptly administered.
As I say goodnight to Little A, she advises me with the straightforward concern of a doctor who's seen it all before, 'not to hop on my left leg.'
The following morning I'm invited to play a game she's named estate agent dragon.
I politely decline, offering TV instead.
Linking up with The Monday Club.