‘No. I don’t know him, as such. He’s my boss. In fact, he owns the company. This was just a little works outing. I don’t know where anyone else is. All I know is – his name’s John, and he’s about forty-three.’
We’re all standing around the man lying on the pavement outside the hotel: an inner circle made up of me and Frank, the witness and two police officers, and then an outer circle of Thursday night survivors, insulated and indestructible through the magic of alcohol. They smile and shout stuff, strutting around.
‘How did he fall? Did you see him go down?’
‘It wasn’t a fall. He kind of – leant against the railings – like this – then slid down on to his arse – like this – and then out.’ The guy stares down at the hulking figure sprawled on his side on the pavement. He looks like a slaughtered pig dressed in someone’s best blue suit and a curly black wig for the craic and the phone cameras. Awash from head to foot in what looks like minestrone soup, but probably isn’t.
‘You don’t know if John’s got any health problems, do you?’
‘Nope.’ The guy pauses, gives a little nod and a sniff. ‘He’s not very well now, though, is he?’
But at least he has the basics – breathing, pulse, responds to pain, no blood anywhere, no limbs awry. He was probably asleep when he reached the pavement, rolled flat by a barrel of pints, tucked up amongst the cosy slabs, awaiting collection.
And this is the problem. As soon as we pulled up on scene we saw the problem. Not so much medical as removal. It’s a while now since I looked, but I don’t remember the section in the manual describing the Safe Four Man Lift of the Doubly Incontinent and Vomit-Covered Drunk.
But we’ve managed it before.
We thank the witness, who stumbles off to find a taxi. Working like green, skilled spiders, we wrap the patient in blankets, use a scoop stretcher and the two police officers to lift the patient on to our trolley, load the trolley back on to the vehicle. As I’m putting the tail lift back up I wave to the dustcart that’s just arrived and standing off scene, its flashing orange lights an interesting change to blue. It wants access to the hotel, so I hop in the cab and we move off.