Apparently this posting (and I guess a few of my others) are unreadable in Internet Explorer. I am afraid there’s not much I can do about this. Sorry.

For a long time, a few people have been reminding me that I promised to write a posting about the top ten ways I have nearly killed myself.  I keep meaning to do this but I am easily distracted by Youtube videos, kittens and dust which makes me a very unreliable narrator.

On the plus side, I am congenitally stupid so I have a wealth of events to chose from; on the down side, I have a crap memory so when it comes to putting them on paper – I simply forget.

I was tempted to do this as a list, you know like that Letterman guy does but then I would have to rank them and that takes real thought. I am also none too happy with the concept of “nearly killed myself” since most of my more amusing (after the event) mishaps would not have involved my death. I rarely get embarrassed so dying of embarrassment would not have been an option.

With this in mind, changing the title to “A random babble about some of the most stupid things I have done, most of which would warrant my inclusion into the Darwin Awards” not only makes it a lot less snappy but also puts less effort onto me to come up with the goods in a concise and easy to read form.

Be warned, this will be a long babble so I am putting one of those click-to-read-more thingumys here now.

I started my career at the age of three when somebody put a teddy-bear I wanted on top of my wardrobe. Being resourceful I built a little tower using a bedside table as a base and scaled the thing. I did reach the teddy before the whole thing collapsed bringing me down on my rear onto a glass which then, quite cruelly decided to break and embed itself into my bum-cheeks. I still have my first scar from that one.

I don’t remember much else over the next few years. I knocked myself out for a few minutes on the Isle of Man docks running across gang-planks, one of which had a plank of wood across it. I rode a bike off a school roof, got stuck up a very large tree, got a knife embedded in my head throwing it at a tree, blinded myself for a couple of days and had a somewhat irresponsible habit of climbing up any scaffolding I ever saw and climbing over people’s houses. Rusty drainpipes have nearly caused me death or serious injury many times. So far, so good as far as injuries go. I have a rather odd scar in my arse, I have a missing front tooth (playground incident), a fingernail that no longer grows properly after chopping the corner of a finger off (dropping a manhole on my hand whilst exploring sewers) and I sometimes have problems using one wrist (jumping from a swing boat onto a bus-shelter roof and accidentally getting my wrist caught in the ropes). Other than those and a few burns, pellet, dart and arrow holes, I was doing pretty well.

This all said, I don’t think I should be held responsible for anything I did before I was 18 so we’ll gloss over all of these. Of course those few years of my late teens had a couple of incidents. I was still climbing more than I should have and I still hadn’t ever heard of ropes. I still say that our poster campaign at Leeds University was the best ever though. Leeds has a long single corridor which goes around the whole main campus at level 10 and often goes over lovely long bridge routes.


People would often put posters for events up on the windows since it is the main route. This was great except the porters would remove the posters overnight and that was a waste. I had the idea that we should put the posters on the outside, facing inwards. Those posters were still there for months after the event had taken place. Many people would argue that this was resourceful as opposed to stupid, and I would agree.

A more stupid event possibly came after being thrown out of a pub when rather drunk and still needing a wee one night. In a temporally premature display of Le Parcours I decided to vault over the fence across the road.  Unfortunately that fence was a motorway bridge leading to a 40 foot drop onto Bradford’s underground ring-road. Ah well. As you can probably guess, I did manage to hang on and hopefully recovered with some dignity intact as well. That last bit, I probably made up.

One of the first major stupid events came in the first year of my 20’s I think. This may have been the first to actually injure me. I shall paste my write up of this one as it stands.

  • When I was an undergraduate, at Leeds Uni, I ended up by some weird
    method working for the Organic Chemistry Unit as a research assistant,
    and, because at the time I had nowhere else to live, I moved into
    the Chemistry dept, with another person I discovered lived there…
    There were 2 of us living in a building that looked like an old
    Victorian school – Occasionally hiding from security guards.
    I was a programmer working on 3D rotation of molecular structures
    for the front end of a drugs design system – I knew nothing at all
    about organic chemistry so I would build virtual houses out of
    molecules and use them to test my software.  I was sacked in the
    end for all sorts of weird things including leaving a pint of cider
    inside a computer.; being drunk pretty much all the time and oddly,
    writing poetry in the comments sections of all of my code – I think
    4 times more comments than actual code was the general observation,
    they were just heathens!We had a few interesting night-time episodes, mostly fueled by the
    fact we spent all of our time absolutely drunk and I had made master
    keys for the whole building anyway during one of my more sober
    periods…One I remember was trying to light a Bunsen burner, to heat up a
    pan of stew… We couldn’t find a match or anything anywhere so we
    filled a sink with water, put paper towels all around the sink and
    floor and were chucking pieces of sodium in hoping we could catch
    the paper towels alight… That was not a success… My patent moth
    trap was good too… a glass tank of conc. HCL with a lamp underneath
    it… The moth went down and “Poof!” no more moth.

    That was all fun and games, till the one night we were in a phys.
    chem lab turning coins into tinfoil … You get a beaker of conc
    nitric, and you drop a coin into it… You then fish it out with
    your fingers (being careful because it gets hot) when it is about
    the thickness of foil – They are really cute because the designs
    on the coin actually stay so you get these really cute but stupidly
    thin real coins – Oh, and brown fingers – Conc nitric isn’t bad for
    your fingers as such but it does stain. I think I was feeling very
    strange that day and decided it would be fun to mix everything
    liquid I could find with everything powdery… I asked my colleague
    if it would blow up and he said probably not, so I did… I do sort
    of remember the clouds of boiling hot sulphuric acid, and I do
    remember coughing up tonnes of blood as I was dragged out with him
    muttering something about fume cabinets and stupid twats.

    Ever since then.. I have been a bit wary of anything to do with
    Chemistry, and my lungs have never been terribly good since then
    either. Oh and I rarely drink any more much, either… I think my
    kidneys suffered those few years.


We’ll gloss over much comment on this one though, I have been told I am an idiot many times in the past so I don’t need to add more. I didn’t document many incidents at this time however, I did set my room on fire as a 1st year undergraduate and had to sleep with my hand in a bucket of water for a week because of the injuries I caused myself dragging the burning piles outside. Fire is often one of the things that causes me problems as can be seen from this little email exchange to the Wiseguys group…

  • From: Michael Lawrie
    Subject: Re: Aztec women versus the Ninja slime
    Date: Wed, 1 Apr 92 9:19:25 BST
    >   >my thigh, I have never had a bruise that big before! Oh well... I set
    >   >fire to my bedroom shortly after, that wasn't my week...          ^^^
    >    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
    > I have to ask.  I HAVE to ask.
    It's not that exciting really, I am used to setting fire to things 'coz me and
    fire don't seem to mix. It all started when my venus fly trap finally died, I
    have this theory with plants that they need a bit of adrenalin to make them grow
    better, so if one fails I line the rest up and let them watch their old friend
    being cremated... I poured the petrol over the fly trap and took out a Zippo,
    it was empty so I had to fill it up, as is usual with zippos I managed to spill
    half the petrol over my hand and arm, and dabbed it off with some tissue which I
    then dropped on the floor.... Anyway, by now in a hurry to get this cremation
    over, I lit the zippo, lit the plant, accidentally lit my arm, somehow managed
    to light the tissue on the floor and eventually threw the whole lot into the
    bin (minus the arm but plus some eyebrows and a lot of hair off the back of my
    hand). This then set fire to the contents of the bin until I put the lid on,
    but that didn't last long since being a plastic bin it melted the bottom. The
    plant sprayer then came in useful for the 1st time ever and saved my carpet
    from too much more damage, if I'd used it on the plant in the 1st place none
    of this would ever have happened I doubt!
    You may be thinking "What a plonker" by now, believe me, although on a larger
    scale it doesn't begin to compare with the time I set my terminal on fire
    because I was balancing a lit Zippo on a pork pie... But that's an even more
    convoluted story!
    Michael Lawrie, systems group.
    HICOM: Communications and information for the world HCI community.
    From: Michael Lawrie
    Subject: pork pie. (fwd)
    Date: Fri, 10 Apr 92 9:28:34 BST
    X-Mailer: ELM [version 2.3 PL0 (LUT)]
    I'm afraid you'll get this twice now, coz I screwed up the last one, I
    could have left it as it was but I guess it demands some explanation ;-)
    Forwarded message:
    > I was sitting on Cheeseplant's house yesterday, quite happily spodding
    (Cheeseplant's house, a UK talk system thing)
    (Spod, to spod is to sit on talk systems or muds wasting time)
    > away, and filling my Zippo with petrol. Fine, as usual I wasn't really
    > concentrating so I poured petrol all over my hand and desk. Now I don't
    > like petrol on my hands so, to get it off, I lit it - Fine, it burned
    > off so I shook it out and must have touched the desk top. I was on the
    > phone to Jon too at the time and the desk set alight. I dropped the
    > phone, moaned a bit and put the desk fire out. I thought that was it
    > so I let the Zippo burning balancing on top of my pork pie to burn off
    > the overfill of petrol... Then someone knocked at the door so I had to
    > go and answer it - It was Jayce come to get me to go home, so I started
    > to lock up - Went into the terminal room and turned the photocopier off
    > but accidentally turned the wrong plug and turned Polly (one of the
    > VAX-Stations off instead). Screamed and ranted about this for a couple
    > of seconds and walked back into my office to check the network was
    > still ok, I walked in the door to find my keyboard was on fire in a
    > pretty impressive display of large yellow flames and black thick smoke.
    > Managed to blow this out, sulked a lot about the charred hole in my
    > desk where the Zippo had fallen off the pork pie and finally examined
    > the keyboard (which was still working funnily enough). Anyway, at this
    > point people noticed Polly had gone and came to hassle me about why their
    > edits were failing, so not only had I set fire to my desk I also had an
    > audience of people who wanted to go home, wanted to make sure their day's
    > work wasn't ruined and were witnessing the charred remains of my desk and
    > keyboard.
    > In all, yesterday night was not the best night of my life.
    Michael Lawrie, systems group.
    HICOM: Communications and information for the world HCI community.

The next few years was relatively free of any major incidents. In Leicester, I used to cycle home drunk and asleep far too often and would often come around after having crashed into a tree or a parked car. This isn’t quite as bad as it sounds since I would only ever cycle home at about 4am when the streets were more or less deserted.

Diving is a relatively safe hobby these days as long as you follow the rules. Obviously, I don’t but that is another matter. I have enough self-knowledge of my own stupidity not to scuba dive to extremes and this helps. Unfortunately the same isn’t always true for Freediving. I learned to dive when I was 9; I couldn’t swim (and still can’t) but I have no fear of water so I just work out some sort of agreement with the sea where it doesn’t hassle me and I don’t mess it up with my drowned dead body. This has accidentally made me a very good freediver which is odd because the combination of not being able to swim and being shit at holding my breath would seem to be serious downsides to this ability. People ask me how long I can hold my breath; so far my answer has always been “Long enough not to be dead – So far”. I have pushed this to the limits twice now.

The first time was pure stupidity and pride. I was swimming around a group of trainee divers about half a kilometer off the shore and about 60ft down and I cramped. Cramping isn’t cool; when you can’t move your leg, you can’t kick and when you can’t kick you can’t swim to the surface. Oddly, I am not sure whether through inexperience with Scuba or sheer pride (I am tempted to go for the second) my first thought wasn’t just to try and head for a diver and grab their emergency breathy-thingy, my first thought was to stay attempting to look cool and drift behind the reef so that they wouldn’t see me panic and die. Of course, I did manage to get behind the reef where I could use my one good leg and arms to kick off and get to the surface. But I did learn a lot about safety that day which I pretty soon forgot.

A couple of years later, I was doing my Master Freediver training and doing a qualifying dive which has to be constant ballast and over 100ft. At this time a 100ft dive was a walk in the park but I still had to do it to get my certification. Freedivers are generally healthy creatures, they meditate to lower their heartrate, they avoid caffeine and alcohol and foods that are bad for you; they are masters of their own bodies. As a result, they tend to look pretty cool. Before my dive, I had managed to get 2nd degree sunburn over half my body and was on 1200mg of Ibuprofen every couple of hours, I had just gone to Wendys and had a half pound cheeseburger and chips with a pint of diet coke and I had just slipped off to a local shop to have a couple of large cups of coffee. My heartbeat was well into the hundreds and wasn’t going anywhere lower for a long time. In fairness to me, I did my 113ft qualifying dive quite well. The problem was, when I went for a deeper one afterwards. Throwing up at 100ft is not a pleasant experience and not one I would wish on anybody. Not only does it lose you all your air, it also hurts like fuck. I did make it to the surface; I also didn’t do any deep dives again ever after that and I always dive with a tiny emergency tank now. You can’t say I don’t learn my lessons the hard way.

Over the next few years, I have been relatively accident free I think. I blinded myself for 3 days, I accidentally shot myself and then crashed my car later when the concussion hit me, I fainted siphoning petrol with a hose pipe and purely accidentally I nearly broke my back standing on a cat on the stairs during a 5 day power cut (it was dark, the cat is evil, what can I say!). A few people have tried to kill me, mostly deliberately and mostly in an unplanned way (although one did try to electrocute me) but so far they seem to have not managed.

I shall stop here for now; it is 7pm and I need breakfast. Bacon, egg, sausage and chips and maybe even fried bread. I shall carry on killing myself in more conventional and tasty ways.

Keep breathing folks.