This is the WASTED BLOG. For my main author website, click this link.

Awards: WASTED won the Read it or Else category in the Coventry Award and was runner-up in the North East Book Award. It is longlisted for the Carnegie Medal and shortlisted for the Manchester, Grampian, Angus, and RED Awards.

Saturday, 15 May 2010


I've been asking for your stories of chance events and how tiny unpredicted decisions have affected your lives. You've sent me loads of great ones and some are already on the blog. I have one for you here, sent by Helen Hunt, which is very chilling. It's also incredibly similar to something that happened to me last year.

Helen's story:
It was a Friday afternoon, a few years ago now. I was at work and knew I had a long journey down the motorway to get home.  It was winter, so it was dark and it was also pouring with rain.

As anyone who has read ‘Wasted’ will know, the exact time you set off on a journey can have huge repercussions on the outcome of that journey.  So when a colleague came to discuss a work-related problem with me, things could have gone in one of two ways.

I could have said, ‘You know what, it’s Friday, it’s late and I’ve got a long journey home.  Let’s discuss this on Monday morning.’

But it was quite a serious problem.  So I didn’t say that.  I decided to stay and discuss the problem and decide a course of action.  I left the office nearly an hour later than usual and set off down the motorway for home.

I have no idea what sort of day everyone else on the motorway had been having.  Maybe some of them were running late as well.  Maybe that had an effect on what happened next.

My car shouldn’t have been on the exact stretch of motorway a lorry driver decided to pull over on to without looking.  But it was.  I should have been sitting safely at home with a cup of coffee.  But I wasn’t.

As my car bounced off the lorry into the path of a car in the fast lane, then did a 180 degree turn which sent me skidding across three lanes of traffic and finally left me in the fast lane facing the wrong way, I was convinced I was going to die. 

The phrase ‘lucky to be alive’ is an interesting one.  Yes, I was lucky that none of the other vehicles hit me, lucky that the driver of the car coming towards me in the fast lane was able to stop and lucky that I walked away without a scratch.  But surely more ‘lucky’ would have been not being there at all?

At any point from when the lorry hit me, to when my car ran out of steam and stopped of its own accord, something could have happened which would have resulted in me being killed.  For many weeks afterwards, I felt like I was living in one of two parallel universes. As I walked around my house I couldn’t shake the feeling that I shouldn’t really be there because in that other universe, that alternative reality, I was dead.
I so know how Helen felt. It took me quite a while to get over what happened to me. In my case, our car was hit by a lorry and ended up at the very tiny end of the tapering bit between two motorways, with cars whizzing past on both sides. I thought one must surely hit us, and that we wouldn't survive.

But Helen's point about whether we call it lucky or unlucky is very interesting, and one of the things that crops up in Wasted. Jack thinks that Jess was lucky not to have been seriously damaged when her drink was spiked but what he doesn't know (but we do) is how in fact she was very unlucky that the drink was spiked in the first place.

We don't know half the things that nearly happen to us. If we'd gone down that street instead of the one we did, something bad might have happened. We'll never know.

One thing's for sure: when something like Helen's story happens to us, it does make us think, for a while, about just how lucky we are. But I think we need to keep a lid on those thoughts and don't let them have too much air or too often: other than that we just need to get on and enjoy our lives, grabbing every opportunity, believing in free will and throw ourselves at life with enthusiasm. This is not a rehearsal.

WASTED BLOG TOUR - WHERE AM I TODAY? I'm delighted to be over at the blog of Catherine Hughes, though I can't remember what I said. Catherine is an example of luck for me: I haven't met her in real life, though I'm going to very soon, but I "met" her through blogging, from ther very early days of my Help! I Need a Publisher! blog. Catherine is now my assistant, and very amazing she is too. I count myself very lucky to have found her. Anyway, she has two blogs, that one about her life and thoughts as a writer and another one about her daily fight against what life throws at her. Go follow both!

ALSO, THERE'S A GREAT COMP TO WIN A COPY over at Sammee's I Want To Read That blog. Sammee works in a bookshop and she loves YA books especially - do head over there and try your luck at winning a copy.


catdownunder said...

There were comments in our state newspaper that it was a 'miracle' that the 9yr old Dutch boy was the sole survivor of the latest ghastly 'plane disaster - that he was 'lucky' to be alive. What is 'lucky' when you consider the death of all the other passengers, including his parents and brother? Why that 'plane or those passengers?

Luck is a very strange concept indeed.

DJ Kirkby said...

Wow Helen, I didn't know you'd had a near miss like this! Life has thrown a lot at you and you still come up smiling. You're an amazing person and I'm lucky to know you. x

Glynis said...

Oh my word, both of you are 'lucky'. Amazing stories, thanks for sharing.

HelenMHunt said...

I've been thinking a lot about the little Dutch boy as well. It certainly is a miracle that he's alive - but whether we can use the word lucky is a whole other question given what he'll have to deal with as he comes to terms with this.

Thanks for letting me be on this brilliant blog, Nicola. And DJ, I consider myself very lucky to know you too x

Debs said...

I missed two bombs in SA years ago because I was to lazy to go and pay for my tv rental when I was supposed to and left it for a day.

Helen's experience and yours must have been so terrifying.

Lane said...

What a terrifying experience Helen.

Very thought provoking piece.

Marisa Birns said...

I remember reading about a woman who survived the Sept. 11th World Trade Towers disaster in NYC. She moved to Florida after a year trying to live her life. She told relatives that she did not know why she, out of all the people in her office, survived. She felt guilty, sad, and thought that moving away would bring relief.

She was killed in a car accident shortly after moving to a new town.

Helen, so glad that your "luck" was working in your favor on that dark rainy night.

BucksWriter said...

I remember how shaken you were by that Helen, and how brave in your recovery as well.

I sincerely believe that good things eventually come to good people, and your publication track record is proof of that.

I look forward to coming to your book launch in the future. x