Features

Unbroken spirit

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When Wanstead resident Paul Canal found himself as runner-up in a street fight with a Range Rover, his spirits – unlike his leg – were not broken, thanks to the kindness of locals

Imagine this: no one expects the Spanish Inquisition, right? But even less expected is being rugby-tackled by a Range Rover right outside the Wanstead Co-op on a dreary December night. That was my unexpected twist on 8 December. The shock soon gave way to a world of pain as I found myself doing an impromptu somersault down Grove Park, my attempts at creative swearing hardly doing justice to the situation. Picture an 18-stone human pinball versus a 2.5-tonne metal giant from Solihull.

As I hit the deck, my brain went into overdrive, juggling tasks like a circus act – trying to break my fall, checking for any spinal injury issues, and somehow keeping a death grip on my groceries. As I skidded to a stop, dreams of playing for the Eton Manor 1st XV were put on hold and I realised I was in a bit of a pickle, stranded like a beached whale in the middle of the road.

But then, my personal cavalry arrived in the form of local heroes Carrie Hards and Christine Twomey, along with a few other Wanstead warriors.

Quick checks ensured my brain was still in the game (insert obligatory “not much to damage” joke here) and that I wasn’t about to repaint the road red. The diagnosis? A fashion crisis in the form of a ruffled jacket and possibly a busted leg.

Thanks to a traffic snafu on the A406, my new chill-out spot became the tarmac, which, spoiler alert, is surprisingly unwelcoming. Despite some locals’ desperate pleas for me to relocate before their curry went cold, the Wanstead Safer Neighbourhoods Team (SNT) stood guard like modern-day knights, ensuring I wasn’t moved until help arrived. Their dedication warmed me more than the space-age blanket they wrapped me in.

The night’s silver lining? A ride in a police van (because who needs ambulances?) got me VIP treatment at the hospital – apparently, arriving in handcuff-style is the fast pass there. The King George squad were rock stars, confirming my leg’s new status as ‘officially broken’ but keeping the spirits high and the pain low.

Five months on, I’m back on both feet with a heart full of gratitude for every act of kindness – from those first on the scene to the driver, who turned out to be a decent guy. A huge shoutout to resident angels Carrie and Christine, to the many passers-by who stopped and helped, the Wanstead SNT, heroes without capes, and the Eton Manor crew who helped me move house as I looked on immobile. 

Above all, thanks to my wife, Karen, the true hero of this saga. If you see her, treat her to an iced coffee; she’s earned it.


Paul Canal is a Wanstead resident and Conservative councillor for Bridge ward.