The start of January is not a boom time for lifestyle statistics. It’s all resolutions and intentions, all inputs, no outputs. But it’s a great time, thanks to NHS Digital and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, to find out who landed in A&E in the first year of the pandemic.
I pore over these lists, thrilling with schadenfreude. More than 7,000 people in England got bitten or struck by a dog in 2020-21; my dog is mental, but at least he’d never bite me and can’t, to my knowledge, use a weapon. More than 2,000 people spilled something hot on themselves, which I haven’t done for years. Nearly 1,000 people ended up in hospital having tried to climb a tree (“Accidents are preventable”, the RoSPA says, and of course it would say that, wouldn’t it, but nothing has ever seemed to me to be so entirely preventable as falling out of a tree). Power tools, hammers and saws, keeping rats, scorpions and venomous spiders – I think of all these ways I’ve stayed out of hospital, by not doing things I didn’t want to do anyway, and feel both completely blessed and unusually civic-minded.
We had one domestic accident, at the signature Christmas meal, when the table was set for 15, which meant 15 crackers, and – you won’t believe it, but it’s true – 30 glasses, and everything else. Mr Z decided that he wanted beer instead of a regular Christmas drink, but none of the perfectly serviceable bottles of beer would do. Instead, he tried this mini-keg that we’ve had under a table lamp since July, and it exploded. Most of the beer, he claims, ended up in his trousers, but that doesn’t explain how we came to be mopping the ceiling, or that every glass contained a tablespoon of beer, as if I’d laid the table for tiny Vikings, or how the crackers lost their bang, or why the room still smells like a pub a week later which, actually, I don’t mind. All I could think was, oh my, that could have been so much worse. So many ways we could have ended up as an A&E statistic. It would have been such an outlier event, we’d have definitely made it on to the bulletins – something for someone else to feel smug about.
Zoe Williams is a Guardian columnist