My near death Car Accident – – 28th Feb 2006

At the roadside - view 3

The following blog post, is a copy of one made on the 1st March 2006 (the day immediately after), and then updated over the following week.  However, as I’m shortly moving the old website to a new location, it seemed appropriate to re-post here!  Do scroll down to the images at the base for a better view.

At the roadside - view 4

Don’t try and dodge the squirrel‘!

So there I was, on Tuesday the 28th Feb 2006, at around 10:30am, driving confidently along the inside lane of the A329M motorway just by junction 10 of the M4.

Holding a steady 70mph, aware of the other vehicles around me, and the road ahead looking clear, ready to exit in around half a mile.

Suddenly, out of the tree line, a small brown squirrel starts racing it’s way to new pastures, attempting to dash as fast as it little legs could carry it, across 2 lanes of fast moving traffic!

Correlating it’s speed, my speed, and the distance between us, there’s a very high chance we’ll collide and Sammy will certainly not do very well out of it. Unfortunately then instinct (possibly from being a strict vegetarian for more than 10 years), means that I then attempted to take evasive action.

A sharp swerve on the steering to the right to try and avoid Sammy, means that at these high speeds the car begins to loose it’s feet. A counter turn to the left helps a little but the car is already unavoidably about to loose traction.

Should I counter again and try to compensate by going right, setting up an uncontrollable rock and roll around the motorway? That could mean moving across the lanes, and also potentially into oncoming traffic from the other direction (as there’s no central barrier on that part of the motorway). And that could be dangerous.

So knowing I was loosing traction anyway, the safest direction was to continue holding my slight left lock, hopefully then sliding onto the hard shoulder in the safest manner, knowing also that the cars behind were also traveling quite slowly and the motorway was still relatively clear on this side.

Unfortunately, the car continued to yaw slightly to the left, then loosing traction completely with all four wheels skidding sideways, but thankfully with the vehicle still moving in the direction of the hard shoulder.

“This might cause a little damage to the car” I thought.

Unfortunately a tree to the side of the hard shoulder wasn’t so happy about the intrusion to its space, and attempted to hold its ground despite the rapid application of the driver’s door against it.

The car, not wishing to give up entirely, continued it’s motion against the tree, but with nowhere else to go tried to leap over the top (not very effectively), by rolling its way up the trunk.

Not wishing to make things too difficult, the tree finally gave in, embedding itself into the roof of the car, folding the roof in, right in front of Jason’s eyes just to make it clear of its displeasure about the intrusion.

I swerved and swerved to avoid a crash, but still hit the tree‘!

“It’s likely this might damage the car a little more than expected” I thought, as the horizon span around in front of my eyes.

The car came to a gentle halt, right way up, and somehow I was still there, sitting upright, hands still both comfortably on the steering wheel, engine still running, windscreen wipers for some reason oscillating, wondering slightly why I couldn’t really see all that well out of the front or side of the vehicle but figuring I should get out as quickly as possible.

Not being able to see if I was actually blocking the motorway, and hearing cars still flying past beside me, I felt a second vehicle could hit me at any time. I hadn’t realised at this point how much the car had been crushed around my seated position.

Thankfully, on kicking my way out of the driver’s door, three guys were already running towards me to help out (seemingly slightly surprised I was just about out by the time they got to me).

Then taking stock of my location, I was surprised and pleased to see that the car had quite nicely parked itself onto the embankment, wasn’t even on the hard shoulder. All the remnants from the car interior had even been scattered into the trees without anything obstructing the motorway at all!

Bystanders seemed somewhat surprised as I walked around freely, assisting me in retrieving various items strewn from the rear of the vehicle into the embankment.

As I was okay, and the car quite clearly no longer drivable, I wondered how long it would take for the AA to arrive. No-one was entirely sure what to do next. However, in the meantime, one of the drivers of another vehicle was already calling the police and ambulance to come and ‘rescue’ me.

Within minutes, the ambulance crew arrived and saw me smiling and waving signs of ‘I’m okay’ to them. They were however slightly puzzled as to where the driver of the vehicle was, and who else must still be trapped inside, judging from how badly the vehicle was crushed.

Taking me to the ambulance to attend to the slight cuts on the backs of my hands (from the broken glass imploding onto me), one of the paramedics returned to the vehicle, expressing that had I not been walking around on arrival as I was, they would have expected to need to cut the roof off the vehicle, and only carry me out on a spinal board!

One paramedic expressed that it was “the worst accident he’d ever seen, where someone had come out alive”. Unfortunately Sammy the squirrel wasn’t so lucky!


So after the event, I booked myself in for a Sports Massage on Wednesday morning, an Aromatherapy treatment Wednesday evening, an Osteopathy treatment to reset a couple of vertebrae on the Friday morning, and another massage on the following Monday! 🙂

The week continued relatively as normal (although a couple of days did seem to pass by, without being quite normally balanced!).

Thankfully, after a series X-rays, (apart from the car, the tree, and of course Sammy) nothing appears to be broken!

(I wrote this, because the ambulance guys, the crash transporter guys, and many others enjoyed the humour of ‘’ marked across the car, in the crushed form you see above!)

Encouraging Recycling

Having recently taken over a hotel (accommodating for up to 16 guests 7 days per week), so far we’ve managed to reduce our landfill by at least 85%.  We still have further to go, which will be progressing over coming months, but it’s a pretty good start.

This was quite simply achieved by seperating our rubbish, and putting most of it to recycling.  (ie down from an 1100 litre dumpy bin, to the equivalent of around 2 dustbin bags a week of landfill: less than the average families landfill I see at the side of the road).

For example we now recycle:

  • all suitable paper and card
  • recyclable plastics (numbers 1-5), metals and tins
  • recyclable glass
  • tetra-pack cartons (lids seperated)
  • Tassimo disks from our various machines at the hotel (2p for each one recycled also goes to charity)
  • Nespresso capsules (recycled by Nespresso directly).

We also:

  • Reduced food wastage by cooking great food, to order (so there’s also less left by our guests)
  • Buy only fsc approved toilet and facial tissues (ie recycled, and/or sustainable)
  • Use energy saving bulbs throughout most of the hotel (both halogen, and tube style)
  • Turn off thermostats in our rooms when they’re not booked
  • Open windows to naturally air the place as much as possible (rather than just using chemicals)
  • fix leaking taps, etc

We’ve now found a suitable commercial recycle company, who can collect much our recyclable materials on a fortnightly basis.  Those items they can’t recycle directly, but we can, we still keep aside and recycle ourselves through other companies.

We also reduced the visits by the waste companies (fortnightly or less), to reduce the environmental impact of their travel to us in their large heavy vehicles.

It’s unfortunately, that in my experience, most businesses aren’t willing to take these steps to reduce their environmental impact.

I do appreciate there is still a lot more we can do ourselves (and already have plans to do so), and we’re trying to maintain the balance of luxury and quality with our environmental impact.

However, speaking to the guy changing over our dumpy bin recently (to one much smaller), he was also sharing how for the farm he also works on, they are still heavily discouraged by price.

For example, on his farm, plastic bags and wrapping (from feed, etc.) can either be recycled, or put in a skip for landfill.

  • If they put it in the skip, and it goes straight to a hole in the ground, they get charged around £200 a year.
  • If they collect the same volume for recycling, it’s around 3 times that price!

Not surprisingly, and unfortunately, for immediate cost reasons they therefore choose to put it all in landfill.


I also remember, back in 2001 when I used to work in a call centre in a town centre, virtually all the rubbish we ever disposed of was shredded office paper.  At that time, business landfill waste was free.  Recycling the premium paper however was quite a considerable cost in addition!


Until these basics change, I can’t see many other businesses taking steps to reduce their environmental impact.  I haven’t seen the figures, but I’m sure it will make a significant difference if more businesses are encouraged with their bottom line, to change.

It doesn’t take much once the changes are made, the biggest challenge seems to be in the change in work practices initially.  Trial it for a couple of weeks if you need to (even if you still keep sending it to landfill), and when it works, you can make it company policy on a constant basis!

Don’t be fooled by appearances

If you’ve met me, you might recognise that I generally look around 5-10 years younger than my age, I smile a lot, if I’m out and about I’m likely to have a rucksack on my back, and I tend to wear practical clothes rather than fashionable.

However, I’m also involved various businesses that continue to grow around the UK, that are currently turning over hundreds of thousands of pounds a year (and so of course spend quite a lot of money with a lot of different suppliers from around the UK), so when I buy things, I tend to buy in bulk.

My recent experience:

Very recently however, whilst walking around my new local town, I happened to notice a small independent interior designers.  Knowing that our new hotel is likely to be going through some significant internal renovations next year, I dropped in to have a look around, and discuss the potential of working together.

The lady in the store was already busy on the phone when I walked in.. so I didn’t rush her, but perused the small collection of fabrics and samples on display whilst waiting.

She didn’t seem like she’d be off the phone anytime soon, and hadn’t made any efforts to let me know she’d be right with me.

I then spotted a hardback interior design book on one of the chairs, so picked it up to get some further ideas to discuss.  Flicking through the pages, I then spotted something tucked into the book, which looked very out of place, and quickly spotted it was a printed boarding pass for a flight that month.  Trying to glance through to find out if this would be too late to get it to the owners (who must have left it by mistake), or whatever else I may be able to do to reunite it.

However, just then, the lady of the store (whilst still on the phone), snatched it out from my hands, told me not to touch it. She then quickly folded the paperwork back in half, and put it back in the book (by which time she’d also snatched this out of my hands).  She then put the book back on the chair, and then walked back into the rear of the store to continue her discussion on the phone (who I could work out was a long term supplier).

Not surprisingly, I left the store.

Realising that a lot of people don’t always get to know what they might have missed, I felt it important to let her know.  Therefore, with a smile in my step, and arms full of shopping I returned around 45 minutes later, sharing good news:

  1. I do own a small, local, luxury boutique hotel;
  2. We were looking to spend up to around £20,000 on some interior work (particularly on the design and finishing),
  3. And that unfortunately, due to the way I’d been treated by her a little earlier, there was absolutely no way I would now consider working with her or her company.

She was of course apologetic at this point, but it was too little : too late.

This incident is certainly not isolated.

A very succesful friend of mine had just been decorating her own new home, in a very expensive part of Guildford.  Still partially covered in clothes caked in paint, she tried to register with a very local but expensive private dentists.  The receptionist apparently wouldn’t even give her the time of day.  But upon returning later that week, this time on her return from work (in a tailored suite), they couldn’t sign her up quickly enough.

Similarly, a good colleague who now runs fleet services for a well known luxury car company:  shared with me a time one Saturday afternoon when a gentleman in casual jeans and a t-shirt turned up at the showroom and forecourt of the car firm, and was taking a good look around.  The high pressure sales guys at the time didn’t take long to assume he was just going to waste their time, so they sent over the Saturday kid (John) who was trying to learn the trade whilst washing the cars.  The gentleman had a few questions, that the kid tried to answer as best he could.  The gentleman then asked how he could go about ordering 14 of these for his business.

Not surprisingly, the Saturday kid didn’t really know how to proceed, so went back to asked the main sales guys what to do next.. on hearing the news, they elbowed their way into trying to get the commission, but the gentleman in question stopped them, explained that they had all dismissed him whilst he was walking around and whilst trying to ask questions, and so John (the Saturday kid) was the only person who should get the commission from the significant sale.

Incredible people:

Now being a hotel owner, I’m fortunate to meet many more incredible people from around the world who have come to stay with us.

Over the course of their stay, some of them are kind enough to share with me their background, and we do get all types of people.  Some are nurses, midwifes, and teachers, others are mutli-millionaire business owners, now expanding, retiring, or just keeping busy.  All of them look much the same, especially when they come down for breakfast in the hotel dressing gowns!

As the saying goes:

Apparently 40% of the decision to buy a book is based on its cover alone, but they do still say: “don’t judge a book by its cover”.

When it comes to people especially, basing your opinion on image alone, more than likely you’ll be completely wrong.

New Business Venture – Hotel de Vie

I’m very pleased to announce that today, we’re able to ‘go public’ that from the 31st August 2010, both myself and my wife Jolene, will be leasing a luxurious boutique hotel in Farnham, Surrey, called ‘Hotel de Vie‘ (Hotel of Life).

This is a venture we’ve been in discussions regarding, for nearly 9 months now.  The training is nearly complete, papers have been signed, and we should all be good to go in less than 3 weeks.

How did we do it?

I was fortunate to be speaking with the owner prior to the massive renovation project of the previously run down property.  After sharing a few ideas with them, and keeping in contact over the past few years, at the end of a recent visit the owners mentioned they were looking to potentially expand the business (subject to finding a new suitable venue), so were keen to find a suitable couple to run the existing one.

Both myself and Jolene excitedly discussed the idea at length on the journey home, and gave them a call back as soon as we were home, offering ourselves for the purpose.

The rest as they say, is history.

We’ll be adding a few things to the hotel website over the coming months, but do feel free to check it out anytime on www.Hotel de