It all started with a business journey I was required to take, to attend a training course my company had declared was mandatory. Personally I was quite convinced it was not at all necessary; the information could have been adequately conveyed by a short written document or even one of those PowerPoint presentations which continue to be compulsory in the business world.

Several email exchanges and phone calls failed to convince the powers that be in Human Resources - a department which had always seemed to be exclusively manned by sub-humans - and I reluctantly resigned myself to a tedious day away. The course schedule demanded that I must be there for eight o'clock the following morning. I had therefore booked a hotel so that I could travel in the evening, stay overnight, and would be suitably rested and refreshed for the rigours of the classroom session.

I also decided to take the train, since this would at least allow me to do a little work on the journey. In any case, the alternative was a long cross-country car journey after dark and on poor roads. So, after my day in the office, I made my way by car to the city centre railway station.

Irritatingly, I was not able to find a parking space in the station car park. Every single space was taken. Already feeling hugely frustrated, I toured the back streets around the station. This was a very dodgy area, and I found myself wondering if it would be safe to park there at all.

I was able to find a couple of likely places, but also managed to spot the small signs threatening clamping for unauthorised parking, with an extortionate fee for release. In those days, a commonplace approach: I had a strong dislike of these business ventures, intended to extract sums of money from hapless visitors rather than a genuine desire to prevent motorists from blocking access to premises.

I knew that I was already running out of time. As always, vital last-minute panics at work and city traffic meant that my schedule was very tight. I continued to tour the area, further frustrated by slow-moving cars, buses making frequent stops and traffic lights turning red just as I approached.

As I rounded a corner, I was immensely irritated to see my train leaving, the tops of the carriages and the pantographs for electrical power just visible over the Victorian brickwork arches which supported both tracks and platform. I slammed my hand into the steering wheel and vented my frustration with a series of profanities which would have earned me a serious interview with the Headmaster if I were back at school. I now realised I would be forced to drive for several hours and set off in a foul mood, the swearing having done little to ameliorate my bad temper.

An hour or so later, I was still fuming. About all I can remember of the journey was noticing a line of electricity pylons silhouetted against a cloudy sky reddened by the setting sun, striding across the landscape like Martian invaders. I ignored them.

I drove the car as quickly as possible, trying to make up for lost time. I admit that I was not paying as much attention as I probably should have been on the narrow and slippery roads and, since it was increasingly late at night, I was undoubtedly a little tired, too.

I suppose I am just trying to make excuses for what happened next. In any case, I was forced off the road by what I originally assumed was a large oncoming vehicle. Unaccountably I had failed to see the bright lights just around the bend; it was almost as if the lights had turned on just as I rounded the corner.

The vehicle was in the centre of the bridge, travelling fast towards me and straddling both carriageways. The bridge stretched across what I was shortly to discover was a heavily-forested ravine, in an area best characterised as miles from anywhere.

Thinking back, I could see nothing other than the array of lights. I knew it was not unusual for large lorries - Heavy Good Vehicles - to be equipped with a considerable array of headlights, presumably to provide extra illumination on dark and narrow roads, or perhaps just to blind inconsiderate motorists who fail to dip their headlights on motorways. But I would later realise that the arrangement of the lights was quite unlike anything I could imagine adorning the front of an HGV - for one thing, it would have left no space for the windscreen.

I swerved instinctively, with no time to think. I felt a thump as the types hit the kerb, followed by crunching and ripping sounds as branches and bushes whipped by on either side. I had left the road just before the crash barrier, and I careened down a steep bank, deep into the wooded copse. The windscreen smashed about half-way down. Shortly afterwards the side window was shattered by some branch which also tore a deep and ragged gash in my arm which I threw up instinctively to protect my eyes. My forehead and chin were cut by flying glass and my hands were scalded by the hot gas from the airbag deployment.

Finally, the car came to a halt, having remained on its wheels throughout, fortunately. I would later discover that every body panel had been damaged in some way, including the roof - probably by some low-hanging bough. The seatbelt and airbag had kept me alive, as they were designed to do. I sat there in the silent dark, shaken and bleeding, in pain, unable to move and very nearly unconscious.

Introduction Part 2