Thursday, 7 February 2008

Richard Hammond: On The Edge - Book Review

It was on the evening of September 20th, 2006, when my brother Paul was sitting in front of the computer, as he does every night, looking for the latest news. He soon found that day’s top story, and turned round to me as I sprawled out on the sofa watching whatever sport it was on television.

“Richard Hammond’s had a car crash.”
“You’re f***ing joking!”
“No. He’s crashed some jet car or something. He’s in intensive care.”
Up until then I had been a fan of Richard Hammond’s work. I hadn’t watched Top Gear much, but Braniac, the show on Sky he presented where he basically acted like your normal everyday bloke doing crazy experiments, such as finding out if it’s possible to walk on custard, was one of my favourites. I’d seen him in a couple of other things as well, and thought that he was probably one of Britain’s best television presenters. Which is why it seemed like everyone in the country, was concerned with his health.
On The Edge is his account of the events surrounding that fateful day on an airfield in Yorkshire, when, while driving a Vampire jet car, when a front tyre blew sending the car off the track and spinning over until it came to rest. The car had been travelling close to three hundred miles an hour.
Although no physically injured by the crash, except for an injury to his left eye, Richard suffered severe brain damage, his brain having been thrown around within his skull by the incredible g-forces he experienced during the impact.
Hammond tells the story of his long fight to regain full health, but there are parts of the story which, for obvious reasons, he can’t tell, so his wife Mindy takes over the story telling for a large amount of the book, and her part of the story if just as remarkable as her husbands.
As I read how Mindy was forced to cope with Richard’s life-threatening situation, deciding how to protect their two young daughters, I developed a deep seated respect for her. A lot of people would literally have cracked at the situation Mindy found herself in. Her whole world had literally caved in on her, but she found the strength not just for herself, but for her daughters, and more importantly, for Richard. Richard made remarkable progress in the days and weeks after the crash, although the effects of his brain injury were apparent for all to see.
This book is a truly remarkable read. It’s not just the story of a bloke off the telly having a car crash and suffering brain damage. It’s the story of a daredevil of a man who almost lost his life in an effort to entertain the viewing public, and of the sheer guts and determination he and his family showed on the arduous road to recovery.
As I read this book, my respect for both Richard and Mindy Hammond grew with each page. It really did, and I think the entire country are thankful that the Hamster is back on our screens doing what he does best.
Richard Hammond is the reason that I, a bloke who has never driven a car in his life, now watch Top Gear. He’s also the reason that I’m now a big fan of James May and Jeremy Clarkson, so if you don’t like that send your complaints to him, and I’d like to thank both Richard and Mindy for writing this book, and telling their story.