I believe I’m quite a confident person. However, I’ve never always been like that. The fact that both my parents were beyond shocked when I announced I wanted to be an actress indicates that acting was the least likely path they would have thought I’d choose.
As a child I was shy. Actually, beyond shy. I wanted to melt away into the background. If anyone looked at me or made eye contact I’d go bright red from embarrassment and cry. Hence why I ended up with the moniker ‘Soggy Sarah’.
If ANY kind of attention was on me I wanted the earth to swallow me up whole. And that is why I very nearly had an untimely end.
I must have been about seven. The only way I can gauge the age is because I remember I was in junior school in Clifton, Nottingham – the school I was at before moving when I was eight.
I was best friends with a boy called Lee Gibling, who lived opposite the infant school. He and I were inseparable and I was always spending time at his house after school.
One day as I walked to school, he joined me as I entered the school gates. He was often suffering from a cold and I always remembering him having a stream of mucus dribbling from his nose. This day was no different, but he was armed with a pack of Tunes. (Tunes, if you don’t know, are lozenges that are great for clearing colds).
This particular day was the day we had assembly. The whole school piled into the main hall to sing hymns and listen to the presentation from the head teacher. Before heading into assembly, Lee offer me a Tune. We weren’t supposed to eat sweets so I secretly took one and stuffed it in my mouth before any teachers could see.
We all sat down in our rows and sat quietly watching and listening to the assembly. It was then that I sucked a little too hard on the Tune and I swallowed it.
And it got stuck in my throat.
It took me a moment to realise it wasn’t moving and that I wasn’t actually able to breathe.
Now, I am pretty amazed at what I did next.
Because I was so shy, and because sweets were not allowed and I didn’t want to get into trouble, I quietly put my hand up and calmly gasped ‘may I go to the toilet please’.
I was excused. I managed to stand up, and wade through the other children to get out of the hall and down the steps. It was at that point that I really started to panic because I really couldn’t breathe at all now.
I saw one of the teachers down the corridor tidying up some coats and bags. I started to head towards her thinking I was going to black out. I was gasping trying to tell her I couldn’t breathe but nothing was coming out. And then all of a sudden I vomited, and with it came the Tune.
I can’t remember what happened next. But I do know I was thankful to be able to breathe again. Perhaps I wasn’t fully choking, but it’s crazy to think that because I didn’t want to make a scene I would risk my life!
I didn’t think anyone remember this event – my parents certainly don’t – but years later when I accidentally met Lee in a nightclub, one of our other friends from school was there too and he said to me ‘do you remember that time when your nearly choked on a Tune?’.
I’m glad someone else remembers. Not because I don’t believe it happened, but because it is such a vivid memory from that time and it’s nice to know it’s part of someone else memory too.