I cricked my neck this morning. I’m not sure how. Could have been putting my boots on. These sort of things happen as I get older. Any muscle I have that is not already in an advanced state of atrophy, is ready to pop out from where it belongs at a moment’s notice. If it’s not weak or damaged, then it gets cramp. It’s just one of those things that you learn to live with. Like broccoli. Whatever their primary purpose in your youth, the primary purpose of muscles as you get older is to ache. They appear to have no other function. Nature’s way of telling you that the cork is well and truly out of the bottle.
Of course, a cricked neck is somehow quite unlike any other physical pain: it is the stealth bomber of bodily discomfort. You are blissfully unaware of its presence until, without thinking, you turn around and… too late, it’s got you… Like a well-directed rubber band in the darkness of a cinema, there is no way of even telling where it came from. Like the house guests who have lingered just a little too long, there is no way of telling when it might go. There can be no more exciting moment than that at which you realise that your crick has disappeared – just as suddenly as it appeared – but none quite so disappointing as when it returns the very next time you turn around.
I once suffered a whiplash injury. It was like a crick in the neck with knobs on. Big knobs. This was a crick that somehow belted down my back and into my legs without warning. A crick that meant that I felt absolutely fine until, quite suddenly, I wished that somebody could remove my head from my shoulders – very quickly. A flash of pain that was so intense it physically convulsed me, often provoking laughter from those around me who did not know what was happening. Laughter, I always find, is infectious, but boy does it rattle the whiplash. The doctor put me in a neck brace that made me laugh every time I caught sight of it. Laugh, wince, laugh, wince, it was torture. I can’t explain if you’ve never had it. If you have, you’ll be wincing now.
Anyway, this is not whiplash, this is a common-or-garden crick in the neck, and I have no real idea how I got it. The trick is to move slowly, never turn quickly and, for some reason I can never quite fathom, hold one arm across the chest. As I daren’t look down or around, I keep clipping my ankles on immovable objects. I flinch, the pain flashes down my neck, I wince, I catch sight of myself, I laugh, I wince… I’m getting a bit fed up with it all to be quite honest. Pretty soon I will take to my bed with a small nightcap and the firm resolve to wear shoes instead of boots in the morning…