I have been self-harming for forty years now – although I think that most people would probably call it gardening. After a day in the garden I have generally accumulated enough injuries to make me of more use to an aspiring Accident & Emergency doctor than the average full-colour text book. If you want to find an example of any one of the myriad ways in which a buffoon can injure himself in the garden, just look me over, you will find it… somewhere. Today, after a day spent digging and building, in addition to the normal array of bumps and bruises, pulls and twists, aches and pains with which I am afflicted, I have a plaster on the end of my finger. It covers an area where a small chunk of finger used to be – where it actually is now, I have no idea. It is not, in fact, unusual for me to leave parts of me dangling from thorn, spike or metal implement during the course of a day’s gardening. There is barely a plant in my garden that doesn’t have a minute piece of me suspended from it somewhere.
The damage I have suffered is, however, not my point (such as it is). The point of my witter today actually revolves around the plaster. You see, in the past, there would not have been one there. What was the worst that could happen? It would not heal properly; it would become sore; it would ooze a little; I might go septic. I would squeeze it, wash it and it would heal. Not so today. Today it might not heal properly; it might become sore; it might ooze a little; it might be sepsis. I might die. I have grown used to my injuries changing their names. When I drop a brick on my shin, I no longer have a bruise; I have a contusion. When I scrape my elbow along the wall, I no longer have a graze; I have an abrasion. When I pierce myself with any one of the dozens of lethal implements to which my garden shed is home, I do not get stitches; I get sutures. And with each change in name comes an incremental growth in seriousness. One word closer to death.
Hence my little cut, sore and swollen that it is, has been treated to a dose of Tea Tree Oil and is currently encased in a plaster, which means that a) I currently smell like a hospital ward no longer does and b) I cannot pick anything (e.g. a £1 coin) up if it is laying flat on the table. It is irksome. Now, I know what you’re going to say and you’re quite right, I could use the other hand, but you miscalculate my direction of drift (aimless drifting, of course, being my forte). You see, what I’m struggling to understand is how my very minor gardening injury has suddenly become a death-threat and, even worse, how it has made me £1 worse off for as long as my right hand is otherwise engaged.
My wife says that I should wear gardening gloves and, whilst I must concede that a stout gauntlet would probably forestall many of the piercings and slashing to which my mortal flesh is prone, I still would not be able to pick up the coin. Furthermore, over four decades of horticultural flagellation I have grown used to the kind of damage that I can inflict upon myself – even if the names have changed, the harm remains the same – but with gloves, I am faced with a whole new range of possibilities: who knows what manner of glove-related injuries are possible. So, although suggestions are always welcomed and good advice is always taken, on this occasion I will stick with the lacerations I know and I will continue to harm myself in all the old, familiar ways.
‘A scar is what happens when the world is made of flesh’ – Leonard Cohen