For the last couple of weeks I have had a bad back and it has properly worried me. Not, I must say, for the present, as the pain is already receding – although it might account for the slightly melancholy air that has pervaded the last few posts – but for the future. Let me begin by saying that this has not been a ‘my back really aches, I cannot possibly pick up that shopping bag’ kind of a bad back – not, you understand that I demean that kind of nagging pain in any way: I am exceedingly fortunate that I do not have to live with constant pain and I will never forget that. However, this back was the kind that, should I absent-mindedly twist or bend without giving myself at least a fortnight’s notice, left me on the receiving end of what felt like a bolt of lightning. I have seen video’s of people being tasered: it felt like that. A simple cough or sneeze left me checking – when I finally peeled myself from the ceiling – that I had not been inadvertently hard-wired directly into The National Grid.
After a short bus or car journey, I walked as John Wayne might have done having crossed the Sierra Nevada by horse. A simple kerb necessitated the kind of preparation normally required before attempting an ascent of the north face of the Eiger. As the day wore on, I developed the kind of limp that could be seen from space. The sheer range and severity of facial contortions made my whole face ache. I was popping more pills than a hyper-active six-year-old with a family bag of orange Smarties.
One thing I have learned from this period – never tell anyone you have a bad back, unless you want to hear how much worse theirs is. Coping with a bad back is, it would appear, a National Pastime, second in scope only to scoffing at other people doing the same thing.
‘Ok,’ I hear you say, ‘so you have had a bad back, I get that, but it’s getting better now. What is there that could possibly make you fear for the future?’
Well, despite my advancing years, I am generally fit, robust and in good health, but this forced me to think about a future when I just might not be. I have had difficulty putting on my own socks, putting on my own pants, getting out of a chair, getting up off the toilet! I realise that this is a future lying in wait for many of us, but this is the first time that I have been invited to consider the implications fully. I do not like them. I am sure that you do not want to know what went on during toilet-visits. Suffice to say that getting up was the easy bit – and then we’ll move on.
I started to develop some strategies that involved bending knees rather than back, turning my whole body rather than twisting my back, and I got by.
Ironically, I do currently possess a perpetually aching back that feels as though it is only one ill-advised twist away from spasm, but it is definitely getting better. And as, little by little, the pain recedes, so does my fear for the future. Science will come to the rescue – either that, or a girdle – and all will be fine. I’ll manage. It’s what we humans do. Today I put my trousers on without lying down and I got back up without climbing the wall. Whilst not exactly in a single bound, I did ascend the stairs this morning in a single hour. I got myself out of the car without looking like I had inadvertently super-glued myself to the upholstery. I walked to work without looking like I was on stilts. I am returning to the normal, ever-so-slightly camp gait, that has been the bane of my life. I am not yet dancing around the house, but I am getting very close to being able to reach the whisky.