Monthly Archives: February 2012

101 Things I Cannot Do With My Broken Back

Ok, so maybe it’s just the seven but that’s how it feels sometimes when I’m struggling to get up from a chair that a 90 year old would have sprung out of, raced over to the Viennese whirls and got back into in the time it would have taken me to lever my arse millimetres away from the cushion. Basically this thought has been occurring to me on and off for the last few months while I have been recuperating from spinal fusion in December and has made me realise just how much I truly took my back for granted.

  1. Sitting:

So let’s start with the basics. When you go to sit, you either a) find an appropriate spot, lower yourself gently in and adjust yourself accordingly, or b) find an appropriate spot and using the arms available as guides or strategic ‘bum sweeping’ motions, clear the area for perching.

If you have problems with your back, a) there is no appropriate area, only inappropriate positions, and b) perching is not an option. You have landing, falling, crumpling and, my favourite, collapsing into seats. Never perching.

When sitting down during a normal course of events as I understand it, the body’s core tightens and as the quads contract and the hamstring elongates, the legs bend and the stability behind these muscle groups allows for a steady progress down to the chair. Now imagine that instead of your core muscles, you have an inflatable ring with the plug missing. That’s the visual there folks!

  1. Getting up (or down again for that matter):

Moving from sitting to lying or vice versa is all par for the course for those of us who go to bed at night and rise in the morning n’est pas? Wrong! Normally I would throw myself in or out of bed with abandon – my own I hope you note – as I would be running late or longing to sleep.

However, without the use of a fully functioning back this is no longer an option. I must now sit/fall (see previous) onto the bed and from there use a vertical pivot to simultaneously swing my feet up and my head down, and from there I can roll onto my back if I fancy a change of scenery from anaglypta to artex. I feel like a driver with his hands stuck at ten to two 20 years after he’s passed his test.

So perhaps it’s more understandable that, having been able to do the former for many years I sometimes forget and yesterday was one of those days. I simply threw my leg under me and went to collapse on the bed, but as I realised part way down that I wasn’t to do this and that the landing would hurt I also realised that there was nothing I could do. It was at this point that I realised a third thing.

It is not the act of hurting yourself, nor the knowledge that you did something stupid to result in your injury that pains you. More the knowledge, before the pain has happened that you’re going to hurt yourself, there will be no one else to blame so yes, it is all your own fault.

Oh, and the pain itself.


  1. Bending over:

I suppose there’ll be a fair few of you (if you read this) that find this one funny. Well I’ll tell you something for nothing sunshine; it’s bloody not!

You probably bend in all sorts of places like the knees, the hips, the waist and have a variety of poses you can put yourself into. Best stop that sentence before it really becomes an erotic thought pattern in your mind that I have accidently imbedded.   Moving swiftly on…

‘Not too much to bending is there?’ I hear you cry; well I shall tell you that in fact bending is one of the most difficult things I have had to do since surgery. I’m sure we all know that you should bend at the knee not the back and that bending and twisting can cause damage. But what is not reported on is the fact that we still bend an awful lot in our lives regardless of whether we pick up objects with straight legs or lever ourselves out of bed in the mornings.

Take hair care for example. When drying your hair, or even wrapping it up in the towel straight out of the shower, the first thing most girls do is toss their hair forwards. This has become something of a nemesis to me.

Upon finishing my shower, I reach for my towel and then take a moment to pause and think about just how easy this was before and understand why on earth it should be so difficult now. Then, once I have finished berating myself for being a pillock I gingerly bend forwards, keeping my hands firmly on my – fairly slippery – thighs.

It is about this point that I realise that the towel I have bunched up on my right quad is never going to reach my hair unless I loosen my death grip and bring it up there

It is now that I must rely on the pesky aforementioned core muscles. I honestly did not understand quite how much I relied on them until it seems mine have been sliced through at the back. Well, alright maybe I’m exaggerating a touch but it certainly feels that way when I’m trying to hold my upper body up whilst bending. If I did not have my hands clamped to my legs as supporting struts, I believe my body would fold completely in half, thus rendering me not only painfully incapacitated but also quite unable to get myself out of this position. So I have two choices: 1) drip dry, or 2) brace my back against something while I lean.

Have you ever tried leaning your arse against the arctic cold of wall tiles after taking a 15 minute near scalding shower?? Nemesis!

  1. Running:

Would seem fairly self-explanatory given the above, but I defy any of you to exit a hastily double parked car in the pouring rain to catch the post and not jog to the box. Turns out Pavlov was right; years of imprinting do override basic common sense.

I managed two steps before my body reminded me that I shouldn’t be doing this. It wasn’t that it hurt because it didn’t (then). What it did do was totally seize up mid-stride and left me waddling my way to the post box in a style vaguely reminiscent of Kryten.

My mum fortunately had the good grace not to laugh out loud as I got back in the car.  She was thinking it though.

Following this train of thought, I have come to the conclusion that I should become an avid Pelican crossing user for the foreseeable future as it is unlikely in my current state I would be able to avoid being flattened by a speeding vehicle.

Ah who am I kidding? In my current state it is unlikely I could avoid being hit by a damn biddy buggy!

  1. Standing

You would have thought this would be the option left to me considering all the others I have discounted but you would be wrong my friend. I did not know how much standing tires you out! Having worked in bars for years this realisation has really astonished me. I’m used to 14 hour shifts of smiling and nodding and acting like the vacuous airhead most people like to have around because they won’t know what’s going on but can still provide some practical scenery. A note for another time, I digress…

Standing isexhausting.The only way I can think to describe the feeling I get in my back after 30 minutes standing is that my lower spine is starting to collapse back in on itself. Horrendous imagery but that’s what I get, and when I get that feeling…

  1. Sex:

You’re taking the proverbial right??

  1. Sleeping:

This is actually a new one on me. I am by nature a side-sleeper so when I first had the operation and was told that I needed to sleep on my back because it would be more comfortable I was not impressed. Sleeping on my back has never been comfortable and I often feel pressure on my chest and body when I try. However, for the first night I did sleep on and off on my back. By the second day I was not only in pain and grumpy from being ill, I was tired.

I do not believe I inherently have the capacity for evil in me under normal circumstances. Except when I have been denied sleep. Whether it is from not sleeping or being woken up believe me; a woman scorned has nothing on me.

So I have been sleeping on my side ever since and just bearing with the pain for the first 30 minutes when I wake up. I feel it has been a fair compromise. This was up until Sunday when I decided that I had gone as far as I could with reduction of medication which I have been doing gradually for the last three months and today was the day when I would start to do without the low dose opiates.

Low dose my tile-frosted arse.

During the day I have been ok, some pain but I have other options for pain relief.  But at night it’s like I’ve been possessed!  After a few hours sleep almost like a convulsion wakes me up in 15-20 minute intervals, but it’s not actually an external reaction. My body seems to have been having internal shudders and the feeling of them at 4am stopping you every time you close your eyes from drifting off is enough to drive a normal person insane.  In fact, I no longer feel normal.

Fortunately it is lessening and last night I got to sleep at 1:45am and woke up at 7:45am. Intersperse that with a few waking shudders throughout the ‘night’ and that is my sleep at the moment.

The day I get clear of these damn pills is the day I am going to touch my toes, go for a run, throw myself into bed (possibly my own) and test out my renewed capacity for sleep like you’ve never seen!

That’s pretty much the list for now. I’m sure there’s more but I’m boring myself with moaning. On the plus side, if this makes just one person realise how much their back is worth and how lucky they are to currently have a fully functioning one then don’t gloat.

I may not be able to make it out the damn chair in time but I’m a crack shot with a shoe.

With all the time I’ve had to practise; just try me.


Sit on my Facebook

That was the title of my Masters thesis.  Admittedly it failed due to my general demeanour of ‘it’ll do’ rather than ‘this is the best thing I have ever written and I shall go over it twice more just to make sure’.  Oops.  However the theory is still something I truly believe in and one day when I have the time, money and inclination, I shall finish it.  Having written my degree dissertation about Harry Potter I am not averse to somewhat unconventional or even controversial topics of exploration.

The idea behind it was that we’re gradually becoming an online society and though in some ways that is good because it means that distances are no object and the six degrees of separation suddenly become 6-clicks of difference, it is also destroying society as we have come to know it and rebuilding it into something I’m not sure I altogether like…

Letters used to the way to communicate to speak to people great distances away and these, closed with a personal seal indicative of each person, could take days or even weeks to reach their destination in some cases.  The art of letter writing was truly that; an art form.  The use of grammar and punctuation to express oneself succinctly but also eloquently, and the flowing style that could depict wit, emotion and personality coming through the letters on the page was a talent and a skill.  There were jobs available as scribes to write other people’s letters and pass on other people’s news and information in the best hand possible as well as readers the other end to bring the words to life to those unable to do so for themselves.  Letters were the way the world was connected and in a world as large as that, something thought as simple as letters held it together in a delicate balance.

Now text has taken grammar and spelling and thrown them out into the cold along with a good portion of the English language itself!  Instantaneous messaging means there is no need to wait for a response that may not make it, the worst we experience is ‘network failure’.  MySpace took the control of managed advertising and gave it to the audience, allowing self publicising and self marketing to take off in the media world.  Facebook and Twitter have allowed people the opportunity to connect with others that would not have been possible in the last 30 years, let alone the last 100.  But at what cost does this down scaling of the world come at?  What do we lose when we log on instead of reaching out for a connection?

Technology is amazing and at no point will I ever disagree with that or condemn the fantastic advances made in both science and technology, but I do feel strongly that progress for progress’ sake should not only be carefully considered but also the paths we carve should take into the account the route they have followed to reach that point before destroying all vestige of previous gain.  In other words,  whatever awesome and unbelievable leaps forward we may take in terms of connecting, conversing and contributing, it should never be forgotten how we arrived at that point in the first place.

Yes, the wonder that is instant messaging saves on weeks of delays and horseshoes but it doesn’t allow the ‘author’ the time to consider their words and once sent into the ether, there can be no clawing them back.

Yes, the amazing world of MySpace allows for free expression and branding and reselling of yourself but before that was available there was only you.  And you and only one opportunity to make that first impression. And it made people work harder and be better, not just look better for a photo to epitomise their ‘genre’.

Yes, social networking sites are unbelievable and negate the distance between lands, cultures and people to allow connections that should never have been possible and connect people in ways that could not be conceived before.  But id there a reason for that..?

I may sound  old but I hear kids on the bus shout things like “I’ll text you later or I’ll just tweet it” as they’re getting off the bus to head into their house, probably to go into their rooms, log onto their computers and start ‘really’ interacting with society.  They may have the opportunity to speak to people they could not dream of before thanks to social networks but is it really an interaction or it is just words on a page?

There is less and less face to face contact between people and less and less need to hear what people have to say when you can discover the person behind the words at their sites and through their posts.  People have now taken to promoting an ‘image’ of themselves before they’ve even met new people to save them getting the wrong impression from the start!

The ides of ‘society’ is that of the collective.  The people together create the ups and downs, the classes and structures and the ways of living but the influx of ‘social’ technology in some ways seems to having the very opposite effect by breaking down the social interactions and negating the need for real conversation.  The society this is promoting is not an evolution to my eyes but something very different and in parts, something very dark and unknown.

Sometimes I look at how far society has moved forward and wonder just exactly where it’s gone.  It’s like it’s taken the trip down the rabbit hole but somehow, got turned around at one of the junctions and we’re still waiting for it to emerge the other-side.  I’m hoping it will one day, but whether it will be recognisable is still to be seen.

Integrity, Honesty and Rugby

A day for rugby, the greatest game known to man! We started with an entree of Franca vs. Italy (or the build up thereof) at 2:30pm before scooting over the water for a light main of Leicester Tigers vs. Newcastle Falcons at 3:00pm and then up to the frozen wastes of Scotland for the start of England’s 2012 Six Nations tour at 5:00pm for dessert.

A sport I can appreciate and enjoy from the aspects of playing and watching, I find the simple pleasure in rugby comes from just being a part of it.  From the youngster clad in replica kit to the pinnacle of the sport on the Twickenham pitch and every level in between, rugby in a game for all.  For without those hidden layers it would not be the game is still is today.

I have often been told that there are no rules to rugby and strictly speaking this is the truth.  Rugby is governed by laws and as such, speaks to the uninitiated of absolutes, of pillars of truth deeply imbedded in the very fabric of the play.  The fact is that the people who play the best game are those who know how to work around the laws without actively breaking them.  Please, don’t misunderstand me, I don’t for a second mean to imply that you should cheat to be successful at the game!  More that the understanding of the game must be so complete that you are able to dance that close to the line without setting so much as a toe across it.  But rugby is more than a set of laws, 30 men, 3 officials, a smattering of support and some questionable bathing habits post match…

It is a lifestyle to adopt.  Much like the football way of life with the fast cars and faster women, one step ahead of the paps and the image that sells more than the sport you play, rugby is a way of living.

From youth to pension, beginner to professional, confused to coach the game affects everyone it touches and leaves it mark.  The game of rugby teaches those who have yet to love it about teamwork and sportsmanship as all sports should but it goes the extra mile and also promotes the ideas of determination, support, conduct , fair play and respect.

I have yet to see another sport send a man from the field of play for conduct unbecoming of a gentleman and ‘against the spirit of good sportsmanship’ (Law 10(m)), nor have I seen a team going so far as to stop play in order to draw an injury to the referee’s attention.  With very few examples to show otherwise there is rarely a cry of wolf on the rugby pitch.  The players are aware of the dangers and have often seen the resulting injuries a match can produce and do not take injury calls lightly.   And if it does occur – the infamous Bloodgate incident for example – you only need to view the shock and indignity that follows to know that this type of behaviour is not, and could not become typical because of the sheer volume of people who could not bear to see it happen to the sport they love.

The expression ‘play to the whistle’ is probably used in many sports meaning, ‘don’t just stop because you think you should, the ref is in charge if he says play on; play on!’  In rugby the other meaning behind it is ‘what the ref says goes’.  There are three officials on a rugby pitch – four if you’re lucky enough to playing at televised standard but the referee can overturn all of them.  He is the equivalent to The Almighty for those 80 minutes and as such should be treated like it.  There is no bumping, cussing, pushing, shoving, pulling, deriding, or general bullying of the referee as can frequently be seen in football matches, they are addressed as ‘sir’ at all times, and should you not be the captain, the vice or the pack leader – or even nominated speaker should all the above mentioned be indisposed – you do not even speak to the referee.  Did you know that in rugby a player can still be shown a red card for up to an hour after the match?  Tempers can run high in a physical contact game and it is not often that the law often comes into play but it is there, in the background, ensuring that what goes on the pitch stays on the pitch.  The fact that tempers are held, referees are not sent off in ambulances and the game continues just exemplifies the control and respect learnt to continue to play

There really is no ‘I’ in rugby.  No single performance, no lone celebrations to be applauded and spotlighted.  Yes of course all people have good days and bad days and some play better than others, but the teams that are the most successful are those that play – win or lose – together, as a squad.  Take a look at England’s performance yesterday!  Yes the media have rubbished it and the Scottish have played down their own inadequacies by trying to highlight England’s, but just look at the video again.  See the union in the English team, when one mistake is made all the players rally round that person, when someone works well and hard, it is accepted as a whole team effort.  There was no showboating, gloating, playing to the crowds, just hard honest graft and the result to show for it.  Ugly rugby people call it?  I still think, even with messy play like that it’s the most beautiful game to watch.

The old saying is that football is a gentleman’s sport played by hooligans and rugby is a hooligan’s sport played by gentlemen and this is the description that will always define rugby for me.  But the thing that has always grabbed me about rugby and appealed ever since I began to understand the difference between the rugby players and the footballers, is the attitude.  This carries forward from the minis and right up to the adult teams but it is in the junior rugby it will be most apparent.  In those players of years to come and the most susceptible age range for making decisions that affects their entire futures.  These rugby boys who play are mid-pubescent, emotional, erratic, hormonal and discovering themselves all at the same time.  And as a hobby on a Sunday morning they chose to ruck hard and fast in the mud, scrum close and personal in another teams body heat and run into players twice their weight and height with a joy and fearlessness no other sport has seen.  These boys are taught from touch to contact not only about how to behave on the pitch, but valuable lessons for all aspects of life.  Respect for authority (even if you don’t like it), support for your teammates (because showboating doesn’t win you prizes – or friends), not to take yourself too seriously (because clubhouse banter will knock that right out of you) and to know there are people who would put their body on the line for you and the team, just as you would for them.

Rugby could never be just a sport and be as big as it is.  It seeps into countries you would have expected to shun it and is played in the places you would least expect it.  It joins people together and brings a sense of belonging to millions.  And all the while it teaches and moulds us for life’s games and field’s of play.  There is a certain pride that being a rugby fan brings that no other sport can match and it is the feeling of being a part of something great; a feeling I wouldn’t trade for all the transfer fees in all the world.

A hooligan’s sport played by gentlemen?  Just remember; we’re all living proof of the future of that.



I’ve had a very busy day and I’m exceptionally tired now, but I feel that certain glow of achievement you can only get after a sense of accomplishment brought on by a success, whether physical or moral has been attained.  Today may seem like an ordinary day to many people but to me it marks a number of firsts to be noted:

  1. Today is the first time I have been out of the house for more than two hours and away from my home comforts, safety nets and out of reach of my bed for six weeks!  It is unbelievable how much more tiring you find life when suddenly there is no option just to ‘stop and have a lie down’ any time you want.  It’s like being on edge all the time but in fact it’s just what everyone else does. All day every day.
  2. Today was the first time back in the car for a long journey since the slight nightmare that was the home trip from the hospital on the 21st December.  [N.B.The fact my dad ‘helped’ by pulling the seat back I was just about to lean on and we ended up a little bit lost in the middle of New Cross  and it took over two hours to get there made it a nightmare.  The fact I was a touch fuzzy on morphine throughout made it only a slight one…]
  3. It was also the first time I then made the same journey back again at the end of the day.
  4. My first interaction for longer than 2 hours with someone outside of the family.  I would not be surprised to discover how many calories you burn just sitting talking as it takes one hell of a lot of energy to talk, listen, keep up with and keep going on a conversation.
  5. My last day on the mega strength pain pills.

In short, today I went back to my usual home, visited the boy and spent some time in the house.  it was only for about 3 hours but as it took an hour and a half to get there and a little under three hours to get back, it made for an exceptionally long day.  But a good one I feel.

I hadn’t told anyone I was returning, mostly because I didn’t want anyone to suggest visiting or anything else remotely similar, today or at any future point as I think it would have been too much for me at the time.  Also I just wanted to be able to focus on one thing at a time and deal with one little situation on my own, break it down and work through it piece by bite-size piece.  And I did!  And I feel proud of myself.  And at the same time I am also sitting here laughing at myself for being proud of doing something other people do all the time!

My mum often says “you’re not ‘other people’. You’re you and you’re individual”, and I think in this case she may have a point.  Because while I sit here and smile indulgently, quietly mock myself at my enthusiasm over my meagre achievements I would have carried out without a moments thought not less than three months ago, part of me also hides the beam of pride at myself for overcoming this miniature wall of adversity and silently pats me, very gently, on the back.

Like a child learning their steps in the way of the world I am, at some stage going to have to accept that for now, I am child like in my progression and the smallest hurdle should be greeted with courage and determination but equally should be rewarded with praise and encouragement to enable me to face the next.

This whole illness, operation and recovery is perhaps one of my biggest hurdles so far and certainly one of my steepest learning curves and yet somehow I cannot seem to see how far I have to go but also just how far I have come.  In fact at times I have trouble seeing past my own inability to circumnavigate the walls this presents me with and see only my own lacking ability; my own failure.  For what are walls obstructing the path but obstacles to be met one brick at a time, one layer after another until it is small enough to step over without a backwards glance and instead I look only at the wall I have yet to face.  I should remember to look at what is left behind when I need a reminder.

And right about the time I can take that backwards glance and see the rubble left behind me I think is about the time I will finally admit to myself how far and how much I have really had to overcome.  About the time I am on the other side of that wall and probably as it’s receding in my mind, perhaps doubting it was ever really that big in the first place.

Until then, I’ll just chuckle at my efforts to take on the bricks.

Last of the short-speakings

This is the last cheating short one, I promise.  I have a big day tomorrow with hours in the car a journey to undertake, fears to overcome and hopefully a happy ending.  I’ve also been taking picture so I have much to catch up on but for now I am full of my pills, a little stressed and going to sleep.

Tomorrow I will be exhausted but tomorrow I will be free.


Until Tomorrow…