Right hand, left hand

Sorry to disappoint fans of the Welsh musician and erstwhile housemate of Elis James (actor, anecdotalist and broadcaster), but this post will not be about him or his music: though feel free to check out his oeuvre.  As regular viewers will have guessed, this post will be about me!

Since my glorious (if brief) attempt at unpowered flight last week, I have been learning to appreciate the important role my left (and non-dominant) hand plays in my life.  Despite being a very long way from ambidextrous, old leftie plays a surprisingly large role in my day-to-day existence.

My left hand, it seems, does far more than steady things while my right hand performs those activities that require fine motor control.  It is my left-hand that has to hold the saucepan while I scrape out its contents, for example, a task which has proved rather painful given the author’s predilection for the work of M and Mme Le Creuset: cast-iron may be durable, but it isn’t light-weight.  My left-hand also seems to have a major role in dressing, particularly the use of buttons, and laundering of both textiles and the self.  As a result, I may recently have been a little more dishevelled, less recently laundered and further from my most recent shower than has been traditional.

Being unable to cycle, I have been forced to use the bus far more often than usual and share my journeys with the great unwashed (who are, I suppose, now my people).  I use the phrase “the great unwashed” deliberately, as a substantial proportion of my bus journeys start at Southampton Airport which is clearly close to the university’s sport grounds and the young folk who avail themselves of its facilities, do not extend their participation to include the baths or showers before boarding the bus.  As a result, a fug of youthful exertion pervades the top deck – to which I can now add my own, less piquant, musk.

My injury has certainly made me appreciate the problems the elderly and disabled may have with so much modern packaging: bring back the paper bag!  I have spent the last week or so praying that there won’t be a jar that needs opening, as I fear this may be beyond me.

Anyway, my pack of sometimes frozen peas and beans have done their work, and with regular application to my hand and wrist have reduced the swelling to almost nothing.  As my hand and wrist have healed, a remaining source of enduring pain in the wrist was revealed.  It had also become clear that my left wrist could bear almost no weight at all.  So, yesterday morning I toddled back to the Minor Injury Unit to get it checked out.

Having been x-rayed from four angles, the charming Simon (he really was!) revealed that I had certainly fractured my triquetrum (no, I’d never heard of it either – it sounds more like something of interest to the pursuivants of arms) and perhaps another bone or two of the unexpectedly large number that make up the human wrist (and mine).  The triquetrum fracture was unequivocal as a small piece of me, opaque to x-ray, was clearly where it wasn’t supposed to be.  I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen an x-ray of my insides, which was rather exciting and I could happily have spent much more time with both Simon and my radiographer discussing the technology and my anatomy – but I don’t think NHS budgets would really permit such an indulgence, so I reined in my enthusiasm.  I even felt it was probably too much to ask for a copy of the photos to adorn this post (or even my walls).

Following the discovery of my fracture(s), my left wrist has been imprisoned in a removable cast, night-and-day,  until at least 5 April – when the orthopaedic consultant will take a look at how (or if) I’m healing.  The removable cast seems a better bet than its plaster cousin as I can take it off to wash or to scratch an itch, but it is rather strong smelling (a feature which I hope will fade with time).  I think it is supposed to be flesh-coloured, but luckily, my liver retains some function and so it is a very poor match to the rest of my arm- it’s closer to magnolia, if anything.  I can’t help wondering if its makers have even seen living human flesh.  Still, it should work nicely for garnering sympathy and reduce the chances of me inadvertently setting back my recovery: it also makes me look slightly bionic, but new superpowers have yet to manifest.  On the downside, it has rather put paid to guitar practise and the piano is also somewhat of a challenge: though it is perhaps forcing me to improve my fingering.

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You probably can’t see it, but there is a removable cast on my wrist!

Let’s hope that trapped in its camouflaged splint, my wrist will hurry up its recuperation and allow me to resume my various, annoyingly wrist-dependent, hobbies.  Either that, or it will finally be time to master the one-handed pull-up and press-up!

He does all his own stunts, you know

This blog may have given the impression that I live surrounded by carrara marble (less expensive that I’d thought) and precious metals, bathe in Santovac 5 (not a practical or desirable bathing fluid, but reassuringly expensive) and have an extensive staff (below stairs) to cater to my every whim.  If so, you have been misled: I don’t have so much as a cleaner, let alone a stunt man.  Frankly, I’m not sure that in my quotidien existence I’d have enough use for a stunt double to make it worth hiring one on a full time basis: though this week one might have been handy.

Somewhere in the cloud, in an unfashionable corner of Facebook, there is a short video from Tuesday of the author performing a near-prefect back lever on gymnastic rings for a good two seconds.  The more tech-savvy among you may be able to track down this screen gem.  As the title of this post suggests, this is the actual author and has not been faked.  On this occasion, I was fully in control of my movements – or I was until the oxygen ran out (I cannot yet breathe in the full hold).

Later that evening, thanks to the malign efforts of a feline assailant, the author performed another acrobatic manoeuvre but this time without so much control.  As I was cycling up to the theatre, a ginger cat (its colour is not relevant, but is included to add substance to the account) decided to hurl itself under the front wheel of my bike.  If I am known for anything, it is for my lightening reflexes, and so I was able to stop the bike without hitting the animal assassin.  Despite liking to think of myself as a dangerous maverick, it would seem that I am still bound by Newton’s Laws of Motion.  So, while my bike stopped very quickly and efficiently, my own journey did not cease at quite the same time.  As a result, I sailed over my handlebars and landed in a crumpled heap on the road, somewhat entangled with my bike.  Sadly, there is no footage of this incident, but I like to imagine that my passage through the air was marked by its singular grace before my travels were brought to an abrupt end by the tarmac.

What happened next, says quite a lot about me – though does not necessarily show the author in the most favourable or logical light.  Having come to rest, I lay there for a moment or two cursing my assailant – who had vanished into the night by this stage (it failed to leave any insurance details or make any sort of apology, but I suppose that’s cats for you).  I then returned to my feet and checked for witnesses and whether I would need to attempt to “style-out” my unconventional dismount.  My isolation confirmed, my first concern was for damage to the bike.  This seemed ok and so I mounted it again and continued on my way.  This involved a degree of discomfort, but seemed to go alright until I came to park my bike at journey’s end.  At this point, I believe my body moved from embarrassment into shock and I felt quite unsteady on my feet.  Nonetheless, I made it to the foyer of the Nuffield Theatre looking only slightly like Banquo’s ghost.  At this stage, I went more fully into shock – which is an interesting experience, lots of tingling in the extremities, a reduced ability to form coherent sentences and feelings not unlike those that arise just before you faint.  Luckily, at this point I was surrounded by people who know me (and that I do not normally look like one of the undead) and had access to a chair: so I sat down.  Staff at the Nuffield manage to rustle up a glass of coca cola (which seems the modern, more rapidly conjured equivalent of hot, sweet tea) and so unusual did I feel that I actually drank it.  I soon started to feel much more normal (or at least like myself, which may not be the same thing) and it was only at this stage that I decided to ascertain the damage to my body (a rather long time after checking the state of the bike). There were cuts, grazes and contusions along with some minor bleeding on my legs and some discomfort from my hands which had presumably broken my fall.  Inspection of my cycle helmet, which was the only serious protection I’d provided to my body, indicated that it had not had been called upon to serve in the “incident”.

Most of the damage to the author was of a nature that he regularly inflicts upon himself by his inability to walk round objects, preferring to take the short cut through them, but the damage to my left hand and wrist was more severe.  As a result, I decided against cycling home and thought the bus would be a better option.  A friend decided that this was not appropriate either and, while was eventually convinced not to take me straight to casualty (without passing Go), insisted on driving me home and on regular text updates that I was still numbered among the living.  (*** Spoiler alert *** I survived)

I must say that if you are a Friend of the Nuffield Theatre you are not part of  a one-way friendship, or it certainly hasn’t been that way for me.  Being a “regular” definitely has its perks when it comes to arriving at a venue in a sub-par condition.

So, I had an unexpectedly early return home (without my bike) and decided to start icing my left hand with a freezer pack.  Yesterday morning, with my left hand/wrist still giving me gyp, I took myself to the Minor Injuries Unit at the nearby Royal South Hampshire.  On the basis of this trip, I would suggest that the NHS is now a provider of car parking with a small healthcare side business.  Signage to the various car parks was extremely clear, but that to any kind to medical facility substantially less so.  Still, having found the MIU and filling in an extensive form (not ideal with damaged hands), I was seen very quickly.  It seems unlikely that I have broken anything, I’ve just strained or sprained my wrist and I was told to continue with exactly the attempts at self-medication I was already using (on my recent performance when it comes to self-diagnosis, a career in the medical profession must be on the cards).

I have now moved on from the rigid freezer pack to the more malleable form of a bag of Waitrose Essential Peas and Beans (broad and french) to soothe my sprain (well, it was that or a pack of frozen broccoli, which I felt would be less conducive to a swift recovery).  Yes, this is dangerously middle class but I hope it is speeding my return to full function.  When required, I take painkillers – but mostly I can function without.  My left-hand is fine for typing and can play the piano and guitar a little, though fff and barre chords are currently ixnayed.  I’m right handed but make a surprising amount of use of my left (as I am now discovering), but I am slowly finding work-arounds.  Even remotely heavy lifting is currently out of the question (as are gymnastics) and buttons are surprisingly challenging: but life can broadly continue as usual while I heal.  I must admit that the lack of serious exercise is starting to get to me already, I’m trying to think of a workout that can be performed without use of my left-hand – but the options seem limited.  I may have to use a treadmill and actually run: urgh!

Pleasingly, my wrist has finally become somewhat swollen: there is little more dispiriting than being a brave little soldier when nobody knows you’re injured (another positive of this post).  I am also taking this is a sign that the process of recovery is underway…

THB

I find that I have (once again) made it to the sunlit uplands of thirty.  On this occasion, I find myself forced to use base-17 for this statement to work, and would note that this is not one of the more practical number bases bequeathed to us by mathematicians past.  I suppose it could have some applications for a particular family of periodic cicadas – assuming that, once we are gone, they develop capabilities in the field of mathematics-  but otherwise it has little to commend it beyond permitting me to maintain a flimsy pretense of relative youth.  Otherwise, I would be forced to look to geology or cosmology to place my age in a broader, and more favourable, context.

At times such as these, it is perhaps appropriate to look back at one’s time on this earth and look forward to an end to travelling hopefully and the uncertain rewards of arrival.  However, if it is that sort of insight you are looking for you have very much come to the wrong blog in search of satisfaction.

Yesterday morning when I was from my bed untimely ripp’d by the 5am alarm, everything ached and I did wonder whether this was the future.  In fact, fairly simple analysis strongly implicated the past and my foolish vigour in the gym the previous morning.  If I’m honest, between the gym and the guitar, this middle-aged dog is making reasonable progress in his attempt to learn some new tricks.  Beware: should his mastery ever reach a level where he is confident enough to perform in public, he will be more than willing to bore a small (or, preferably, a large) crowd (and, it would seem, refer to himself in the third person).

For now, my faculties – such as they are (or were) – remain undimmed by the entirely unasked-for passage of time.  The hair may be greyer and I do need two pairs of glasses (though I have resisted the urge to take either into the shower) but, other than occasionally catching a glimpse of my father in the mirror, the constant near-misses by a speeding winged chariot have been pretty kind to the author.  (Well, if we ignore the fact that he is spending his Thursday evening in one of the less salubrious areas of Dublin airport – an area where bare aluminium is as close as a chap can get to seated comfort – awaiting a Q400 Dash 8).

I do, however, increasingly catch myself acting out a rather strange, almost caricatured, version of humanity.  Sometimes it feels as if I have done all the background reading, but lack some critical element of practical experience in the art of being a human.  On the whole other people don’t seem to notice – or are at least sufficiently polite (or scared) not to bring any failings to my attention.  Nonetheless, I can’t help wondering what they make of the strange collection of habits and tics (mostly borrowed, without attribution, from others) that, for what of something better, I am forced to describe as my personality.  Such introspection may not be helped by websites often asking me to confirm that I am not a robot.  I tend to reply in the affirmative: but can I really be sure?  Can anyone be sure that this post hasn’t been written by a sub-Turing AI?

It is such ponderings that bring us back to the title.  I have often been known to refer to myself as a terrible human being.  I tend to leave my audience to decide in which context those words should be interpreted (for myself, I tend to assume all possible contexts have some validity).  I suspect it is too late to do much to improve my simulation of a normal person – when I was younger, I felt I should make an effort (though never to a sufficient extent to do anything about it) to be more normal, but such impulses faded some time ago.  Still, there are probably a few “normal” human activities I should plan to fit in before I part company with my mortal coil: perhaps I’ll make a list one day…

Still, enough of this navel-gazing: the other passengers are starting to look at me strangely and this departure “lounge” really isn’t warm enough to remain topless much longer.  Here’s to the next 30 years – in whatever number base the gods are willing to grant them to me!