A pain in the hand…

…is worth two in the bush.  Or so the old saw (almost) goes, however, I should point out that I am not medically (or arboreally) qualified and if you have even a single pain in your bush you may wish to seek a medical (or horticultural) opinion.

My lifestyle does place quite a lot of pressure on my hands, involving as it does hanging from rings and bars in various improbable configurations, and learning to play both the piano and guitar (not all at the same time, yet…).  So, I initially assumed that it was something I had done when I noticed an odd subcutaneous lump in the palm of my right hand a couple of weeks ago.  Well, either that or I’d been abducted by aliens (or the CIA) and they had implanted some sort of ‘device’: it was only a matter of time before this blog came to the notice of an alien (and/or foreign) intelligence.

Icing the lump had little effect, other than making my hand very cold, suggesting it may not have been soft-tissue damage caused by my unorthodox response to the mid-life crisis.  Given an impending blood donation, I decided to see my doctor to discover if it would have an adverse effect on the quality of my blood: I have my reputation for a quality product to protect!  The diagnosis was pretty swift and, as it turns out, it was not my fault: assuming we excuse me of blame for being a man in his fifties (I blame biology, my parents and time – plus my failure to die).  It would seem that I have Dupuytren’s Contracture which sounds like a Robert Ludlum novel, but is actually some sort of thickening of a tendon in my hand.  This may grow worse – in which case there are some options involving radiation, needles or knives – or stay the same or go away (but seems unlikely to hatch and lay waste humanity).  However, for now I should continue to act as normal – including hanging upside-down as much as I want – though I can massage it, if that would give me pleasure (though there was no suggestion that this would do any good).

The contracture is named after a Napoleonic surgeon – Guillaume Dupuytren– famed for two things, in addition to diagnosing an ancestor of my lumpy palm.  He treated Napoleon for his piles and published the Treatise on Artificial Anus.  What a man to be associated with!  For the avoidance of doubt, I would like to stress that the southern exit of my alimentary canal is still the factory issue.

For now the lump is only very rarely a problem, though it is mildly annoying both when mixing with a wooden spoon and vacuuming: I think I just need to make a minor adjustment to how I hold the relevant equipment.  However, earlier his week my hands – especially the right one – were complaining to their line management through the medium of pain (it is probably time I provided them with a suggestions box).  As my skill with the piano grows, I can practice for longer and am playing more complex repertoire.  Some combination of Bach’s Invention in A Minor and Scarlatti’s Keyboard Sonata Kk.1 has been making my right hand actually do some real work for the first time in years (perhaps ever).  Some of this increased workload occurs while the fingers are somewhat stretched – especially given my dreadful (or heroic, even maverick, as I like to think of it) fingering.  There is a lot of stretch available twixt thumb and index finger, but the other fingers do like to hang out as a tight-knit little gang.  I think that over time they will learn to cope better with these brief periods of separation but for now their anxiety is expressed through aching.

Exploring a little deeper into today’s theme, as part of an attempt to shake-up my regular meal options earlier this week I decided to replace the traditional fruit sponge with a fruit crumble (baby steps!).  For fruit I went with some gooseberries, harvested fresh from my parents’ garden in 2015 before being plunged into a series cryogenic chambers (OK, my parents’ freezer and then mine).  Once defrosted these formed rather a liquid substrate on which to float the usual mixture (which, via the miracle of heat and chemistry, would become sponge) and it struck me that the smaller particle size of a crumble would be easier to apply and less likely to sink.  As I am generally a manual cook, I rubbed the cold butter into the flour and sugar mix using my hands (rather than using some sort of electric mixing device or domestic servant – not even an electric domestic servant).  This is not a long process but apparently uses the musculature of my hands in a novel manner, leading to a flood of pain-based complaints to the neural equivalent of HR (the thalamus?).  I am hoping that if the crumble becomes a more common feature of my home dining – which it might given the scrumptious success of this attempt – that the rubbing-in will strengthen my hands for even the most challenging piano piece!

In the final piece of hand-related news, my left hand is finally starting to find chord shapes somewhat successfully on the neck of the guitar.  It is also able to produce a range of barre chords without requiring enormous – neck-snapping – force to be applied to the unfortunate instrument.  There is, for now, still quite a substantial delay in moving from an open chord to a barre chord, so I will still need some sort of diversion to distract the audience at these times: perhaps this is where my comedy stylings or poetry could be brought into play?  Still, I am confident that practice will deliver mastery as it has for the skills recently acquired.  For a long time nothing seemed to happen or improve and then, suddenly, I discovered that I could “just do it” as if by magic (but in fact by moderately diligent application: sometimes you can just wear the universe down!).

Based on yesterday’s guitar lesson my new skills have opened up huge new vistas for my guitar playing: frankly, almost too many.  I had to take hurried notes when I arrived back home in an attempt to remember all the possibilities.  This is the second music lesson in the past week where I have felt like Hannibal Smith, in that I have been loving it when a plan comes together.  I am also unkeen on flying and as mad as a box of frogs, so I can – in a single person – cover 75% of the A-Team.  As a consultant, I do – from a certain point of view – survive as a soldier of fortune: battling in my case against a range of Microsoft products and my own stupidity.  So, if you have a problem, if no-one else can help, and if you can find me (not too hard, just start going to gigs in the Southampton area) maybe you can hire the F/2-Team!  (GofaDM welcomes careful readers to the exciting world of hexadecimal fractions.)