The way to overcome the synovial cyst pressing the spinal nerve is to hang the leg down below the peddle. It’s a cycling technique I’m proud of, makes you look like a boy racer ready to round a corner at speed. Although doing this on my folding Bromfield - small wheels, no crossbar, handlebars like a giant bottle opener - can look somewhat surreal.
There’s something about these bikes that makes teenagers shriek. It happens again today. As we roll up through the crowds along Churchill Way, the feeder hidden deep beneath us, a gang of bright sparks at a bus stop start the cat calls. ‘Come on boy, get your feet turning, push those peddles.’ Why? Better than chants of **&!!!*** I guess.
Bikes are certainly the best mode of transport for post-Polymyalgic, lower-spine synovial cyst sufferers. There can’t be that many of us out there. I'm down to 2 mg daily of the wonder drug and the cyst is falling in and out of focus like pulsar. Sitting is about the only sure relief I know: the spine opens and the the pressure on the cyst reduces. Doing this on two wheels lets you move about as well which makes it just about perfect.
I’m leading a psychogeographical tour of Cardiff, and doing it by bike. There are twenty of us, all winding our way through the city centre. It’s Saturday afternoon and the sun is uncharacteristically blazing. The streets are dry and full of the joyful. The pubs and bars have spilled out way beyond the confines of their smokers-only enclosures. Shoppers in t-shirts have their arms full of brand new purchases. You would not know there was a recession.
We’re heading up to the place in Park Lane where Bute’s Dock feeder, a sort of canal without boats built to fill his first West Dock with water, emerges briefly. It’s there, stuffed into a two foot gap, fifteen feet below us, darkly surging. Everyone is terribly impressed.
After this it’s the Glamorgan Canal underpass at Kingsway and then the psychic entre of Cardiff. Everyone wants to reach this spot. The psychic centre – a place of power and mystery. I’ve told them all that this is what it is anyway.
We get there through the surging crowds leaving Bute Park, decked in Help For Heroes t-shirts and Battle of Waterloo military hats made from cardboard. It’s Armed Forces Day. I’d forgotten. The tattoos and the beer swill down the pathways. “This is Cardiff’s psychic centre,” I announce just as the refuse collection service arrives to empty the bin next to which I am standing. I plough on regardless.
“Here,” I tell them and the massed bus queues and straggling car parkers who have all moved I towards me to hear what’s happening. “Here is where the power lines cross. The Roman roads north and east and west, the canal with its iron and coal, the ley lines running down from the Beacon’s standing stones, the secret tunnels that access the castle, the roadways into and out of the capital. They all meet here. This is a vast nexus of subliminal power, ancient and modern, lay and spiritual, real and imaginary. Can you feel it?” The entranced crowd nod. They can. It’s here, the vibrancy, the energy. If we pulse it up into our bodies I’m sure we can all fly.
I tell them the story about how the late blind bass player and poet Dave Reid would be out on the town drinking and when he’d had enough would find his way up here simply by sensing the ley lines. He’d sprawl on the floor and thrash his white stick about until the police arrived. What could they do with a drunk blind man? They’d take him home. Reid’s personal and free taxi service. He pulled this trick many times although once, after the cops had unloaded him into his Cathedral Road bedsit, he chose to re-emerge and started flailing about again in the road there. This time the police were not so obliging. They took him back, all the way to the psychic centre, and then into police HQ nearby where they locked the drunken blind man in the cells. £25 fine and bound over. That’s what psychic power can do.
The crowd laugh, in sympathy perhaps. I’m doing well. The cyst is in retreat. Cardiff around me is real. The past merges with the present.
The tour finishes at the new library. We’ve gone around the back of Wetherspoon’s Prince of Wales where the fake outline of St Mary’s Church hangs high in the air. So much of the city is fake. The West Gate, attached to the Castle wall, is a Burges recreation. The stone circle in Bute Park is artificial, put there by the Gorsedd of the Bards when the Eisteddfod visited. The Gorsedd itself a fake, imagined by antiquarian and all-round literary man Iolo Morganwg two hundred years ago and now a fabrication so long that it has become venerated.
At the Library, wedged in between the drinkers and the Wagamama diners, I perform the poem of mine which has been engraved onto the Library’s front glass. It’s a list, as many of my works are. This one rolls the characters – street and otherwise – who have made Cardiff into a reverberating chant. Here, I tell them, the past really does become the present.
Near this spot you could once
cross a Cardiff bridge
before that a Norman ditch
before that Welsh water
before that Roman mud
Was there much here
found in the clay?
socketed axe head
with converging ribs
bone fragment pot
a few microliths
Now all lost
What we’ve got instead is the vibrant future. Leg down, one peddle cycling, I head off. Synovial bugger, you haven’t got me, not yet.
Prednisolone update: dose reduced to 1 mg / 2 mg on alternate days. Ghosts of unsettled sleep and fear of crowds finally put to rest. Does the wonder drug ease pains from the cyst? Jury hasn't told me yet.
Creative Update: since March 2012 the house hunting, house purchase, property development, battles with planning and with Welsh Water, management of project, finding the money, selection of builder and then actual building with its noise, disruption, neighbourhood agony, super stress, dust and constant timetable readjustment “they’ll put the flue liner in tomorrow”, they don’t, you ring up to complain, they don’t get back, all this has taken its toll. Writing has reduced to a trickle. Blog meander. A few e-mails. No poems. Not a new piece of verse in almost 9 months excepting the RS celebratory ode as a new commission, proving, I guess, that it can still be done.
Creative Future: kick start, soon.
House Update: have moved, Southminster a dead duck. Bronwydd glory with its trees and peace instead.
Status: married, again, and it’s wonderful
Car: Ford escort staggering on but on its last MOT and has to be changed. Can anyone get enthusiastic about these things? Not me.
Music: Georgia Ruth, Ray Charles, John Fogerty, The Ventures, Max Richter – bought them this month.
Books: Edging The Estuary – the trail along the waterway – due March then June, then mid-July and now July's end, 2013. My fear of having a title out at the same time as the Eisteddfod boom at long last realised.
Films: went to see Man of Steel and it was like being inside a computer game.
What’s on the player as I write this? Neal Casal. He visited Chapter once. I somehow managed not to be there.