Thursday, 13 June 2013

By Bike

Predicting when it will strike is rather like trying to tell when the next earthquake will ripple, out there, along the San Andreas fault.  There’s a whole science built around trying to tell when the earth will next quake.  Armies exist of researchers, observers, record keepers and data gatherers.  But my synovial cyst, the one there in my lower spine, bulging like a peanut, a jelly bean, a leak of oil coming out of the gearbox that is my no longer that powerful back - that one has only me keeping track of its meanderings, its appearances, its pressure points, its miserable actions and reactions
I’ve been tracking it for almost a year now.  I use a spread sheet – giving it daily marks on the scale of 1 to 10.  1 equals barely discernible. 10 is screaming agony.  I’ve got to 8 and often hit 7.  The last time was on the way home from the Park Plaza bar in the drumming rain, Guinness sloshing inside me.  The discomfort just got to me. I had to sit on a university wall up beyond the Queen Street rail bridge.  Wait there to be rescued, rain in my ears, rain down my neck, rain in my face.  But sitting did hold the pain back.

I showed the spread sheet to my specialist.  Showed him the highlights anyway.  He took absolutely no interest.  They come and go these things, he told me, waving my scruffy bit of paper away.  They are hard to predict.  We have to wait and see if they are unbearable.  Are they unbearable right now?  I’m sitting there in his patient’s chair, stress banging through me on account of how I’m sure any minute he’s going to recommend me for a major op, metal inserted, walk with difficulty, never to be the same old me again.  No, they’re not.  I tell him this truthfully.  They aren’t.  This consultation morning unaccountably and unpredictably I’m utterly pain free.

The following week, however, it all comes rolling back.  The need to sit down all the time to gain relief.  Or to stand at a funny angle, leaning forward to out to the right.  It alleviates things.  I do it in the queue at the single basket till in Marks and Spencer’s.  Fellow shoppers look at me as if I’m a weirdo.  A loon just arrived from the farm.  Just got in from Mars, I tell them.  I have to stand like this because of the gravity. I smile.  They turn away.

I’ve moved house, too, which has made things worse.  There seems to be a direct correlation between stress and discomfort levels.  It’s as if somehow  the raised shoulders and strained stomach that accompany worry unwittingly open the neural pathways to the doings of the synovial cyst.  Let the bastard through.  Let him beat me once again. 

Not that I’m really that keen on allowing anything to actually beat me.  I fight back.  I’m trying whiskey this week which, despite not really doing much to interfere with the synovial process, certainly makes life feel a lot better.  In the new house I’ve got the single malts – I have a collection now – in a line at eye level in the kitchen cupboard.  Like books of poetry by poets I admire.  Inspirational and always worth returning to.

I forgot to take the prednisolone yesterday and, if truth be told as Nessa would say, I may well have forgotten the day before too.  Post move the old routines have all collapsed.  I barely know where I am.  I opened a box marked in the removal man’s scrawly hand as “shoes”.  It contained cushions.  I did see a box labelled “drugs” in the back of a new cupboard somewhere but have yet to find them again. 

The Brompton I have found.  My folding bike sits, collapsed like a transformer, under the stairs.  I’ll be on it tomorrow.  Leaning out over the handle bars at that Martian angle, moving while sitting.  A painless process.  And I can do it in the streaming, fresh faced,  open and very earthly air.

On Saturday 22nd and Saturday 29th June, 2013 I’ll be conducting a Cardiff delta exploration, to be done by bike.  The estuary that is Cardiff revealed.  The city you barely knew existed.  Two and half hours of anecdote, cycling, poetry, alternative history, topography and comment.  If you don’t own a bike we can loan you one.  More details can be found here  No mentions of prednisolone nor synovial cysts.  Just maybe the odd Martian lean as we cycle into the wind.