It’s been that long since prednisolone crossed my lips. In general terms nothing but for me some sort of eternity. Would the shoulder freezes return? Would I need to get up and shamble round the room again just to stop the leg from aching? Could I walk into town without the requirement for stopping, leaning against walls or sitting in gutters? Could I cope with a visit to B&Q, alone? Make it round past the shelves of screws, racks of wood and lines of lamps, boilers and paint without feeling the irresistible pull of the car where I could sit and let the pain drain into the floor? They wouldn’t. I wouldn’t. And I could. In fact I did. Ikea without pain. Homebase with ease. Here to Penarth Head and back without stopping. All experiences for the Polymyalgic to relish.
In between times I’ve upped the writing. Prose is so slow. Unlike poetry which zips. I research afternoons. Read in the evening. And, in this new and ideal world, write in the morning. The secret is to get up and somehow slide to the desk without speaking to anyone about anything, not hearing any radio, or neighbourhood chatter, or happy gardeners running their power mowers in stripes. It is vital to do all this hearing no irritating drills, builders shouty conversation, nor disc cutters from the permanently being rebuilt next door patio. They finish it then turn round and build it again. Permanent renovation. So it seems.
But, of course, the world is not ideal, nothing like, so we have to compromise. Mine is to rise, walk round the block (well, a few blocks) and the then, ignoring the world’s distractions as much as I can, put the right music on the player, down a hot tea, and blow. What music? Scratchy bluegrass, The Bristol country sessions, Apache era Shadows, Booker T, early Dylan, Georgia Ruth, sweet soul music. Does it work? Mostly.
There is a post-prednisolone difficulty, however. The eczema has returned. There are patches on the ankles and the shins and in the lower back. Flakes and crusts. I’ve delved in the depth of cupboards and dug out the creams I once had prescribed. What remains of them. Apply liberally. Scratch only with the soft bristles of a hairbrush.
A decade or more back UHW tested me for allergies. I sat in the clinic while a whole grid of irritants was applied to my back and labelled in permanent marker. The following day they called me back in to check which had reacted. There’s only one red spot, the consultant told me. He was a man in his early sixties wearing a baggy suit and with a spatula in his top packet. Printers ink.
Perfect. For someone who’d been involved in print one way or another all his life what else could it be? For forty years I’d been a writer, editor, publisher, distributor, critic, bookseller and was now a sort of literary agent. All that time touching paper with ink on it.
The consultant prescribed a topical steroid with instructions about not applying too much for fear that I might thin my skin enough to allow the blood to leak. These creams are sort of T-Cut, he told me. They wear away the reacting layer revealing the pure, unsullied skin beneath. A joy to behold. I was also given special liquid which would desensitise my entire body. Stop me scratching it. You put it in the bath and lie there for a quarter of an hour. You do this and after a while you feel like a fruit blanching. Language is so imprecise here. We need images. But I don’t have them.
Did any of these procedures work? Not really. The only thing that ever made a difference was the prednisolone. No sooner had I begun with my whacking 40 mg daily than the eczema vanished. Totally. It stayed vanished for the whole two years this condition has lasted. And now the pred has gone the allergy is back. But sod that. Scratching is easy. Getting down the road with frozen proximate extremities, rusted iron for feet and winter fogging the mind that’s what was difficult.