Ow - or how a simple thing can become very complicated

I went for a run yesterday, as per the schedule I'm trying very hard to stick to. All good and well, though I've noticed that I'm not getting any quicker each time. On the plus side, my average heart rate for the seven and three-quarter miles has come down from 177 with a maximum of 189 to 164 with a maximum of 175, so I must be getting fitter.

Sadly, I suspect that all my hard work is going to come to an abrupt end.

Yesterday's run was fine, in a coughing up guts and generally feeling miserable on the uphill half kind of way. At least nothing hurt any more than normal. But as the evening wore on, something started to tweak in my right knee. Last night was a mixture of agony and severe discomfort and today I'm walking gingerly.

Back when I was in short trousers, on one of many regular visits to my uncle's farm just across the firth from Cromarty, my cousin Ian and I decided it would be fun to go and poke around the old WWII gun emplacements that sit on top of the North Sutors. As childhood playgrounds go, this had it all, really - concrete bunkers perched on inaccessible rock peaks; dangerous rope bridges swung across cavernous drops; and the huge gun emplacements themselves, although the guns were long-since gone. It was possible, indeed necessary, to get right down to the shoreline in order to explore some of the bunkers, and like most excited schoolboys, we paid no attention whatsoever to the incoming tide until we realised that the way we had come down was now no longer viable. There was another way up, but it wasn't for the faint-hearted.

I should perhaps point out, in my rambling way, that I suffer from vertigo. It's not as bad now as when I was a child - I haven't had the mountain-climbing nightmare for a very long time - but back then the thought of scaling a vertical, thirty foot cliff was not something I could take lightly. Since the alternative was swimming a mile up the coast to Nigg, however, I did my best to swallow my fear.

Of course, being a vertigo sufferer, my cliff-climbing skills were not exactly honed to perfection. The rocks of the North Sutors are not particularly good for that kind of thing either. Halfway up, my handhold and foothold both decided to part company with the cliff at the same time, leaving me with little option but to fall.

I broke my leg - a spiral fracture of the tibia - and seriously sprained my ankle. At the time it was the ankle that hurt the most, and the tide was still coming in. Young and foolhardy, I simply went at the cliff again, grimacing in pain all the way up and then passing out at the top. Ian ran off to get help and for the rest of the stay I enjoyed the unusual position of being pampered by my aunt and hero-worshipped by my other cousins.

It wasn't until the next day that I began to suspect there was something wrong other than my ankle. Dornoch cottage hospital x-rayed my leg and diagnosed the fracture. They put me in a cast up to my knee, and I spent the rest of the holiday swithering between miserable and proud - there's serious kudos in having a broken limb when you're a kid, but it's also a complete pain.

Back home - we lived in deepest darkest England at the time - the Herts and Essex hospital took one look at my x-rays and declared the simple pot up to the knee insufficient. I had to lie down on an operating table whilst the cast was cut off. Then a friendly-faced doctor took hold of my leg, looked me squarely in the eye and said: "This will hurt," before re-breaking my leg and then setting it properly.

He was right, you know. They knocked down that hospital not long after, but I think my scream is still echoing around the housing estate they built in its place.

I was in a full length plaster for almost three months after that, during which time I arrived as a fresh-faced new boy at a new school - well, it got me noticed in the crowd. I can still remember the terrible frustration as everyone else ran around like mad things, playing football, riding bikes, swimming, just mucking about in general. And there I was, stuck in a little wooden cubicle too small to accommodate my cast*, with only Michael Flanders and Donald Swann for company.

When the dread thing finally came off, my right thigh was approximately one third the circumference of my left, my right calf was almost non-existent, and my right knee no longer wanted to bend. Actually, that's not quite true. I couldn't bend it myself, but if someone else forced it, there would be a tiny bit of resistance, then it would click horribly and swing round, accompanied either by my screaming like a girl or passing out from the pain.

I was on crutches for the whole of my first term at school, earning me the unenviable (and hugely original) nickame 'Cripple,' which took a whole year to get rid of. But I was young, and had been a very good swimmer before the accident. That became my chosen physiotherapy, and by the time the inter-house swimming championships came up at the end of the school year, I was on the team and won several cups for the house. I became the only first-year ever to have been awarded both his house socks and house pussy.**

But, and here we come back to the point that sparked this little trip down memory lane, my knee has been a source of trouble ever since. Not enough trouble to actually go and see a doctor, mind. Just enough that whenever I think I'm beginning to get fit, it flares up and forces me back onto my arse for a little while.

And who knows? Maybe it's right. Maybe running around the Welsh hills is a daft thing to do. Much better to sit at home, moved each day a little bit further from my desk by an ever-swelling gut.

Perhaps I'll get a slendertone.

* they were called 'toys' in notions - the odd language of the place. Work was called 'mugging' and all the toys lined the walls of 'mugging hall' where us boys did our homework (or 'tasks' ). They had a deep set of shelves on the wall side for storing books, pens and all the other paraphernalia of learning. Jutting out from that was a low bench just about wide enough for two people to sit side by side and a desk with a single lamp above it. Each toy was separated from the next by a wooden partition about five feet high. We used to string curtains up over the opening onto the hall for a bit of privacy, and some boys rigged up elaborate cloth roofs as well. During term time the place looked like a cross between a shanty town and a Bedouin camp. Every evening, after supper (taken in 'Grubbing hall') we then had an hour and a half compulsory homework, or 'toytime.' Ah, happy days.
** see what I mean about the odd language. A house pussy was a long loose-knit scarf, with the house colours at each end. I never did bother to get a pair of house socks.


Sandra Ruttan said…
Funny how old injuries come back to haunt you later. When people say they can feel the weather in their bones, I get it, because I can feel it in my knee I screwed up years ago.

If you work on the beer gut your exercise could be walking up those Welsh hills and rolling down them.

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