33: A Leg Up

Definitely not where the deer and the antelope play!

Definitely not where the deer and the antelope play!

 

It was in the Range – no not the place where the deer and the antelope play but the store – when it really started and I was subject to the machinations of Mr Pain.

Over the years Mr Pain and I have crossed paths many times, despite my best efforts to avoid him. The trouble is that old Mr Pain is quite indefatigable.

Anyway, there I was in The Range, shopping (like you do) and Mr Pain struck!

All I did was bend down and pick up a boxed Cafetière, stood back up then walked three paces…yes, just three normal paces.

Pain!

It was like someone had tugged my calf bone away from my knee-joint.

‘Ahh!’ I cried, like you do.

I rested a minute or two then moved a couple of paces forward and it happened again.

‘Ahh!’ I exclaimed again. Well, you have to don’t you, pain does that.

A couple of more repeats of this and some people around me either thought I was someone only let out at weekends, or possibly thought I’d achieve a eureka moment. Needless to say none of them were correct.

After about fifteen minutes the pain in the knee halted and so did my cries of ahh!

The Pink Lady was at the craft section and so I made my way there. I was trying to work out how just bending down, picking something up and then walking three paces could cause me such grief. I did recall that back in the early part of this century it happened before but then it was just once and after a minute or two it went away; which, needless to say, suited me.

Within a few feet of the Pink Lady it happened again.

‘Ahh!’

‘What?’

‘Nothing…’ Then I moved again. ‘Ahh!’

‘What?’ Responded the Pink Lady but this time a little more irritably. ‘And don’t say nothing!’

I moved another step forward intending to explain but instead went: ‘Ahh!’ As pain shot through my knee again.

Deciding the best way to get out some sort of explanation was to stand still. I did and then was able to explain my constant exclamation of the first word of an old gravy commercial.

‘Did you twist it?’

I shook my head. ‘No.’

‘Bash it.’

‘No,’ I sighed, feeling that I had already explained.

‘You just walked three paces and the pain started.’

‘Yes,’ I responded, glad we’d finished with a sort of reverse charades.

‘Does it hurt now?’

‘No, only when I walk.’

Well, don’t walk, then, a voice in my head said in a Tommy Cooper voice…

I managed to hobble about for the rest of the day but once I got home the knee was throbbing and I was happy to rest it.

For the next few days even walks of a short distance, the few hundred yards to the shops proved very painful. However, my optimism was at its best and I felt it’d go away in a week or so. I put it down to a muscle strain.

After two weeks, it was July and the knee was still as painful as ever, more so if I tried to walk on uneven ground. Slowly, as time moved on I thought it was getting a little better, then it would start again and I’d be back to square one.

A couple of weeks before the old annual jaunt to Llandudno, I bought a walking stick; the type used by walkers. I could adjust it to shoulder height – rather like a ski stick or to the height of a normal walking stick. It spent most of its time as a walking stick. Needs must and all that sort of thing…

Just over a month later The Pink Lady and I met up for our annual jaunt to Llandudno and went through a really terrible journey; the worst we’d ever experienced. (see Telling Tales: Arrival). That did not help the old knee but it held up and by Sunday there was the annual walk around the Great Orme to look forward to.

It began promisingly as I made it up the steep incline and to The Rest and Be Thankful tea room. But coming down with the weight being put on the knee it got progressively worse and did for me. The week, although not a total disaster, wasn’t one of our best. I got home with the knee in a worst state than it had been when the trouble began.

So within about ten days of getting back home I made an appointment to see Doctor Calm. It was then I found out it was more than just a muscle strain. It was a slightly torn cartilage.

‘Normally,’ he smiled, ‘if you were a top athlete or professional footballer…’ (yes, yes, I suspected he was trying to be amusing too!) ‘You would be booked in for intensive physiotherapy…’ He paused again as he shuffled through some papers in a drawer and then came out with a photocopied sheet of paper that he passed over to me. ‘…but you’re not you will need to go through these exercises.’

I looked at the sheet of exercises and wasn’t really keen but he was the doctor and as such should know best. I would just have to give it a go…

Unfortunately, beyond walking and riding a bike I have never been the sort of chap who goes much in for other sorts of exercise. Joining a gym has never thrilled me much and the thought of continuing with a sports like I was compelled to do at school never appealed either.

I tried to do the exercises but my will was weak. After a few weeks of feeling nothing much had changed I weakened and the gap between doing them lengthened and finally I stopped doing them.

I began to get depressed and told myself it was all over. It was walking with a stick from now on and it’d be short distance walks – like to the bus stop and back – but nothing much beyond that. I couldn’t manage more than five or ten minutes on the old pins without being in terrible pain!

Age had taken its toll on old Fitrambler and had been cruel enough to do it while he was in his mid-fifties. Still, nobody ever said life was fair.

So, I slowly fell into a depression. I hadn’t seen Blameworthy for nearly a year. That last get-together had us walking from Old Town in Swindon to Wroughton. It was a fair few steps we got through that day and I had hoped we would get-together and do something similar this year.

The knee poured the proverbial cold water over that idea. After all, as obliging as Blameworthy was, piggy backing me to the pub and back was far beyond what one could expect from a friend; less still when you consider the poor chap had back trouble himself not so long ago!

No, it was all over, no more walking. I felt very, very sorry for myself because I was really hoping I’d be active well into my sixties…and beyond!

It was one of many evenings during the dark winter – when I was into my thirtieth night of feeling sorry for myself – that I remembered the 2006 jaunt to Llandudno; the second this century. It was then that I met Walkalot and his wife Mrs Walkalot (who didn’t). He and his wife were staying in the same guest house as me. On first appearance I placed him in his early sixties. No grey in his black hair, not overly wrinkled. In conversations I discovered that even though he was retired he still walked about eight miles a day.

Eight miles a day! Eight!

At the time I was forty-nine. I was just beginning to get my fitness back after a little bit of a health scare (See Telling Tales: A Shock To The System). Before it all went downhill for me at the beginning of this century I usually managed five to six miles.

Then I found out he was in his middle-seventies!

It was a shock and one that put the proverbial boot up the old backside. If a man in his seventies could walk up to eight miles a day, then I should be able to at least half a dozen, if not more being in my late forties. This spurred me on and I vowed I get my act together and be fit enough to gradually get up to that sort of standard and then beyond.

I have to admit even though it sounds like blowing one’s own trumpet, I did become a lot fitter over the next few years. So much so, that in 2008 I managed to walk from Rhyl to Llandudno in a day. I didn’t know the distance while I was walking it for the first time but later found out if it was twenty miles.

As luck would have it I walked it on a very clean and sunny day; perhaps a little too hot. It was the sort of day that when you looked out to sea you couldn’t tell where the sea ended and the sky began.

The following year I walked it again to prove it wasn’t a fluke.

The memory faded and I was back in 2014 with a dodgy knee and depression…I wouldn’t be able to do that walk ever again…

So, the local bus service began to make a lot more money out of me as I hobbled from home to bus stop and from work to bus stop…a repetition that only added to the depression.

It was in late November 2014 when I was talking to Scrumcyclist that things changed for the better. Our group was going out for our Christmas meal at The Narrowboat, at Weedon, , where we would stay the night and Scrumcyclist offered to give me a lift. It was a kindness that would save me going through getting train tickets to Northampton and then busing it to the place where the festivities were taking place. Instead it would be return tickets to Oxford and then driven to the venue. Over the last ten years or so I have lost my enthusiasm for rail journeys and so been driven in the company of someone you know was a much better prospect.

Worked for me!

‘The trouble is,’ I said, after mentioning the injury, ‘by not doing any exercise I’ve put on quite a bit of weight. I know I should cut back on what goes in the old nosebags but…’

I mentioned about the knee injury and the visit to Dr Calm. ‘I don’t fancy having an operation on it but if it’s the only way to sort it out…’

‘A slightly torn cartilage you say…’ Scrumcyclist said. I nodded. ‘Hmm. Well, they probably want to avoid surgery. The idea behind the exercises is to strengthen the muscles around the knee to take the strain off the cartilage. That way you don’t feel the pain so much and don’t need surgery.’

I thought about that and it made perfect sense. If I hadn’t been in such a rather large sulk about the situation I might have thought of that myself…hmm, perhaps not.

We finalized the details of the trip. I would go by train to Oxford and Scrumcyclist would pick me up at Oxford station, and then it was on to The Narrowboat together.

On the bus home that night I decided I’d begin to get some exercise. As much as I was sure the exercises the doctor gave me would do what they were intended to do, I decided I would work out my own regime to strengthen the knee muscles…

So I made a plan. I would walk to the bus stop every day. Big deal, I hear you cry! However, it would be the second bus stop along the journey to work. I did that for two weeks, then for the following two weeks I did the third, then the fourth. This took me around a third of the way to work. Just over two months the pain was getting less as I walked for longer.

Finally, there was the big test. I again took the bus into work but began walking the whole way home. For the first week I found it wasn’t the knee that gave me the problem but my lower back began to ache by the time I’d walked about a tenth of the journey. It was quite uncomfortable and I began to wonder if this wasn’t going to be another block to my walking days.

However, by the end of the second week, the back ache began after about 25 percent of the journey. By the end of the month it was down to the last ten percent.

By the sixth week I felt elated. The old Fitrambler stride was back. I could go walkies again, even take the old ball, throw it and chase after it… (hmm, note to self, must get that dog!)

By eight weeks I was getting more adventurous and walking routes that didn’t directly lead to home but went via parts of the town I hadn’t visited for many years. The lack of pain in the knee was encouraging my adventurousness…

Not every walk was via the old proverbial scenic route but it did put me in the mind-set that my walking days were not yet over.

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