I KNEW this would happen.
I have a bad back. After a lifetime bragging about my good health I’ve been struck by a trapped nerve.
Unless it’s a pulled muscle. Or a slipped disc. Or inflammation of something. Or a kidney infection.
Everyone knows the answer, but it doesn’t make any difference. I am still stuck in this chair with my knees in my mouth, my spine in the final stages of rigor mortis and only the tips of my fingers on the keyboard giving any indication that I am, indeed, still alive.
It has been a week. If I listened to my family and friends I would at this very moment be doing yoga exercises that required my toe to be in jammed in my ear while a masseur walked up and down my back, an acupuncturist stuck needles in it, a surgeon cut holes in it, my mum rubbed liniment on it and I was force fed several kilos of vitamin C, which my wife thinks will cure even amputations.
Given that I’d be lying on my stomach through all this I might be obliged to take the vitamin C rectally. But don’t suggest it. They’ll take you seriously.
My point is: everyone in the entire world… no – all the back-sufferers in the entire world… know the answer. How can this be? How come, if they know the answer, they still have bad backs?
How come they all know this really excellent chiropractor; masseuse; naturopath; osteopath – but they still use a walking frame and pull their socks on with tongs?
Backs — bad ones — and their treatment must be the single most mysterious riddle still facing the human race. Bugger the pyramids, the Holy Grail, Leonardo Da Vinci and where fridge mould comes from – how do you cure a bad back?
There are people making a lifetime’s living out of this problem, and curing it. Or trying to. If I sound sceptical then ask yourself: how many people do you know with bad backs? And how many people do you know who used to have bad backs, but who don’t now?
Not counting the dead ones?
My case rests.
I fear I face the rest of my life as a captive audience to a whole community of know-it-all do-gooders who will offer me the benefit of their back wisdom while I sit crippled in a wheel chair.
At the moment I’d be grateful for a wheelchair. I’m typing this lying on the floor.
And what makes it worse is that I know they’re all wrong. I know what the problem is.
I have caught age. It’s not a trapped nerve; I’m trapped in age. It’s not a slipped disc; it’s slipped age. It’s not muscle strain; it’s age strain. I didn’t lift anything too heavy, or twist in a peculiar way. I just woke up with age and a bad back.
This wasn’t supposed to happen! I was supposed to… sort of, evaporate one day. Quietly slip into oblivion without anyone noticing. I fully expected it, considering shop assistants look right through me and the family has been ignoring me for years.
Now I face another 30 years of lying face down in bed, sucking soup through a straw. Thirty years in which the sole topic of conversation anyone will be able to think of will be bad backs, and this really clever bloke up the road who’ll have you fixed in no time.
My wife says I should be grateful I can still move my fingers, so I can still write this column.
She says I’m making a fuss about nothing, and anyway, if I won’t get help then she doesn’t have any sympathy.
She says to hold still while she gives me some more vitamin C.