Although I am recovering now, the events over the last three weeks have given a sobering reminder of how bodies – mine at least – age. Despite regular sessions in the gym, my trunk and limbs were suddenly forced to declare, or so it seemed, how they had become less able at coping with physical pressures. More precisely, three altercations with the London Underground showed me how I had become more susceptible to physical ‘insult’ so when I was jolted the hurt felt that much greater and the recovery took that much longer.
Because of an unwillingness to face reality this frailness had crept up on me unannounced. To be honest, there were hints but these I had ignored. The reality is that I am now less agile and more fragile than before and the prospect is a tad gloomy.
One problem has been that for years I have continued to see myself as bouncy and mend-able. Like other toddlers, I would tumble over and without much ado get up and get on with the business in hand. What’s more, like for many, probably most, boys falling on the ground would have been seen as fun, even as entertaining. Later, as an adolescent, I remember coming home from playing rugby, muddy, aching and sore with kicks, bruises, cuts, sprains and strains, or whatever and thinking nothing of it and recovering in a jiffy. I was carefree.
Recent events made it clear that the bounce had gone. The trouble started when I was late for a meeting and rushed to catch a train. I could see it down the corridor but misjudged how fast I could run and arrived just as the sliding doors were closing. I managed to squeeze through but whereas previously I could have stopped the doors in their tracks or even forced them apart, that was no longer possible. They pushed hard against me, and when I finally sat down I realised that some damage had been done. After a few doctor-type tests I reassured myself that no ribs had been broken, but my chest wall hurt and still does. And with the pain there is a feeling of vulnerability.
As if my squeezed ribs were not enough, two days later I ran to catch a second train and this time took a real tumble. The electric notice board told me I had two minutes before it left the station and as I rushed down the stairs and passed another passenger she suddenly stepped in front of me, leading me to lose my balance and fall headlong on to the floor. I quickly got up, checked for breaks – none to be found – and trembling walked to my train. This little escapade left me with a painful shoulder and hip, and a grazed and aching wrist. But the biggest ‘ouch’ was to my ego. For a grown man, lying upturned on the ground feeling helpless was demeaning and the sentiment persists.
With lessons learned, next day I walked to the station stepping carefully, constantly paying attention. As I got near the train my approach was almost sedate. It so happened that the beeps then sounded warning that the doors would close but I calculated I could get through without hurrying, even with time to spare. No panic there. But a woman behind me was less confident and in her haste to get in, hurried me roughly through the doors pushing me as she went. Hers was not just any old heave, she somehow managed to jar my already sore ribs and shoulder. Hurt and angry I walked to a vacant seat way down the carriage. I was sure my aggressor was the selfsame person who had helped up-end me the morning before but for some reason I did not want to look round to check. Anyway, just in case it was her, my aim was to sit as far away as possible
Predictably I have been tempted to blame others for these incidents but they were clearly of my making! If I am sensible, and this is not always easy, I will have to start being more prudent. Whatever I decide, the reality is that over the years more falls and hurt over the years will be inevitable. Not a pleasant prospect.