The Achilles Disaster

Mon 7 – Sun 13 Aug 2023

I have recently written much about various features of my current life like dropping out, having no expectations, and searching for ‘sweet moments’ when physical and mental mini-highs are reached. But in my most recent blog (read it here) I wrote about being knocked off course by a hip problem. The week just gone, that got even more accented by a new problem with my Achilles.

Health and Efficiency

‘God sees our plans and laughs’

I have a real affinity with this saying. It sums up how I often feel, that when life is going predictably well then suddenly it can be completely and unexpectedly up-ended. I don’t blame or accredit this to a supernatural being, rather it is simply how life goes. And I am beginning to really appreciate that one of the particular ‘joys’ of getting older is that new physical aches and pains continually keep arising.

The week before last I had to stop a jog-run as my hip was hurting so much. Diagnosis was bursitis with a remedy of rest. I have really enjoyed getting back to jogging but shit happens. I still had my other exercise in swimming and going to the gym. But then on Monday my right Achilles started to hurt and, by the evening, it was really in agony plus a bit swollen.

Dissected achilles

RRICE and peas

Indeed, I laid in bed on Monday night and seriously thought I might have to go to A&E. But I have had an Achilles injury in the past (the left one caused by running about 25 years ago) and I know what to do. My suspicion is tendonitis rather than a full rupture of the Achilles. So it’s my old friend RRICE: rest, raise, and ice (a packet of frozen peas wrapped in a tea towel) supplemented by anti-inflammatory gel and painkillers.

All change

What that meant was my whole routine for the week was completely changed. I had planned a swim on Tuesday followed by gym on Wednesday and Friday mornings – all gone. Instead a week given over to resting and taking minimal exercise. The reality is that my hip / Achilles injuri are going to take weeks to fully heal. Perhaps they are related (both on the right side), one caused by compensating for the other. Whatever, the first thing to focus on is getting back to ‘good health’. So effectively a week off exercising and hopefully I can take steps back to increase it next week.

Man feels sad

What this episode has taught me

The only value I can take from this (literally) painful episode are learning points:

  • Be prepared for your life and the identity you have for yourself to be completely thrown off course
  • Appreciate your loss (I get a lot out of exercising) then work out what action to take
  • Recovery can start quickly – rest and ice got my Achilles hurting less and the swelling decreased within a couple of days
  • Full recovery (or something akin) takes a lot longer

And, TBH, there was some pleasure in having my routine derailed and an enforced period of difference. I had some small lay-ins, spent more time than usual with Dave and mum, managed to get more reading and Duolingo done than usual, and there was no guilt in taking time off to visit a friend in the countryside – see below.

Reflecting and chilling in the quiet

Gym: Just one session before the disaster

My Achilles wasn’t significantly hurting when I went to the gym as planned on Monday morning. I did some leg exercises but nothing made my Achilles particularly hurt. I also used the jacuzzi afterwards to massage my slightly aching Achilles. God knows what caused it but whilst walking after the gym it really started to kick in. Thus, no gym for the rest of the week. 🙁

83 gym sessions since the start of 2023 divided by the annual membership = £6 per session.

Swim: The start of the recovery?

By the weekend, my Achilles was beginning to feel a bit less painful and a little more normal. So I decided to test it out with a trip to the swimming pool on Sunday morning, making the most of my new limitless membership. Really pleased that I did.

I walked with Dave to the pool and my Achilles hurt a bit but it wasn’t awful. Pool itself wasn’t busy nor pressuriesed which was nice. Focused on back-stroke and front-crawl. I feel far less panicked doing the latter and so I can concentrate on keeping things slow and paced. 22 lengths done and Achilles felt OK afterwards. Though bus back so not to push it and RRICE for the rest of the day.

“If you want the rainbow, you have to put up with the rain.” 

Dolly Parton

Weight: Good news

Despite another major physical problem developing (Achilles this week, hip previous week), really pleased to say that I didn’t seek comfort in food and kept my weight under control. Weight actually dropped slightly and I am hovering just about 12 stone 12 pounds. I may have to thank Tuesday for that. Though I was resting, the discomfort of my damaged Achilles actually put me off eating almost completely for the whole day.

man weighing himself

Books and Reading

‘Ithaca’ by Claire North

Only one book finished last week. A story set in the time of classical Greece just after the fall of Troy (ironically where the demi-god Achilles died). There is definitely a trend for novels based on Greek mythology. This is the story of Penelope, wife of Odysseus who is stuck on the island kingdom fighting off suitors for 10 years whilst Odysseus himself tries to return home.

But Claire North is a brilliant writer in her own right. Her novels which are wonderfully imaginative and unpredictable. This book is written from the perspective of the goddess Hera, wife of Zeus and guardian of mothers. And there are various battles between different goddesses whilst the humans get on with life often unknowingly manipulated by those same goddesses.

This is also very much a novel about women. With so many men gone to the war against Troy then really all that is left are boys, old men, and the rich and powerful men who could evade service (like Donald Trump). But it is still a story of misogyny and violence by the minority of men who have control. Indeed, there really are only one or two moderately sympathetic male characters.

Wall slogan

Family and Friends

Annie and a nice trip to the countryside

After three days of effectively doing nothing to rest and ice my Achilles, on Thursday Dave got a hire car and drove us to visit his friend Annie who has a boat near Harlow in Essex. Down a dirt track to find her mooring on the riverside. Annie is a wonderfully generous person who put on a beautiful lunch. and, obviously, we were so lucky with a lovely sunny day.

Also invited was one of Annie’s friends and we all had a nice chat relaxing by the water and in the sun. It’s a lovely set up with pods also created to exercise, meditate, and create art in. The neighbours are a retired couple and took great pride in showing us around their houseboat. It was a relaxing day though, TBH, I like to visit the countryside but couldn’t live there with my love of big, crazy cities.

sunny sky with bits of cloud

Mum and Dave: extra time together

Fucking up my Achilles led to more resting indoors and, thus, more time with both mum and Dave particularly the latter. Me and Dave do seem to argue when we spend too much time together. I think successful relationships are built on two individuals also retaining some independence and time apart. But ultimately all good.

Mum is OK though still suffering various pains. She did warn me one morning that she had nearly woken me during the night because she had been in so much pain. But eventually it went away. I did ask what she would have wanted me to do as I know she would not have wanted to call an ambulance. Her response was ‘Just be there and assure me that everything will be OK’.

Art and Culture

The Challenge Cup Final

The Achilles disaster meant not being able to get out and go to places. So another week where no great visits to art and cultural centres happened – though time to think about places to go in the future. But I did have a nice time laying on the sofa on Saturday afternoon watching the Rugby League Challenge Cup final – well done Leigh Leopards. Also 2 episodes of ‘Becoming Elizabeth’ and cruel court machinations.

QPR: Back in the game

And a big shout out to QPR for a great away win at Cardiff (2-1). It was vital to get a good result after the 4-0 drubbing of the previous week. Perhaps we ain’t gonna be the league whipping boys after all. Although we could be in for a season of inconsistent performances week to week. And well done to the England women’s team getting through to the semis. 🙂

QPR old skool

Sustainability

The planet is, literally, on fire

More wildfires which shows how our planet is warming up. Canada, Australia, the Canaries, Rhodes, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Algeria and now Hawaii – more details of the latter here. And yet new licences are given out for coal mines and oil/gas extraction whilst our little Prime Minister sees no problem in flying or taking a helicopter as his favoured method of travel.

I am trying my best to make my own personal contribution to tackling climate change. This is primarily in the form of simply not buying stuff. The less we all consume, then the better the world will be. Our obsession with ownership and growth has got us into the mess we are in now. And we aren’t going to cure the situation by going on as normal changing nothing in the way we behave.

But change can’t just happen at the micro level. There has to be macro change. And I know much of the protest of people like Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil is seen as inconvenience. But how else do we get the message of change to people that matter? Politicians definitely. But most of them are in the pockets of big business and it is big corporations who are causing so many of the planet’s problems.

Life during extreme hot weather

The Week Ahead

  • Gonna give space and time for my Achilles and hip to continue healing. But I also want to exercise. So the plan is gym but with focus on upper body. And at least one swim. Jog-run is totally out of the question but should be able to do some more walking.
  • Carry on with the two delightful books I am reading: ‘Queer City’ by Peter Ackroyd and ‘Our Shade of Night’ by Mariana Enriquez
  • Lunch with Phyllis on Tuesday. Then an evening meal with my friends Dom and Rich on Wednesday.
  • Should be taking mum over to Dave’s to get fish and chips on Friday, so long as she feels up to it on the day

And Finally…

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