I suppose it’s an inevitable signal that I’m getting older.
My body just doesn’t quite react to situations in the way it used to. I’ve always been clumsy but now, it seems, my physical ability to get out of the way of myself is diminishing.
The trips, bumps and twists just seem to be more painful.
And I’m getting ever more inventive at finding new ways of injuring myself.
Here’s 5 examples
1 The bouncy castle
On Friday I was at a children’s birthday party. I told myself I would sit quietly in the corner and watch. Within minutes I was having a bouncy castle race with my son. The object of the game was to speed across the wobbly platform, scale a plastic wall and then slide down the other side to victory.
Intoxicated with the prospect of winning I was leading when I got to the top of the wall. I strained for something to hold on to, failed and toppled backwards, crashing head-first on to the bouncy castle surface.
My first thought was that I had dislocated my shoulder as pain ripped through the top of my arm.
There were several other children in the area and they clearly thought this was a game. And so, against my protestations, they began using my prostrate being as a living bouncy castle.
Some minutes later I crawled out cradling my arm. Mummy was shaking her head. My son was jumping up and down.
‘I won Daddy, I won!’
2 The ashes
It’s nice to have a real fire in the house during the harsh winter months.
The downside, of course, is the labour of cleaning and emptying the grate. A process filled with clouds of grey dust and grimy black hands.
This very morning I was standing in my pyjamas at the back door, holding a leaking dust pan and watching the rain which was being blown sideways by the wind.
The bin was about 12 feet away. I braced myself. I made a run for it.
On the second or third step I felt my feet beginning to slip.
Time seemed to slow down. I remember thinking I should be able to do something to preserve myself. But what it was I knew not.
I crashed onto my arse on the hard, wet tiles.
The ashes erupted like a mushroom cloud. Some of them blew away in the gale. More came to rest on my person, clinging to my skin and coating my hair until I looked like some diabolical ghostly vision.
I lay there, with the rain slapping across my face and pain in the lower part of my back.
I got up again.
3 The sneeze
I’ve always been a vigorous sneezer. Like an atomic explosion in my brain, when I sneeze everybody nearby tends to notice.
Maybe I’m a little self conscious about it.
Just before Christmas I was working in an office. There were two other people in the room who I did not know well.
I felt the beginnings of a sneeze, obvious, like a dark storm coming in from the sea.
I didn’t want to cause a commotion. I tried to hold it in. I tensed every muscle in my body.
The sneeze came. Muffled.
I felt a pop at the bottom of my back.
I tried to move and realised I could not. I went to stand up and discovered this could only be achieved by supporting myself against the desk.
I hadn’t wanted to cause a fuss.
I had to ask my two colleagues to help me out of the room into the kitchen area where I lay helpless on the sofa.
Some hours later I crawled like a crab to my car and somehow made it home to my welcoming bed.
It was several days before I could stand upright again.
I didn’t want to cause a commotion.
4 The cactus
I like to make up a hamper to give to my family at Christmas.
Some baked goods, a steamed pudding, maybe a jam or chutney. A photo of my son.
And a nice wee plant.
In my most recent effort I opted for a cactus. I assembled all the items in a basket in a way that I imagined might be viewed as attractive.
I carried the basket to my car and set it in the back seat.
But as I was positioning it into place I slipped slightly, lost my balance and tumbled forward.
And went face-first into the cactus.
I leapt up squealing and swearing. My face was alive and tingling with what seemed like a thousand stinging violations.
The cactus seemed fine.
I ran to the mirror. I feared there would be scores of little cactus thorns impaled on my chin which would have to be extracted.
But I’d forgotten about my beard. If there was indeed any cactus there, it was now indistinguishable from my reddish, white bristles.
It was now a part of me.
There’s too many things in my kitchen cupboards.
Rather than clearing them out I simply put new foodstuffs in there, so older jars and tubs are pushed to the back.
Until it reaches a point of critical mass.
We had people round at the house for dinner. One of the guests asked politely if there might be any mustard.
I assured him that I had some in an overhead cupboard.
I began to look, removing and shifting items, I knew the mustard was in there somewhere.
I should explain at this point that I was wearing only socks on my feet. (I had thrown my slippers onto the fire the night before because I couldn’t be bothered to go outside to get fuel from the shed).
I stood on my tiptoes, reaching over bottles and stretching my hands towards the back of the cupboard towards the elusive mustard.
And then my elbow caught a jar. A big jar. A huge, aged jar of cornichons. Big enough to satisfy all my cornichon needs for the rest of my life.
The jar toppled. It bounced off the edge of the black sideboard. And landed on my foot.
On the big toe of my left foot.
I howled, wailed, danced and roared. My toe throbbed.
I hobbled to a seat and peeled off the warm sock. My toe was a black and bloody mess, my nail shattered and shapeless. The foot seemed to be rapidly swelling.
However, I had found the mustard. I set it on the table.
My guest politely informed me that he had wanted English, not French.