Mr and Mrs Ignominy

Tuesday 6 November

Ignominy. Such a charming word; perhaps a hobbit-type figure, living in a small cosy home it’s created for itself beneath the roots of a spreading oak tree, wearing little green clothes made out of knitted grass and drinking parsley wine out of a dried turnip goblet?

No, that’s just a wistful fantasy. Sadly, Ignominy is the shameful aura that surrounds me today after my third visit to the gym, where I sustain a serious sporting injury. All right, it isn’t while I am actually engaged in a sporting activity, but as it happens while I am in the gym I think it just about counts. And I am just about to do a sporting activity and, in fact, would even have been on the exercise bike if I didn’t fall down a step and twist my foot while I’m looking for an instructor who can teach me how to work all the complicated buttons. (Now this, I do believe, is a text-book example of irony, incidentally. If it had happened to someone else, and not me, I think it could, nay should, be used by English language teachers throughout the land. ) I manage to walk for a while in a typically heroic fashion, but have to give up and take a taxi to A&E when I realise it’s too painful to walk. It takes me ten minutes to limp from the kerb to the hospital reception desk. No one helps. I expect my obvious stoicism makes it clear that I would eschew any assistance. Either that or they think I was drunk. While I’m waiting in reception along with all the other out-patients (none of whom appear to be anywhere nearly as in need of medical care as me, but I’m not one to complain), I remember that today is the day that my sister Janny is working in a nearby hospital department, so I send her a text – not a pathetic, whiny, come-and-help-your-sister type text, just a matter of fact I-thought-you-might-like-to-know text. She must misinterpret the matter of factness as pathos, though, as she appears almost immediately, just as I’m being taken through to x-ray. Fortunately, my ankle isn’t broken or fractured; I’m relieved, obviously, but also surprised because the pain is so intense by this stage. But naturally, I still manage a cheerful smile despite the agony (see ‘typically…etc’ above), which doesn’t even falter when the crutches are produced and I have to be given a lesson in how to use them. Using crutches is not at all an easy skill to master. I always assumed that it was a Long John Silver type procedure involving a great deal of laboured hopping about. But apparently the crutch is used to support the injured foot as it’s placed on the ground, so there is really no hopping at all involved. Which was a relief. Hopping is very hard work. Rather excitingly, a wheelchair is brought for me so that Janny can push me to the reception area and then drive round to the entrance to collect me and my crutches. Hospitals tend to have extremely long corridors. In fact, they have far more corridors than the actual size of the building warrants. A bit like the Tardis, except with a nightmarish endless expanse of squeaky lino, and sets of quite arbitrarily placed double doors popping up at regular intervals.

Janny and I find it quite difficult to get my chair through these double doors; she goes round to the front of the chair, pushes open the doors, then runs round to the back again only to find that they have already swung shut. So we hit on the brilliant idea of using the rubber tipped ends of my crutches to push open the doors, enabling us to pass through smoothly. This works so well – me as a Boadicea-style warrior in my wheelchair, crutches extended like twin tank guns, with Janny literally bringing up the rear – that we become quite blasé about the whole operation. To such an extent that we get faster and faster until she is sprinting along the corridors and I am urging her on. Oh, how the mighty are fallen.

Unfortunately, the left-hand door is locked at the final set of doors. Which means that the crutch is thrust forcibly backwards into my chest and the chair swings sideways. I think I may well have cracked a rib, as the pain is immense. Obviously we can’t return to A&E to have my ribs x-rayed, as I’ve only just left that department, rejoicing that my ankle isn’t fractured. So, (in ‘typically…blah blah blah’ see above – yes, I do see now that praising my own stoicism is an oxymoron; speaking of which, I’ve meant to point out for some time that Oxymoron is also a rather interesting word, and could be the slow-witted bovine sidekick and best friend to charming little Ignominy), I return home and suffer the pain in near-silence. Lucy spends the evening tending to my every need (i.e. several glasses of claret), as Mr Young is fortunately away for the night. I say ‘fortunately’; as I am already suffering from a painful ankle, a painful chest and an excess of ignominy, one of Mr Young’s Pitying Looks would be the final straw.

Wednesday 7 November I am in bed, resting my foot, when Mr Young returns early from his sales trip. As his car arrives in the drive, I remember that my crutches are still downstairs (I haven’t been able to use them properly. I seem to be hard-wired into a Long John Silver mode which is not only exhausting, but quite treacherous. Especially, I imagine, while going upstairs, me hearties). I hear him come through the front door (Mr Young, not LJS), put his briefcase down, and then there is a long pause. I know exactly what is happening. Mr Young has spotted the crutches (grey, aluminium, with one slightly bent tip) and is wondering why they are propped up against our hall table. I can almost hear the cogs of his brain rotating creakily. I realise that he may be concluding that I am upstairs with my disabled lover. Maybe even a one-legged lover. Maybe even a Long John Silver impersonator. I wouldn’t say Mr Young runs upstairs – he is not a runner-upper of stairs – but there is certainly a hurried indignation about his ascent. “I fell over and hurt my foot,” I explain quickly as soon as he comes through the door, “that’s why I’m in bed. And I didn’t want to tell you last night because I knew you’d worry.” I don’t think he is entirely convinced by this, because he glances suspiciously towards the wardrobe. Why, I don’t know. It is so full of clothes and my flourishing collection of eBay shoes that I can hardly close the doors, let alone conceal a love-struck one-legged man, but logically it is the only possible hiding place in the room. In his relief at discovering that his worse fears (unfaithful wife/one-legged lover/battle over custody of Archie) are unfounded, he completely forgets to give me the Pitying Look and brings me a cup of tea instead. It was quite nice to have a jealous husband for a while, though, even if it was just for five minutes. Maybe next time he’s away, I could arrange to leave a variety of different objects in the hall, just for my own private amusement when he gets home and spots the oxygen tank/fireman’s helmet/trombone that I shall have carefully placed on the hall table. Hours of fun to be had there, me hearties.

Monday 12 November My book sales are through the roof!

Now that’s an expression I’d love to be able to say. As opposed to ‘My book sales are just about reaching the place where the carpet tufts brush against the skirting board’. Still, from little acorns, great oaks grow (which I’m sure would be one of the Ignominy’s favourite aphorisms. “Well, Mrs Ignominy,” I can just hear him saying as she expresses her disappointment at the season’s poor parsley crop, “just ‘ee remember – from little acorns, great oaks grow.” And she’ll probably point out the irrelevancy of that particular saying in that particular situation, and then they’ll chuckle like the happy little Ignominies they are and toast each other with their dried turnip goblets. Oxymoron will be probably be outside, idiotically headbutting the oak tree with his stumpy horns.)

Saturday 24 November Mr Young is doing his household chores. “We ought to get one of those dusters with the extendable handles,” he says. “Then it would be much easier to reach everywhere, and I could get the job done in half the time.” “Oh,” I say, “Do I sense a Christmas present idea?” “Do I sense a divorce?” he says, and leaves the room.

As parting shots go, it is a good one, and I have to silently applaud his keen wit. But, of course, Mr Young must try and gild the lily. “I’ve got a Christmas present idea,” he says, coming back into the room almost immediately. “How about a set of scales and a diet book?” See? Comic overkill.

Sunday 25 November Mr Young has bought Archie a Santa hat and is busy photographing him. We seem to have become one of those families who send people pictures of their pets dressed up in wacky outfits. The word for this is anthropomorphism. That’s the official word. The unofficial word is tasteless. Even Archie seems to think it is a degradation too far. He will put up with Lucy painting his nails a stylish red, and having his photograph taken whilst sprawling inelegantly on his back, but the Santa hat is clearly not his accessory of choice. When Mr Young texts me the picture of Archie posing forlornly in his Santa hat, a fluffy white pompom drooping over one ear, I realise that the actual word isn’t anthropomorphism or even tasteless It’s Ignominy. So, as it turns out, Ignominy isn’t a charming little woodland creature after all. It’s a doleful English bull terrier wearing a silly hat.