03 October 2006
Dem bones, dem bones
My neighbour drives me to the x-ray clinic. It’s seven weeks since I fell two metres and landed on my back on the edge of a stone step. You can read about that stupidity in the posting called ‘Gardening can seriously damage your health.’ As we drive down the Route de Gorbio it’s as if I’ve suddenly landed on a film set – lights, action, music. Seven weeks is too long to be stuck in one place. Every bend in the road brings a new vista: the sea, the port of Menton, the blue leaves of the olives glinting in the sunlight, the colours, the smells, it’s almost overwhelming. What must a guy newly out of prison feel?
The x-rays show the fissure in the pubic bone has healed but the four broken bones in my lower back (spurs off the spine) haven’t and each one is now floating at least an inch from where it should be. The doc at the clinic says provided there is no pain, it won’t matter. But it is painful. I wear a corset and that helps a little - it also gives me a nifty waist. I walk from the clinic to see my doctor who gives me an ordonnance (prescription) to see a back specialist.
One day, earlier this summer, Dr. Lamas paid a home visit. I was too sick with a stomach virus to drive down the valley. The fee was peanuts considering the length of journey to me. I offered her more money. She refused but said she’d love some boutures (cuttings) in the autumn. Now, I’ve a couple of dozen young plants ready for her. They need planting in her garden before the autumn rains arrive and she’ll be up soon to collect them. My sort of lady.
She shares the surgery with her ex-husband and so one or other is always on duty for home visits. One time, when my best friend Candy was visiting from America, she fell sick. The husband came on a home visit and she nearly swooned with joy. ‘Oh my,’ she croaked in her fevered state, ‘a Jean-Claude Killy look-a-like with a voice like Maurice Chevalier.’ Candy got better pretty quickly after that visit. Amazing what a dishy French doctor can do for one’s spirits. I quite expect her to fall sick on her next trip to France and I’d best make sure it’s Jean-Claude himself who comes to tend to her. Candy had a poster of J-C Killy in her room at college and she has it hanging in her garage even now. I was just happy for the brownie points I gained in offering such a service to a visiting American.
A week or so later, I get to see the back specialist who tells me that no operation is necessary, indeed possible, but that I need six months balnéothérapie. I call into the clinic in Menton where I’m directed to a dingy basement which has that very distinct swimming pool smell. Funny how smells more than any other sense, can transport you back to the past. Suddenly I’m eleven years old and shivering on the diving board at the St. Alfred Swimming Pool, an Art Deco building in Hove, Sussex, where I used to take diving lessons from Maire Hider, a competitor in the 1948 Olympics. Back to the present and to Menton and to the very sympa doctor on duty who tells me that the balnéothérapie clinic is closing at the end of the month. I ask him why and he gives that familiar French shrug. He directs me to his own office in Carnoles and tells me that rééducation (rehabilitation), without water, will be just fine. I’m not sure what to do. I know water therapy would be good but I know the nearest clinic for that is much further away and it’s often so difficult to leave the dogs for more than an hour or so.
I walk toward the address I’ve been given, ring the bell and the door is opened by a good-looking young man who is the kinésithérapeute (physiotherapist) on duty. What am I saying? He’s not just good looking, he’s a vision of perfect manhood. I look at him, a beautiful slim Frenchman in blue jeans and decide to go no further. I think of Candy’s recovery with her Jean-Claude Killy look-a-like and know I’ll be just fine, thankyou, with this gentleman. In fact, Bruno is a brilliant kiné and trés sérieux, which is how the French say 'responsible.' He’s teaching me exercises to help support the damaged area. I work hard on stomach and lower back muscles and it’s damned painful at times, but when he praises me for doing an exercise correctly, I positively purr with pleasure. And when he massages my back, I wonder what could possibly be wrong in falling two metres onto the edge of a sharp stone step.