I am going through a very strange time in the calendar at the moment.
The year has a sort of “spring phase’ when a range events and activities begin to pick up momentum. And in a normal year this is the time for creating my annual post about the start of the cycle touring calendar in Belgium and preparing for a week in Taiwan at the Taipei Cycle Show. At home it’s all about getting our heads around the nature reserve otherwise known as our garden.
Indeed I have been prompted to write this post because I went out last Sunday and had my first season opening ride with the cycling club, and it felt great in all sorts of ways, physical and mental, and despite a return of cold weather I am looking forward to tomorrow.
What makes this year odd in a mental sense is that this time of year means picking up contact with a number of people who I actually haven’t seen since around this time a year ago, and almost universally our opening chats are followed by “what happened last year, where were you?” or for those who know why I was out of circulation for some time the question is “how’s your health?”
Which brings me rather painfully back to the anniversary of waking up on the floor of a hotel room in Taipei and discovering over the following days that I had a Deep Vein Thrombosis from the flying, and later still to discover I had a sort of whiplash effect from hitting the floor hard in a dead faint which has taken months of physio to straighten out.
A question like “how’s your health?” really makes me worried, because I have a prejudice that it’s a question people ask each other about their ailments in the retirement home. From time to time I find myself comparing notes with others in our 50s and we mutter about the creeping discomfort in our backs and knees, but I don’t want to be placed in the old gimmer camp just yet please. So, apologies if I am a bit defensive with you until I realise that you are someone expressing concern who just hasn’t seen me since Taipei last year, or heard indirectly that I was off work for a while last spring. Because that’s really nice, and I am appreciative of the fact people remember something that happened to an acquaintance some time ago.
The other reason the questions surprise me is because at last I am genuinely out of the recuperation and repair process, so the spring rebirth really does feel like I have turned a corner a am to all intents and purposes “normal”.
Last year I got through the impact of the DVT and was effectively signed off by the specialist quite quickly, “probably a one off” he decided. But the damned back showed all the stubbornness of a structure that has been abused into weird shapes for years (rugby, cycling and slumping over a laptop for starters) and refused to conform. Lack of core strength diagnosed the physio each time I returned with a relapse and then she would promptly prescribe increased dose of stretching, pulling and strengthening.
But sometime earlier this year I must have crossed a threshold, because as I have crept into my spring routine I keep just “doing stuff”, and then I catch myself at the end of the day thinking “wait a minute, that should have hurt a lot more than it did”. Digging a hole, sawing wood, cutting undergrowth – when I did those last year I was often rushing back to the physio 24 hours later, but this time it is just normal, and you know what, I can even go cycling the next day. And in most cases* I ache in a normal, physically active and pleasant kind of way because I am active and mobile. With Taipei Cycle show moving to an autumn date this year I can also have an uninterrupted spring of cycling.
So when you ask me “how’s your health?” let me tell you that spring is a time of rebirth, perhaps more than usual this year it is bringing a smile to my face and a spring to my step.
I do not despair.
(*I will reserve judgement on just one point. Anyone who plants unconstrained bamboo in a garden should be condemned to the deepest pit of hell with no prospect of reprieve – because digging that stuff out is soul-destroying as well as physically exhausting)