Daily Archives: July 24, 2016

Valley of the Tramadols

This week has been all about pain relief and escapism. Following my fall in Costa last weekend, my face is a bruise but the pain has all been in my back. Paracetamol, Codeine and past episodes of Vera saw me through the early part of the week. Thank you Brenda Blethyn. However, poetry, PhD and family have provided some light relief too.

On Monday it was Spelks, my favourite date in the calendar. My eyes were beginning to blacken and my back was sore but I was determined to be well enough to go and go I did, armed with painkillers and a pillow for back support. I’m so glad I went; laughter is the best medicine, even when it hurts to laugh. We were seven for the first time in ages so that was a bonus. The ‘ancestors’ theme produced some really good poetry too. I’ll be posting a ‘grandma’ poem at the end of the blog this week. The next Spelks is arranged for 23rd August which I could only pencil in because I still hadn’t had my review date confirmed by Michael Symmons Roberts; but when I got home the email was in my inbox: review on 22nd, so I’ve inked in the date for Spelks. I think I proved this week that wild horses won’t keep me from that group.

On Tuesday I was very sore, probably from doing too much on Monday; so I hunkered down with more Vera, regular pots of Rooybos tea and comfort eating. I planned the pain relief cocktail throughout the day. Bill learned to cook. On Wednesday I managed to get an emergency appointment at the GP surgery; the pain, on a scale of 1 to 10 was hovering at 12! I burst into tears when I sat down in the consulting room. She, Doctor Day, had a feel around my back, declared the muscles in spasm and wasn’t happy that I was flinching when she palpated the spine. She sent me off with a prescription for Tramadol, a strong opioid, and a request for spinal x-ray. So, next stop Oldham Royal. The thoracic area that the doctor requested the x-ray for was clear, but there was evidence of an old compressed fracture a couple of vertebrae up from the tender area. I knew nothing about this, but I’m guessing it didn’t help having me jar the whole spine again in the fall. On the way there, despite the heat outdoors, I had the heated seat switched on it the car and that helped ease the pain; so when I got home I looked out a microwave heat pad in the bowels of a teddy bear I was given for a Christmas present years ago. That has been my best friend since.

I took two Tramadol as soon as I had them in my  hand, and repeated the dose every four hours as per directions. After the Thursday morning dose I had the strange sensation of sitting two inches beside myself on the sofa, couldn’t quite get a handle on the world. I was on a Tramadol high! So I have reduced the dose to one every six hours through the day, topped up with paracetamol, as per advice from the doc. Two last thing at night helps with a night’s sleep. Anyway, my daughter bought us tickets for the live screening at Ashton u Lyne cinema of Richard III from the Almeida Theatre, London, for Thursday evening. There were times when I didn’t think I would be able to go, but you can’t keep an old dog down. I figured that if I stayed at home I would be on the sofa looking at a screen, so I might as well be in a cinema seat looking at a screen. I took my pillow, my pills and reasoned that we could come home anytime it felt like a step too far. It wasn’t. Ralph Fiennes’ Richard III was brilliant: like Blackadder with attitude. I enjoyed it so much I almost forgot I was an invalid. I’m so glad I went.

On Friday I went into Uppermill to meet Penny, Hilary and Hilary’s lovely daughter Hannah for coffee. Hannah lives in Geneva but was in the UK for a Nottingham University summer school for the Post Grad Teaching Certificate she has just undertaken. We had scones and coffee and long chat and laughed as we always do. By Friday my whole face was a bruise, and I have dark bruises on both upper arms. I looked as if I had been in the ring with Mike Tyson. But it is amazing how people make a point of not noticing. It made me smile. I would have wanted to know the ins and outs of that kind of bruising, but people are too polite to ask; I suppose they make up their own stories about it. Bill dropped me off at the cafe and went to Tesco armed with a shopping list and left me to my community of poets. Where would I be without them? In the afternoon I mopped up the last episodes of Vera: I’ll have to find another diversion now.

On Saturday I found the diversion I needed when I got back to the PhD and started writing. Yes, I’m on my way. Next week will be all about psychoanalytic literary criticism. Having made a start I know where I want to go with it. In the afternoon my lovely daughter invited Bill and me to her house for our evening meal. So at 4.30, armed with pillow, pills and other accoutrements of comfort we arrived at her front door. I had sent her photos of my bruising so she wouldn’t be too shocked. Imagine my own shock when I was greeted at her door, not just by her but by my great-granddaughter, my grand-daughter, grandson and two sons. She had arranged a surprise family party for me to make up for the rubbish birthday I had last week. How kind was that? It was better than any drugs. Here  is a picture of me partying, gently:


If it looks as if I’m in pain that’s only because I am. But I am determined not to let it define me.  I am getting back to normal; I really am. Keep telling yourself that, Rachel: believe in the power of positive thought!

And so to the poem:

This is an entirely fictional character portrait of one of my great-grandmas. I didn’t know any of my great-grandmas so it could be true, couldn’t it? As true as any other fiction I could come up with. I enjoyed writing it. It is a modern sonnet, by the way.

Great Grandma Gouda

She’d not spoil a butty for a ha’p’orth of cheese.

Port to life’s Stilton, she was lavish as a dill pickle;

but cross her, she fermented, could hold a grudge

in one hand, a grater in the other for much longer

than it took to say sorry and mean it. Family myth:

there was this bent grocer, heavy bags, light sugar,

tight bugger short-changed her by a ha’penny

and Grandma Gouda’s elephant memory recalled it

whenever she spent coin there, checked her change

as if her life hung on it, turned customers away

with her mellowing revenge. Profits melted, debts

soared. Grandma Gouda bought the shop, built

a strong cheese empire with France and Holland.

She would have voted In.


Rachel Davies

July 2016