Today an MRI scan on my back to determine what precisely is wrong and what, if anything, can be done about it. The test was conducted at the Manor private hospital in Oxford, which goes against my principles. However the NHS refused a scan and were not too much bothered if I am assigned to the scrap heap. The virus is the (only) thing. Two days ago I tested how far I could walk in Blenheim park. My right leg is only partly functional. I struggled to the pleasure gardens and back, not much more than one mile. 3 months ago this would not have counted as a walk, let alone exercise. By the evening I had difficulty in walking at all. As I said before, it’s notable how perspectives can change.
A few years ago I wrote a bit of formatted prose on a neighbour whom I could see in the lane from the window of my study on the first floor. It was printed in the booklet of his funeral service. It has a new resonance for me, now that mobility is a challenge not an assumption.
The Man with Two Sticks
A man frail and tall, not old in counted years,
Shuffles inch by inch from the shadowed lane
With a caring lady who can hardly go so slow.
The radiant sun enters his upturned eyes.
A quantum of the youthful energy for which he yearns.
Where is the laughing running boy who knew
Nothing of impediments?
“I will get the car” she says, striding up the gentle slope,
Released into normalities of time, space and locomotion.
A low wall is close but separated from him
By a daunting distance of straining effort.
He reaches out for the stony seat with a probing stick,
Turning bit by unwilling bit to crease and settle.
An old lady goes by arthritically. She is envied.
The black car arrives.
He is folded and loaded.
To go to somewhere once familiar, once easy,
Now transformed into a theatre. Of impossibilities.
An inch is a foot is a yard is a mile.
A day is a week is a month is a year.
Their will and love annealed in the flame of patient hope.
The channel is swum. Everest is conquered.
“All on your own, yes, all on your own”,
His mother’s reward for infant steps. Long ago.