Red Right Hand

Suddenly I am BUSY.

 

Last week, I passed my Mod 1. Regular readers may know this was the ninth or tenth attempt. And I passed it, not powered on by confidence or love or hope, but by the things that have always been there for me; Righteous indignation and pain.

 

So, the first manouevre in the test is the manual handling. This is where the rider has to push the bike from one bay into another without hitting the cones or dropping the bike. There are no official guidelines on how to do this, and due to being skinny and (critically!) extremely disabled, I tend to do it by sitting astride the bike and pushing it backwards with my feet. this is, according to the actual rules of the test, perfectly legit.

 

According to this examiner though, that wasn’t manual handling, and manual handling explicitly meant “Standing beside the bike, one hand on the bars and one on the tail”.

 

This of course took literally five minutes of agonised pushing to move the bike from one parking bay to the next, complete with shoulders exploding out of socket, discs herniating, literal crying. But, I did it. And from that point on, I was fuelled with finest grade vitriol. I did a control exercise and figure-8 that could have gone in a training manual. My slow ride was a stately crawl. I U-turned with enough room left over to drive a bus through between my bike and the kerb. In the high speed exercises, I hit the speed gates at closer to twice the required speed than below it. I passed, with two faults (One for having difficulty in the manual handling, one for taking a while to brake after the hazard avoidance) and booked straight in for my Mod 2.

 

I got home, and found out that my Grandmother was in hospital with a broken wrist. So the next morning, I loaded up the bike and rode North.

 

I’m not going to talk about her being in hospital, because that’s not my story, but suffice to say that being up north, even though I got to see Sambuca Guy again and go to Ocean Road for a curry, and watch the ships on the river, was exhausting.

 

I also got pulled over by the police on the coast road for having a burst light – So they got out the screwdrivers and spare bulb kit, patched me up, and sent me on my way. Because even the police are nice on Tyneside.

 

Anyway, after three nights away, I rode home, getting to Thirsk just as it started to snow, then fell into bed in a complete pile.

 

The next few days will be possibly busiest. Here’s my last few days, as they’ve been, and my plans for the next weeks;

15th – Bike training

16th – Day of rest

17th – Mod 1 (I passed!)

18th – Leather shopping to reupholster the EN500’s saddle

19th – Ride North, visit Grandmother in hospital

20th – Jerry-rig existing bike headlamp, out with Sambuca Guy

21st – Visit Grandmother in hospital, socialise with family

22nd – Ride home, 120 miles in a snowstorm

23rd – Today! Rest! Sleep! Possibly go out this evening but I really don’t want to.

Tomorrow (24th) – Go to the garage to get the parts for the new headlight (Am switching from a single 5″ light to a pair of 4″ ones)

25th – Rheumatology at StJ, then Ghost In The Shell at the pictures in the evening.

26th – Bike training

27th – Going to Boggle Hole Youth Hostel for the weekend, because Whitby.

28th – Day in Whitby

29th – Ride home

30th – More bike training

31st  – Nana’s birthday, but also a day off.

1st – Bike TEST, as in my Mod 2

2nd – Day off!

3rd – Physio at Stanmore again.

 

…As you can see, by my standards, this is being a busy month.

After while, you just forget that everything smells of petrol now.

Today in Further Shit I Did Not Need, someone cased up my bike.

 

Drove past, incredibly slowly, in a flatbed lorry, and the passenger leant out, eyeballed the bike, took a photo of the lock, then drove on. Then they turned around at the bottom of the road, and did it again on the way back up.

 

The solution to this?WIN_20151215_21_59_31_Pro.jpg(Dog on settee, in comfortable parlour, with the front wheel and head assembly of a GZ125 lurking in the background like a guest that’s not taken its shoes off.)

 

Today has been a bit of a push on the Christmas front, though, which is definitely a good thing.

 

To whit:

 

Sweets for Grandparents arrived.

Books for Parents have been dug out.

Whiskey for Dearest’s Family has been found and dusted.

Hot cushions for Nieces have been sewn up.

Cuddly toy for Dearest has been finished apart from the appliques.

Smoking cap for Best Friend has been finished but for the lining.

 

Meaning all that’s left to do is finish Dearest’s thousand stitch belt, wrap everything, and then get my bike down to the garage on Saturday morning to have the heated grips fitted, before going up North.

 

I have also recieved a couple of lovely presents and cards from fabulous internet friends, which have basically made my entire month. Friendship is awesome. I can see a lot of internet friends getting Januarymas presents, once I’ve sewn my head back on straight, drank most of the whiskey, and calmed down.

 

This has actually been a pretty good week, overall. My leg is healing with the speed that I’m used to (to whit, unnaturally quickly), my ribs and shoulders feel like normal-hell, rather than had-a-bike-drag-them-along-the-carriageway-hell, and Dearest has done basically all the laundry, so I’ve got safe stuff to wear to go North in. And, possibly best, me and Sambuca have arranged to meet up in York in January. So things are going to be good. It’s always been a comfort to me to have things planned for after the big-difficult-stressful stuff (The classic ones always being having a holiday planned after my exams, a night out planned after a hospital appointment, and a few days at a friend’s house after visiting mine or Dearest’s families) and this is my thing that I’ve got planned for after New Year.

 

All is well.

Hollywoo stars

So, according to the milometer, I’ve racked up 250 miles on the bike over three days, which isn’t all that bad. Took off on Wednesday afternoon to go to the Homelands, a hundred and odd miles each way with a couple of small detours.

The way up was my first “serious” ride as I thought of it – Not just nootling around Harrogate, but going from A to B, with a great sense of purpose, taking the roads as they were presented, rather than picking my route based on which roads I wanted to go on. I did, however, carefully pick my weather – Clear, grey day, hovering at around five degrees, trees turning bright yellow and orange, with the occasional fiery red of a copper beech or a sloe tree. Perfect for a nice trip out.

The ring-road is flanked by the omnipresent sycamores, silver birches and  a surprising number of apple and plum trees (which I will bet good money are the result of sticky stones and cores thrown out of car windows), and whilst the larger leaves drifted in impressively coloured piles in the gutters, the birches scattered theirs like confetti, whirling back up the hills and gusting about between the cars. It was just as I was leaving the ring-road, through a small commuter village and up a winding road onto the side of a fell, when I realised how windy it was. Not just suddenly colder – The cold wasn’t bothering me yet, I’d piled on the layers* – but suddenly the bike was being whipped side to side in the gusts. I settled down, kept a healthy distance from the few other vehicles on the road, and pressed on up the now-familiar road to Harrogate.

Coming out of the other side of Harrogate, the road subtly changed. Not only was the tarmac now a bit rougher, but the lanes were narrower, the bends were tighter and more sudden, and it seemed to be one long downhill into the Vale. I passed a handful of other bikes going in the opposite direction, and was overtaken by one. I hovered between 40 and the speed limit, being cautious in the unfamiliar corners (Was it really a smooth curve, or a sudden 90-degree bend? Oh christ, why did that sign indicate a hard left turn when it was really a hard right turn?) and starting to get use to countersteering. There was nobody behind me, so I could go as slowly or quickly as I felt that I needed to, and work out what kind of surfaces the tyres were happy with, at which speeds. All a good, healthy learning experience.

The main road deposited me in Thirsk, where I stopped for a few minutes in a disabled bay (“No bikes allowed”) to reset the dislocated jaw taht I’d not noticed before and adjust my gloves, before setting off again and slipping out onto the A19.

I assume that most of you will be familiar with the A19, and specifically the Tees Viaduct, which Wikipedia describes coolly as “A beam bridge, carrying a six-lane dual carriageway, 2.9 kilometers long, carrying 70,000 vehicles a day.” On a motorcycle, I’d describe the Tees Viaduct rather differently;

“The Tees Viaduct is a two-mile-long chance to brush up on your rosary. By the time you’re halfway through the Apostles’ Creed you’ll have been treated to an up-close view of the underside of one of Teesport’s many container lorries as they jostle to cross all three lanes at the last posible second to reach the sliproad. Once you’re free of the HGV traffic, you’ll find yourself atop the 117-metre long, 20-metre tall span crossing the Tees, where the prevailing wind will eagerly guide you towards a closer view of the river, an offer that’s taken up by canvas-sided lorries and poorly-streamlined bikes with equal alacrity. As you descend from the largest of the 68 spans, you’ll be joined by gravel tippers racing up the incoming sliproad and being caught in the sudden gale-force winds, causing them to either stop suddenly in the left-hand lane, veer into the centre, or accelerate wildly in an attempt to overtake traffic already on the bridge. Often in convoys of three, all doing different things, just to increase the zany fun. All executed at around seventy miles an hour, with a two-inch gap between vehicles.”

But, the A19 does eventually lead all souls to Hebburn, and most of it is a lovely series of smooth curves through gorgeous scenery dotted with old farmhouses and windmills ancient and modern, with (at least Northbond on a Wenesday afternoon) very little traffic.

Time in the homelands was good. As usual, I planned to do a lot more than I actually did (Stayed with my Mam and Quantum Dad, saw my Grandparents, which was lovely, but didn’t get a chance to see Algernon or Sambuca, or my cousins and their new babies) but generally it was just nice. I feel that at this point I must say that the only reason I’m not including more about family time is because it’s not my story to tell, and I’m not all that comfortable sharing even the most innocuous stuff when it’s not my story.

On the way back I made record time to Thirsk (Finally getting around to overtaking, even if it was mostly just slow-moving juggernauts), and ran into one huge and notable problem on the sliproad – I couldn’t feel or move my left arm. Steering to get around into the town centre with only one arm was a challenge, so I skewed into the first pub I saw, heated my hands up on the exhaust pipe until I could get my helmet and gloves off, then fell through the door and was carefully guided to the fire by a barmaid. It took about half an hour for my hands to go from black to grey to purple, then to flushed red, then finally back to a sensible tan-grey.

Upon leaving the pub to find somewhere to get a coffee, there was a tiny small child who ran excitedly over to the bike. After I’d carefully directed him away from any part of the bike that was oily, sharp, fragile or still hot (which, when you’re two foot tall, is basically all of the bike that you can reach) I let his Mum pick him up and put him on the saddle, which basically made his day.

A few minutes later, when I was sitting in the coffee shop with a pair of trikers whom I’d met in the town square, the same small child appeared again, and his Mum seemed embarrassed out of her mind that he was bothering the exact same biker as before. All three of us just laughed, and said the thing that every parent dreads when looking at a heavily-modified biker that’s obviously travelling perpendicular to society; “Ha, I was just the same at his age”.

It took about an hour for me to be sure that my shoulder had reattached itself and that I could safely move my hand, then I continued back onwards to Harrogate. At Harrogate I took a short stop next to the Stray (Revelling in the leaves and the beginnings of the sunset), then made it back home, wherein I immediately flopped into a hot bath, with a generous slug of morphine, a glass of sercial, and Vision Thing.

Overall, a couple of good days that I think I really needed.

*One quilted hi-vis jacket, orange. One set of Sportex winter leathers, jacket and trousers. One Norwegian navy “Norgy” shirt. One pair of thermal longjohns, British army surplus. One polo-neck longsleeved T-shirt. One fishnet top/string vest. Comfy Leeds Rhinos boxers. Wool socks. Goretex-merino undersocks. Drop boots. Silk glove liners. Kevlar gloves.

Cherry Menthol Sea Monster

So, my two days up North were actually awesome. I’d packed light (Everything I needed fitted into the pockets of my leather jacket, including a change of clothes, a toothbrush and toothpaste, medication, soap, a support bandage, phone, wallet, keys, passport, notebook, multiple pens and a selection of empty vials for emergency use) meaning that I didn’t have to worry about where I was staying – No need to check in to the hostel, or commit to catching the last train to Algernon’s or back home, or to staying with Sambuca, I could just see where the night ended up. One of my big fears is of being socially stuck with people for extended periods, so having a handful of options which would let me have the option of sidestepping society was an important part of persuading me to travel. Even knowing that Sambuca always has a spare bed made up for me, I’m still always going to book a hostel bed in advance when I do this again, just in case.

Met up with Sambuca outside the railway station, and immediately launched back into the same conversations we’d been having in 2006. I seem to have a damn good record on having long-time friends who are really good at taking all of this in their stride (Other than the obvious exception, who will probably get his own blog post one day). We went up to Westgate and ogled about a million bikes. I have seriously fallen for a secondhand Suzuki VanVan; 2014, just over two thousand miles on the clock, previously owned by a couple who used it to pass both of their CBTs, then their Direct Access, then sold it back to the dealership and bought two Triumph Tigers. Every review of the VanVan that I’ve seen has included the words “Squidgy”, “Easy-handling”, “Gentle” and “That back tyre is verrrrry interesting, it’s good on dust and cobbles and makes the low-speed handling really forgiving”. So it’s not just a bit of pretty arsecandy, it’s a sensible machine for a nervous novice.

After that, we got a quick curry, then retreated to our old table in our old pub and sat until one in the morning, drinking a dozen bottles of brown ale and looking at photos of Tokyo (Wow, my ability to read Japanese goes downhill fast when I’m drunk) and photos of our mutual friends’ innumerable children (All, mysteriously, ginger). It turns out that, other than me, everyone still lives within half a mile of the river and east of the bridges and other than a couple who have gone into coupley hibernation, everyone still goes on on a Saturday night. Bliss.

Anyway, by time we got back to his house I was both very, very drunk and had put about a quarter of a bottle of of morphine down my neck to try to stop my hips and clavicles from completely destroying themselves. I’d nearly passed out from pain a couple of times in the pub (More alarming for Sambuca than for me) and had struggled to manage the steps down into the cellar, so I slept in the living room in what could only sensibly be described as a morphine coma, finally being woken up at ten when, in Sambuca’s words “The house woke up”.

I went up to get a shower, and found that my towel still had the tags on it. I came down for breakfast, and there was a whole breakfast bar set out, with four kinds of cereal, multiple teas, and toast. I was informed that the family had gone out, but that all of this had been laid on entirely for me. Basically one step behind buying a hat. And we sat and had a very civilised breakfast, with toast and marmalade, then he drove me down to the far side of the river to catch up with Algernon.

Algernon turned out to be very much trapped at work (match day, in the one pub in the village with satellite), so instead I wandered down to the seafront and managed to get caught up in a massive charity drive on the main street for the long-abandoned saltwater swimming pool – Built in the 20s, used as a pool until the 80s, turned into coldwater scuba training until the 90s, and then filled in with sand and rocks in an attempt at turning it into an “artificial rockpool”, which failed miserably and the whole thing continued to gently rust and corrode into the sea. So I decided to take a walk and went down to the abandoned pool itself and had a good look at it – Amazingly, I’d never seen it before in my life (There is a massive cultural divide between the north and south sides of the river) and it was more than a little eerie, thus perfect. Two massive tanker ships loomed prow-on, turning before they came into the river, but at the moment looking alarmingly like they might smash into the white-painted metal railings. The sea lapped up against the concrete base of the structure, the odd wave crashing over the side, and more water flowed in through the old infill pipe. I stayed for a while, standing where the old diving blocks would have been and sighting along the fifty-metre stretch which was once the main tank, sitting on the concrete steps which made up the viewing gallery, and trying to work out where the old changing rooms would have been. The whole site was strangely resistant to being reclaimed by nature, and it felt more like a ship in a breakers’ yard than anything else. I bought a T-shirt from the fundraisers on the way home, shared what I knew about its long-destroyed sister pool on the south foreshore, and promised to keep in touch.

From there  it was just a matter of getting back on the local train, then the regional train, then back home within three hours. The migraine was kind enough to wait until I went to bed to strike.

Today I am completely destroyed. My clavicles, which were complaining about being upright for so long, have gone on strike and crawled up my throat, my right hip is an immobile wreck, and my wrists are making a noise like a succession of bathroom sinks being thrown off a towerblock roof. But it was worth it.

And lo, that’s the end of the stressful week. Now I’ve only got two things to do in August left – Meeting up with Best Friend for his birthday, then doing my CBT on the 22nd. I think I’ve survived it.

Return to Castle Karnstein

So, tomorrow I’m heading up to Newcastle. My itinerary is a bit… Gruelling.

1)  Arrive in Newcastle after a three-hour bus and railway journey.

2) Meet up with Sambuca, go looking at bikes on Westgate Road in preparation for Compulsory Basic Training and basically to remind me that I’m doing this because I love bikes and want to ride them, and it’s a fun thing, not a chore.

3) Probably eat, I hope.

4) Pub, one of our old haunts if any of them are still open.

5) Club, oh dear god, for the first time since about 2007. I hear there’s a new metal night at the Union.

6) Back to the youth hostel, probably at about 3am, where I will be sleeping in a dorm with ten other people.

7) Youth hostel kicks out at 10am.

8) Local rail (always erratic on a Sunday) down to Tynemouth to meet Algernon, and maybe go to the beach.

9) Local rail back to Newcastle.

10) Mainline rail back home, another three hours of travelling time.

Am I looking forward to it? I don’t really know. I’ll be travelling light (No rucksack, everything stuck in my pockets), and the two people I’m going to see are both lovely old friends whom I’ve either not seen in forever or only reconnected with briefly and recently, so that will be good. On the other hand, I’ll be travelling light, so won’t have an internet connection to do long conversations with anyone from back home, I’m not sure that I’m physically or mentally equipped for going to a nightclub (Not much seating, loud music, late night, people who might remember me and I can’t remember them), and I won’t have any privacy for the whole time that I’m there. I know it’s only two days, but my mental state is fragile, I’m not physically in very good shape, and I’m going to be running very close to exhaustion for much of it.

Part of me wants to just stay at home and finish watching the cricket, but even that alibi will probably run out by about noon.

Tryptophantasia

Stress is occurring.

Dearest’s Mum is visiting tomorrow (Sunday).

Mine is visiting on Tuesday.

Getting the chimneys cleaned on Wednesday.

Going up to the Old Country to see someone that I’ve not seen for the better part of a decade on Saturday, including both going to a nightclub and sleeping in a dorm. This is the friend that I cancelled on in May, and that I tried to hide my EDS from. I, of course, failed. His asking “Why didn’t you finish your CBT the first time then?” being answered with “Google ‘hypermobility syndrome’, which is also half the reason that I’ve spoken to nobody for the past few years…”, which got a “Shit, man, if I’d known, I’d have stayed in touch – Can’t have you hiding away”. So I think he’ll be normal about it. I just worry that the plan of “Go out, get shitfaced, danceuntilitallmakessense, eat garlic bread at 3am, sleep in a bunk in a hostel” might be a bit much, and it might turn into “Quiet pub night, awkward conversation, never see each other again.”.

This is how my fear works. Especially with a friend where, for the first five years of our friendship, we’d never seen each other in daylight. It’s a very physical friendship – Lots of drinking, lots of running around and play-fighting, lots of walking around the city in the snow in the wee hours of the morning, not getting much sleep, and generally behaving terribly.

On the other hand, I think I’ll also use this as an opportunity to catch up with Algernon again, if he’s free on one of the daytimes.

Bread basket

Today was supposed to be a pelvic, transvaginal and urethral ultrasound. I was, understandably, bricking it.

Two minutes before needing to leave the house, I phoned Best Friend in a panic, feeling like I weighed half a tonne and was welded to the bed. By some miracle, he got me convinced to put on real trousers, pack a bag full of sensible medications and literature, go downstairs, and let Dearest shovel me into the car.

I arived at StJ, with Dearest, and got along to the near-empty ultrasound suite. They have refurbished huge chunks of the hospital, and this one was one of the departments they’d not quite reached yet, so it was nice seeing confirmation that the contrast between the “old” bits and the “new” bits really was as big as I thought. Not just newly-colour-coded walls, but also better signage, brighter, more diffuse and warmer lighting, more comfortable and flexible seating and more of what I’d call “passive entertainment” – Paintings on the walls, well-stocked fish tanks, facts about local history and wildlife. This particular waiting room had a couple of plastic chairs, a very sturdy vinyl sofa, and a notice saying “There were many educational posters in this ward which patients found distressing and frightening. The posters have now been moved to a staff-only area.”

Which was a shame, since I like the terrifying educational posters of all the worst things that can happen to a body. I especially like the skin ones, showing the full-thickness diagrams of different kinds of spots, insect bites and rashes, I don’t know why.

Anyway, we weren’t waiting for long, and I went into the usual semi-dark ultrasound room, and quickly necked a couple of diazepam to keep myself from going into messy spasms. I could see the transvaginal probe on the bench, and it didn’t look reassuring (Though in fairness to itself, it did look nicer than a speculum).

The technician got me to lie down on the bench, unzip my fly and roll up my shirt .

She asked if we were looking for a hormonal or a copper coil; The copper coil shows up much more brightly, since it’s got metal parts, so is easier to find. Sadly, we were looking for a hormonal coil, so this could have been a slightly longer process.

First shot was transabdominal, so she quickly lubed up my belly from navel to pubes (very courteously tucking a bit of blue paper into my boxers so as not to completely soak them in ultrasound goo) and started ultrasounding. One or two passes, very firmly, over the bottom third of my abdomen – Asking if I was all right, and keeping me well informed of what she was doing all the way (Including the amazing statement of “Oh, there’s a loop of bowel in the way, I’m just going to nudge it to one side for a minute…”), then pressing down quite hard onto the top of my pubic bone, to see behind it. Each time the machine took a “photo” I felt a fairly strong vibration, like from an amplifier, but that was all.

“Aha!” she said, turning the screen so that I could see it (She’d earlier had to point out to me that if I tensed up my abdominals to lean up and see the screen, I was pushing the wand away from what it needed to scan and defeating the object) “There’s your coil – And right where it’s meant to be as well.” She pointed out a pair of parallel lines on the screen, surprisingly fuzzier than I’d expected, and I was immediately, deliriously happy.

“I don’t need to do a transvaginal, it’s all where it’s supposed to be. I’ll send a letter to your doctor – It must have just been a bacterial infection from having it installed in the first place.”

I have never been so happy to waste a benzo. I dried off, thanked her profusely, and went to the toilets to change into some less-jellied underpants. All in all, the whole effort took less than fifteen minutes, wasn’t painful, was technically interesting to watch, the practitioner was pleasant and professional, and the news was good.

Why can’t all procedures be like that?

Next week is a doctor-heavy week (Medication review on the 3rd, then appointment with Dr L on the 5th) but before that I have my motorcyle CBT on Saturday, then the New Zealand v England test in Headingley on Sunday, and hopefully a night at Best Friend’s house some time around then too. So all is coming up roses at the moment.

Oh, and on the 13th I’m going up to the homelands to look at bikes with an old friend. Now, let me explain this friend; We met when I was working underage in a nightclub when I was 17 (He was 21, but I still IDed him, ironically), and us and our collection of dubious metallers and goths drank heavily every week together from then until I went to university. Upon my going to university, we met up every couple of months (with the key date being New Year, wherein we would all pile back to his best friend’s ground-floor flat overlooking the quayside and sleep in a pile in the living room, leaving one-by-one through the front window after sunrise then walking back across the river to go home) and then once a year, and then eventually (when I moved to japan) not at all. Our last communique had been not long after the earthquake – He’d been intending to visit me in Tokyo, but Japan running a skeleton service made it less immediately practical. So that was the last we heard of each other.

A couple of weeks ago, I got a text out of the blue asking if I wanted a night out in the homeland. It had been sent on Saturday night, and I picked it up on Sunday morning, so I just laughed it off and replied with “Yeah, if I’d had more notice.” A couple of texts passed back and forth until he asked “Hang on – Which [Old Nickname] is this?” My response was “The [Old Nick] who lives in Leeds and you’ve not seen in half a dozen years.” Seconds after the I put down the phone, it rang, and i was greeted with a delighted “HOLY SHIT I thought I’d lost your number years ago – How’ve you been!”

We caught up, reminisced, and lo, we’re going for a night out on the lash in a few weeks. Despite all of our old haunts being long-gone, there’s the rumour of a new metal night starting up and one of our old pubs reopening. And then on Sunday, probably exhausted and carrying him through a hangover, we’re going bike shopping.

Predictably, probably, I’ve glossed over the EDS. I suspect he will assume that a life of hard work, hard drinking, hard knocks and hard luck has just caught up with me. But that’s a bridge to cross when I get to it.