Please excuse any typos in this column! I’m sitting at my desk in agony. Why? Well, I’ve got a trapped nerve in my back and boy, does it hurt! X-rays reveal that I’ve got a sort of slipped disc, probably due to years of wearing unsuitable shoes on behalf of the Natural Theatre Company.

It’s not the sort of slipped disc that slips back into place, so basically I’m lumbered with it. There’s a seventeen week wait for the pain control clinic at the RUH so I’ve kept the pain at bay with several very expensive epidurals and the liberal consumption of Cocodomol. But today, not wishing to rely on pills, which we are now told are the food of the devil, I’m testing my pain barrier by attempting a medication-free day. So if my spelling goes haywire further down this article, you will know that barrier has been reached!

There is, I’m told, a whole range of mind over matter techniques that one can employ. One is giving your pain a name with which one can address it man to man as it were. I’ve called mine Boris.

Recently I went on a short break to Sardinia. Miraculously my back lasted out all the way there, despite all the stairs, ramps, suitcase lugging and queues associated with air travel.

My crisis came when I was stepping up into a pizza restaurant. At that point the arthritis that has been lurking in my one real knee decided to manifest itself and as it gave way I felt a knife stabbing me in my lower back. ‘Boris!’ I cried loudly, to no avail. I could hardly move but nothing keeps me from a genuine rustic Sardinian hand crafted wood oven baked pizza. Goodness knows what the innocent family parties dining in the establishment thought as I proceeded to join my friends at their table, bent double and hissing ‘Boris, Boris, Boris!’ through clenched teeth and bearing a wild-eyed expression.

Anyway, it’s amazing what a liberal application of melting mozzarella and a couple of glasses of Sardinian plonk can do for one and I left the premises in a reasonably upright position.

However, the pain soon came back with a vengeance and there seemed to be no way I would be able to get on the homeward flight. We called a doctor and I can tell you, steroid injections in Sardinia are a darn sight cheaper than here in Bath. In fact a friend has pointed out, one could have a fortnight in Sardinia, pizzas, epidurals and all for what they charge for one jab round here.

Suffice to say, with the help of my budget airline’s special assistance arrangements (red carpet, no queues and just a light frisking) I got home.

Another thing they tell you is to concentrate on a task rather than on the pain.  Indeed I have found that pushing a shopping trolley round Morrison’s works wonders. And maybe writing this column. A click on my spellcheck reveals no misspellings. For the moment Boris is at bay.

First published 2019 in Bath Chronicle as Ralph Oswick’s Column

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