My Arm Hurts

Yes, it does hurt, in fact it hurts a lot. Sorry for the moaning but my arm is really killing me. So, how did this happen? Let’s just go back a few weeks and review the whole thing.

My neck and arm started hurting several weeks ago. At first it was a dull ache but then it got worse. It was so painful I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t sit up straight at my desk and I had no strength in my right hand, so much so I couldn’t even fire the deodorant spray under my arm, I had to grip the spray so as to use my thumb to press the button. Well, it was either that or go around with one sweaty armpit.

I had a few days off work and it wasn’t getting better so it was off to see the doc. I phoned in to get an appointment but was told I had to call in the next morning after 8am. It wasn’t a life and death thing so why not just book me in? It’s no use arguing with the Doctor’s receptionist, we all know that so OK, I set my alarm, woke up, took my phone into the lounge and dialled the surgery. At 8:45 I got through only to be told all the appointments were taken.

The next day Liz called up at 8. After forty minutes she got through and finally got me an appointment with the doc. Now we were finally getting somewhere. I went into the doc at the appointed time. Due to Covid 19 he decided not to approach me, in fact he directed me to a chair on the opposite side of the room and asked me about my symptoms. ‘Ah yes’, he said confidently, ‘I’ll prescribe some painkillers and you will be fine this time next week’.

I tried to explain that this issue had occurred before, about 16 years ago and that I was pretty sure the problem was a trapped nerve in the neck, referring pain to the arm. Of course, he, a doctor of many year’s training knew much more than me and so I was quickly dispatched to the exit with a prescription for painkillers in my pocket. A week later the pain was worse so I called back to the doctor asking if I could be referred to a physiotherapist, not a particularly incredible request under the circumstances I would have thought. Later I had a call back from the surgery; the doctor wanted to speak with me again, this time over the phone so another appointment was made for the following week for a telephone consultation.

The doc called at the appointed time and despite me explaining again about the previous time I had incurred exactly the same symptoms and how my neck and arm were now killing me in exactly the same way, the doc still hesitated about the physio. ‘I’m going to send you for an X-ray’ he said. An X-ray, wow I thought, we are finally getting somewhere. The next week I went in for the X-ray. I wasn’t kept waiting long and the snapshots of my neck were taken quickly and efficiently. ‘Your doctor will have the results in two weeks,’ said the X-ray guy. Two weeks! Two weeks in this twenty first century digital email internet Microsoft age! Yes, two weeks.

Fast forward two weeks and I a letter arrived from the doc saying I had finally been referred to the physio. Great, they didn’t mention anything about the X-ray but it must have shown something up for them to send me to the physio. Oh well. A few days afterwards I had a letter from the Musculo-Skeletal unit inviting me to a telephone appointment, on October the 20th! The NHS has been dealing with a pandemic so of course that has slowed things down a lot but even so, I didn’t reckon on a nearly two month wait.

Earlier on this year Saga, with whom I once insured my car until their prices went right up, sent me a flyer asking me to join their private healthcare scheme. I was tempted and I was about to buy in when I decided to call the helpline provided by the Order of Northern Tightwads, an organisation in which I have risen to the noble order of Tightwad, Third Grade, only two below the most senior level.

At the Order of Tightwads, we don’t just let anyone join. First you must pass certain ancient tests, undergo many varied ancient rituals and then and only then if you are found worthy, you may be asked to join.

What is the philosophy of tightwadism? Well one of our founding members, the late Penny Pincher, put it this way. Tightwadism, she said, is the art of being in the toilet when it is your round. To put it another way, it is simply this, never to pay when you can get away with not paying, never to pay a large amount if you can get away with a lower one. Always ask for a discount and most of all, never ever open your wallet unless under the most extreme provocation and even then only the tiniest, tiniest amount.

The helpline was manned 24 hours a day and there at the end of the line was a dedicated fellow tightwad who repeated our philosophy above in the most eloquent manner. I told him quickly about my sore neck and arm. Boo hoo he replied, oh dear how sad, what a shame. Did I want to disgrace the order? No. Did I want to reject our philosophy, handed down from generations of tightwads? Of course not. That helpline guy really knew his stuff. The way was clear to me, reject this overt attack on my personal funds from Saga and make sure my wallet and credit cards were once again kept safe.

Pity really because I ended up having to shell out for a private physiotherapist. The Order of Tightwads weren’t happy. My disciplinary meeting is next week.


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https://youtu.be/ycJ4krvmDI8

A Pain in the Neck (and Other Body Issues)

I’m not sure how I came to write about this subject but what the heck, I’ve started so I’ll finish as they say. What can I say about my body, that great big lump of flesh and bone that I drag out bed every morning? Well for a kick off I don’t think it’s quite fair that I got lumbered with this particular one. Why couldn’t I have one like Tom Cruise perhaps or even Arnold Schwarznegger? Yes ok, I know that I could have had a body like Arnold’s if I had spent a lot more time in the gym, it’s just that I’ve always found exercising a little boring.

Having said that a few years back I was handed a twelve-week freebie at the YMCA and Liz and I spent a little time down there once or twice a week, cycling, walking and weight lifting and it was, not exactly fun but interesting for a while. I particularly liked walking out of the gym with a little exercise high and feeling pretty pleased with myself and ever so slightly fitter.

Just lately I’ve found out that I have type 2 diabetes and before starting with medication my medical practitioner has given me three months to slim down and change my eating habits. I think I’ve done reasonably well so far; I’ve stopped my nightly nibble on chocolate and my daily biscuits every time I have a cup of tea. I’ve tried to reject potatoes and chips although I must admit I did have roast potatoes with last Sunday’s roast dinner, but then seriously, who can have a Sunday roast without roast potatoes?

I’m still struggling with a sore shoulder as I mentioned last week so I am continuing with my exercises and have moved on from extreme agony down to a more acceptable pain level. I’m tempted to add a picture of me wearing my cervical collar but no, let’s not go there. Having said that I’ll probably be posting that picture on Facebook in an attempt to get some internet sympathy.

As I mentioned in a post a few weeks back my eyesight has always been poor but just lately I’ve upgraded to a pair of varifocals and I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to read things without changing specs. It’s great whenever I troll through charity shops and I can actually see the writing on the CDs and books. Amazing!

A few years go I had a great urge to get my body into shape through cycling. Come to think of it, fitness was just a spinoff; the real reason I went cycling was to clip on my GoPro camera and shoot some video. After my mountain bike was stolen I dragged my old bike out of the garage. I spent a few minutes oiling the chain and adjusting the seat and handle bars when perhaps I should have spent a little more time.

One of the tyres was flat so after fitting a new inner tube I was ready for a quick test spin and luckily, as it turned out, popped on my helmet and gloves. As I went down the avenue I noticed that I hadn’t tightened up the handlebars enough, so I turned round and headed back. My big mistake was in not getting off the bike and walking back because the front wheel turned sharply, I turned the handlebars and of course nothing happened, except that I ended up in a heap on the pavement. Still, I had my helmet on, no head injuries and my natty little bike mitts had prevented any cuts on my hands. As I pushed the bike back home I noticed my leg hurting a little and later on my ankle swelled up. A two hour visit to casualty revealed no broken bones but I was pretty happy no one was around that afternoon to video my escapade and post it on you tube!

Some time later I tried again. Exercise is one thing but to be honest, I just like messing about with cameras and video and pretending to be the film director I always wanted to be. Anyway, after three laps of the immediate area and about forty minutes of camera video, it was time for a cuppa. Then it was time to spend days, weeks even, fiddling about on Windows Movie Maker, cutting and splicing and so on until I managed to produce a workable edit.

Editing can be a slow process but as long as you have a clear result in mind it can be very satisfying.

I do so like photography in the digital age. No expensive films, no waiting for the film to be developed and printed. No more expensive mistakes. Today, if you take a bad picture, delete it, take another in fact, take multiple exposures and just delete or edit the bad ones later.

Digital video is pretty much the same. Delete what you don’t like and start again. Even if what you have shot isn’t good, it can be saved by cutting or effects like slow motion. In the editing suite, build your video slowly, adding each scene and then later your soundtrack, adding layers to the original sound with effects, music and narration.

I remember editing in the VHS days, juggling different tracks on my sound mixer, having to cue each track and fade in when ready, keeping an eye on the monitor all the time. Once, in one of my airport videos I had to do a narration, fade down the original video soundtrack, pause while a helicopter flew into the shot, fade in a helicopter sound effect, fade in the next section of original sound while I narrated the next paragraph and finally, cue and fade in the music and then fade out the original sound. Today, with digital, all that is a step by step process.

Sorry, I seem to have rambled on a bit there so back to my body. One thing I would probably like to change is my hair. When I was younger I had a big, thick head of hair and I remember being quite shocked one day in the 1970’s when I decided to get a really good haircut. I’d gone down to the city centre in Manchester to a place called Paul Brendon’s Hair Design and asked for a cut like David Cassidy. Cassidy in case you either didn’t know or can’t remember was the star of a TV show called The Partridge Family. The show was a big hit, in fact it was such a gynormous success I’m not even sure that the TV producers were prepared for it. Cassidy became a huge star and his ‘group’, the fictional Partridge Family had a string of hit singles. Cassidy himself was a major heart throb with numerous young ladies screaming and swooning over him at concerts and personal appearances.

Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t think that having a David Cassidy cut was going to get me a shed load of screaming females, although I wasn’t actually averse to that idea. I reckoned that if it happened I’d just deal with it on the day but I did think that having a haircut a little more stylish than my usual one was a good idea. After sorting my hair out and taking my cash, the barber -sorry, hair stylist- said just watch out, your hair’s going a bit thin on top. Thin on top? What on earth did he mean? He couldn’t mean I was losing my hair, could he? Surely not! Yes, I just rejected the obvious for quite a few years although what I could have done about it, I don’t know. If I was particularly vain, if there was something, some cream for instance that you could just rub on your head and would bring back your hair would I go for it? Of course!

I mentioned earlier about trying to get my weight down. I’ve tried to cut out carbohydrates. I haven’t succeeded totally but I have cut down quite a lot and until I hurt my neck had upped my walking schedule. My dad was a great walker. In fact, everywhere we went as children involved walking as dad didn’t have a car and couldn’t drive.

When he retired, he used to get up, have breakfast and then take the dog for a walk. He walked for miles and his dog Mickey, who was a pretty old dog then, used to be worn out when they returned home. Mickey would head straight for the water bowl and then drop down on the floor somewhere to recuperate, oblivious of everyone having to step over him as he dreamed his canine dreams.

Once, one Sunday, my Dad and I went for a drink together. Dad said he’d take me to the Griffin for a pint. ‘The Griffin?’ I asked. ‘Where’s the Griffin? There’s no pub round here called the Griffin?’

‘Oh yes, the Griffin. It’s not a bad pub. It’ll be a nice walk.’

Well, off we went, out of Wythenshawe where we lived, past Peel Hall and down towards Heald Green. Heald Green was a good thirty to forty minute walk and I remember saying, ‘look Dad, let’s go into the Heald Green hotel for a pint.’

‘No,’ he said. ‘The Griffin’s not far away now.’ So we walked and walked, past Heald Green and on towards Cheadle and eventually, after about an hour’s walk if not longer, we came to the Griffin. Inside there were a bunch of fellas who nodded to my Dad and he nodded in return. Up at the bar the barman came over and said ‘pint of mild Ralph?’ He’d been here before, apparently.

I was exhausted and gasping for a drink and I was probably hanging onto the bar for dear life when my dad asked what was I drinking?

‘Pint of lager please,’ I said. Dad nodded to the barman then looked back at me. ‘Not a bad stretch of the legs was it?’ he said.

Another form of exercise I do like is swimming. Usually at this time of year we will either have parked up our motor home by a plan d’eau, a French swimming lake or have rented a nice holiday home complete with swimming pool. There Liz and I will be doing some regular swimming and keeping pretty fit. Alas, the pandemic has sadly put the blockers on our regular French trip. Even if it hadn’t though, I wouldn’t be up to driving down to France, not with my sore neck and shoulder. Pity though because I reckon a little swimming might have loosened up my shoulder. A few years back I opened up my camera case in France to find my new GoPro camera complete with underwater housing. What could I possibly film with that I thought? Well, there was always the swimming pool:

I’m hoping that I will be able to do some more walking soon. The thing is though I might need a whole new wardrobe by then. I noticed that last week when Liz and I went out to Quiz Night at our local pub, my favourite pair of trousers which at one time were a little on the tight side now seemed a little slack. I normally wear them without a belt but now I have had to not only wear a belt but also have added a new notch to tighten them up. Yes, sometimes this body can be a bit of a pain in the neck.

That reminds me, time to take off this neck collar and do my neck exercises. . .


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Avatar and The Cycle of Life

I don’t know about you but this hasn’t been a great week for me. I started off with a bit of an ache in my right arm but when you are as ancient as me you get used to your body sending over these signals of age every so often. After a few days it became worse, a nagging ache that turned into a pain. As it happened, I’d had that pain before, in fact, I’d even written about it in a blog post. I was going to write about it again but there was the old blog post just aching to have new life breathed into it, to be rewritten, remodelled or repurposed as we blog writers like to say. After all, no work of art is ever finished, just abandoned. Of course, I do have a sore arm and it’s difficult to type at the moment but what the heck, anyone who knows me understands that at heart I’m just a lazy old codger and so instead of writing something new like a real writer, here’s what happened last time I had a sore shoulder.

2002 (ish)

Samsara, in the Buddhist way is the cycle of life; birth death and rebirth, represented by the circle. That circular vision of life is not always so easy to explain but let me tell you about it in my own way.

A long time ago, years ago in fact I had this really bad pain down my right arm. It didn’t get any better, in fact it got worse and worse so I called in for an appointment at the doctors’. I got to see Doctor Kowalski (as usual names have been changed to protect the innocent.) The thing with Doctor Kowalski was that anyone could see him any time because he wasn’t a doctor who was much in demand. Why not you might ask? No one really wanted to see him because all he wanted was to get you into his office and get you out again.
I sat down and the doctor smiled and asked ‘how can I help you?’
‘Well,’ I began, ‘It’s this pain down the side of my arm . .’
I stopped because Doctor Kowalski was already writing out a prescription. Already, and this was before he had examined me and before I had even finished speaking. Moments later I was on my way out of his surgery and the next patient was already on his way in. All I had to show for it was a prescription for pain killers.

Dr Kowalski must have looked good on the surgery stats as it looked like he dealt quickly with a lot of patients but as we all know, statistics don’t always tell the full story.

A few days later the pain was as bad as ever so I went back but I asked to see Doctor Edwards. Now Doctor Edwards was one of the most popular doctors in the surgery. Why? Because he actually listened to you! He was fully booked up for a while and it took me a week to get in to see him but when finally I sat down in his office, he listened attentively, asked a few questions, took a look at my arm and then sent me for an X ray. It turned out I had a nerve trapped in my neck which was referring pain to my arm and I needed to see the physiotherapist but the waiting time was about six weeks so I decided to go to a private physio.

2021

Anyway, back to 2021 and here I am finding that the only pain free position available is reclining on the couch. Ok I thought, as I’m in position anyway I might as well fire up the TV and slap a DVD in. What did I have that I hadn’t seen for a while? Well the DVD I chose was Avatar. A few years back I got into a conversation with Liz’s younger daughter about the great films of all time and the one she chose was Avatar. Yes, I said, but you’re probably not familiar with real great classic films like Sunset Boulevard, Citizen Kane, Casablanca or even The Godfather. No really, she said, watch Avatar, it’s amazing.

Avatar was written and directed by James Cameron and I have to admit he has made some pretty good films. The first two Terminator films were his projects and he was also responsible for Aliens, the second in the Alien series of films and a great film in its own right. Titanic was again written and directed by Cameron and was just not only an enjoyable film but also a magnificent feat of film making involving a huge mock up of the Titanic built on hydraulic rams which enabled it to drop into the sea for the sinking sequences.

Avatar makes a lot of use of CGI, computer generated images, only this film takes CGI to a whole new level. I actually think that CGI can detract from a film because sometimes it’s so obvious that you are watching something generated by a computer. In Avatar, the imagery and effects are nothing short of incredible. The film is like a sci-fi combination of Dances With Wolves and a Vietnam war film. In the future, an alien planet called Pandora is ripe for exploitation of its vast mineral wealth. The only problem is that a tribe of humanoids, the Na’vi, inhabit the planet and they are not so happy about moving just so the earth people can come and dig up their planet and mine its precious metals. Because of this, the military have initiated the Avatar project which involves growing an alien body and then using technology to transfer a human mind into it, so better first hand relations can be made with the tribe. Jake, a crippled ex marine is invited into the team to take over one of the Avatars and a series of events enable him to get close to the tribe. His job is to convince the Na’vi to move away but as time goes on, he finds himself becoming closer to the tribe and evermore understanding and respectful of their ties to nature and their way of life.

Computer technology has enabled Cameron to produce some incredible scenes of beautiful other worldly forest landscapes as well as numerous animals the tribe interact with and the story that the director weaves is a very thoughtful and moving one. Avatar really is a film that is up there with the all time great films of the cinema world.

2002 (ish)

I eventually got to see the NHS physio. She was a lady, a little old lady in fact. When I walked in to see her she offered me a seat then shouted at me to ‘sit up straight!’ No wonder I had neck and back issues because my posture was dreadful! She may have been a little old lady but she gave me some stick, not only verbally but she did a lot of work on my neck with her hands and eventually the pain in my arm slipped away and I gradually returned to normal.

At the end of my treatment she told me that if the issue returned not to bother going to the doctor again; ‘Come straight to me and I’ll sort you out but for heavens sake, sit up straight. Get your posture right and you’ll be fine!’ ‘OK,’ I said, ‘thanks.’

Some months went by and I began to get the same symptoms again so I went into the doctors’ surgery and asked to see the physio. The lady on the desk said no, I had to see the doctor first. I told her what the physio had said, go straight to her but the receptionist was adamant- I could only see the physio with a referral from the doctor. As I was dejectedly leaving the surgery I saw the physio and went over and told her what happened. She took me back to the reception, gave the receptionist there some first class stick and booked me in the next week to see her. Happy days!

About six to eight months later I once again began getting the neck and arm problems so I returned to the surgery. The receptionist advised me (with far too much smugness, I thought) that the physio had retired and a new younger model had taken over and this one would not see me without first seeing the doctor.

I made an appointment, went in to see the doctor and found myself with Dr Kowalski, pen in hand, ready to write me out a prescription for painkillers!

2021

My arm was really killing me so I went in to see my GP. I called in for an appointment but apparently, appointments can only be arranged by calling in at 8am. The next day I tried calling but could only get an engaged tone. When I finally got through all the appointments for that day were taken. I did manage to get myself booked into a private physiotherapist and he got straight to work giving my neck and shoulder a good pummelling and leaving me with a regime of exercises to do.

The next morning Liz got up at 8 and called the doctors’ surgery. After about thirty minutes she finally got through and managed to get me booked in to see the doctor. I dragged myself and my sore arm along and as I was telling Doctor Khan my story of pain and woe the good doctor was already sorting me out some painkillers and a sick note and telling me that I would be fine within a week, a prediction that has so far failed to come true.

See, the world is a circle after all!


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Thoughts from a Sun lounger (Part 4)

Sun LoungerI don’t think there is any nicer feeling than to take a dip in a swimming pool and then after a few lengths, return to your sun lounger and lie there peacefully while the hot sun dries your body. You can feel little rivulets of water dripping away and in time the sun will gradually dry you. It’s almost like a sort of rebirth or a least a refreshing of the soul. The only sounds in this remote hamlet where we are staying are the gentle breeze swaying through the branches of a nearby tree, the quiet humming of insects, some bird song and the occasional drone of a far away car or tractor.

You might be thinking hang on, why is this guy waxing lyrical about lying on a sun bed? Yes it’s that time of year again, holiday time. Once again Liz and I have travelled to France to spend time in a beautiful gîte in the Cher region of France.

Travelling down here was a little bit of a trial though. Coming down the M6 in  the north-west we had to travel through the roadworks for the new Smart motorway scheme. I don’t know that Smart is really the right name for this concept but the idea is that the traffic runs along the hard shoulder in the busy periods thus shifting more traffic. So the experts say, anyway. Whether that will happen I really don’t know but at the moment the whole area is bit of a nightmare and when we finally got through that we came across more delays round about junction 13. Throw in some torrential rain and spray, creating really poor driving conditions and you begin to get the picture. Anyway, we made it to the terminal in Folkestone with about ten minutes to spare; many thanks to Liz for her fabulous driving.

One thing I noticed during the journey down here was the enormous amount of tyre carcasses in the central reservation. It really seems to me that Highways England need to pull their finger out and clean up the motorway otherwise I may just start up a scrap rubber company and pick up all those discarded tyres, and believe me I’ve counted a hell of a lot of tyres on the way south. I reckon I can make an absolute fortune flogging all those tyres to Goodyear or Pirelli or even some rubber recycling company. Come on Highways, get your act together!

French phrase book After the hell of UK motorway travel, the roads of France are just a delight. OK, it might be busy round Paris and other large towns but out in the countryside driving is once again an enjoyable experience. Stopping at the services is much nicer too. Not for us the packed UK services charging ridiculous amounts for a cup of tea. The French aires are quiet and picturesque. Nice rural stopping places with picnic tables and nice clean toilets. Lovely.

In the UK I have had a great deal of trouble with my back. The doctor offered me pain killers which I declined, well, I must admit I did take some, the pain was that bad. Anyway I asked to be referred to a physiotherapist. Get the problem sorted out at the source I thought. This gets complicated here so bear with me: I started off with a telephone appointment, one in which you are supposed to make an ‘actual’ appointment. It did not go well because although I rang at the specified time, I was given several messages to listen to and options to choose so when I eventually got through, the lady at the other end thought I was late for an ‘actual’ appointment, not a telephone appointment and could not arrange it for me as I was two minutes late. Anyway, to cut a long story short I spoke to her boss and made an appointment (an ‘actual’ appointment) and arrived on the day only to find that my ‘actual’ appointment had been cancelled due to a bereavement at the hospital. Pity they didn’t tell me in advance. (They said that they had left a message on my mobile – which I never received, although on the same day my garage had managed to leave me a message about my car and my brother had also left a message. Strange that two others had no problem leaving messages.)

Anyway, with me so far? Another appointment was duly made and then two days before that appointment I received a letter saying that had been cancelled too. I called  to complain only to be told I had cancelled the appointment! I most certainly did not, I said in my best aggrieved customer voice. I eventually spoke to a manager and she managed to arrange another date which fitted into my calendar just nicely between work and leaving for France.

When I finally found myself face to face with a physiotherapist, or at least someone who claimed to be a physiotherapist, he spent a lot of time asking me questions about my pain, which, when it first occurred three months previously had been very severe but now it wasn’t so bad, in fact the actual spot in the middle of my back seemed OK but the pain was now in my neck and lower back. Sadly, those areas were not the ones that I had been referred for via my GP. Now those two areas, the neck and lower back, happen to be a matter of inches from the source of the original pain so let me throw out a crazy mad concept here: could they be related? Well, we’ll never know because as my physio pointed out yet again; my GP had not referred me for those areas! After a lengthy consultation of which perhaps five minutes was actual hands on my back stuff, my physio declared my back was ‘mechanically’ sound. How did he explain the pain I asked? Well, that was a muscular issue due to my ‘sedentary’ life style. As we were on the way out he mentioned it was perhaps ‘not worth seeing me again.’

Interesting. Perhaps the problem solving concept was not something this guy covered at university, perhaps they don’t even teach that kind of stuff any more. I know that if I was a physio and someone came to me with back pain my job would be trying to find the source of that pain and cure it or ease it or suggest further treatment for my patient. It’s rather like having a problem with your car and telling the customer, well, we can’t fix that, perhaps it’s time to get a new motor. In this case, no new motor is available! I’m tempted to apply my usual rule here, that names have been changed to protect the innocent but Clifton Hospital in St Annes, Lancashire, you have gone way down in my estimation!

Anyway, the temperature here in our little village is currently in the 90s. (Fahrenheit of course. If you want that in Celsius, I don’t do metric, work it out yourself!) Time for a read, perhaps a short doze, then another swim in the pool. After all, exercise is good for your back!


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Lost Horizon, Samsara, and a Visit to the Doctor

samsaraDon’t you hate it when you wake up with a tune in your head and can’t seem to get a handle on it? No matter what you do the half remembered tune is playing away in the back of your mind and you cannot concentrate on anything else because you desperately need to identify that tune. It happened to me recently and I was stuck with a tune tinkling away in the background of my head, annoying me no end when eventually a line of the lyric came to me and I was able to track the song down using google. It was a song called  ‘The World is a Circle’ and it came from a musical version of Lost Horizon.

 

I must have mentioned Lost Horizon by author James Hilton many times in this blog. It’s one of my favourite books and it was made into a classic movie by Hollywood director Frank Capra which is well worth getting on DVD. Surprisingly, the film was remade in the seventies as a musical. It was, perhaps, one of those movies generated by the huge popularity of the Sound of Music but sadly it wasn’t a success despite some great songs by Burt Bacharach and Hal David and it was they who wrote ‘The World is a Circle.’

Lost Horizon is about a community in the Tibetan highlands hidden in a secret valley known as Shangi-la. There the people led by the High Lama, Father Perrault, decide to make the valley into a place of safekeeping for great art, literature and music, fearing it could all be lost in a catastrophe like a world war. The religion of the valley is a mixture of Christianity and Buddhism and that is where the lyrics of the song come from. Samsara, in the Buddhist way is the cycle of life; birth death and rebirth, represented by the circle. That circular vision of life is not always so easy to explain but it brings to mind a little anecdote that I think is worth sharing . .

A long time ago, years ago in fact I had this really bad pain down my right arm. It didn’t get any better, in fact it got worse and worse so I called in for an appointment at the doctors. I got to see Doctor Kowalski (as usual names have been changed to protect the innocent.) The thing with Doctor Kowalski was that anyone could see him any time because he wasn’t a doctor who was much in demand. Why not you might ask? No one really wanted to see him because all he wanted was to get you into his office and get you out again.
I sat down and the doctor smiled and asked ‘how can I help you?’
‘Well’, I began, ‘It’s this pain down the side of my arm . .’
I stopped because Doctor Kowalski was already writing out a prescription. Already, and this was before he examined me and before I even finished speaking. Moments later I was on my way out of his surgery and the next patient was already on his way in. All I had to show for it was a prescription for pain killers.

Dr Kowalski must have looked good on the surgery stats as it looked like he dealt quickly with a lot of people but as we all know, statistics don’t always tell the full story.
A few days later the pain was as bad as ever so I went back but I asked to see Doctor Edwards. Now Doctor Edwards was one of the most popular doctors in the surgery. Why? Because he actually listened to you! He was fully booked up for a while and it took me a week to get in to see him but when finally I sat down in his office, he listened attentively, asked a few questions, took a look at my arm and then sent me for an X ray. It turned out I had a nerve trapped in my neck which was referring pain to my arm and I needed to see the physiotherapist but the waiting time was about six weeks so I decided to go to a private physio.

The fee was something like £50 an hour and my first session was pretty good. A good check-up and a great shoulder and back massage which did me no end of good. The next week I went back but this time the physio said, think I’ll try you on the ‘machine’. He explained quickly what it was: Something which stimulated the muscles and increased blood flow which apparently was a good thing for my condition.

I lay back on his couch and this machine with lots of suckers was attached to various points on my neck and shoulder and went to work. I was on it for thirty minutes. It did nothing for me but lightened my wallet by £25 and I noticed that in the other room another patent was getting the helpful massage I had been expecting. When it came to booking the next appointment I decided that a free day in my busy schedule wasn’t available.

Anyway, a week or so later I got to see the NHS physio. She was a lady, a little old lady in fact. When I walked in to see her she offered me a seat then shouted at me to ‘sit up straight!’ No wonder I had neck and back issues because my posture was dreadful! She may have been a little old lady but she gave me some stick, not only verbally but she did a lot of work on my neck with her hands and eventually the pain in my arm slipped away and I gradually returned to normal.

At the end of my treatment she told me not to bother going to the doctor again; ‘Come straight to me and I’ll sort you out but for heavens sake, sit up straight. Get your posture right and you’ll be fine!’ ‘OK,’ I said, ‘thanks.’

Some months went by and I began to get the same symptoms again so I went into the doctors surgery and asked to see the physio. The lady on the desk said no, I had to see the doctor first. I told her what the physio had said, go straight to her but the receptionist was adamant- I could only see the physio with a referral from the doctor. As I was dejectedly leaving the surgery I saw the physio and went over and told her what happened. She took me back to the reception, gave the receptionist there some first class stick and booked me in the next week to see her. Happy days!

About six to eight months later I once again began getting the neck and arm problems so I returned to the surgery. The receptionist advised me (with far too much smugness, I thought) that the physio had retired and a new younger model had taken over and this one would not see me without first seeing the doctor.

I made an appointment, went into to see the doctor and found myself with Dr Kowalski, pen in hand, ready to write me out a prescription for painkillers!

See, the world is a circle after all!


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