Thursday, May 27, 2010

Athletes and Dancers

I often read WCD's blog and it makes me wonder about stuff. In fact I read lots of blog entries that make me wonder about stuff (as well as smile, laugh, cry and empathise and generally provoke all kinds of emotional response!) but she's amongst my favourites. Anyway she was talking about dance and injury and it made me think how true this was for athletes too. I get physio every two weeks and my physio is in the sports science department of a large sports training centre. The treatment benches are always full of athletes from table tennis players, runners, weight lifters, archers, badminton player and judo guys. Occasionally you see big rugby players and rowers - in fact, you name it - most sports have probably been represented. The nearest we get to dance I think would be the gymnasts and I don't know how many disabled ones of them that there are - is there disabled gymnastics? There should be if there is dance, surely?

Anyway injury in sport seems to be pretty common - people are trying to run faster, jump higher, lift more or push harder. All these athletes work so close to the edge so much of the time that you really get to see people who are pushing their bodies to the limit and still expect them to work perfectly. This is especially true in disability sport (and dance I guess) where those who choose not to accept their limitations require and expect their bodies to perform at their peak without question. Often, they expect them to perform at the peak performance of their able bodied counterparts which is amazing when you come to really think about it. People like Oscar Pistorius and Jody Cundy are trying to qualify for able bodied teams and they are not alone in this desire . I wonder what it is that drives people like us - is it that we are just stupid and cannot recognise that our bodies were not designed to do all of this stuff? But then what of runners like Kelly Holmes or cyclists like Chris Hoy? Are their bodies doing what they were born to do or did they get to the top by gritting their teeth and pushing through the pain. I wonder if the injuries they picked up along the way were a warning to them that their bodies were not designed to be abused in that way. In fact , do you ever wonder if pushing your body to out perform itself, and everyone else, is just another form of abuse like cigarettes alcohol or drugs. Plainly no one who looks at a top athlete sees someone who is abusing their body in any way, but day in day out, these guys are pushing and pushing, running faster, harder and longer, swimming until their lungs burst, pushing until their fingers bleed... and along the way picking up small niggles, an injury here, a fall there all of which land them back on the physio bench. All pretty deep questions eh? and ones I don't have any real answers to either.

The only thing I know for sure, is that I don't know that any of these people were born to do what they do - sure, they plainly have some kind of basic talent for what they do, but what pushes them forward is their mental approach. They see no limits to what they can try to do and they set themselves up to just try harder in pursuit of their dreams . They judge that the risk to their bodies in pushing ever onwards is an acceptable one. They are prepared to put up with the pain of injury as well as the pain of training. They see the reward (whether that be perfection of the move, accolade from an audience or a gold medal) and they decide that it is worth whatever it takes to get it.

So, there's all this talk of dancers and athletes and I guess quite a few readers out there are wondering just how an entry like this relates to them. Well maybe it doesn't at all but I think it's true that we are all faced from time to time with fairly debilitating stuff -pain, colds and flu, arthritis, stomach ache, migraine - you name it we all struggle with stuff. Sometimes we really are too ill to do anything and sometimes we just don't want to go to work and are favouring a duvet day and I guess these represent the extremes of the things that we are faced with not being able (or not wanting) to do. Assuming though that you fall somewhere in between those 2 extremes, you often find that how ill you feel depends on what you are faced with doing - i.e. what your 'reward' is. If you are going out with your friends to do something you booked tickets for ages ago and are really looking forward to then you are more inclined to push yourself to do it, compared to, say, yet another boring day in the office. Risk and reward - it's true right through life - we all have that capacity to push ourselves a little bit harder if it's for the 'right' outcome. Those disabled people who push themselves to out perform their able bodied counterparts are just the same - it's just that they are prepared to take the greater risk - even if it does mean injury along the way. You see, mentally, for them the reward is worth the risk, worth all the pain, worth all the potential for injury and worth all the time on the physio bench. I guess that it all just equates to the fact that they just figure it's always worth going in to the office (if humanly possible) if there's a pay check at the end of the month.

wheelchair panic

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Emotion on show.

I was at the hospital the other day and because the NHS is a slow lumbering beast I was sat for ages and ages in the waiting room. Waiting rooms generally are quite strange places, usually full of old copies of National Geographic, Hello magazine and Hamster Breeders Weekly and even if they're not, then there is often a TV to watch. Most people stare gormlessly at the TV if its on, regardless of what it is showing - that's no reflection on the type of clinic people are waiting for, its just that TV can be hypnotic like that (even if it is showing some wild daytime programme like Celebrity In The Attic Tells All To An Audience Before Auctioning It). Anyway, unusually, on this day, the TV was off and there were no magazines to sit and read and I was amazed to note that people actually started to talk to each other.

There were a couple of clinics on that afternoon and about half the waiting room (its a big room) was full of (mostly women) waiting for the breast clinic. Its an awful wonderful clinic, full of many, many people whose emotions are so close to the surface and to me, that made it even more unusual that they had started chatting. It was so busy as well, not a seat to spare and I noticed that several of the people were looking around, and it seemed to me that they were wondering who was with who. Some were obvious - the lady with the very flat chest and the wig and two friends (they looked more like friends than relatives) - each one holding a hand, like two bodyguards, one for each side. Close to her was a lady with a headscarf with a gentleman (husband?) who dropped off to sleep while she read the paper (taken out of her own handbag) and generally looked very unconcerned. I wondered about the headscarf - more people seemed to look at her, than the bald lady in the row behind who was sat next to two men who came in together. One of them was in full army fatigues and his friend was casually dressed in shorts and a t-shirt - they just didn't seem to go together at all , but they went in to the clinic together (and came out smiling). There was a family- mum, daughter, husband, child (mum and daughter looked so alike) - they also went in - en masse, and also came out smiling. That wasn't true for everyone - as I said, it was both wonderful (for those who came out smiling) and awful (for those who didn't) - so many people, so many emotions...

When people started to talk, it wasn't about the emotions though, it wasn't about their lumps and bumps or their fear, or that very British subject of the weather, no, it was about the waiting times...! Now, I know this is the NHS and so this shouldn't have been an unexpected subject, but I guess I have never been in any hospital where there seemed to be so much discussion around the room. I was with someone who had a 2pm appointment and we were sat next to a lady whose appointment was 1.35 and as the waiting room was heaving and we were all packed in like sardines, somehow the subject seemed to spread outwards in a kind of ripple. I think it was the 1.35 lady who started it all, because she had been there for a while (she was early for her appointment) and at around 2.10 she pointed out the consultant and his minions who were just crossing the waiting room having apparently just arrived (or just come from lunch). I just couldn't believe that they (there were about 4 doctors/consultants and various nurses) would ever manage to get through all the ladies (and gents) who were waiting, there were just so many patients. Its the incredible thing about the NHS targets from both a patient and doctor perspective - I mean OK they started late, but maybe they finished morning clinic late - which would have been inevitable if they had a similar number of people to see. The thing is, that targets say you have to be seen within 2 weeks if you have a lump, but the clinic is only held one day a week and there are only a finite number of doctors to go round - just how is the system supposed to cope? The way it copes we discovered, as the conversation ripple spread outwards, is that they make lots of appointments all for the same time - there were three "1.35's" that were in our immediate vicinity and four "2pms". Now if there were 4 doctors then that might have been OK, but that was just the people sitting close to us, so I'm guessing that there were more than that number of patients for each slot. I am also guessing that the 8 (yes eight!) receptionists behind the main desk were in charge of meeting the NHS targets (or at least their managers are) and they can fit all these patients in by just magically booking more and more appointments all for the same time. It all makes you wonder though - if they had fewer managers and receptionists, maybe they could afford a couple of extra doctors and the waiting room wouldn't be so crowded. But then hey, if it wasn't, then we wouldn't have started by talking about waiting times and somehow ended up talking about baby sleep patterns and politics. At the moment politics has been a hot topic in the UK so that wasn't too surprising but I can't say I really expected baby behaviour - even when we are talking emotion…after all, no one threw a tantrum because they had to wait!

Baby talk

Monday, May 03, 2010

What an odd place...

I recently had to drive to the far side of the country and I think I encountered what is possibly the oddest stretch of road anywhere in the world (or in Britain at least). Now, it may just be that I was in a funny sort of mood and so I noticed some of these things in a bit of a different light to the way that I would another time, but all the same - wondering didn't begin to describe the way my mind was working after I saw all of this stuff. :crazy

It all started innocently enough as I saw 3 magpies on the side of the road. That was it, I thought, three for a girl, I thought...that'll be me - I'm a girl (well I used to be one anyway...I guess I'm a bit more womanly these days...) Wink Emote I must admit, I wonder about magpies as well. I think when I was a child (about 100 years ago) there really weren't that many magpies about and I've often thought that that was why the one for sorrow verse was invented. The strange thing is that these days, there seem to be lots and lots of magpies about -of course, plenty of single ones but also lots of 2's, 3's and more and I think if they were really so common when the verse was written, why would anyone bother to write it. Surely the point of poems like that, is because seeing five magpies (for silver) is a rarity... Or am I missing something here?

...Anyway, here I am, digressing and waffling again (I don't do that often, do I?) LOL! Anyway (I don't say that much either, do I?), shortly after that, I saw three wood pigeons together and that I really did think was odd. I mean, we get wood pigeons in our garden, but only either singly or in fact, our pair, really looks like "a couple" - like they were married or something, but I don't think I've ever seen 3 at the same time. I guess they could have been gearing up for a menage a trois or something but its still odd. So, anyway Cheesy Grin as in the great tradition of things happening in threes, I then saw 3 long tailed tits together and I thought they were pretty rare too. So there you go, all quite a strange start to my journey really, but it didn't end there...oh no...I told you I saw a lot of odd stuff and so it carried on....and on...

It was not long past the magpies that I came across a sign indicating a layby 1 mile ahead - nothing strange there you might think except the sign said:

"Layby 1 mile. For Emergencies only" !
(They did not add the exclamation mark!)

I fell to wondering, am I going to have a breakdown in exactly one mile - is anyone going to have a breakdown in exactly one mile? How do you know you are going to break down in one mile's time - do you hear a strange noise coming from under the car and think 'Hey, I think my car is just about to break - I'll wait a mile and see what happens' - maybe you feel sick - 'Ew, yuck, I feel sick, I'll just hang on from hurling my breakfast for another 60 seconds until I get to that layby'.... Now, I know I'm labouring the point here, but I'm sure you know where I am coming was kind of a strange sign to see...

It got even more surreal and bizarre after that as the next sign I was an overhead gantry sign which simply said "Animals in the road" - just that - no more information than that, even though these new matrix signs allow way more space than just for that. They could have said "Warning Animals in Road" or "Warning Cows in Road" or anything like that but just animals in road sounded like it could be anything - I wasn't far from a safari park - maybe it was lions (or tigers or bears) I even idly wondered if it was an instruction - was it compulsory? If I had a dog in the back of my car, should I put him in the road? Should animals be on the road and not in cars? Maybe it meant that only animals should be in the road - maybe it was me that was in the wrong in my little car - do humans classify as animals??.... OK OK so, you can tell, I was really rambling by this point but in my defence, I had had a late night the night before and I'd had to get up early to drive across the country - anyone's mind would be wandering...

It was about this point, when my mind had gone off on a tangent and I was thinking that I really did need to stop at the next services and as a bare minimum get caffeine inside me (and hopefully chocolate too) that I saw an even odder sight. In fact, I couldn't quite grasp it with my befuddled mind and when I did get my head around what I was looking at I really started to rue the lack of a camera. I saw ...wait for it... a man on a motorbike...not just any man though, this one was wearing a tutu....yes, a tutu....the kind of thing ballerinas wear...that kind of tutu. Hairy legs, motorbike boots, ape-hanger bars on the bike, Harley Davidson sticker on the tank and a tutu (like this one)...and in pink (of course!). OK, now get this when I say it didn't end there...he was wearing a proper bike jacket with this - black leather (no fringes though) and attached to the back of the jacket was a pair of wings. These were not the kind of typical Hell's Angel type wings you might see on such jackets - but I guess they did go with the tutu as they were pink and looked like they were a fine net stretched over a coat hanger - very fetching as they flapped around behind him in the breeze. To this day I'm not really sure if the lack of coffee was making me hallucinate but all in all, it added to quite one of the weirdest trips I have ever been on....