Tuesday, June 13, 2006

One Leg to Stand On

I’m about to spend two weeks traveling around Scottish Highlands, where I planned to walk for miles and commune with wide open spaces and sheep. I’m currently hosting a steady stream of friends and loved ones as houseguests, and I’d planned to show them around London and share with them all the haunts I've come to know and love. In three weeks, I will no longer be a resident of this city, and I wanted to soak it all up as much as I could.

So it’s only fitting that I broke my ankle and am in a cast up to my knee.

Never having broken a bone in my life, I always imagined that when it came time to do so, I would do it skiing. I learned to ski at the age of 16, and, after 3 lessons (most of which were spent gaping in fear on the top of the bunny hill or knocking over rows of people when attempting to leap off a moving chairlift,) I skied the Swiss Alps. Probably not the most safety-conscious idea, but life is short, and anyway, at that age you think you’re invincible.

What you don’t think is that at 29 you’re going to break your ankle, not dancing it up in heels in some pounding club, not swooshing down a snow-covered mountain, but falling down the stairs.

In your own apartment.

It happened on Bank Holiday long weekend. That’s basically the equivalent of our Canadian August long weekend – in other words, one not devoted to a saint or queen but designed simply because we’ll all go stir crazy if we don’t get some time off. Given that the English generally have 5 weeks paid holiday a year, I can’t say as I empathize entirely. But as a temporary resident, I really can’t complain. Especially as a Bank Holiday long weekend seems, for them, to be a good excuse for a barbeque.

After the first question (“what happened?”) the second question people are always asking is “were you pissed?”

"Well I never!" I always respond. Except that, in truth, the answer is... sort of.

It was great barbeque. Though not in honour of a queen, there were certainly plenty in attendance. So, naturally, I celebrated with a few glasses of red. Honestly, though, I blame the stairs. When you rent a flat in London on the basis of its attic room with sloping ceilings – the kind where one would picture the writing of an award-winning novel – you have to deal with stairs. Which in this case happen to extremely steep and about 3 inches wide.

At first, I assumed it was a bad sprain, partially because I could move all my toes, but mostly because I don’t have health insurance and didn’t really want to explain this to hospital staff, much less my parents.

However, after four days of not being able to walk, I was finally convinced by Tom (House Guest #1, who is, I must add, a qualified lifeguard) to get myself to the local clinic. There, the lovely Irish nurse asked nothing of me except my opinion on Paul McCartney’s impending divorce, and informed me, cheerfully, that I’d fractured my ankle. I panicked. Would I still be able to drive a Mini with manual transmission around the lochs and bens of Scotland?

Her answer was, unfortunately, no.

As luck would have it, a friend and colleague had just happened a buy new flat, where she happened to find an abandoned pair of crutches. After spending two days hopping on one leg, I figured crutching around London would be a piece of cake.

Wrong again.

If you’ve ever had to get around on crutches, you probably have a pretty good idea of how exhausting it is. If you’ve ever had to get around on crutches in 31 degree heat, in an enormous city that doesn’t believe in air-conditioning and where public transport is comprised entirely of staircases… well, all I can say is, I feel your pain.

So, I’ve been spending many of my last precious days here lying around, reading In Touch, In Style and bad paperbacks, making long distance calls and – yeah, yeah – writing the damn award-winning novel. The days I’ve tried to carry on as normal – going to work, for a little tour with a houseguest, to the supermarket down the road - have resulted in me collapsing, exhausted, in a pile on our couch, my hands swollen and aching, cursing the stairs, red wine, and anything else I can think of. Having a broken ankle has definitely exposed me to a new way of life. You would think that getting sympathy from random strangers would be a fun twist on the usual, especially in a place where a friendly smile is about as common as a sunny day. While I do enjoy being given a seat on a crowded bus or tube, (although I still can’t get why people always feel the need to ask if I need one first – I’m still tempted to answer “no really, I’m fine" and then fall on top of them,) I’m not a huge fan of being on the receiving end of stares from passers-by. Especially when I trip on the top step at the station and crutches go flying everywhere. I feel a certain kinship with Tucker in the film "There's in Something About Mary", and there’s nothing good about that.

But at the same time, I’m trying to keep my spirits up. As Pollyanna as it may sound, I feel strangely lucky. The fall could have been a lot worse. The break could have been a lot worse. The cast could be on for the usual 6 weeks instead of 4 - which means, thankfully, I won't be stuck wearing it in Scotland. Life, in general, could be far inferior to what it is right now – warm weather, visits from people who light up my life, and, soon, having a heart to heart with Nessie.

And my upper arms have never looked so good.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. they make haggis with nessies. didja know that?

  3. Please be sure to visit the Oban distillery on my behalf.

    Glad you are well otherwise.


  4. That's bad luck with the leg! Are you really going to be driving a mini around Scotland?? My favourite car. Come visit if your world tour brings you to Tokyo. :-)