Life with Arfur

An irreverent look at living with arthritis

April 2, 2017
by David Robinson
2 Comments

Fat? Me?

Busy recuperating from a short break on the Yorkshire coast, I hopped on the scales this morning… literally. The ankle is still playing up and all I can do is hop.

I’ve put about five pounds on over the last week. Honestly, you have one pint and that’s what it does to you.

I’ve never been politically correct, so I avoid softly-softly descriptions like ‘rotund’ or ‘portly’ or even ‘circumferentially challenged’. ‘Obese’ is too clinical for my liking, so I stick to the plain and simple.

I am fat.

And I’m fat because by and large, I’m bone idle, and I’m bone idle because I have a great excuse for being bone idle: I suffer from arthritis. I’ve also got a manky ankle. And I suffer COPD, which means I can’t get my breath like the rest of you so running marathons is out.

And basically, it is a lack of exercise. I don’t overeat. The missus is the glutton in our house. Between her and the dog it’s a question of who can move fastest when there’s a meat pie for the taking, and the dog doesn’t always win.

She’s also a diet junkie. She’s tried every diet under the bloody sun, and they work for a time. Then she piles it back on again and she has to try another diet to take it off again, and then she piles it back on…

I do try to exercise. You try carrying a 24-pack of John Smith’s bitter from the car into the house and you’ll see what I mean.

But to be fair to myself, I do make the effort, as the following video will demonstrate.

 
I feel much better after that. Now I’m gonna jog to the settee for a nap.

***

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April 1, 2017
by David Robinson
6 Comments

The Filey Nightmare

It’s two days now since we got back from Filey and I think I’m sufficiently recovered from the horrors to recount some of it.

Joe, our crazy (and arthritic) Jack Russell was hospitalised, in need of rest, so there was nothing slowing us down on Monday as we set off for the coast. The motorways and trunks roads were clear so even with a stop for breakfast outside York, we were in Filey by 12:15.

That was the good bit. It’s also where the good bit ended. Filey was overcast, threatening rain and perishing cold. We soon learned it wasn’t restricted to Filey. Scarborough and Bridlington were just as miserable and cold, and it was only when we got to Whitby on the final day that things brightened up.

But by then, I’d already made a video detailing the disaster, which you can see below. It was one of the highlights of the week.

You’ll recall I had a bad fall in the garden a month back. I really should have gone to A & E but I knew that they would probably set it in cast to let the ligaments heal and that would have scotched Filey. So I didn’t bother.

And did I know about it? (Note: this is a rhetorical question. I don’t expect you to know the answer. I already know it.)

One of the biggest problems with Arfur is the way he acts up when there’s an injury to any other part of the body. And he did act up. The missus dragged me round Scarborough, Bridlington and Whitby, and although I started out well every day, the pain of that ankle gradually wore me down. It also caused my fetlock, knee, thigh and hip to ache. Refusing to be outdone by the right, my left side also began to scream. At the close of play every day, I was walking like a geriatric plodder who didn’t know which leg to limp on.

And, of course, on that final day in Whitby, I forgot to take the walking stick with me. I bought a cheap one and that now stays permanently in the car.

On Thursday night, I’d had enough so we set off home, but matters were to get even worse. Friday morning, Her Indoors sent me to the supermarket and by the time I got back, I felt like my leg and hip were about to give way completely, so after collecting Joe from the vet’s, I spent most of yesterday afternoon resting. And he was so overjoyed to see us, he jumped on my bloody legs. Rotten little sod.

Am I downhearted? Damn right I am. I’m off to the doc’s on Monday to see how I can repair this leg and in the meantime, I’m spending most of the day horizontal, and for once, it’s nothing to do with an excess of alcohol.

March 26, 2017
by David Robinson
2 Comments

It’s That Time Again

British Summer Time officially begins today, which means I have to go round the house altering the clocks. Not only the house, but the car too. My last car was one of those where you pressed and held a button on the clock to change the time. Fine when you’re moving the time forward one hour, but when it came to changing it back, you had to wind it on twenty three hours. So I never bothered and the car was on British Summer Time all year round.

It’s also Mother’s Day. This picture was taken some time about 1963, and that’s Ma in the picture between the old man and a very young me.

“Treat your Mum to something special,” the adverts said in the supermarket yesterday. I don’t think she’d appreciate it. She’s been dead almost twenty years. I’ve changed a couple of profile pics in her honour for the day.

A tiny woman, she was the only person who ever had any control over me. When she said, “jump,” I asked, “how high?” But she also taught me to read and write before I started school which gave me a head start on a lot of the other kids.

Not that it did much good. I was a complete waster when I was younger and it’s only now when I look back, I think, “If I had my time again…”

I’d probably do nothing different.

And that’s the trouble with time. It’s a one-way process. You can’t backtrack and correct your mistakes. All you can do is move forward and learn from those errors. Did I ever learn from them? Did I hell as like. I’m still smoking, drinking and doing all those other things mother warned me against.

Like going to Filey?

Well, I don’t ever remember her telling me not to go to Filey, but if she did, I’ve freely ignored her, and as a result, I met the missus there in 1979.

We’re going back tomorrow.

Well, if I’ve had 30-odd years of it, I don’t see why Filey shouldn’t suffer too.

We will be back on Friday with scary stories from Scarborough and the bawdy buzz from Bridlington as well as Filey phobia. Until then, be good, if you can’t be good, be careful, and if you can’t be careful, try changing the back shocks on your car with only a plank and pile of bricks as a lever. It’ll soon drain that excess energy.

***

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March 22, 2017
by David Robinson
0 comments

What’s It All About, Arfur?

Well, it’s about me, to be honest.

If I go back ten years I was as fit and healthy as any other man my age, albeit overweight and smoking too much. Then I got a lodger. Arfur. He moved into my knee and he’s been with me ever since. Not only that, but he’s spread out and is now encamped in almost every joint in my crumbling frame.

The story of how he crept into my life and took roots is the running theme of the book, Life With Arfur, naturally, it’s told with a tongue in cheek approach because that, as I keep reminding you, is my chief weapon against arthritis.

Just to whet your appetite, check out this video of me reading a short passage from the book, concentrating on the arthritic knee. I’ll apologise in advance for the quality. I use natural lighting on my videos and the weather was poor which meant I had to enhance the movie with an overhead light.

 

The book is like that practically the whole way through.

Why do I make light of it when in reality it’s a serious and debilitating problem? Precisely because it is a serious and debilitating problem. What is the alternative to maintaining my sense of humour? Spending my life griping about it won’t make it go away.

Should I give in? Yesterday, I talked about the way poor Joe, our nutjob Jack Russell fell off the settee and hurt himself. Has he given in? Nope. He just barks at the postman from the carpet because he can’t get on the seat by the window.

I compare my life as it is to what it was and what I thought it might be and ask questions. At what stage did tubular support bandage become a higher priority than razor blades? What happened to me that should make me prefer Velcro straps to shoelaces? How did I ever get to the stage where I have to use a bizarrely-shaped piece of cardboard to put my socks on?

The ingredients of a tragedy? Or a comedy?

Life With Arfur is published by Crooked Cat Books in the summer

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March 21, 2017
by David Robinson
0 comments

Life With Arfur – The Book

Exciting is at fever pitch in the Robinson household. My publisher, Crooked Cat Books, is branching into non-fiction and my book, Life With Arfur, will be one of the first two published under the True Cats line. The other will be Pensioners in Paradis by Olga Swan. Life With Arfur is expected to appear in paperback and e-book sometime around June.

I signed contracts for the book yesterday afternoon and the formal announcement was made on Facebook later in the evening.

It couldn’t have come at a better time. I’ve had the weekend from hell again. My ankle will not settle down, and while we were out trailing round shops buying bits and pieces I’m not sure we needed – since when does a bobbin of black cotton cost £1.20 and does anyone buy bobbins of cotton these days – Joe was left at home and he fell off the settee and injured himself.

It’s not the first time he’s done it and we know what causes it. He sleeps on his back sometimes, and if he’s laid along the seats and then rolls over in the wrong direction, he rolls off and drops to the floor. That’s just what he did on Saturday and it left him pain when it was too late to get him to the vet.

We were going to take him Sunday morning, but he rallied overnight, and after polishing off a full sausage, part of my bacon sandwich, and two small pieces of ginger cake…. Oh, and half a tin of dog food, he was walking fine, so we didn’t bother.

Come Monday morning, he was hobbling again, so we took him to the vet, who gave us the definitive diagnosis. Some bruising to his back, but otherwise okay. Right now he’s kipped out on the settee again. I tell you, this dog is two planks short of a full kennel.

So between my ankle, the dog and a change in the weather that has aggravated the arthritis in both knees and both shoulders, I could have done without the renewal quote for the car insurance landing on the doormat.

It’s a sporty, 1.7 diesel Vauxhall Corsa, which begs the question, why am I being quoted for the Battleship Potemkin? Touch wood, cross fingers, I’ve never claimed on car insurance in forty years. Why, then, do I get stuffed every year? It’s gone up 17.5% this year. How does that sit with inflation figures of less than 2%? The word ‘shafted’ springs to mind, but shopping around, I find it’s still one of the lowest quotes.

By one o’clock this afternoon, I was on a low ebb. My ankle was screaming, my knees were griping, the dog was moaning and I was grumbling, and my temper was simmering on gas mark 7.

The cavalry came over the hill in the shape of Crooked Cat’s email at a quarter to three, offering me a contract for Life With Arfur.

So what’s the book all about?

The title should give you a cue, but I’ll tell you tomorrow.

***

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March 19, 2017
by David Robinson
0 comments

The Ankle: Three Weeks On

Wanna know where all the rain is coming from? It’s my fault. I’ve been spending money.

Yesterday, wandering round the shops in town, I’d had enough of the pain and soreness in my right ankle, so I dug into my thruppenny bit jar and forked out £16.50 for an ankle support. The pain of parting with that amount was almost as bad as the pain from the ankle itself, but the need to minimise this maddening, won’t-go-away ache outweighed the need to keep the Oxo tin full.

Does it work? Hell, yes. You can see the soreness under the ankle, and the joint itself grumbles a bit when I put it on, but I’m okay with that. The wife grumbles no matter what I do, so I’ve developed an immunity to constant griping. It’s pain I can’t deal with.

And when I put my crap, dog-walking shoes on, it looks as if it’s still badly swollen, but it isn’t. The support takes up more room than my socks in the same way that the missus takes up more room than me.

It’s hard to believe that three weeks have passed since I fell in the garden and did the ankle in. To me it seems like yesterday. I can clearly remember the universe spinning above me; an effect I usually get only when I’m drunk. But blasted out of your brains on Newcastle Brown Ale doesn’t cause any obvious injuries.

You don’t believe me? I’ll prove it. I was at a wedding do back in the late nineties. Top room of Nimble Nook Club. Tanked up on Boddington’s bitter, I needed the smallest room, which was downstairs. I slipped on the top step and came tumbling down like the walls of Jericho. Not a mark on me. One slip in the back garden and I’m hobbling along like a 19th century prisoner without the manacles.

The support virtually immobilises the ankle and true to its description, provides support when I’m walking as well as resting. I had one on my wrist about 15 years ago, when I broke it, and it was great, although that one did make holding a knife and fork difficult, and the missus complained that after eight weeks in place, it began to stink… or was it me that began to stink after eight weeks in place? I can’t remember.

So I’m getting around a little better and the ankle will, hopefully, heal a bit quicker.

Arfur has taken this opportunity to get his jollies. My right knee, which is bearing the brunt of hassle from the ligaments, is now humming in tune to the ankle, but his music is a sort of descant. The ankle hurts and Arfur is part of the choir, I rest, and Arfur gets the opportunity for a solo.

Her Indoors reckons I deserve it for being such a bad bugger all my life. Now that’s adding insult to injury.

What the support has helped me do is work. Wearing this strap on my foot, I’m able to get at the word processor and get on with those projects I need to move forward. If nothing else, a couple of new books are making progress.

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March 17, 2017
by David Robinson
4 Comments

Arthritis at the Movies

We all know that arthritis can get at almost anyone. So how come I don’t see our movie heroes suffering? I mean, all that fighting and scrapping, rolling round in the damp grass, must take its toll on them, but you never see it, do you?

Just before we find out, as well as reading it, you can watch this next bit complete with rubbish impersonations. Trust me, you will want to see this. My impressions of movie stars are so bad, they’re almost good.


So how would our movie heroes deal with arthritis?

Bond, of course, would handle it with his usual panache. Manacled to the table, the laser beam making its way up between his legs, can’t you just see him throwing out one of his famous quips? “Oh while you have that laser switched on, Goldfinger, any chance you could work on my knee ligaments?”

Dirty Harry might have to clean up his act. He’d deliver that famous Eastwood scowl, aim his Magnum forty-four and warn Andy Robinson not to go for his gun. “I know what you’re thinking, punk? Has he had two hip replacements or only one?”

Having your own mob is no guarantee. But Don Corleone could demonstrate his more sympathetic side. “I’m a reasonable man. I’m willing to do whatever’s necessary to ease your ankylosing spondulytis.”

Would magic be any proof against arthritis? I don’t think so. It’s Potter vs Voldemort, and voldie is winning, so what does Potter do? Well if he’s any sense, he legs it, with Voldemort’s words ringing in his ear. “Go on, Potter. Run away like the coward that you are. You know damn well my spells don’t work until I’ve had physio on my tennis elbow.”

This disease is so intractable there’s no guarantee of ever finding a cure. Not even in a galaxy, far, far away where a trembling officer confesses that the rebels have escaped, and faces the wrath of Darth Vader. “Fortunately for you, commander, my carpal tunnel syndrome is playing up so I can’t throttle you. Don’t let it happen again.”

We don’t even know that bio-mechanics will be any solution. According to Kyle Rees in the Terminator, the cyborgs are part robot, part human. So will this make them susceptible to arthritis? In the remake of Terminator two when Arnie is protecting Connor from the T-1,000, will we hear him say, “Run, John. I’ll hold him up… just as soon as I’ve rubbed glucosamine and chondroitin into my joints.”

Come on, movieland. Let’s have bit of reality in these epics.

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March 14, 2017
by David Robinson
0 comments

An Offline Short, Long Walk

A brief account of switching ISPs and walking the dog while suffering from a manky ankle

 

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March 12, 2017
by David Robinson
Comments Off on Switching

Switching

I’m changing ISPs, and tomorrow, this:

Will become this:

I’m likely to be offline for a time. Did I hear a cheer go up?

I wouldn’t want you to think I’m dissatisfied with my current provider. I’m not. I’ve been with them a good few years and they’ve been pretty reliable. But if I’m not unhappy with the service, I’m deliriously chuffed off with the bills. Their price hikes are scandalous and in the last two years my bill has increased by about 25%.

I’m not going to name them. They don’t carry ads for my books. Likewise, I’m not going to name the new provider. They won’t carry adverts for my books, either.

One of the major factors in the change was colour of the router. It blends rather than contrasts with the background décor.

This was a weak attempt to make you smile, but in fact, colour schemes are often at the forefront of my wife’s thinking. No one was happier than Her Indoors when the red kettle burned out and she could replace it with one in a more decorous white. Her biggest objection to my sock-puller is that it’s blue.

I’m convinced that Joe knew what he was doing when he decided to turn up in white with black patches. No matter what ma’am’s flavour of the month colour-wise, he still blends in. He spends most of his time spark out, glued to the settee, but his colour-coding ensures that he can still be seen and he doesn’t disturb the variable tenor of the missus’s aesthetic tastes.

To get back to the main thrust of this post, what will I do for the time I’m offline? Being arthritic and retired means I spend a lot of time faffing on the web, and to be cut off, even for a short period of time, is like social ostracism.

I’ll probably spend it writing. After all, you’ll be dying to learn how excellent/good/ poor/disastrous the changeover goes, won’t you? And even if you’re not, I’ll tell you.

And I do have other work in hand. It’s almost two years since the last Sanford 3rd Age Club Mystery appeared, it’s eighteen months since I last put out a new title of any description, and I have projects in hand that really need working on.

I could use my smartphone to log on… but I’m fussy about that. Call me odd, but I bought it to make phone calls and I don’t understand how all the other bits and pieces, internet access and what have you, work.

Alternatively, lacking any serious internet access, I could just jump in the car and go to the supermarket for a loaf of bread.

 

March 10, 2017
by David Robinson
Comments Off on Arthritis: Dreading A Fall

Arthritis: Dreading A Fall

When you suffer with arthritis, the one thing you dread more than anything else is a fall. All right, so it’s the one thing I dread. You might have other horrors which preoccupy you.

Y’see, your joints are already on the way to the scrapyard, so if you fall and injure yourself, you’re just going to do even more damage. With that in mind, I’m careful going up and down stairs, walking on ice and snow, crossing the kitchen floor after the missus has done mopping it.

But I never thought about the garden.

Backtrack two weeks, and Joe, our crackpot Jack Russell was in an out of the garden all day, and every time he came in, he dragged a field of mud with him. So we set about laying bark chippings on the worst of the mud. We’ve done it before and as a temporary solution, it’ll do until the drier weather comes and we can re-seed the grass.

Our garden slopes towards the house. I’m coming back that way when I slipped on a mudslide and went down. My right leg shot out at an angle, the world spun crazily above me, my foot twisted and bang went my ankle.

You can watch a summary of it below.

 

After a screaming fit which had the neighbours complaining about my language (again), I hobbled into the house and stripped off my mud-soaked clothes in the kitchen. This brought a fresh howl of complaint from the neighbours who had their binoculars, cameras, sound booms, etc. trained on the bedroom.

After telling them to get their kicks elsewhere before I kicked them, I examined the busted ankle. Nothing broken. A bad sprain. I wouldn’t be kicking anyone for a while.

But it was on my right foot which, from an arthritis point of view, is the worst one. By the time I’d had a calming cuppa and a calming cigarette (I’ve always been able to prioritise) the pain was already making its way up my leg to my knee.

Twenty-four hours on, the ankle felt quite strong. It could bear my weight, but the strain on my right leg was intolerable.

Two weeks on, it’s getting better, but I’m still limping like Long John Silver minus parrot. Mind, it didn’t help when Her Indoors rattled it with a supermarket trolley cos she was not watching where she was going. The air turned blue and that’s another supermarket I’m banned from.

I pass a lot of time with my foot raised, but the ligaments and other gubbins in there, and especially my knee are throbbing. If I could get other appendages to throb like that… well, I don’t need to draw you a diagram, do I?

The leg needs a lot of support. A bit like Oldham Athletic, but without the noise. As I write, I’m wearing an elastic stocking from foot to above the knee. And I’m sorry guys, but there are no suspenders or frilly knickers attached to the stocking.

I gave up wearing them after finally admitting that the pair the missus found in my pocket were not mine. I was looking after them for my mate Jim’s wife.