Friday, April 23, 2010

Wheat bags and whingeing

Yesterday morning I was on the 57 tram. Yes, the one that smells of BO and garlic sauce and has a higher-than-average number of fat men wearing tracksuit pants up to nipple-level and women with beards who mutter to themselves. I was contributing to the aroma with the sweaty fug of overheated wheat bag and sticky linament.

As the three-day crick in my neck ratcheted up to freakishly torturous levels of pain that made even blowing my nose a dance with death, I found myself joining the muttering women. However, instead of a beard I was fairly smooth-faced and yelped in agony instead of their low and quiet mumble as I realised to my cost that we use our neck and shoulder muscles to brace and steady ourselves every time the tram turns a corner or squeals to a halt.

Thankfully my involuntary outburst was not noticed by the nurse sitting next to me, lost in her "Tish-tinka, Tish-tinka, Tish-tinka' iPod world or the two bogans sipping from long necks and discussing why the Beastie Boys "still kick phargin' ARSE mate" in today's busy world.

I very carefully held open the reluctant tram doors and stepped down as carefully as a platform-stilettoed game-show hostess would a glittery ramp of stairs. Except that I blurted out "PHARK!" every second step. Each small movement was like being king-hit by a ninja bearing BBQ tongs but I continued to make my way, slowly, to West Melbourne. Turning right to check out the traffic meant that my reflection in the window of the shopfront opposite revealed a half-decent C3PO impression.

I was meeting my mate Sheelagh at the
Asylum Seekers Resource Centre and did not want to ring her up and wimp out because of a bung neck. After all, they help people who have been permitted to enter our country as on a bridging visa, but are not permitted access to any government assistance. Therefore, no rent, no housing, no job, no food, no training, no help with literacy or negotiating paper trails, no transport no nothing. Flourish on your own or die in a ditch.

Sitting in the waiting room - furnished with old lounge chairs, wooden tables and local artwork, it reminded me of my old primary school. I didn't strain my neck to observe as much as I'd normally do, but could hear a new arrival being hugged 'hello' by a volunteer, and be heartily congratulated for winning a job as a cleaner.

I too was hugged hello by Sheelagh and winced. She and her boss Gavin showed me the kitchen, the food bank, language room, legal offices, job centre, work experience placement officers, fund raisers, asylum processing offices, boxes of nappies, wipes and blankets, medical centre, ESL classes and charity chocolate. Yes, I bought twelve blocks.

It was agony to walk around, dying to talk, observe and take notes but reminding myself to keep my head still and only smile and nod, smile and nod, smile and nod - NO, not nod - it hurt too bloody much! I should have been peeling potatoes, stacking tins, typing up CVs, listening to adults reading, updating a press release, tapping my chocolate buddies for freebies, selling raffle tickets, publicising their stories.....

The pain was making me nauseous. I held up a hand and said to Gavin. "Just tell me what you want me to do." I'd confessed earlier to the neck problem and he and Sheelagh had considerately found a table and sat opposite me. "We'd like you to write our newsletter for us if you wouldn't mind---"
"Done. Absolutely."

The look of relief on their faces merely illustrated how I'd have liked to have felt at that moment. We traded business cards, said our farewells and I again made my way - "PHARK!" - shuffling like an angry crab - "PHARK!" - to the tram stop.

My mobile rang and for the first time in recent memory, I managed to find it in time to answer it. Manny from the council wanted me to help him visit 27 schools in the valley to talk about litter.

Leaning against the timetable poll feeling myself starting to burn in the sun, I sighed.
"No, Manny, I can't do it."
He was momentarily stunned. His silence demanded an explanation.
"My project is for Flemington only, not the entire council boundary. I've visited all three schools here and honestly don't have time for more."

More silence. I know your game, I thought. Staying quiet isn't going to shame me into changing my mind.
"Manny, I've cricked my neck so badly that I'm chewing three caplets of panadeine without water right now; I've been at a centre that helps asylum seekers and refugees, have two paid articles that are overdue and need to get back home to prepare for a volunteer workshop at my daughter's school. I can't do it.....

.......oh and where is that information pack on the waste statistics that you promised you'd send me back in March?"

I shouldn't have said that, and apologised. He accepted mine and offered one of his own.

Back at home, there was an hour left before I needed to head over to Sapphire's school and teach week two of the Writing Workshop. The damn doctors' surgery was fully booked out.

The trusty wheatbag was nuked again and I sank into the lounge, leaving the blinds down and sweating in the darkness. A block of charity chocolate would give me the energy I needed.....


Benjamin Solah said...

I'm so glad to hear about you helping out at the ASRC.

Pity about the neck though, I hope it gets better.

Elisabeth said...

Oh dear you. This sounds awful, but if it's any consolation I think it's so beautifully written that it's a real treat to read.

I hope writing it offered you comfort.

I too am deeply concerned for the asylum seekers. Is there a web page with suggestions of how others might help. I don't have much time but a lot of goodwill. I imagine the asylum seekers need lots more than that but every little bit helps.


Kath Lockett said...

Thanks Benjamin. It's a fair bit better today so I didn't have to find a physio or chiro. Here's hoping it improves tomorrow or I'll be one slow and grumpy tourist at Sovereign Hill!

Thank you too, Elisabeth. I've been a shy lurker on your blog who's struggled to find anything suitably intelligent to write. I've put a hyperlink to the ASRC site, which is a pretty good source of info and suggestions on how you can contribute.

The Plastic Mancunian said...

G'Day Kath,

I occasionally crick my neck and it is bloody agony. For me it used to be pillows and now, thankfully, I have a good one that doesn't make me wake up in unexpected agony.

That said, I still sometimes do something that cause it (Lord knows what) and end up walking around like an absolute goon for a few days.

Oh the pain of getting old :-(




John Dickie said...

Kath, I hope it wasn't too much dancing that caused the problem in your neck.

River said...

My own neck has finally uncricked after weeks of stiffness and pain. Last weekend, I turned my head and heard a loud crack as something either gave way or slipped back to where it should be. More flexibility in the area and much less pain, although the arthritis ache is still constant. I too have been nuking the wheatbag on a regular basis and alternating this treatment with applications of voltaren, or deep heat, or elmore oil. Every meal has been accompanied by painkillers of one kind or another. maybe I shouldn't be writing all tis, I'm certainly not trying for any one-upmanship here. I just would like you to know that I sympathise with your pain, because I know exactly how you feel. Keep up with the warmth and liniments, avoid heavy lifting or sudden moves, and one day very soon I hope, your neck will be normal again. I like that you're helping the asylum seekers, it's such a shame that we accept them here, then give them absolutely no resources to cope.

Deep Kick Girl said...

Well I hope there's been some improvement, neck wise. Your poor sausage. Anyway, good on you for saying "no". There's only so far one person can stretch and I'm fairly sure you're at maximum stretching capacity.

nuttynotons said...

just hang on in there the neck sounds like muscle stiffness it will improve with time and a little movement and good luck with all your projects, try not to take too much on, I know you want to help and will not want to let any one down , thus putting pressure and stress on yourself, which could bring the black dog back!

Cast Iron Balcony said...

Oh sorry to hear about your awful neck pain Kath.
You have my email address - if I can help with the newsletter, proofreading or such, perhaps I can help.
(Have changed my name here to Cast Iron Balcony to avoid confusion with t'other Helen - Hi Helen!)

Lorna Lilo said...

Forget the weavel bags, try ice for the neck because the muscle tissue may already be inflamed (hot). I find frozen peas do just fine - but leave them in the bag because one pea on its own really doesn't make much of a difference.

Baino said...

Oh Kath you are overdoing things! Get thee to a chiropractor! Lorna's right, I have a bag of therepeutic peas in the freezer all the time. I swear one day someone will cook the things and they've been frozen and defrosted a hundred times!

Wally The Walrus said...

You need a chiro and a decent cracking of the neck. It makes a huge difference (all the other nonsense about cracking bones to cure hayfever and so on is bunkum... but joints that can move is a very nice thing.)

And ICE it, not heat. Heat is bad. It brings more blood to the area (the theory being that it helps the healing with more blood). But inflamation is often whats underlying, and heat makes it worse. Ice it. Use a sports injury ice pack with lots of little ice blobs on a sheet so it can bend around and make contact.

An over the counter anti-inflammatory can also work wonders (ibuprofen). Pandol and panadiene won't make any difference for inflammation.

This from one who has had neck troubles since age 17 (which makes it about 30 years now). A day without pain is a good day. :-)

drb said...

Totally agree with Wally the Walrus.
No Deep Heat, use Voltaren gel instead.

Kath Lockett said...

Thanks all for your comments.

On Saturday morning, my neck felt better and I'll soon be blogging as to why....