I was going to post a photo of my black, blue and yellow swollen ankle, just so you’d know I’m not making this up in a pathetic bid for sympathy, but my husband advised against it. Too revolting, he said. It would turn people off. And in the scheme of things, a bung ankle isn’t all that bad, is it? All I have to do is rest and keep the foot elevated, as the doctor ordered.
What do you do with an elevated foot? What else but read? Polyanna-ish, I decided to make the best of it. Now’s the time, I decided, to get stuck into that pile of unread must-reads that keeps growing on my bedside table.
I started off with The Tiger in the Well, one of the Sally Lockhart mysteries by Phillip Pullman. It’s an exciting and complicated historical mystery set in 19th century London with a feisty heroine and a large cast of characters including some great street-kids, Bill and Liam. I do love an urchin in amongst the aspidistras and antimacassars of Victorian correctness. (It means you can have some swearing, too).
Then I read The Extraordinary and Unusual Adventures of Horatio Lyle by Catherine Webb. It was also an exciting and complicated mystery set in 19th century London. Unlike The Tiger in the Well, which dealt with real Victorian themes of anti-Semitism and the (lack of) women’s rights, this was sheer historical fantasy. Hero Horatio Lyle, a former Special Constable and amateur scientist, battles an otherworldly conspiracy that reaches into government and the aristocracy, spawned by a race of dangerous legendary beings with glowing green eyes and supernatural powers. He’s helped by another urchin. She’s Theresa Hatch, pickpocket and burglar by trade, and she gets nearly all the good lines.
I’m 50 or so pages into Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones by the time I realise…
Well, not only that my bottom is numb, but perhaps my brain is too. I remember reading Fire and Hemlock when I was a young teenager and loving it, but I’m not making any sense of it at all today. What else can you do with a sprained ankle?
I make a cup of tea standing on one foot and hobble outside. I hobble back in again to get the cup of tea. I sit outside in a cane chair in half-shade with my cup of tea and look at the garden. I think that it’s a bit of a mess and then remember that a kind friend has loaned me enough copies of “Gardens Illustrated” to fill two 42-litre plastic tubs. After flicking through about fifty mags, I realise that my garden is a total mess deserving only annihilation. I attempt to annihilate the leggy tangle of succulents closest to me but hurt my ankle. Falling back into the chair in well-deserved pain (after all, the doctor did say rest, keep the foot elevated, not launch into a deforestation campaign in a rockery), I ponder other ankle-less activities.
Nothing in the housework line. After all, it was housework that got me into this. I was on holiday at the beach – the sea was only a 5 minute walk away and the sun was shining – and I decided that I should go into the back yard and bring in the washing. Why oh why did I think about the washing while on holiday? The long and short of it is that I missed a step and here I am, with new bruises coming out even ten days later, and out of action for 2 to 6 weeks. No gardening. No housework. Then I had a bright idea. I thought, I’ve got it! I can sort out my filing cabinet.
Sad to say, I only got as far as dumping piles of stuff all over my study floor, looking aghast at the mess and then walking out again. I closed the door so I don’t have to look. A big bonfire, once the fire season is over, seems the simplest way of coping with these so-called ‘files’. However, I tucked a couple of scrapbooks under my arm. Perhaps – a manageable, gentle kind of job, this one – I could paste in all the cuttings from newspapers that have been multiplying in various baskets and boxes around the place. Perhaps. Or maybe I could read…