Friday, December 30, 2011

Avoiding putting a foot wrong

It's exactly a month since I broke my left fifth metatarsal - that startlingly long bone connecting your ankle to your smallest toe. Any number of friends and acquaintances have nodded wisely and declared there's no need to ask how I broke it, all assuming I plunged from my high heels while tangoing.
I've taken grim delight in informing them that, au contraire, I was wearing gumboots at the time.

After a day's gardening and with rain forecast, I was filling the wheelbarrow with a last load for the compost heap when I stepped backwards into a void and came down hard on my buckled foot.
If nothing else - and it would be difficult to identify any other benefits - this last month has been a miniature lesson in empathy for those suffering any kind of restricted mobility.
As described before, I was incapable of using crutches or a stick with any degree of reliability, let alone panache. In fact, the latter was a further health and safety hazard, having slipped on the path between house and road. And I simply don't have enough strength in my arms to support my body weight for more than a few steps at time. After I dispensed with these, I walked flat-footed, to avoid flexing the damn foot. It made for slow, awkward progress.
My confidence was shaken, too, especially after the orthopaedic chap said to beware of uneven ground and walking around at night. And I was nervous of steps and slippery surfaces. An intimation of old age, this - the way your  world can steadily shrink around you.
The ortho also told me that if I was involved in a vehicle collision while driving within three weeks of the breakage, my insurance company would probably refuse to pay out.
All that I could have put up with with good grace - after all, friends kindly rallied round and drove me out every day for a latte and my mail. But what's really hurt is that the breakage has stopped me dancing and miserably restricted my footwear.
Heels have been out of the question. If I put a foot wrong, I risk displacing the bone, which would mean surgery and plaster. Anyway, they hurt - something to do with the pressure down through my foot. Even sandals have been no-go, because I feared slipping sideways.
Bad weather, of which there has been quite lot, is no problem because I can wear boots. But through those gorgeous hot days of Christmas, barbecuing and beaching, I was clomping about in sneakers. In a small way I was reminded of my childhood and the ever-present one-kid-per-class who spent his or her primary school years in a corrective boot, usually because of polio.

A childhood polio
victim, 1960

You just can't dance or feel good - off your own property - in gumboots or sneakers. So I'm signing off for 2012 with this beautiful specimen - one of the last images from my 2011 shoe calendar (go here to order your own for the coming year). Thank you to everyone who read the blog and/or commented. And please stick around!

Signs of life (2)

Hunters and Collectors,
Cuba Street, Wellington

Signs of life (1)

Global Fabrics, Garrett Street, Wellington

For the man who has everything ...

... except the real blond on the back of the bike, the build-her-yourself version:

Kent Terrace, Wellington

Friday, December 9, 2011

A seriously outdated accessory

Art Deco-ed as it was from top to bottom, our apartment in Buenos Aires featured, along with some classy prints, framed magazine images of the time. This one depicts a fashionable young couple cementing their bond by sharing a cancer-inducing moment. That toothy grip on their cigarettes looks absurd now, but it reminded me that from time to time I saw both my parents hanging onto their fags in this way. 
No surprise, I suppose, that tobacco was sold as an intimacy enhancer. We can assume that, just seconds before, the gentlement struck a match then romantically held the lady's hand steady as she inhaled to get her cigarette going.
He was one kind of male smoker. Marlboro Man was another - a bloke with no use at all for female companionship or intimacy because he was never alone with his horse and a smoke.

BA is still rife with tobacco addicts. Now banned from offices, restaurants and milongas, they cluster around doorways, puff energetically as they dodge pedestrians and traffic, and monopolise the outdoor seating at cafes.  Here are two of them.

Man and cigar outside
a Plaza San Martin cafe

Young woman smoking outside
a Calle Cordoba cafe

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Accessory or not?

That pink-shod foot illustrating my last post is broken. Well, a bit of it is. After six weeks negotiating dodgy Buenos Aires dance floors and treacherous pavements, I came home and slipped off the edge of my very small front step.
The nice doctor asked if I heard anything snap. I didn't. Although I did curse, then burst into tears and feel foolish. But when she showed me the x-ray, she said her eyes would have watered too. I've never broken anything before - this is a first.
My immedate reaction - after applying frozen peas and a crepe bandage - was to employ my father's walking stick, which leans against the hall table. A sturdy, plain, crook-handled length of polished knotty wood, it often accompanied us on family walks.

My father had only one operational eye (which is why he couldn't get into the airforce and had to make do with the army), but his legs worked perfectly. So his walking stick was less a strictly necessary tool than a symbol - a signal to himself and others that he was relishing his leisure in the fresh air. As well as flourishing it with Sundayish enthuisasm, he would poke it inquiringly into piles of leaves and mossy banks, and plumb shallow ponds and rabbit holes with it. 
My mother kept the stick when he died in 1979, possibly for sentimental reasons, possibly because she thought she might one day need it herself. When she died 10 years ago, I got in touch with the new owner of her house who promised to keep it until I turned up to collect it in Dorset, England.
I'd always fancied myself as an old lady with a stick. I wasn't sure when old ladyism would set in, but I knew I would have to be much more imperious and much less eager to please than I am now. I would wave the stick furiously at speeding drivers, and poke inattentive young people with it. So more of a weapon than a means of transport. Something to counter social invisiblity, to make me someone to reckon with once I was past the age when people usually bother to reckon with you.
It may yet come to that. In the meantime, I've had to abandon Dad's stick. He was six foot two, and I'm only five seven. This means his stick is too long to offer real support for a fragile foot. At the clinic on Sunday they hired me crutches like the ones above, and a nice nurse gave me a lesson on using them. She whizzed across the floor at the rate of knots.
Not me though. Since then, several people have kindly pointed out that I'm using them back to front, that I should keep my arms straight, that I shouldn't slouch ... . And getting myself and the crutches in and out of friends' cars (because I can't drive), I've nearly broken the other foot and simultaneously knocked the friends unconscious.
I still hold out hope for the stick, though. I'll get it shortened. Although not quite yet.
In the meantime, here are some images of women with sticks, as either walking aids or accessories - you decide.


Only this last (whom you've seen here before), melds the two perfectly together, making a virtue of necessity.  And I can't imagine her ever needing to shake her stick or poke anyone with it. Her body language would do the job perfectly.