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.


  1. I have 2 very smart extendable sticks I could loan you. Mother's and her husband's (not my father).

  2. Thank you, but I bought an imposing-looking black one from a pharmacy yesterday.