I always have a regret or two during holidays in France. Last year I managed to put my back out doing something stupid in the garden. The year before I managed to, well, put myself in a very embarrassing position by thinking I knew more French than I really did. This year, I’ve rather unfortunately managed to combine both experiences, ending up semi-naked in the hands of a man that I’d only met 20 minutes before, and with a very limited grasp of his plans.
But perhaps I’m getting a little ahead of myself.
I had a very good first week running. Clocked up 75 miles, managed a few effort sessions, generally felt at one with the world. Saturday knocked out a fast session in the morning, followed by a very heavy shift in the garden involving a ladder, a 15 foot high hedge and a petrol hedge trimmer. By the evening there was a familiar twinge in the small of my back. Got up for Sunday’s long run, and…well I say ‘got up’ as if I did anything other than try to roll over in bed to get out, followed by an agonising yelp like a Jack Russell being fed into a mangle. (I would imagine.) Anyway, I didn’t get up. I laid as still as I could, then spent the next couple of days feeling very sorry for myself, and slowly shuffling around the house like a 85 year old rickets victim.
So much so, in fact that, by Tuesday, Mrs E had agreed that I ought to see someone, and we looked in the local phone book to find an Osteopath. My experience of the Osteopath profession involves unfortunate memories of being jumped on from a great height, getting a horrendous noise out of my back as a result, and feeling a bit duff…then a bit better. Seemed like a small price for being able to be able to vaguely stand up straight again.
Appointment duly booked for Wednesday, and I made my way up the stairs above the chemist in a small local town; got to the second floor, and onto the lighting scheme favoured by all small continental offices, ie total darkness. So I ended up feeling my way along the wall to the distant door, lit only by a small electric doorbell. Pushing the door open, I was met by a small lithe man who reminded me almost immediately of both George Clooney and Graham Norton. You may have to work quite hard at imagining that bit.
Anyway, ushered into his office, and before too long I realised that my limited grasp of French was going to be no match for what was in store.
I garbled my way through how I had got the injury in the first place. I think this may have come across, however, as being the result of some ‘very high industrial gardening’, as I had forgotten the French for both ladder and hedge trimmer.
George/Graham indicated that I should stand up, and using an international sign language that he was not only comfortable with, but that I also, rather worryingly, immediately understood, he asked me to take my shirt off. And, using the same sign language, that I shouldn’t stop there.
As I lay on the table, feeling exposed in soooooo many ways, I realised how unprepared I was for this visit. A few years of Longman’s Audio Visual French had produced a ‘B’ at GCE (which, Elliot, is equivalent to an A* in today’s money). And, as a result, if M Marsaud, Jean-Paul or Marie-France chose to lance le ballon in my direction at any time, I wouldn’t foresee any problem at all. But unfortunately, this was pretty new territory, untrodden by Longman’s. And as a result, I fear my blatant improvisation may have been rather misconstrued.
At one point, I tried to tell G/G that his technique was much less painful than previous treatments that I’d had. Unfortunately, not knowing the appropriate vocabulary may have held me back. I rather fear that I told him that I found his gentle and kind touch most refreshing. If I’d had the words to apologise, I would have. In fact, had I known the words for awkward, embarrassed, and happily married with four children I might have used those as well.
The session ended with a very confusing conversation where I was asking about whether I’d torn my gluteus maximus, and he was having a completely separate one about whether I’d ever enjoyed kayaking down the Loire. Which will forever be a euphemism in our neck of the woods for being rubbed down by a total stranger.
Not sure what all of this teaches us, other than be prepared for everything. And if you’re not, busk it.
Oh, and always make sure you’re wearing clean underwear.