Wednesday 31 August 2022

Walking Stick MS Trauma


I usually only go on a dog walk if my wife, ‘Kate’, is coming too to keep me company. This has the added benefit that she does the bagging up of the dog’s crappage. Well it’s her dog and besides, I find it difficult bending down and picking it up. I need every joule of energy to make it through the walk.

It’s also awkward for me to do the deed because I have a walking stick in one hand. I admit, I’m not exactly fighting her for the right to do it but my excuses are genuine.

I decide to take the dog out on my own for once. Ellie hasn’t been out for a couple of days and I have a banging headache. Probably the result of another night of broken sleep due to the infernal twitching of my leg when I’m trying to sleep, but whatever, I crave some fresh air and need to get out of the house myself.

Ellie refuses to follow me to the front door. ‘Come on, y’daft dog. We’re going for a walk.’

This is another reason why I don’t like going for a dog walk on my own. Usually when I take her out alone it’s either to take her for her hair cutting or for her annual jab at the vet’s, both of which of course she hates. So I have to go back into the kitchen and drag her outside across the tiled floor.

We get in the car and I head to the park. This particular one is near the dog groomer’s and she sits shaking in the passenger seat the whole way, fearing another hair chopping is on the cards. ‘A walk. We’re going for a walk, y’stupid mutt,’ I say stroking her head to offer her some reassurance [legal edit: as I pull over in a safe place and am at a full stop and definitely not whilst I’m still driving]. In case you hadn’t noticed, your fur is still really short. You were only done two weeks ago. Do you seriously think I’d be taking you for another cut so soon at £30 a pop, I think, as she continues to tremble?

Thankfully, we soon arrive. Her paws go up to window level and she looks out. ‘See, I told you, a walk in the park.’

I leave her in the car while I retrieve my stick from the boot before opening the passenger door. She leaps out. Why she’s happy to do that yet insists you pick her up to put her ladyship back in the car is a mystery, but she seems to be undecided whether I’m the boss or just staff.

We head off and I’m soon able to let her off the lead. Another few paces and she begins circling, like she’s chasing her tail, which can only mean one thing – her first present is about to be delivered courtesy of her quivering arse. I don’t mind too much because she’s chosen a spot in the direct shadow of a bin, so I won’t have to carry it around with me like that scene in Borat where he comes back to the posh dining table carrying a little pouch after his toilet visit and announces, ‘I had a good shit’ (guess what’s in the pouch). Well I say I don’t mind, but that’s before I see it. All that nervous shaking in the car must have had an effect and her crap has the consistency of an unappetising mound of chocolate moose. Great. And these bags are not the thickest. I hate picking it up when it’s still warm too. I clear up a few in the garden, but they’re always cold, which seems to make the exercise more palatable, but hey, as a responsible member of society it has to be done, right?

Only this responsible member of society has the added complication of a walking stick in his hand, even though he’s still in his early fifties. There’s nothing to lean it on and I don’t want to put it on the ground. There’s still a thin film of water on the ground after the recent rain and I don’t want to get the handle wet, so I lean it against my groin area at the front of my coat. I open out the bag and lean down towards the light-brown-you’d-think-I-was-just-recovering-from-diarrhea mush on the grass. I look across at Ellie having the time of her life sniffing other dogs’ piss in the nettles further down the path while I’m having to do this savoury job. A man’s best friend? Right. My real best friend doesn’t take a dump in the park and wander off, leaving me to bag it up. Not often anyway.

Well here goes, I think wincing, but my motion is interrupted as I feel my walking stick fall from its angled position. I try to stop it but I fumble my attempt at catching it and only manage to affect which bit of wet grass it’s going to meet. Only it doesn’t come to rest in wet grass. The handle of my walking stick comes to rest, as you might have guessed by now, plum in the middle of the diarrhetic shit hillock.



Irvine Welsh's serial shagger character Juice Terry calls his penis Auld Faithful. For me, it's a walking stick.

I hold onto the sliver of hope that maybe the handle is non-stick and will somehow repel this particular texture of shite but it seems unlikely. I lift it up (not by the handle obviously) and assess the level of disaster. Double bugger. If this amount was on toilet tissue in the bathroom, you’d know you weren’t going anywhere for a while.

I search my pockets for tissues. The double bugger is escalated to a for fucks sake. I have one small tissue. Before employing it, I wipe the shitty side of the handle in the long grass, then inspect the damage once more. By the end of this walk I’m going to be gripping this handle very tightly, so this situation is far from ideal.

I get to work with my scrap of tissue. Fortunately, the handle is very smooth on the sides so it’s not sunk into any kind of grain. I remember stepping in a great lump of it years ago in Caterpillar boots. The tread on those might give you a lovely grip of any surface, but it also means that any shite-goo has a thousand crevices and corners in which to hide. I spent over an hour with an old brush and a bucket of water cleaning it out. Pleased with my work once it was done, I walked into town, looking forward now to my night out in my freshly clean footwear. Only problem was, I managed to step in some more on my way to the pub.

On the shoe is one thing though. On the handle of your walking stick is another. I detect a metaphor here used to illustrate what it’s like having to use a stick to go for a walk when you’re not long past your 50th birthday.

I dispose of the tissue and finally bag up the dump-mound that caused all these problems in the first place. I’m able to make it the short distance to the lake that sits in this park without having to employ the stick, what with it being so soon in the walk, before my legs start packing up. I dip the handle in the water and swish it about. I catch my reflection in the ripples – a middle-aged man cleaning shit off his walking stick.

That’s right, I’m standing here. I can still see my face and the trees all around, the heron that’s coming in to land in the nest in the middle of the lake. I can hear other birds calling to each other. I’m moving my upper limbs freely. My balance may be bad but not so bad that I lack the confidence to stand so close to this water. I can still enjoy scratching the dog behind her ears. And I’m still able to walk a bit, even if I do need a bit of help and plenty of rests.

Satisfied that the handle is as clean as it’s going to get before I get home, I retrieve Auld Faithful from the lake and once again put one foot in front of the other.


[To order Balls to MS: 20 Years of Discovering Your Body Hates You, follow the link below, where you can also read reviews.]

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