I finally got back out on the balcony last Sunday, spurred on by weather forecasts that promised snow. Snow. In Milan. In November. Were they joking? As the temperature on the balcony was 18°C at the time, and I really didn't need the thick sweater I'd put on, it seemed unlikely. But it was a good excuse to get on with all the clearing up I'd been putting off for weeks, and to move the stuff that had to overwinter close to the walls of the house, where it would stay warmer.
So I pottered around for a few hours, by the end of which the balcony was starting to look remotely as if it was cared for again, if somewhat bare. My motivation crisis has meant few biennials this year. And some of what I did put in didn't come up - my pansies, hollyhocks and foxgloves were a total failure. Out of the lot, I got one pansy plant. The only success has been a little container full of wallflowers, which are coming on fine.
I was relieved to see that my ill-treated cyclamen had picked up again though. I moved them from individual pots into a single container, and they seem very happy there. All three plants are full of little buds just starting to come through.
And then I came in, and went back to work.
So there I am sitting at my computer half an hour later, when I decide I'd like a cup of tea. I go to get up - and can't. My back's just seized up completely - a classic case of what Italians call il colpo della strega - the witch's blow.
How had I done it? I was fine when I sat down, and it wasn't until I tried to get up again that I even realised that it hurt. I can only imagine that I made the usual mistake of lifting things badly as I was shifting the containers around - something have no excuse for because I know how you should do it, I know I have back problems, and I know I shouldn't risk it.
Two days and a lot of ibuprofen later, I was more or less back on my feet. But for any of you who don't know the "rules", here's a summary from the Family Doctor site. When you have to lift something ....
- Don't lift by bending over - OK, guess who put the containers on the balcony floor then bent straight over to pick them up again. Guilty.
- Lift an object by bending your knees and squatting to pick up the object - Yeah, but my knees are in an even worse state than my back. Squat to pick up ? If I squat someone has to pick me up .... Guilty but I plead mitigating circumstances.
- Keep your back straight and hold the object close to your body - And squash all the plants to death? Objection, your Honour.
- Avoid twisting your body while lifting - OK, OK I twisted. But if you saw the size of my balcony ... What else was I supposed to do ? I throw myself on the mercy of the court.
But my protestations were to little avail and I was sentenced to two days flat on my back. I did consider an appeal based on the ruling I found on the Wellness site suggesting that following the the rules doesn't work at all, but I have to say the prison conditions were fairly comfy, and the time passed relatively pleasantly. The warder was very kind, and kept me supplied with plenty of reading matter and copious cups of tea. He was so kind in fact that I think the next time I have to shift containers, I might just ask for his help. Now there's a foolproof way to prevent back injury while lifting ...
Sorry ? Oh the snow. Well yes, it did arrive. There was a sprinkling that night, but it was more or less gone by the morning. And then on Friday it came back and snowed for five or six hours - just enough to send Milan into total chaos and cause havoc with the public transport system.
You know, I can hear you laughing all the way from Alaska ...