Friday, 5 February 2021

Evening in (plaster of) Paris: the soothing scent of goo and Tubigrip

Guest post by voice recognition

"There is no such thing as hazardous conditions - only inappropriate footwear."

On the wall of our local hospital's A & E department are two pinboards covered in posters: one takes dementia as its theme, while the other is all about the very real risk of falls. One such poster has a Highway Code-style warning triangle with a stick figure in the act of slipping and the caption: "Falls Aware". The other has a more detailed cartoon of a man falling downstairs and the caption: "One in three older adults fall each year". In a neat graphical flourish, even the letters in 'fall' are falling.

So yes... I realise now that I should have gone to hospital first, clocked the posters, and then decided not to go for a walk that evening. That would have been the better order of events, no question. Instead, I walked six and a half thousand steps to a friend's house and back to deliver something, and it only took one of those steps to be ill-judged. The day before I had walked 18,000 steps safely on freshly powdered snow in a beautiful Narnia-like winter wonderland, but that fateful night I made the mistake of confusing slush with an ice rink.

The next afternoon, after a sleepless night of boiling hot pain I would characterise as just south of agony, I was sitting in a socially distanced way in A & E, waiting to have my wrist X-rayed for a suspected fracture (on the advice of a former paramedic attached to my GP's surgery). It did not escape my notice that the few other people also waiting were mostly women of my age, some wearing makeshift slings, who had clearly not read the posters either in advance of coming.

Two hours later saw me done and dusted with a temporary plaster cast, and after two days and a further review I was downrated to a removable splint, which is almost as constricting as the plaster, but does allow me to wash the wrist once a day. When she saw my original cast, my friend Gillie exclaimed: "Oh dear, you won't be able to have people write on it because of the lockdown!"

I ended up only spending two Evenings in (plaster of) Paris, and I must say I really liked the smell of the creamy goo, such as I could catch it in between the light layers of mesh. The Tubigrip underslip inside my current splint is similarly comforting - a strong medical fabric smell. After all, people do say that oud smells a bit like Band-Aid, so medical scents are far from without precedent. As it happens, I used to have a vintage miniature of Bourjois Soir de Paris, which (once I managed to wrench the top off) I recall as a simple, watery, sweet, very full-on kitchen sink floral, very much of its time and not something I would wear. I have more of an affinity to Eau de Tubigrip in fact, which has a strong woody quality to it like the pencil shaving Dzonga! of my rather faint memory.

A week has passed since I was fitted with this other splint and the pain has started to ease, I am happy to report. The hand remains floppy and pale, with a disconcerting tendency to list 45 degrees to the right as soon as it is released from its protective housing, but less pain feels like progress.

Pain aside, having one usable arm in a lockdown situation is a bit of a double whammy: I have agreed with ex-Mr Bonkers that he will come and help change my bedding, which really needs it now!, under the guise of an ad hoc domiciliary carer, hehe, for I don't see much difference between my incapacitated position and someone needing a district nurse to come into their home and change a dressing on a bedsore.

That said, I have learned to do a myriad of things for myself in unconventional ways, deploying a random assortment of body parts to take the place of my left hand. For example, I have ground pepper holding the mill in my armpit, opened sachets with my teeth, held a box grater under my chin, and peeled a carrot on the worktop jammed into my navel at 90 degrees...rather like a, I shan't say what...;)

Several things continue to defeat me completely: operating a wine saver vacuum pump - oh dear, I had to drink the wine instead, how awful! - using a knife and fork, operating a tin opener, and most actions involving squeezing.

The other night a friend dropped by on a spontaneous visit and happened to mention that her husband had fallen on more or less the same patch of ice as me(!), which makes me feel less foolish; luckily she had caught him and helped to break his fall. 

My friend was of immense help doing two squeezing assignments: of a facial cleanser that was in a pump bottle I could not get to work as it was a bit close to the end and harder to activate, plus a tube of moisturizer, which similarly was near the end and needed rolling and flattening to coax the not insubstantial dregs out. She did a fantastic job of both on my doorstep into the little pots I had provided - it was quite surreal...

Unsurprisingly, I am banned from knitting for the foreseeable, though I am hoping that the hobby might come back in the form of physical therapy later. I find it ironic that my bone may be knitting together as I type, but I must sadly resist the all too familiar urge. Maybe this is Nature's way of telling me that making 36 speculative scarves for nobody in particular is quite enough already. 

I have also learnt to carry on doing certain things but using the opposite hand to the one I normally use, which is of course completely counterintuitive. Do you know which hand you squeeze the toothpaste with, or peel a satsuma, or take strands out of your hair brush with after blow drying your hair? It was something of a revelation, because I never realized which hand I favoured for those specific actions until one of them was not available to me.

In my present state just a few tasks take me most of the morning now, and it occurred to me that this must be not unlike how it is to have a new baby: your world collapses down and revolves completely around the needs of your child; you snatch 20 minutes while it is sleeping to do the things you need to for yourself, like take a shower or whatever. Similarly here my world has dramatically shrunk and my whole focus 24/7 is on keeping my hand immobilized, elevated and dry - or it was to start with when it was in plaster. I can wash it now, as I say, and I also have to wiggle my fingers and make a fist periodically so I don't lose the ability over time. ;)

The bone I have injured is the scaphoid, a very common occurrence apparently in FOOSH incidents (Falls On Outstretched Hand). There is some disagreement between the medics in A & E and the consultant at the Fracture Clinic as to whether it is visibly fractured now, or an occult fracture that may appear by the time of my next review, or not a fracture at all. I don't stand on diagnoses, haha, and the treatment is the same anyway, for possible fractures of the wrist are notoriously Will-o'-the-Wisp-like in their evasive behaviour. Plus the X-ray the consultant showed me was quite different from the one I had seen in A & E, but I was too polite to ask if it was definitely the same hand.

On a side note, I was struck by how much the bones of the wrist resemble a drystone wall. Plus I have learnt the incomparable term 'anatomical snuffbox', which is the bit below the thumb that hurts. It was almost worth falling on ice to learn that gem...oh okay, maybe not quite.

I must insist on no sympathy from readers(!). I had already fallen three times in a single day at the start of January as you may recall, and should have known better than to think Wellingtons were adequately grippy in these conditions. I was lucky to have got away with minor injuries on that occasion, for at this age you are liable to do yourself more mischief and take longer to heal.

But yes, I do commend Eau de Tubi-Grip to anyone not familiar with that scent - it really is a thing.

Editor's note: This post has been brought to you by voice recognition, aided by a bit of one fingered editing. I am a touch typist, and it was all I could do to stop my bad hand joining in when the stretch across the keyboard became comically extended. Fittingly, my left hand most wanted to help out with the letters 'A' & 'E', though I did try to explain that it really needs to rest and not engage in even low impact tapping...

Bone diagram from, whole hand image from


Hazel said...

I had a bad fall in Lyon a while ago (thank you French manhole covers). I think I got away with just sprains and spectacular bruising, but even so it took a couple of months before I could face a knitting needle. Get well soon.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but you are going to get sympathy anyway! What rotten luck. Hope that it gets better really quickly and you are soon able to squeeze tubes yourself. When my arm was in plaster I think the worst thing was not being able to wash my hair and I resorted to those dry shampoos, which are better than nothing but don't make you feel good. I love the relationship you have with Mr B! Take care. I hope Truffle spoils you.

Undina said...

It’s a bummer! You’ve chosen a bad year to injure your hand: with your lockdown it must be hard for your friends not to ... give you a hand.
Most likely, you’ve arrived at it yourself already but just in case I want to mention that your knees and thighs are perfect gripping devices if you need to hold something while performing tasks that require an opposable thumb.
My worse experience with a plaster was itching inside of it. I was very inventive with things that could fit inside it to help with that itch.
Patting Truffle with fingers of the injured hand should be quite therapeutic. Get better soon!

Tara said...

What a fun post about a grim incident, that only you could write. I very much enjoyed your alternate grip methods and the anatomical snuffbox (which was sadly not on the diagram).
It must be frustrating and I can well imagine your life revolving around it. I like the snell of old-fashioned plasters so I'm sure I'd be huffing the Tubigrip like glue haha.

Sarah Waite said...

Oh Vanessa, you poor thing.
On a similarly bad timing, my friend managed to sky-dive (the actual activity, not a metaphor) her arm into a broken mess during her first week of living alone in Portugal. She had chosen to rent a quirky little fisherman's cottage with all sorts of tricky bits of 200 year old house design to negotiate.
I've no idea how she managed without any friends or family. She's a tough cookie!
I hope you're on the mend soon.

Vanessa said...

Hi Hazel,

Ouch, I had forgotten about that fall of yours - shame, as Lyon is a beautiful city to explore, albeit a bit hilly.

I take it your hand(s) were involved to put you off knitting! ;(

Vanessa said...

Hi Jillie,

Thanks for the undeserved sympathy. ;) Sorry you have been in a similar spot. I can manage to wash my hair after a fashion with one hand, by pouring a dollop of shampoo on a raised knee in the bath, and scooping it up with the good hand.

Truffle has been very keen to sit on me since the accident, but that may be purely weather-related, hehe.

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

I do pat Truffle with the splint and hope she doesn't mind the weight of the metal strip on her head.

You can be sure my knees and feet are fully deployed, hehe. Only today I held a banana curved side up between my knees and slit the skin with a sharp knife. I have no squeezing or tugging power at the moment. I was originally grinding pepper with the aid of my knees, but find my armpit more flexible in terms of angling the mill.

And I hear you on the itching...I have taken to removing my splint last thing to run the arm under the cold water and soothe it before putting the splint back on for the night.

It seems everyone has been in plaster at some point. I have been lucky to dodge it till this late age! Though I did have to wear a weighted boot on a broken foot once.

Vanessa said...

Hi Tara,

I am still smiling at the image of you huffing Tubigrip, haha. I might start a new trend. ;)

I have retrospectively added a picture including the anatomical snuffbox. Being an area of soft tissue, it doesn't feature on that other diagram.

Vanessa said...

Hi Sarah,

OMG, your friend must be a tough cookie to even think of doing skydiving as a sport!

I don't envy her at all managing in an unfamiliar house. It is surprising what you can do unaided with one hand, but everything takes sooo much longer...

Joyce said...

Longtime reader and lurker. Very sorry to hear about your hand, and I hope Nurse Truffle will help with speedy recovery! Cat’s purring vibration can potentially help with bone healing So maybe Truffle can administer some vibration therapy.

Vanessa said...

Hi Joyce,

Thanks for de-lurking! I really enjoyed that article, and will put Truffle on bone healing duties forthwith. I didn't know purring was such a wide-ranging form of communication... Am also going to listen out for 'the cry within the purr' next time she wants feeding. ;)

Joyce said...

Hi Vanessa,

I can attest, cats definitely have functional purrs! One cat has a rattling purr like a car engine going caput, the other one has a 100 decibel purr - they do this when it’s close to meal time.

Hope you recover soon - I forgot to mention - your blog is a source of joy and momentary respite during 2020 and onwards. I like reading perfume blogs, but it’s ones like yours which reveal the writer, their passion and why they enjoy scents - it’s that comprehensive nature of writing which make reading reviews all the more relevant.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe you hurt yourself so badly, and write about it with such humour! I fractured my ankle two years ago and it seemed to take forever to heal. I hope your process is much much quicker. Love that your scent of the day is Tubigrip :)

Look after your self,



Vanessa said...

Hi Joyce,

Since I saw your comments I have assiduously been trying to detect different tones / patterns to Truffle's vocalising, but so far she seems to be a mono-purrer! Will keep up my monitoring. ;)

Thank you too for your kind comments on my blog. It means a lot when readers come out of the woodwork with feedback, for it is easy to assume you are mostly talking to yourself; I have often considered stopping Bonkers due to feeling that I am not a 'proper' perfume blogger anymore, if I ever was, hehe.

Vanessa said...

Hi Carole,

Thanks for your good wishes! A friend said something similar on FB about my finding humour in a dark subject matter, adding that I appeared to have hurt my 'funny bone'.

Grayspoole said...

Hi Vanessa-

I usually lurk but I just wanted to say that I hope you are on the mend soon and will be able to knit again therapeutically (I knit too and would miss it very much.)

In a similar fall, I tore a thumb ligament, which had to be repaired surgically. I learned that my injury is known as Gamekeeper’s Thumb because of the method they used to break the necks of rabbits back in the day. Served them right, I think. Now also known as Breakdancer’s Thumb. I took whatever amusement I could from these interesting facts.

Vanessa said...

Hi Grayspoole,

Appreciate your de-lurking to entertain us all with those gems of injured thumb terminology, not that I am glad you had the fall that led to them. (Waves to a fellow knitter!)

In a bid to minimise the chance of future incidents, I have fitted my wellingtons with a stretchy rubber attachment with cleats to give further grip, and vowed never to take up breakdancing - or skateboarding for that matter!

The hand still hurts in about four places, so whether there is any additional muscle or ligament issue I don't know...

Then I have been having a few plumbing problems lately, culminating in a new cistern assembly for my loo. It was painful shelling out for such a mundane purchase, but I did take amusement from several of the components named on the installation diagram:

- Dead water sliding valve
- Strainer gasket
- Short flush cursor
- Optional escutcheon