Even when you are fully, physically committed, to competition and enjoyment, UC is never far away. On Friday, after school, myself and a selected group of the Staff Football team travelled into mid-sussex to play in an inter-school staff 6-a-side tournament. I was disignated kit-man for this outing, and duly arrived last with the nicely washed and ironed Yr11 team shirts - thats what PE detentions are made for: washing kit... It is always at this point in preceedings when much comment is passed on the current state of male adolescents, as in: What the Hell do they eat? They are all massive. And consequently, so is their kit. Which means much swapping around of shirts, until those of us who are 'smaller' (I'm sure 5'11" and 12st hasn't always been considered small... maybe I've just got a bit of a complex) have managed to get a shirt that doesn't completely cover our shorts. Once kitted up we strode out onto the pitches (nice all weather pitches - much better than our school!) to take in the opposition, 10 teams in all.
There was the usual mix of schools who turn up purely for the fun, with enthusiastic and willing players, schools who have a mix of players of ability and enthusiasm (that's us), and then those that clearly are there for the glory and ring in 6th-formers, county level players and the odd non-league semi-pro (2 were counted on friday - and they're always the dirtiest, playing every game like it really is more meaningful than the broken plastic trophy that has been the prize for the last 3 years...). Our objective this year: get through the group stage and go home heads held high.
Well, we exceeded expectations. With a killer combination of some very good play, gritty determination, last-ditch defending and plenty of hilarious distraction (I give you our first goal: conceded when we were a man down because our sub couldn't get the top covering his strip off - it got stuck over his head - and I stopped to help him... well, he was supposed to be coming on for me. An inauspicious start), we actually progressed from our group as unbeaten winners. We then lost the semi-final on penalties, but won the 3rd/4th place play-off easily. So, all great... But....
There's always a 'but'. During the group phase I was clattered by a fella on another team - not unfairly, just very hard. Fortunately I always wear shin-pads, I have learnt this is a must with my condition. In fact, much to the hilarity of my team-mates my (as-yet unpatented) leg-protection-system includes: one pair of ankle high socks, one pair of doubled over tubular bandage from mid-foot to knee, one pair of shin-pads, one pair of football socks - I feel like a knight preparing for battle. I should have some sort of squire to put it all on for me... Nevertheless at the end of that game I had to check the damage; my wife's last words ringing in my ears "don't get injured". It is these knocks that have so often lead to my arthritic UC symptoms rearing their ugly heads. It was right under my shin pad but there was still a nasty whelt and little early inflammation. This gets into your mind. So I spent a good deal of the rest of the games thinking about my leg. Between each game I was examining it obsessively. I kept rubbing it all the way home. I spent all evening looking at it, trying to determine if it was getting bigger. It grew by about double by bed-time. I lay in bed wondering how big and painful my leg would be by morning... I spent more time and energy scrutinising an 10cm square patch of bruised skin on my shin for those 8ish hours than could ever be considered normal or healthy.
As it happens, it had reduced by morning (at this point I should make my doctors usual disclaimer: that's because I'm on prednisolone), so by midday saturday I had stopped stressing about it. Stupid disease.
I reduced the prednisolone by 5mgs this morning. Now on 15mgs a day.
Rituals of Loss
3 months ago