When I was no’ but a lad, I studied for an English Literature O level; we had a marvellous English teacher and it was not her fault that most of the set pieces that we studied were outdated, crusty, old irrelevant 19th century nonsense. One of the poems that was inflicted upon us came to mind last week, as we drove from Malton to Easingwold.
Whilst the screen wipers dealt with the falling snow, we carefully manoeuvred around cars that were sliding backwards down Brandsby Bank. As we rounded the bend, the white topped summit of Whernside appeared on the horizon as if in support of the sugar dusted tops of the Howardian Hills.
The words of Robert Browning sprang immediately to my mind.
“Oh to be in England now that April’s there...”
“Oh, highly amusing,” I muttered, earning a bewildered sidelong glance from my wife, who was acting as my chauffeur, as she has done for the previous month.
No, I’ve not run foul of the law, I have temporarily lost the full use of my right hand. I am, you see, of Viking extraction and have inherited a set of genes which result in a condition called Dupuytren’s Contracture.
I am right-handed, and have the condition in that hand; it causes the fingers to bend inwards and eventually almost closes the affected hand. It’s not painful but it is very inconvenient.
When you wash your face there is a risk of removing an eye with a wayward finger. It is awkward to hold small items in the afflicted palm. Last season, the wind blew countless flies from my grasp.
For six months, I was not able to hold a glass in my right hand, it was only with considerable difficulty that I was able to grasp the handle of my fishing rod. However, the worst problem for a Yorkshireman is the inability to put your hand in your pocket.
The solution to the problem is surgery, and that was performed in late-March by a dedicated team of doctors and nurses. I have to point out that all this, and the after care, has been delivered by our fantastic NHS, despite some politicians attempt to wreck it.
The operation left me one-handed for about a month, hence the chauffeur.
Whilst incapacitated, I have come to understand more clearly the predicament of others. Just imagine, for one moment, the prospect of doing everything - and I do mean everything - with one non-dominant hand.
Just out of interest, try spreading preserve on a slice of toast one-handed. I did endeavour to hold the toast down with my right elbow whilst manoeuvring the marmalade knife with my left hand. I had to apologise to the nurse for the butter in my bandages.
I always knew that my disability was temporary and that I would regain full use of my hand once it was healed. Nevertheless, the experience has made me much more aware of the problems of minor lack of function. Even so, I cannot imagine the consequences of permanent incapacity.
Over the years, I coached a number of people with severe physical disabilities. It always gave me enormous satisfaction to witness the smile on the face of someone who thought that their active life was curtailed and yet could effectively cast a fly and, with a little bit of help from their friends, catch fish.
The fly that Steve has tied for us this month is called ‘The Last Hope’ and I would like to dedicate it to the band of dedicated fishing coaches who offer just that to young and old for whom a light has dimmed.
These men and women are often able to restore some meaning to lives that have been permanently altered.