Wake-boarding: something new for the list

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Today I finally ticked wake-boarding off of my list of things to do, though to actually have a list would be impossible as it would have to have everything on it. So I’m happy to finally add it to the list of things I have done.

I’ve been wanting to go wake-boarding for ages now. That and surfing, guess I was meant to start wake-boarding first as after two holidays which I took for the sole intention of surfing…I still haven’t been surfing.

It turns out that wake-boarding is pretty easy.Or perhaps, as I was told by the instructor,…I’m a natural.

I had my doubts in the beginning as I wondered whether I would make it up first time or fall flat on my face like an idiot. It turned out to be neither and both in the end; I made it up fine, but then things got a little wobbly. I think the instructor slowed to stop from pulling me off balance but i just kept thinking “go, go, GOOO!!”…..too late.. SPLASH, I was down. “Damn” I thouht to myself “is it going to be like this the whole time?”

I turned, grabbed the rope and gave the instructor a thumbs up to let him know I was good to go. The cable pulled dutifully and I was up, I was up and gliding across the water as  if I had done it a dozen times before.  The end of the cable was coming up and that meant the turn. Now this is a straight cable which means that it stops for a second and then goes back the same way, operated obviously by the instructor. Now to me it was obvious that you need to carve out wide to keep the tension in the line to allow you to turn and keep going without sinking like the titanic.

Watching the people that preceded me, however, made me doubt how easy it was as I watched them sink time and again. I guess I should remember…I am not most people! Coming up to the end of the cable I carved out, hoping that the instructor was on the same wavelength as me and was ready to keep the rope pulling cos I was going for the turn. Well he was, he did…. and I nailed it. It was kind of underwhelming yet at the same time pretty damn awesome, I hadn’t expected to nail it on the first turn. “That was really good” the instructor yelled as I successfully did a second turn back near the starting point.

Feeling more comfortable with the board and the pull of the cable I wanted more and started carving out on the straight. Cutting across on the toe edge a jerk of the cable caught me off balance, a little over enthusiastic correction and….whack…face plant. It felt so good!!

Learning a new skill should never be easy, it should hurt from time to time. It would just be boring otherwise.

” Do you want to try a jump start” the instructor asked as I got ready for the second run. “Yeah sure” I said, whilst I was thinking…” Hell yeah!”  Okay, I know a jump start is nothing special in wake boarding..it’s actually completely normal, but as someone doing it for the first time I found it pretty cool. The fact that I nailed it first time made it even better.

All too soon the session was over and I found myself wishing that I had more time. Wake-boarding for the first time, however, takes a toll on your hands and after a few minutes your grip begins to suffer. I don’t think I would have lasted too much longer. At the end of the session I found myself thinking that I would definitely be back.

At around £26-£30 a session, it is not really a bank breaking activity but it does mean that it won’t be a very frequent one….especially on my salary, and trying to save money. Though I do believe that it is totally worth it for me. I would gladly take 15 minutes wake-boarding over a night out.

Sports invigorate me and after that session I felt alive and fulfilled, anticipating my return, anxious to do it again and push the limits until I get better….no matter how many times my faces bites water.

Go big or go home!

Journey to a smile

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Journey.”

To be honest, I don’t really remember how it started or how my parents realised that something was wrong. I just remember that at the age of seven or eight I had been to the dentist more times than I would have liked, had enough injections in my gums to induce a fear of them deep in my psyche, and experienced the tugging, twisting, crunching tooth pulling sensation more times than I should. That was just the beginning.

Was all this happening because I was a naughty boy that ate too many sweets and didn’t brush his teeth? No, I admit that I did perhaps eat more sweets than I should have, however that was not the cause of my predicament.

I had too many teeth. Turned out that you aren’t allowed extra teeth to keep as a backup…there isn’t enough space. Bummer. Anyway, they had to be “taken care of”..hence the joyful procedure of injections and tooth pulling.

So finally the extra teeth were gone. Well they were sitting in drawer in the house for a while, but they were out of my mouth, and so the show could go on….little did I know that the fucker was only getting started, and it was going to be a hell of a show. The extra teeth had crowded the regular teeth and in consequence they became crooked.

My dentist advised my parents to consult an orthodontist as this was no regular case, and so they did. Accepting only the best, my parents consulted the best orthodontist in South Africa and soon after we drove up for a consultation.

Cleidocranial Dysostosis…yeah, get your tongues around that mouthful. This was my diagnosis. Basically I had too many adult teeth and once the surplus teeth were removed, the remaining were either crooked or refused to come down of their own accord.Oh yeah and I had an under bite. Shit just got serious. I was nine years old, and this was not going to be a short story. No wave of a magic wand would break this curse, oh no. Neither I nor the orthodontist realised just what this story entailed and how long this book would be. Book…that’s pretty much what my patient file looked like by the end.

So it was sorted, he was my specialist and a plan of treatment was planned and commenced soon after. First point of action was to convince the teeth that were hiding in the depths of my gums that they should come out and say hello. This brings me to the first of several operations that I was to have over the years.

Of course, as a patient, everything has to be explained to you so that you don’t wake up in shock and don’t know what the fuck is going on. Therefore I was told that a chain needed to be attached to the tooth in my gum and fed through the gum in order to fit a special plate that gently pull on the chain and slowly bring the tooth down into position. Fuck me! At nine I really didn’t know what I could expect, but I was scared shitless.

So off to the hospital I went, more nervous than I had ever been through all my exams or swimming races. Anyone who has had to have an operation before will know that you are not allowed to eat or drink anything for a while before you go under the knife. I just thought that was plain unfair. Eventually I was giving an awful tasting liquid and before I knew it I could keep my eyes open and I was gone. I woke up with the taste of blood in my mouth, a gum full of stitches and a little chain dangling from the gap between my teeth. Of course I didn’t realise all this straight away…I was still fucked up from the anaesthesia. Flashes, my parents saying hello as I opened my eyes. Their eyes full of pity, relief and all the love in the world. I think I smiled at them but all I remember was next being in a wheelchair, then being moved into the car. It takes a while to come round from anaesthesia…especially the first time.

You see the teeth could not be straightened until all the teeth were present, as without support they would just slip back out of position. Therefore the operation was followed with months wearing a removable plate that hooked into the chain and gently encouraged the tooth down, the plate being adjusted regularly to keep the correct amount of tension. After several months the tooth would finally show itself and another plate would be constructed to keep the teeth in place until the next operation.

The operations came and went and the tedious, painful procedures were repeated time and again. There were just three operations that I will never forget. The first being the one where I had swallowed so much blood during the operation that I spent the whole journey home throwing up blood. Throwing up into a cup as we could not pull over on the highway. How many cups…I couldn’t count. The second being when I woke up in the hospital room to a hysterical family.Turned out I had been out for hours and hours longer than I was supposed to be. I hadn’t woken up from the anaesthetic and had thrown up whilst I was out. The radiologist didn’t pick up the pneumonia. I spent the next four days in hospital and the next six months receiving weekly treatment for pneumonia. The third and final one comes at the end of my story, my final operation….but you’ll hear about that later.

So the years went by with visits to the orthodontist every six weeks, but sometimes I was lucky and didn’t have to see him for up to three months. The visits consisted of a series of checking progress, X-rays, operations, and when the teeth were finally all out…the application and tightening of braces. Braces, now weren’t those fun. Imagine tooth pain…on every single tooth, that’s what it feels like when you have your braces tightened. Another fun fact of braces is that as they work and the teeth straighten, the excess wire sticks out. It protrudes just a bit, but just enough to shred the inside of your cheeks as you talk or chew.

I was a teenager. I was supposed to be starting my life, learning how to form relationships, how to communicate and socialise. Instead I was self conscious, trying not to speak to much, making sure that I smiled with closed lips so that people wouldn’t see the mess that was my teeth. Teased for my braces. I tried not to let it deter me too much, but it was always there in my sub conscious.

I remember one visit, the orthodontist wasn’t very happy with me. I hadn’t been wearing my plate as often as I should have been. I was a kid, I was trying to enjoy life. After years of treatment I had gotten to a point of frustration. I hated it, all of it. I had to take the plate out whenever I ate something, and sometimes I just found I couldn’t be bothered to put it in. Other times I simply forgot. It delayed my treatment a whole year. I was devastated, I didn’t know how much longer I could bear it.  What I could eat, when I could eat, how I had to eat, sports and activities I had to refrain from doing….all dictated by my treatment. I was in prison.

Well the years went by and the treatment continued. I was my orthodontist’s longest standing patient and a record breaking one at that. He told me that I had had the most of a certain type of operation that he had ever seen performed on one person. As I mentioned previously, my file was like a book, easily twice as thick as any other file in their office. I made them rich and perpetually bankrupted my parents. I can never thank them enough for making it possible to receive the treatment I did. Not only that, but the comfort gifts that I received after my operations and appointments.

Well finally the end was in sight. Eleven years of operations, fitting plates, braces, making moulds and taking X-Rays. It would all be over soon, with one last operation. You see, though all my teeth were in the right place and straight, a remarkable transformation which I could never justly describe with words, it would all be for nothing if I didn’t fix my under bite. Therefore a final operation was required.

It was to be the longest operation of all. My jaws, both of them, were to be broken and moved into the correct alignment. My bottom jaw was to be broken, shortened and moved back whilst my top jaw was to be moved forward and tilted down slightly. A 10 percent risk of permanent nerve damage, a chance my face would be permanently void of feeling due to the stretching of the nerves that run through the jaw. A six hour operation. I was afraid that I was going to die.

Eventually the dreaded day came and with a mask pumped full of gas I fell, along with my fears, into a deep deep sleep hoping beyond all hope that I wake up this last time. I did.

I remember waking up in the ICU. The first time waking up without my family there, visiting hours are strict in ICU. It’s funny, thinking about that operation even now still brings tears to my eyes. I knew what had happened and where I was, but to be alone in that state felt like the worst thing in the world. My mouth was held shut by elastic bands around my teeth, and I was able to open it only enough to consume liquids, my medicine and a disinfectant mouthwash every two hours. My face, my mouth, it was all completely numb, and I later discovered it was as swollen as a balloon on the verge of bursting. Eventually my family were allowed to see me, and though I tried to be strong I was so afraid and I cried my eyes out. My heart sank when they finally had to leave.

I don’t know if it was the medication or the shock that made me so sleepy, but I slept a lot on the first day in hospital, waking every hour with the inflation of the blood pressure band around my arm and the loud beep of the machine that immediately preceded and initiated it. The uncomfortable momentary tightening of the band was followed by a desperate need to urinate, which was due to the medication. I was supposed to urinate every hour, on the hour. Now this was a task, and a highly embarrassing one at that. I was hooked up to an IV and too weak to move, so the nurse had to be called to….assist me. Later that night, I woke in a frenzy. The numbness had created an awkward sensation in my mouth that caused me to believe that my upper pallet was coming off. I think it was about midnight and several buzzes were required for my nurse to eventually show up. The restricted movement of my mouth left me unable to describe my worry to her and she simply gave me mouthwash to rinse out my mouth. I am not sure how she became a nurse at all, as she had no bedside manner what so ever. She was clearly annoyed at having been disturbed and I was told to go to sleep as she walked out of the room.

I spent the next four days in hospital in the weakest state I have ever experienced. The hospital food wasn’t to my liking and so I didn’t eat it. Instead I consumed packets of soup that my parents brought for me. Still it left me weak. The short distance to the toilet was a gargantuan effort as I relied heavily upon the IV stand for support. I was bathed by the nurse as I was unable to bathe myself. It was then as I looked in the mirror that I saw my face, twice its normal size if not more.

I was moved out of the ICU after two days and moved to a regular ward and remember there was one patient that came in. He had had his leg amputated previously and his stump was causing him a dreadful amount of pain, so that he spent the whole day and night howling like a wounded animal. I listened to him pleading with the nurse to give him more painkillers, and sympathised with him as they told him that they could not give him any more. He had taken too many already and I listened as he cried himself to sleep in agony.

The next night was my turn. I don’t really remember why but I was in so much pain and it was my turn to howl, and howl I did. Fortunately though, my painkillers worked, and my agony subsided. Finally I was discharged from the hospital and allowed to go home. I can’t describe how elated I was to get out of hospital.

The next four weeks consisted of systemically timed medication consumption and a liquid diet to allow the bone time to set. Soup, liquidised cereal and other liquidised foods quickly became unappetising, leaving me in a highly weakened state. Two weeks of soft food diet thereafter saw a slight improvement in the foods I was able to consume and with it an increased appetite and an incline in strength. By this time the swelling of my face had reduced drastically, though the bruising came out to leave a yellowy, greenish hue on the skin of my face. My greatest discomfort during those six weeks though, was not the pain or the weakness. It was the fact that I was not allowed to ride my motorbike, my beloved motorbike.

Finally my story comes to its end, a few more months of wearing a plate to make sure the teeth stay in place and my twelve year journey was complete.  Those years impacted my life in more ways than I could think possible. In some ways not so good, but for the most part it was beneficial. Of course the physical impact was the most obvious, however it taught me that I have the strength and determination to overcome anything. It taught me humility and so much more, more probably than I even realise, and for that I am grateful.

My condition was relatively mild and I was fortunate to not have more severe symptoms of my condition. I know also that there are so many brave souls struggling and fighting against numerous conditions rendering them in a permanent state of physical and/ or emotional pain. My heart and my soul go out to them, as I can only begin to imagine the struggle that they face and my admiration for their courage and determination is immeasurable.

Pour ma dame en rose

Si seulement je pouvais vous dire

tout ce que je voulais dire:

Je voudrais vous dire que je veux me perdre dans vos yeux

qui brillent comme la lune sur l’oceon

Que j’ai envie de sentir tes levres parfaites

donnez-moi le baiser parfait

Et que je donnerais mille couchers de soleil

juste pour voir votre sourire

Je voudrais vous dire que vous etes mon ange, mon seul…mon tout

Happy Birthday Dad

On the 26th of April 1942, my father was born. Today is his 73rd birthday.
Watching him dozing on the sofa beside me, I see the man that worked so hard to provide for his family. I see the man that made sure we were never without. He, along with my mom, made sure that I saw the very best orthodontist to rectify the problems with my teeth, and endeavoured to see it through to the end. All the long journeys, the surgeries, the overnight hospital stays. On top of that, they always had a new gift to cheer me up at the end of it and help aid my recovery.
I shudder to think of the expense of my treatment, but they never once mentioned the cost of it all.

I see dozens of images of my dad flash through my mind. Memories of him driving, sitting in the garden reading the newspaper, laughing with my mom, timekeeping at the swimming galas that my sister and I used to attend, adding another sticker to his growing collection on the back of his 4×4, deciding which hat he will wear from his hat collection, falling asleep on the sofa, working at his desk until 4am, the list goes on…

I remember the first time I saw my dad cry. I had gone into surgery for my teeth, but the doctors hadn’t detected that I had pneumonia and it caused complications with the surgery. I wasn’t waking up from the anaesthesia and my parents were worried I wouldn’t wake up at all. I eventually woke in the early hours of the next morning, and when I did, there he was waiting for me to wake up. I will always remember how he walked over to me with tears in his eyes and a smile on his face, a look of such relief at the knowledge that I was going to be okay. I can’t imagine having woken up without him there with those tears in his eyes.

I realise that I don’t know everything about my Dad. Born in England, his family left for Africa in his teens. Some of his life was lived in the likes of Kenya, where he was a part of the Kenyan regiment. He had a lot of stories to share about his days there where, I learned, he also used to race motorbikes. Apparently my old Dad was quite the rogue, always managing to get up to something. He later moved to South Africa and then finally to the country of my birth, Swaziland, where he founded a football team and raced rally cars with my mom. Later on he started his own company and worked day and night to try and make it a success and provide for his family.

I wish I could learn more about my dad, and the adventures he got up to at my age. I wish that I could sit and have a long conversation with him, laugh with him and learn from him.I wish I could thank him for everything he did for us. I wish it could be so, but it can’t…. My father has Alzheimers.

So, Dad, I may not be able to have a conversation with you, tell you about my day, get your advice or laugh and reminisce about the good old days…but I will always, always love you with all of my heart. Happy Birthday Dad, I love you.

Back to work

I’ve been finding myself needing some time off. You know when everything, every little thing starts to get to you, get under your skin and bug the hell out of you until you feel as though you are going insane. Haven’t experienced that?…Well then you have a good life. If you have….well you’ll know what I mean.

Realising I still had a week of holidays, I asked my manager if I might be able to take those days. He politely agreed and scratched me of the work rota for the next week and said I could have that week. To be honest I think he knew how much I needed it. Everyone had been telling me that I was looking “down” and “not myself”. They were right.

Well anyway, so I took this week off and I didn’t go anywhere of course as it was a bit short notice and to be honest I just wanted to relax. Besides..I didn’t have any money to go anywhere. Instead I used these days to plan my escape from this place. This place being London, the polluter of my soul.

Time, however, flies and all too soon the days have rushed past in blur bringing about the day I return to work and seemingly a deterioration in the weather to mirror my misery.

Limits

For some limitations are a guideline by which to live their lives. Happily doing so and thriving within those set boundaries.
For some, however, those limitations are merely there as a target, a boundary to be pushed. For them, the limits are there to be exceeded, to be broken and new limits set. They will never be content just living in their boundaries.
Ask yourself this, which one are you?

The precipice

He stood there, rocking slightly as he braced himself against the wind that was blowing hard into his face. A stone loosened itself from beneath his foot and fell….down, down, down the cliff face, on the precipice of which he stood. He watched it, the stone, as it fell and continued to watch it as it plummeted towards the rocky river bed hundreds of feet below. He counted the seconds until its size rendered it invisible from such a height, though he thought he could hear a faint click a few seconds later, as it landed with a clash on the rocks below.

We stand upon the brink of a precipice. We peer into the abyss — we grow sick and dizzy. Our first impulse is to shrink from the danger. Unaccountably we remain. By slow degrees our sickness, and dizziness, and horror, become merged in a cloud of unnameable feeling. By gradations, still more imperceptible, this cloud assumes shape, as did the vapor from the bottle out of which arose the genius in the Arabian Nights. But out of this our cloud upon the precipice’s edge, there grows into palpability, a shape, far more terrible than any genius, or any demon of a tale, and yet it is but a thought, although a fearful one, and one which chills the very marrow of our bones with the fierceness of the delight of its horror. It is merely the idea of what would be our sensations during the sweeping precipitancy of a fall from such a height. ~ Edgar Allen Poe

He wondered, as he stood there balancing on the brittle edge between life and death, how it would feel to take that fateful step forward. He imagined it. Imagined closing his eyes and allowing himself to sail through the air, not watching the end as it came towards him as fast as it surely would. He imagined enjoying the sensation of flight in his descent and it continuing for an eternity, for at such a height there would almost certainly be no feeling. One would simply transition from this life into the next.

…The next? He contemplated, even though he didn’t believe in heaven or hell, if there was indeed a life beyond this one. He thought about the words of religious people promising damnation upon those who end their own life, an eternity burning in the fires of hell. He didn’t believe all that.

He opened his eyes once more and took in the scenery that surrounded him. The mountains, proud and majestic as they stood bathed in the warm golden glow cast upon them by the setting sun. The great river below snaking its way through the valley, transforming itself from the epitome of serenity into a wild raging animal frothing at the mouth as it tore over the rapids below. Even from such a height he could hear her mighty roar as it carried on the wind. He inhaled all of it, the sights, the smells, the sounds, and with a smile he closed his eyes for the last time as he let himself fall.

Time slowed as he fell. The seconds seemingly lasting an eternity as he plummeted through the air in free fall, with his arms spread wide about him. Finally opening his eyes, he reached across his chest, pulled the cord and howled with ecstatic joy as he revelled in the adrenaline filled high which only B.A.S.E jumping could provide him.

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