Children are always on the move. Fidgety was one description for me, back in the day. Today I read a delightful post about how small children love to latch onto music and just move, just dance. Jennie Fitzkee of A Teacher’s Reflections posted this little gem, in which she referenced ‘music and movement’.
Oddly these words have the opposite effect to that intended. They were to bring joy, to share the love. For me however they take me straight back to primary school and Mrs Greening’s class. I’d have been maybe 7 and enjoyed everything physical. I was classically that over active little boy Joyce Grenfell spoke about in her delightful monologues.
And then came Mrs Greening with her Scottish Country dancing…
I perhaps shouldn’t blame her. I was notorious for injuring myself and inanimate objects that came into my orbit. At one point aged about 9 the doctor warned my mother to try and keep me safe as he worried about the number of X-rays I had had in the previous 6 months. A few years before I sat on a broken milk bottle with which I perforated my bottom and stood on a needle being used by the Archaeologist in one of his experiments with sound that ended broken in my heel necessitating an operation. I had conkers exploding into my right eye, a thumb dislocated playing stuck in the mud, a lacerated foreskin cause by an over vigorous closing of my fly, my brother crushing my head between his rear and the pathway when we timed our synchronised descent from an oak tree to a tee and a face plant from my bike when I lost control downhill with what my dad told me was wheel-wobble.
And then there was music and movement…
Mrs Greening decided the standard music and movement classes were not sufficiently inspiring and brought along a record of Scottish Country music. I was delighted as the usual fayre was a bit floaty and drippy for me; vigorous little bodies like mine didn’t really relate to imitating a petal falling in Autumn when their repertoire comprised a spot-on imitation of an ICBM hurtling towards Moscow.
It all went so well, this robust Scottish dancing until I ricked my neck performing a rather epic Stripping of the Willow. Boy do I remember that moment. The pain was awful, every movement sending shots of fire across my shoulders and down my side. Once again I was dispatched to the doctors, then the local hospital and an X-ray. After a bit of ho-humming, a treatment plan was established.
Manipulation followed by the application of deep heat which was accompanied by stretching. This was the 1960s but it could well have been an established practice first conceived in the 1460s.
Manipulation was the foreplay, the softening up, a gentle application of long fingers into the soft tissue of my neck; it hurt but if I whimpered the doctor paused until I was ready to go again. So far so good.
I was then taken to a room with about four empty beds and made to lie on one. The deep heat section was achieved by directing an enormous infra red lamp at my head and neck, poaching me effectively than any beach holiday. To my small scale view of the world, the lamp seemed to resemble the spotlights used to pick out German bombers in WW2. But however uncomfortable the heat was it was lost in phase three.
The stretching component was truly medieval, people. As I lay on my back, my feet were put into two straps attached the bed frame. Having fixed those, a third strap was wrapped round my chin and the ends taken out of my line of sight behind my head. It turned out they were then attached to a spindle which was gently spun to apply tension through my body. The heat softened the tissue and as I got used to the stretch – determined by my stopping wincing – the spindle was ratcheted a little more. The nurse, charged with applying this Hammer horror, decided that I had reached the optimum point, said soemthign to mum about ‘coming back in half an hour’ and disappeared.
This is when the final indignity, the climax of de Sade-esque punishment was inflicted on me. My mother loomed over me and sent out a sympathetic smile. ‘Don’t worry darling. Let’s read a book. It’ll take your mind off this,’ she made a vague wave at whatever this contraption was.
I loved being read to. It was a real treat and, as a caring parent she had brought along a Famous Five book to read to me as distraction. If one could be chipper while being elongated, I was chipper. For 5 minutes mum set the scene with George and Timmy and Anne and the rest and then she dropped off to sleep. Could I wake her? With my jaw strapped and my feet tied? I flapped my hands but she was too far away. I gurgled and hissed but my strapping was as effective a gag as any celebrity injunction. I lay on that bed, squirming with discomfort and annoyance, tension oozing through my neck when I should have been relaxed for nearly an an hour, while mum caught up with several consecutive sets of 40 winks.
At least I learnt a lesson that day that became a truism when I became a parent; however loving you may be, if given the choice sleep will always take precedence if given the chance.