Balls, books and bad advice

What not to do to ease back pain.

What not to do to ease back pain.

Published Feb 25, 2024


Durban — There’s a big rug near the couch under which nestle a number of bad judgement calls.

They’re not something we usually like to share.

But this one was so egregious, and was shared so vociferously and enthusiastically, there’s no rug big enough for a cover-up.

A shower chair as office desk chair is not good advice. Please do not follow it. Only on this matter – the rest is quality assured by my boss, who dryly pointed out when I made an earlier mea culpa to the team, that the clue lay in its name: “shower chair”, not “comfortable miracle solution to desk-chair back pain”.

It had showed early promise: sturdy, stiff and solid. And it is, but only for short sits. The preshower chair was broken beyond repair, and I had terrible visions of being impaled. That is the only explanation I can offer for being so prematurely delighted to have solid ground beneath my bum.

Seven hours into the shower chair test drive, and with another three or four to go, tears hung from my eyelids and many painkillers were consumed. Italy’s Sienna museum of torture couldn’t have come up with a better way to extract confessions.

So I confess – it was a stupid, expensive thing to do. And I had to spend more on a big heavy-duty office chair.

On a happier knit, I mean note, this passed the good advice test. Imagine my surprise as I powered through the yarn balls with nary a dropped stitch on the “things to do with your hands” big blankie knit. Muscle memory is remarkable – after a few stitches, it felt like I was right back on the 14-year shawly thing project.

There was one teeny bit of one row that had to be unpicked and redone because I confused plain with purl, but the “blankie” is moving along wonderfully. Even the gnarled knuckles are getting exercise.

Because granny’s no-look skills haven’t been genetically passed along, there’s no “watching” TV; just quick glimpses and listening. My old fave WildEarth has fit the bill perfectly, glancing up or taking an eye-break for a short segment of a rebellious show-off baby elephant or a lounging leopard and being immersed in the serene sounds of nature while growing those rows.

Thankfully I had done some reading before the blankie bug bit: one the latest in Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan series (Command and Control by Marc Cameron) and Mrs Plansky’s Revenge by Spencer Quinn, which Stephen King “absolutely adored”.

Mrs Plansky is a fit and feisty, well-off widow in her 70s who is scammed out of every cent by Romanian hackers. Infuriated and mortified, she takes off from her soon-to-be-former Florida home to Romania. It’s a heck of an adventure involving Very Bad Men and a couple of really bright young hackers at their mercy until Mrs Plansky arrives to get her money and revenge. In the age of rampant and sophisticated cybercrime, it is a timely reminder about not trusting anyone enough to share your password.

Real Clancy fans loved all the techie details, so there were large chunks I could skip in the original novels. This one doesn’t have that much, but it also doesn’t have much Ryan either. Perhaps I have been spoiled by the characters which develop so well in the four-season Jack Ryan TV series. It works if you just want a lazy action read – just don’t expect Jack.

Independent on Saturday