My hands, Oh, fuck my hands.
I used to work with an old cabinet-maker, coffin-maker, actually, is what he'd been mostly; now, there's a trade to ponder, one step away from an embalmer or an undertaker, one of those entirely pointless servants of Ritual; making the dead last a little longer, boxing 'em up in timbers of grandeur. And burying all that work underground.
He used to come in, in the morning, Arthur, weeping, face contorted in amguish and exasperation, Oh, my hands, he used to say, Oh, fuck, my hands. I found it very upsetting, seeing a grown man, an old man, cry. His hands'd cramp-up and he couldn't grip the radial-arm saw which was his main tool - he made bookcases for the business. Mrs Ishmael and I would buy him creams and ointments, nothing made any difference. Years of planing and sanding and screwing and polishing had fucked his joints and he had arthritis. But you know how it is in the workplace, you feel sorry for people for a while and then you come over all Tory, and just wish they'd fuck off, take their pain elsewhere, please, we have a business to run here; wealth creation, that's the thing.
Now, of course, years of sanding and planing and screwing and polishing have fucked my joints and I have arthritis. I bought power tools; where, in Arthur's day, things had been done by hand, I generally have a machine for the purpose but even power tools eat away at manual strength, need wielding agains their own torque, transfer vibration to weak flesh and bone and sinew. I spend a bit of time looking at newer, smaller, lighter power tools, for the stuff I still do, to see if somehow they bypass the transference of torque and although some of them are easier to use, there is no escaping Energy's bone-grinding exhaust.
Oh, Fuck, my hands, I curse, how can mere hands hurt so, but they do and they cramp-up, spastic, and I pull one frozen hand against the other, trying to free their furious, agonising self-locking mechanisms. It's like a horror show, round here, when that happens. But good news comes, of a sort. I have had this condition for ten years, mentioned it now and again to doctors but it's been submerged and ignored in a flood of diabetic and cardiac complications, the doctors only usually want to do one thing at a time, bless, but recently one of them sent me for an x-ray. Arthritis, she announced, in these joints here, here, here and here, in all the places of which I had been complaining.
Ah, it's OK for me to be Junky, now; free opiates, off the NHS, doctor says. Tramadol does nothing for the bones but a good deal for the head, blocking the pain signals and bringing, coincidentally, a feeling of wellbeing and razor-sharp focus - I wouldn't want to argue with me when I'm Tramadollied up, you know, how the young Polish plumber says: You think we Poles know fuck nothing but, in fact, we know fuck all!! It's like that. And my brief dalliance with the Poppy's products is over. It's okay as long as you keep taking more of it, as long as you don't mind being welded-up-tight constipated and as long as you can forfeit sleep almost entirely for drowsy hallucination. OK if you're dying, I guess. And never have to get clean. Even the manufacturers of Tramadol say you need a fortnight to get straightened-out. Better, if you can, not to get kinked in the first place. Maybe the time will come for all of us when toxic dependency is preferable to futile stoicism, buy it ain't that dark yet. I'll try wearing warm gloves, Ibuprofen, and maybe a small whiskey.
There is a lot of rubbish spoken and written about so-called drug-use and largely it is the criminalisation of some substances and not others which creates organised crime and poor stupid junkies, as well as some not so poor, some not so stupid; some flung in Barlinnie or Strangeways, some soireed in Downing Street. I would decriminalise everything and watch the crime figures fall through the floor, watch endless regiments of gabshites seek new career opportunities, watch the cops enforce the law, not some puritanical I-Know-Bestism. People have always got off their heads. Always. Wherever two or three are gathered together they will find something to ferment, distill, chew, inhale, inject or shove up their arses, the better to escape for a while Life's awful burden of Death. The drug laws are a mediaeval impudence, a racket which makes a small, containable problem epidemic, pandemic. GlobaCorp operates all across national and legal boundaries, wealth creation for some, misery for many.
But in the meantime, arthritis, I just learned, like diabetes and heart disease, has its own magazines, all, I swear, written by the same stupid fuckers who were last year writing Crochet Weekly, or Saga Holidays Review; modelled for by the same gang of TwiggyULike harridans, leaning girlishly on grinning elderly male models with miles of gleaming teeth and written to by readers one step away from getting on the char-a-banc to Lourdes but who will, instead, try to pen the Star Letter and win a weekend in the Lake District; a morbid, flatulent industry, these sickness rags, written by and for the worst sort of parasites. If you develop it, artritis, ignore it for as long as possible. And then ignore it some more. I have always argued, here, in Ishamelia Cloisters, that painkillers, especially opiates, are, in every sense of the words, the Last Resort.