Best foot forward

19th April 2013 at 01:00

It was 4 o'clock on a Tuesday morning and I was lying on the settee trying to watch a repeat of Fawlty Towers. My hope that a cocktail of co-codamol, ibuprofen and John Cleese would dull the pain was a forlorn one. The throbbing in my right ankle laughed in the face of extra-strong analgesics and classic comedy.

They said the first 48 hours would be the worst, so only 36 to go. By Wednesday afternoon I should be relatively pain-free. That would give me nearly three weeks to complete a recuperation programme that involved doing bugger all.

It began last September when X-rays revealed my painful limp was footballer's ankle. My mind went back to a cold January in 1984 when a particularly hefty challenge by the Dog and Duck's right back brought my promising career in Sunday League football to a premature end. "Isn't that what Wayne Rooney had?" I asked the consultant.

"He was an athlete with a broken metatarsal," she replied. "You're a tired old teacher with osteoarthritis."

While we were waiting for my spinal block to take effect, the anaesthetist honed his skills by knocking out a fly in mid-flight with a freezing alcohol spray. "Can't have the little sod getting into the operating theatre," he joked.

I tried to dismiss a vision of writhing maggots erupting from my black and swollen ankle.

"As you can see I'm cutting away the calcified spur that appears to be causing the problem," the surgeon said as I watched my operation on a 52in flat-screen television. To my untutored eye it looked like some white stuff, some red stuff and some fibrous-looking grey stuff were being systematically chewed up by a thing with revolving metal teeth.

By Thursday the balance of agony and ecstasy had tilted in favour of the latter and I felt up to ringing my job-share partner. She sounded fraught but did her best to be sympathetic. Then she reminded me that it was assessment week and that my absence meant she would have to do them all by herself.

"It's a pity I'm on crutches and can't drive," I told her. "Otherwise I'd be up for a bit of marking." I could hear the sound of squabbling children in the background and she rang off. I dunked another chocolate Hobnob into my coffee and turned up the sound on Bargain Hunt.

By Saturday I was able to use paracetamol for pain relief. This was a medical decision and had nothing to do with the fact that you can't drink alcohol while taking co-codamol.

By Sunday afternoon, and with no need to make frenzied preparations for the week ahead, I was at my ecstatic peak. My only planning was for a fortnight of indolence: two weeks of crosswords, mindless television and afternoon naps.

There was a firm rap on the door. I checked my crutches were in a prominent position, adopted a supine position on the settee and elevated my heavily bandaged ankle. "Come in," I cried, weakly.

Lara Croft (our hyperactive deputy head) cartwheeled into the living room. "I've brought you a little present from school," she said.

"How kind of everyone to think of me, but they shouldn't have bought me anything," I told her.

"They didn't," she said, before disappearing in a flurry of backflips.

I tore open the package to reveal a pile of unmarked assessments. Now, where did I put those extra-strong painkillers?

Steve Eddison is a key stage 2 teacher at Arbourthorne Community Primary School in Sheffield.

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