In either 1990 or 1991 I was leaving a party in Battersea with some friends. Someone had elected to stay sober and was driving us back to Acton where we were living then. It was one of those cars with no back doors, where the front seat is pushed forward to let the passengers in. We piled into the car in high spirits; I was first in, but as I made my way to the back seat my foot became caught under the front one. No matter, it would be a simple matter to release it and continue on my way. But before I could do this, some drunken oaf behind me pushed me, imagining this would help my progress. Of course, all this achieved was to twist my body whilst my foot stayed where it was. There was a sharp pain from my ankle. As I cried out the pushing stopped. I released my throbbing foot from its prison. At the time I was a little too crapulous to register what had happened. The person who had pushed me was similarly unconcerned.
His name was Stewart Graham Lee.
When I woke up the next morning (actually afternoon) I was in agony and barely able to walk. My ankle had swollen up to twice its size. I knew it was just a really bad sprain, and nothing was broken. Any sensible person would have gone to the doctors to have it checked out. But I am a man and thus am neither a sensible person or the kind of person who considers going to the doctor unless death is imminent in the next three minutes. I allowed my ankle to get better on its own. I was a young comedian and still believed that laughter was the best medicene. Unfortunately audiences weren't finding me particularly funny back then.
The ankle bothered me for months and still I sought no medical advice. Gradually it got better, but there was a twinge there for a couple of years. Even after that there would be occasions when I'd have some minor mishap and the pain would return. When it got cold the joint would throb.
It hasn't bothered me for five years or so, though I have been worried that all this training would aggravate it. The last thing I want to happen to me is to run forty miles a week for three months, only for my leg to give out and not be able to compete in the actual race.
But I had noticed when stretching recently that my ankle was a little tender to the touch.
Today I was playing squash and within the first five minutes I was experiencing those almost forgotten twinges. I tried to play through it, but it got a little worse. I decided that I'd have to stop playing as I had too much to lose (and I was also losing quite heavily; being unable to run is a distinct disadvantage in this game).
I tried to rest up for the remainder of the day and even found one of those ankle strapping things that I used to wear the last time it gave me bother and put that on. But my hopes that it would repair itself in hours have been dashed.
Later on I would get a cab home after a night out, in order to minimise stress to my lowest leg joint, but somehow getting into the taxi I managed to jolt it again (in a faint echo of the original incident) and it hurt more than it did all day.
Luckily because I am doing this boat race thing I should be able to get it looked at by a proper sports doctor (I know they have a special name, but it escapes me. And anyway "sports doctor" sounds much cooler). But I still have fears that this ancient trauma will leave my dreams of Marathon victory in tattered tatters. I won't give in, and I will hop the fucking race if necessary, but after things had been going so well this is something of a set-back (as well of a reminder about how old I actually am).
And on the same day that my affliction returns, what became of the man who is soully responsible for its occurrence (some would say that he may have deliberately pushed me, knowing my leg was trapped and aware that I would one day want to run the Marathon using that leg to help me)? He is nominated for an Olivier award for his directing skills. No wonder my ankle is aching with resentment, bitter at the success of his old nemesis (The rest of me is delighted, but my ankle has more to hold a grudge about than the rest of me).
But whilst all the world is applauding the billionaire opera director, is anyone thinking of the poor young boy that he wantonly crippled? I think I might be able to sell this story to the tabloids. Or at least get something out of him from Claims Direct.
And you know, I wonder, if that wide-eyed young man in the "We Will Rock You" audience, overwhelmed with delight at the magic of the faultless Rock Opera, would ever have dreamed that he himself would one day put on a piece of musical theatre, which would be even more successful than the one penned by his heroes Ben Elton and The Queen (I know).
Who can say?
All I know is that the bloke next to him probably had his ankle put out as Lee pushed to get out of the theatre.