These last few months I’ve been suffering from aches and stiffness in my back and neck. No mystery as to why: although I probably spend far less time at a keyboard than I used to when I was working full time, these days instead of sitting in my nice adjustable chair with everything set up along ergonomic principles by the Safety Elves, I’ve been working at my (gasp!) laptop on a (shudder!) kitchen chair, in whatever room happens to be warmest at the time and that turns out to be the recipe for pain and suffering. Unfortunately, although I do actually have a desk and could get a chair and a separate screen and keyboard for my laptop and I could occasionally listen to my mother and sit up straight instead of hanging on the small muscles of my back, the fact is, I know I’m not going to do any of those things because the desk is currently in the coldest room of the house. Whatever I might do in the summer (and when the summer comes, could you let me know? I’ll be under the duvet with a hot water bottle and may not notice), come the winter I’ll be working in the kitchen anyway and there’s no room in there for half an office.
So an alternative was needed. I tried standing at my computer, which a lot of people swear by but I found it a bit hard on the feet and also surprisingly difficult to concentrate – my brain is conditioned to only working while I’m sitting down, it seems, which may explain a lot. I’m looking into finding an Alexander Technique teacher, but that’s a long term proposition, and my neck and back were getting worse, to the point where only a night on Babymother’s futon brought any relief, a somewhat impractical proposition given that she lives about 400 miles away.
Fortunately, my physiotherapist, who doubles as my mother, had a more practical suggestion. For the last three weeks or so I’ve been working at my computer sitting cross-legged on the floor, with the laptop at eye level on the coffee table. It’s not perfect – the keyboard is too high – but it’s better than the old arrangement. Sitting on the floor makes me sit up straight and it’s also less tempting to spend hour after hour in front of the keyboard than it is in a chair, which may, thinking about it, be how it works.
There is one tiny flaw in the ointment. My mother assured me that after a while my knees and hips would get used to the position and that I would soon be able to spring up from the floor instead of having to straighten myself s-l-o-w-l-y a-n-d c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y all the time fully expecting some important part, like a leg, to fall off if I move too fast. So far, there’s no sign of this and I’m beginning to think that sitting cross-legged on the floor is one of those new tricks that my 42-year-old knees aren’t going to learn too quickly. So far, the stiffness wears off reasonably quickly although I have had a few comedy moments from trying to walk on legs that have gone to sleep. And on the whole the back thing was more worrying than the leg thing and no bits have actually fallen off to date. So I’m going to persevere with this for a little while. But I would ask you that if you’re in a position to phone me, you give me plenty of time to get to the damn thing to answer it…
Oh, and if you’ve got Safety Elves in your place of work, be nice to them and actually listen to their advice. Because it turns out they do know what they’re talking about after all.