Beckham is bandy-legged - but only from the knees down
I've been wearing a grey armband all week, showing respex for Bex. I am so worried about him. And about my friend Rupert and his wife Sal. All three have been awaiting medical reports, not knowing what was going to happen next.
I don't understand people mocking the attention Beckham has received. Tony Blair was spot on to express concern at a cabinet meeting. It was right that he featured in a Thought for the Day on the Today programme, and it was only proper that the Sun (or was it the Mirror?) showed his foot on its front page and asked the nation to lay their hands on the photograph and pray. It didn't matter that the same papers ridiculed Hoddle for having faith in a faith-healer. We're not talking logic and consistency here. This was a national emergency, though many have wondered whether, if Bex had had a groin strain, the Sun would have printed a full-page photo of his injured parts and asked us all to lay our hands on it.
Which brings us to my friend Rupert. He developed a nasty skin rash on his private part, so his GP referred him to the Whittington Hospital. Meanwhile, his wife, Sal, started having pains in her chest. Tests showed that her blood pressure was very high, yet she's a fit woman and plays tennis all the time.
Awful, isn't it, all this worry and concern over health. Once you get over 50, that's what happens. I myself, perfect specimen though I am, had my eyes tested last week by Dollond & Aitchison. All perfect, but Ms Dollond, or it might have been Mrs Aitchison, asked in passing if I'd had my blood pressure done recently. I rushed over to Hampstead to see the nurse at our general practice. She told me I was 140 over 80. You what? It means excellent, she said.
I walked back over the Heath singing "Tot-ing-ham, Tot-ing-ham". This is part of our family myth. Our son Jake, as a little boy, always sang this when he was in a good mood. I then rang my friend Sal to say that, in my will, I was leaving her my blood pressure. It's just so obvious, leaving your kidneys to help the human race. Everyone does that. It did cheer her up.
I tried to ring Tony Stevens, who is Beckham's agent, and also Owen's, Shearer's and Dwight Yorke's, to ask if Bex might like one of my toes, but he was engaged. If it's going to take eight weeks for his broken metatarsal to heal, a toe transplant might be much quicker. I'm hardly using mine at present, since I gave up Sunday football.
If I was Fergie, worrying about my two major invalids, I'd want Roy Keane fit first. He is far more important and valuable to Man Utd than Bex, who this season has often been peripheral. But for England, Bex has become our leader, inspiration, talisman. Who would have thought it, just a year ago? That's why a nation has been mourning. A nation does not get these things wrong.
A lot of people did go tut tut, ridiculous, what is the world coming to, when the news of Bex's foot got precedence in the headlines over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is to misunderstand the nature of headlines. Like is not being compared with like. Newness matters most. Whatever is the very latest drama jumps ahead of the running story.
Second, headline writers know that we all know Bex, a topic we all share, all have an opinion on, all can rubbish, even if we know bugger all about football. Bex's toe might have been bad news in one sense, but it's linked up with a feel-good event, one that makes us cheerful and happy. Until, that is, it happens.
Afterwards, 31 out of the 32 nations will be decidedly unhappy. We need Bex, not just for his footballing skills, for his contributions to our knowledge of anatomy, but for his haircuts. I bet he's got one up his sleeve, or wherever he keeps it, ready to surprise and amuse us all. There is no one in the England squad so concerned about his appearance, which is fortunate for us. When things get boring, as they will in that first game against Sweden, with nothing much happening, we can enjoy close-ups and speculate about his eyebrows, the colour of his roots, the patterns on his bonce, the amount of gunge on his hair.
Or his legs. I've always been fascinated by them. At first glance, when you observe him walking, you think he's bandy-legged, bowed like a jockey. Study them closely next time you have a chance, which, dear God, we all pray is soon. He is bandy-legged - but only from the knees down. This is most unusual. Bandy-calfed, so they call it in medical circles. Above the knee, his legs and thighs go straight up and are what we call normal. But below the knees, each leg is curved inwards like a boomerang. Very weird. This abnormality explains how he can bend the ball when taking corners and free kicks.
I do fear for him in the years to come, as he's bound to get appalling arthritis, but for now, at his age, it's not a disability but a gift, sent from heaven. Naturally, David has had to work at it, as we all have, with whatever modest gifts God has given us, and all of us, friends, have been given gifts that we have to work on. How many words did you say for Thought for the Day? What? Forget it. I'm not doing one. Back to Rupert.
It's turned out to be good news. He went private, not being prepared to wait 15 months, and paid to go to the King Edward VII Hospital for Sick Officers. He had a biopsy, and there is no sign of skin cancer. "I've been told I've got a hearty dick," so he told me when he and Sal came for lunch last week.
Not such good news for Sal. "I've been told I've got a dicky heart."
Please note, all medical references are true. Bex is a real person. So are my friends. I have made up nothing. Not even the quotes.
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