A skeleton is for life, not just for Christmas

Skeleton in Christmas hat

Finding my skeleton

I’ve bought a skeleton. He was hiding behind four gilded ornamental pineapples in a dingy corner of a local auction house.  His plastic bones were hanging in the right order, he was moveable and, like most anatomical skeletons, male. (Female versions are rare and cost an arm and a leg).  He was silent but we had an instant connection.

Making a bid

Browsing in an auction house was tricky, like a game of three-dimensional poker. I was a novice, so took my cue from others. It seemed communal yet competitive, sociable but filled with low cunning. Some bidders gave off an air of unconcern, as if out for a Sunday stroll. Others honed in at once on their target, chatting in hushed tones to decide on a price.

There was only one skeleton in the sale and others might want him. How much was he worth to me? I knew I’d find him useful, but didn’t mind if he went elsewhere. Best to treat it like a game where the outcome didn’t matter. So I studied a telescope, a yellow diving helmet and a silent pair of peacocks hoping to throw rivals off the musty scent of sternum and femur. Then I made a nonchalant foray into pineapple corner to settle on my bid.

Internal body map

When I started having Alexander lessons my internal body map was, at best, sketchy. I hadn’t paid much attention to skeletal structure since school biology lessons with Mr Brodie. Where my bones and joints were, what they did or how they moved was not important knowledge.  Or so I thought.

But without a body map I had no sense of what was possible and moved in a more compressed and restricted way than I needed to. With Alexander work my body map has become more accurate.  My movement is now more in harmony with my joints and internal structure rather than ignoring or working against them. Seeing a life-size skeleton during Alexander lessons and training has been part of this process. Without doubt the plastic figure behind the pineapples could be of use.

Looking after my skeleton

My auction house strategies were successful.  No-one else bid, and I secured the skeleton at a modest price. “He’s a good dancer” laughed the receptionist. “We’ve enjoyed having him around”.  So the next challenge was to escort him home.

He blinked as we emerged into the sunlight and paused, uncertain. We set off uphill. An arm (his) fell off.  I stopped, picked it up and carried on. A black cab came to a sudden halt as I wheeled him on creaking castors over the zebra crossing.

Crowds parted as we continued and two waiters at a pavement cafe laid down steaming spaghetti meatballs for a quick selfie.  We made stately progress onward to my front door and I invited him in.

I’ve repaired his arm and re-aligned his hip joints. He’s definitely not just for Christmas.  Both he and my own skeleton are for life. I need to take care of us both now.

Written in Term 8 of my training to be an Alexander Technique teacher.

Palindrome by William Cobbing
Don’t try this at home. Palindrome 2003 by William Cobbing (Wellcome Collection)


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