The chair in the picture above was designed and built by God. For the past (as I write) two weeks it has been my only solace, providing some relief from a debilitating condition caused by a lumbar disc herniation, in one word: sciatica.

A disc that separates two vertebrae in my lower back – the position is L5-S2, if I recollect well – has bulged out into the surrounding area and has been pinching the sciatic nerve that leads through my left buttock along the back of my leg down to the sole of my left foot. Because of this, I feel pain and numbness most of the time but particularly when I stand up, while walking and when I lie down straight: I have to sleep on my right side, only turning to the left for a few minutes at at time, each time enduring a spasm of pain along the parts mentioned above, to allow the right side a respite from the weight of my body, before returning to the relatively painless right position.

I’m undergoing treatment with so-called epidural injections. These target the inflamed pinched nerve in order to ‘unflame’ it, so to speak. But the injector needs to aim well, otherwise it won’t work. Yesterday evening I took the second of three such attempts and the effects should start to kick in after “22 hours”. That’s what the doctor said. Surely, he intended 24 hours but let’s wait and see. After the first round’s thorough failure, a week before yesterday’s injection, I’m not very optimistic, although I have been imagining some improvement today. In the (frankly unlikely) case of the pain dissolving away, it would be the last few hours where I can only hobble to the kitchen to make a coffee, I have to literally pull myself up by the handrail to go up the stairs to the bedroom while taking a shower or even using the toilet are a logistical and painful nightmare. Failing the third epidural injection after another week the next step would be surgery.

The “God chair” mentioned above is the place where I have been spending most of my time during the day and, occasionally, also at night when it hurts too much to lie in bed in any position. Sitting down here is the position where I feel most comfortable, where my sciatica hurts least, and where I can most easily allow my consciousness sink into blissful oblivion. Three metres away across the room there’s a TV screen – most of the time just a dark black rectangle. Sometimes I switch it on to hear the latest repeats of Italian football transfer news. On the table in front of the God chair there’s my faithful Asus “EeeBook” – my contact with the outside world.

I had been thinking a few days ago about how many regions in the world have been clamouring for independence. Kosovo, Catalonia, South Ossetia, sometimes Flanders… Who knows, maybe even Brussels Region may one day become an independent state. Is there a limit on how small a region, a city or maybe even a village can be in order for them to declare independence? Taking the line of thought to the extreme I concluded that, since you cannot have a nation with zero population, the smallest possible population count of an independent country should theoretically be one.

And that was how I had the idea that I could well found an independent country myself – the Antonian Republic. The territory of the country is two square metres in area, and consists of the God chair and the grey table, a bit like Malta and the smaller island of Gozo. The population of the Antonian Republic is made up of myself. It’s a constitutional republic, and I am the president.

 

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