Sunday, 31 January 2010

Z kneerly has a miship

I forgot my hip just now. I was pleased to notice that Mad Men was being repeated on BBC4 at 11 pm and even more pleased that I'd noticed it at 10.55. I've mentioned before that I find it very peculiar that they don't say when the repeats of anything are - since they may be on any channel and at any time of the day or night, they are not easy to spot in a tv guide. I know about iplayer but, unless it's changed recently, it only shows as a small box on a Mac, so it's not that enjoyable to watch. Besides, not everything is shown on it, so it's not to be relied on.

Anyway, it's a double episode and I probably won't want to be up that late. So I went to the recorder, and found that it had been left on, which it shouldn't have been of course. I turned over to it, and found that it had stuck on the 27th January at 9 pm. So, I fiddled with the controls for a while and then knelt down to check it was all plugged in.


I'm not allowed to kneel down.

Fortunately, nothing has dislocated. The Sage helped me up, once I'd decided what leg to use first. The good news is that kneeling doesn't hurt. The other good news is that, although my hip is sore, no harm has been done. I feel a bit of an idiot though. I can see that the more it heals, the more likely I am to forget the rules.

I turned the machine off at the wall and on again, and it's working fine. I think that happens regularly to my brain as well.

A matter of timing

Yes, lateness. Dave suggests I'm guilty of it. True, I was usually the last one out when building was going on last summer, but that was because the Sage got the cement mixer going while I cleared away breakfast and got ready. If there had been a reason to present myself at 8.30 on the dot, I would have. Anyway, it gave the Sage a chance to tell Dave of all the decisions he had made or changed over the past few days, so that Dave could pass the news on to me, because he pretty quickly learned how infuriated this made me, and once I'd ranted for a few minutes to him, I was considerably more good-natured when the Sage came back. The Sage didn't deliberately do this, it's just that he thinks that I know what he's decided and so doesn't need to tell me. I am saying nothing about consultation.

My adherence to punctuality depends on the occasion. For example, if I'm meeting you at a restaurant, I will be on time - partly because a table will have been booked for a time, and partly so as not to keep you waiting (Dave arrived before me when we had our first meeting, but he was early. I was a few minutes early). If it's a business meeting, I will be on time. If I'm a host or chairing the meeting, I will be early. If I realise I cannot be there in time, I'll make every effort to contact someone to explain.

Having said all that, in social matters, I'm much more casual, but that's usually expected, isn't it? When first married, I was very unnerved each time we invited the Sage's parents for a meal. They always arrived early and I was never ready. I confidently expected 10-20 minutes leeway for last-minute preparations, and it was at least a year before I managed not to be caught out.

Over the years, the Sage and I have become more considerate towards each other, and also more tolerant. There's a general agreement that, if one has said an approximate time to arrive home, it's wise to phone if one is delayed by more than half an hour. If we're meeting at a time for a reason, that's different of course. One Christmas Eve, some 30 years ago, we were expected for dinner with my mother and step-father. I was going to get there first, and the Sage would join us. He didn't arrive. I went through mild annoyance to anxious irritation to indignation when he turned up safe and sound. Fortunately, I gave him time to explain. Simon the dog had stolen the Stilton cheese and eaten it, several pounds of it, on the hall carpet under the Christmas tree. He never stole - well, he never did before or afterwards - so I hadn't been too bothered about stowing it away out of reach. As you might imagine, he had mashed it up pretty thoroughly, the Sage said. He had spent an hour clearing up and hadn't thought to phone. When we arrived home, I found the hall was immaculate and he had cleared up most thoroughly - there wasn't even a cheesy pong. Simon slept in the scullery for the next couple of nights in case his digestion went awry, but it didn't - his coat and eyes shone as never before, in fact. Another time, the Sage was late, and it turned out that he had stopped to assist at a road accident. And so I learned never to complain until I had asked. And we both learned, because I wasn't brilliant at time-keeping in those days, that it's just as rude to be late for your partner as for anyone else, if a firm time has been arranged - but that it usually doesn't matter.

It does annoy me when keeping one waiting is automatically built into appointments, such as hospital visits. The arrogant assumption that one person's time is more important than another's is something I find unacceptable. Of course, such things can't necessarily be exact, and one delay can have a knock-on effect - but in that case, people waiting should be told and let know how much time they have in hand, so they can go and have a walk or at least stop worrying in case they miss an announcement. My splendid local doctors' surgery is excellent in this regard - you register on a touchscreen, which lets the doctor or nurse know you're there and says if the appointments are running on time or, if delayed, by how long. And then you get an apology if you're kept waiting a few minutes. There is no reason for this not to happen in hospitals too or anywhere else. And pretending you're not being kept waiting by doing some small procedure every 20 minutes and moving you to a different waiting room every half hour does not disguise a long wait, even if it does enable the punctuality box to be ticked on the government checklist.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Z finds dependence mildly frustrating

I haven't done anything much today. I went to sleep earlier last night, thanks to the electric blanket - and now that my painful hip doesn't wake me several times in the night, I'm sleeping really soundly. However, sleeping for longer made me crave yet more, and I napped for the best part of a couple of hours this afternoon.

I've asked the Sage every day to bring through a jug of water so that I can have plenty to drink. I wasn't able to carry it through myself. Every time I asked, he went and fetched me a glassful, which I could have done myself anyway, and drunk it in the kitchen, if he'd let me. I've been getting more thirsty - the air is drier than usual in here as we've lit the fire every day instead of just the evenings, and I've spent a lot of my time in here. And my liquid intake is less because of no wine. It wasn't until today, when I finally felt reliably steady enough to manage a full jug while walking with one stick, that I went out to get a jugful myself - whereupon, of course, he insisted on filling it and bringing it himself.

Just as well. I've drunk all two pints of it in the last hour. Now, of course, he's promising to refill it for me. Now that I'm not thirsty any more. Still, I think the point has been made.

I have been sent some potted azaleas which, as you probably know, must not dry out and prefer soft water. I suggested that he get a jugful of snow, bring it in to melt and I could water the plants with that. A few hours later, when he was out, I remembered that he hadn't done it, so went out myself. There was a jugful of snow after all, but it was still outside, which meant it was completely unmelted. I brought it in and put it on the radiator, assuming he'd filled it and then gone to feed the chickens or something and forgotten it. When he came back and saw it, "Oh, I left it to melt in the sun," he said. "But the temperature is still freezing, and it's warm indoors."

I'm not complaining, I promise you. And no one could be more kind and thoughtful. But I'm finding it harder to keep asking for help. Like when I have to ask for a bowl of hot water so that I can wash my feet. And when my sock aid couldn't quite cope with the shortness of today's socks, so I had to get him to put the heel on. I feel such a nuisance, and I've still another five weeks of it. Not of everything, of course, just the bendy things.

On the other hand, I love having him in charge of mealtimes. I am doing my bit with the cooking, because I can, and we quite enjoy doing it together - I can't get anything out of low cupboards or the lower shelves of the fridge, and I can't use the bottom oven of the Aga at all. But I'm leaving it to him to choose what to buy and he's preparing most meals. And you really feel you're looking after someone when you cook for them, don't you?

Friday, 29 January 2010

Mo thees biss

It hardly constitutes a sentence, but these were, yesterday, the first words that Zerlina, who is now 17 months old, has strung together. She was asking for more cheese biscuits.

Having spent more time here today, she has become very affectionate towards me and kissed me and nuzzled her head against mine. She also kissed Tilly of course. I was a bit lucky today. I've been going to sleep very late as, without my nighttime bath, my feet take at least an hour to warm up in bed, even on a hot water bottle. Then, once warm, it takes me a long time to feel sleepy. At least I then sleep very well. I have arranged six goose feather pillows to support my back and head so that I am very comfortable, and I do not mind sleeping on my back at all. I have another pillow which goes under the knee of my operated leg and then up between my knees so that there is no danger of them crossing or of me turning over, and I sleep for several hours like that. However, when I wake, I'm still quite tired so I've been staying in bed for an hour or two before getting going. The Sage brings me breakfast, which is a rather austere small slice of unbuttered toast with a scrape of jam, because I'm still not very hungry.

Anyway, I eventually rose, washed and came back to get dressed. I unwisely started by undressing, and stood there, with a window each side of the room, realising that if anyone came to front or side door, I couldn't hide. I think I'll keep my nightie on in future until I'm at least decent underneath. I tidied the room, made the bed, all that - and then Weeza arrived and, moments later, a client of the Sage's. I knew he was coming but had forgotten. Fortunately, I'd done everything but brush my hair and that wasn't awful so all was well. It's a bit embarrassing to have a bed in the middle of the drawing room, but I brazen it out. It's attitude that determines what you can get away with. Anyway, it's my house. Well, it's the Sage's house which counts as the same thing.

When I got out of bed yesterday, I realised that something had healed as walking was much more comfortable. Up to now, the first step or two has needed care. But yesterday it was at last markedly better than getting up had been before the operation. And so it remained all day. I think it was probably some bruising going down - there are signs of a good big bruise under the dressing and I've got some red marks on the lower part of my thigh. All that hammering must have had an effect. As I was so much recovered, I went and made some soup for lunch, with the Sage fetching everything for me. An Aga rail is very convenient for hanging walking sticks. And it's a good height to lean on.

I cooked again this evening, leaving the Sage to cook the vegetables and do the final dishing up. Standing there, I realised that my legs actually aren't yet the same length. To start with, as I said in the post that some of you thought better of reading, it felt very odd to have a right leg that isn't shorter than the left, which made it feel too long. But, two days ago, I noticed that I had adjusted to it. It feels nearly right now. Tonight, I used the rail as a barre to hold while I put the operated leg out to the side, to exercise the abductor muscle, which is the one that has wasted somewhat. But as I brought it back, it brushed on the floor and I had to flex the knee a little. I tried bearing my weight on one leg, then the other, and the right is definitely a shade longer.

I'm not concerned. It will probably settle down. I know I will have been properly measured! And if not, it's very little and far less discrepancy than I had before, and it's not as if there's anything to be done about it. I think it'll right itself.

It's a week since the operation. I am still taking anti-coagulant tablets and will do for a month in total. I am taking paracetamol two or three times a day, but could manage without - indeed, I didn't take my morning ones until 11.30 and haven't taken any since; I'll save them for the night. I don't miss alcohol but I do miss drinking. Early evening seems a bit pointless without the prospect of a glass of wine. I wouldn't mind a drink - this is another change over the last day or two, as before I really didn't fancy it - but I'm choosing to go without. There are no warnings against drinking in the info with the pills, but I"ve had a whole cocktail of medicines in the last week and I think it's better not to add alcohol to the mix.

Oh, and Weeza went and took the electric blanket off Ro's bed (he doesn't live here now, so isn't using it) and has put it on my bed, so cold feet should be a thing of the past.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Z's late mother

When Weeza and I were in India several years ago, for the wedding of her best schoolfriend (both she and her husband live in London but had gone home to Chennai for their marriage), we found that we did a certain amount of sitting around. Every time there was another party, we were told what time to present ourselves, all decked out in saris, ready to pile into cars and auto rickshaws and set off. We duly did so, only to find that no one else was ever ready. So after a day or two, we arrived a bit late, and were given a thorough ticking off. Not that our hosts were ready (W's friend has several aunts), but we and junior members of the family had to be there for when they were, even if it was an hour or two later. This was all right, we were happy to sit and chat and wait although, as the senior aunt was teetotal and so every party was dry, I did start to suffer a certain amount of stress and had to cadge cigarettes from Weeza, who smoked at that time. I didn't smoke and never have, but a girl needs a vice and there were no others available.

One day, we'd arranged to spend the afternoon with the bride's younger sister. We knew she wouldn't be ready on time, and we thought our place in the pecking order was about the same as hers, so we carried on shopping and were in no hurry. When we arrived, she was waiting impatiently. "You're dreadfully late," she scolded. "I wondered what had happened to you, we're going to be late."

"I'll just have my lunch", she added, "and we will get going."

I had a sudden revelation. When I was growing up, you see, my mother was always the last to be ready to go out. She blamed the rest of us. She had to get out the right clothes for our father, or he'd have worn just anything, she had to make sure we were ready and that my hair was brushed, and only then could she turn her attention to herself. When, finally, we were all assembled in the hall, then she vanished to the loo and we all had to wait again. We took all this at face value and it was an accepted thing.

Years later, when she lived here, she and I used to go to a lunch club once a month - originally I went to keep her company as everyone else was much older than I, but of course they became my friends too and I still go (some of them are in their 90s and I'm still one of the youngest). At that time, on a Thursday morning I used to help as a volunteer at the village school, hearing children read and that sort of thing. I used to leave early on that Thursday, wait on the pavement and she'd pick me up. She was nearly always late. I often stood waiting for ten minutes or more.

One day, I'd heard nearly all of the children in the class and I stayed an extra few minutes for the last ones. Suddenly, my mother erupted into the room looking furious and saying that she was waiting for me. When I had finished what I was doing (couldn't abandon the child) and joined her, she ticked me off thoroughly, saying how dreadfully rude it was to be late for lunch - 45 minutes was allowed for arriving, having a drink and chatting generally, so we weren't really, and in any case it was only because she'd been on time for once - we left at the same time as usual.

Anyway, when Deepa was cross with us for lateness, but still hadn't used the time to get ready herself, it gave me a sudden revelation about my mother. The point was, not that she couldn't be ready on time, but that she wouldn't wait for anyone else. So she made sure that she was the last person to appear. And she'd done it all my life, and I'd never realised.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Z is inoffensive

If you want to read about the operation, it's in the post below. If not, there's nothing to worry you here. Well, a flash of thigh.

I've had such a busy day that I've not written the post I had in mind. But I've remembered that I took pictures of my hospital room - what was I thinking about? - so you might as well see them.

The bedroom

The Sage was deeply unimpressed by this bland watercolour

I didn't bother with the television, preferring to listen to my iPod

The bathroom.

One of the views from my window

Later, there were sheep in this field

Mr C made quite sure we agreed what he was going to do

Mm, nice. The right one was taken off before or during the operation and he said it was up to me whether I kept the other one on or not at home, so I took it off as soon as he left the room on Monday evening. Or rather, Weeza did. I couldn't reach.

It's so ungory that I've done an 'after' shot too, trimmed for modesty

Today has been rather special - I received my first proper smacky kiss from Zerlina. Mostly, she lunges at you with open mouth or gives a cheek to be kissed. She has been giving proper kisses to the dog for some time, but I know my place in the pecking order so haven't been offended. This was quite out of the blue and very lovely.

The Gory Details

I'd have loved to have live-blogged it, but I'd never have been allowed and they might have thought I was taking the mick, so I didn't ask.

I'd had all my checks on Wednesday, the only one of which surprised me was the pregnancy test. It's routinely done on women who haven't been through the menopause, but I think I'd have made medical journals, though probably not a record, for lateness of natural conception, not that I've checked. Sad to say, I'm not pregnant.

We arrived at the reception desk and were taken to my room. A few minutes later, a nurse joined us. The Sage looked relieved. "I'd better leave you to it," he said, but I made him stay. She explained what would happen in the next few hours and that I'd be fetched for my operation at about 11.30. After she left, I said goodbye to the Sage and he said he'd phone about 2 o'clock. The surgeon came and he drew a big black arrow on my right thigh, with the letters THR, which was reassuring. The anaesthetist visited and we discussed the operation and agreed that I should only have the spinal, but further sedation could be used if appropriate.

When I was taken downstairs, I had a cannula put in my hand and a small amount of antibiotic put in. As there was no reaction, the rest went in a few minutes later. I sat on my bed with the operating table in front of me and leaned forward. I was warned that the antiseptic spray would be very cold, but I still squeaked. A few moments later I remarked in a conversational way that it continued to feel colder - it had an alcohol base, apparently. I was given another spray which wasn't quite as cold. Then I felt a sharp prickle in my back and I was told that the anaesthetic was being injected, and then I moved on to the operating table - I was able to do it myself with some support because it was awkward - and lay down again (I'm doing my best to remember this exactly, but may not get it 100%) and the anaesthetist pinched me below my waist and asked if I could feel it, I said I could. Then he asked if I could feel his fingers on my thigh. I said I could feel a touch. He told me he'd given quite a sharp pinch. My legs were becoming very heavy. When asked, I said that it felt that I'd cycled too far and fast, and that my muscles were tired and wobbly. They continued to feel heavy. Two nurses came to fit a catheter and I wondered how they were doing it without moving my legs. When they moved aside, I saw that my legs were bent at the knee and apart, but they still felt as if they were in contact with the operating table. It was then 11.45.

The surgeon came and chatted to me, looking very cheerful, and we confirmed what was happening (regarding the spinal, we both knew about the operation) and he asked what music I'd like. It didn't matter what I'd have said, because he liked 80s pop and that was mostly what we got! The theatre staff were all cheerily identifying the music "as you'll be awake, he'll turn the volume down a bit" I was told. "Mr T prefers opera" said someone darkly. I was given an oxygen mask, can't remember what if anything else and I was wheeled in soon after noon. I'd been laid on my side. I was greeted by a cheery operating team. A blue sheet was put up to separate me and the anaesthetist from the others.

We chatted. "You'll hear hammering, and you'll feel it, but it won't hurt." There were quiet voices from the other side of the sheet but I didn't make much out of what was said. Then I heard the buzz of a saw. It was so peculiar to know that my femur was being sawn through, although the thought didn't bother me at all. It was not as loud as I'd expected, nor did it last as long. My blood pressure, heartbeat and breathing were being monitored, of course. I'd watched the machine for a while in the other room and would quite like to have kept an eye on it now, but I couldn't see it. We talked about the operation some more and he said I was doing well. I was calm and relaxed. He said that I might not get it because of the mask, but if I could smell burning, it was because some cauterising was being done to minimise bleeding. "I can smell it now," I said a few moments later. It smelled of bone rather than flesh, I thought.

We started talking about schools. His daughter is taking the entrance exam, or possibly has taken it, for the same Norwich school that Weeza went to.

I felt hammering. It was just like when you hold a fence post and someone bangs it into the ground - hard thumps that go right through you but are not painful at all. More hammering. Then he started reattaching everything, so there were just quiet voices again. The anaesthetist spoke to them every few minutes and relayed any useful information to me, without describing the actual scene. I wished I had the nerve to ask to see what they'd cut off. I wished it had occurred to me to ask to see what they were putting in. But it didn't matter.

"Now you're being closed up. He's using glue, so you won't have to have stitches removed".

I heard someone say that I'd lost 350ml of blood, which they seemed pleased about - that it wasn't more, of course, I mean.

Then the surgeon appeared by my side as the screen was taken down, saying it had all gone very well and he'd see me in a few minutes. As I'd been moved from my side to my back, I noticed that the top of my thigh was pale flesh but then it suddenly turned very pink, unnaturally so. Now, I only had a stocking on my unoperated leg and my paper pants were gone. It was a bit late, but I felt self-conscious. I still wore a gown of course and soon had a blanket put over me. I felt that my legs were cold, but I touched them and they were warm.

I was wheeled into the recovery room and noticed it was 1.15. My legs still felt as heavy as ever. I was asked if I could wiggle my toes yet. I tried and couldn't. I tried harder and moved my feet, but the surgeon, who had followed us, pointed out that I was doing it with my whole leg from the waist, not wiggling toes at all.

He left, and so did the anaesthetist, once he was happy I was all right. He told me I was unique to him in not having any sedation for a total hip replacement, but I don't know if he meant that literally - that I was the only patient he'd had in that situation - or colloquially, meaning it was unusual. He said that he could see I was as relaxed as I said I was, from my vital signs.

I was there about an hour and finally could twitch my toes and was taken back to my room. My legs still felt cold and heavy and continued to do so for a long time, although sensation gradually returned. After some time, I was offered the chicken sandwich that had been prepared for me and I ate and enjoyed it, and sipped water. The Sage and I had had a short but cheerful chat on the phone. Later, I was asked if I'd like to try to get up. I was helped to sit and moved to a sitting position on the side of the bed. I admitted that I felt woozy, but said I'd like to stand. I slid my feet down to the floor and put my hands on a frame, that had been adjusted to my height that morning, and stood. As I felt dizzy, it was agreed that I'd better not try walking, but if I wanted to try walking on the spot I could. I did so and it all seemed to work, although it felt odd in a way I can't now remember. I said I'd better get back on the bed before I fainted and I was helped back - a few moments later I asked for a bowl and the sandwich returned, not even slightly digested.

Now at last my feet felt warm and I lay there feeling quite cheerful. I had another injection of paracetamol into the cannula, which I might not have mentioned before. Later, I was given some morphine, but only a little. Actually, I was quite disappointed in the morphine, which I'd been looking forward to. Later again, I rang the bell to say it hadn't done much, so I was given a codeine tablet. I slept, but only for a short while and kept waking up. My hip ached in the way it has been doing so every night for some weeks - different cause but exactly the same pain. The only difference was that I couldn't and mustn't turn over. I didn't want more drugs so toughed it out. It was only a bad ache, not agonising pain.

I lost about another half litre (a pint) of blood and fluid through the drain in my thigh. Once I could walk, which I did the next day, first around the room and into the corridor with a frame and later down the corridor about ten yards to the desk on two sticks, the catheter was removed. I was glad. It had been embarrassing to go along with the physio carrying my bag of pee. On Sunday morning the cannula was removed too and I felt much freer, even though my blood pressure dropped that day and I had to accept that I couldn't go home the next morning, which had been suggested at one point on Saturday. In fact, I woke at 2.30 on Sunday morning feeling loads better and ate a banana - I think the anaesthetic had finally left my body.

In view of this, I'm glad I didn't have a general anaesthetic. It wasn't that I felt particularly ill - I'd brought up my Saturday supper too, undigested some seven hours later, but it was a relief to do so as it was sitting there doing nothing - but that it would have taken me longer to get over and probably made me sicker. As it is, I've been feeling great ever since. Having been busy on Monday, doing a lot more walking, going up and down stairs - which was a lot easier than I expected - sitting in the chair for several hours and having several people visit, I expected to be absolutely whacked on Tuesday. But I feel fine. Oh, and that pinkness on my leg was as unnatural as it looked - it had been painted on. It was referred to as iodine, but it was quite the wrong colour. I think it was some sort of sanitising stuff.

Now, I can walk steadily with two sticks, using an "opposite" gait - that is, left stick and right leg forward, right leg and left stick forward - and get about just as steadily with one stick. I can walk unaided, but with a limp.

I've just remembered what felt so odd when I first stood. For the last year, my right leg has been shorter than my left. Since March, I've worn a heel lift in my shoe to compensate for an effective shortening of between 1 cm and 1/2 inch of my right leg which corrected a limp to start with but not latterly. When I stood with legs of (I think now) equal length, it felt as if my right leg was too long.

Thanks for asking - well done if you've got to the end because it's a terribly long post, and not very gory or dramatic at all. But I realised as I wrote that I was already starting to lose details, and now I've got them all down so that, if anyone wants to know what it's like, I can tell them. In fact, a friend who is going to have a second hip op in March has already asked about the spinal, as she'd like one because she's asthmatic and the private hospital she's booked in to and where she had the first one done has refused.

Now I'll write a brief and cheery post with pictures of my room, as you've suffered long enough, and then post them together.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Tilly rules the roost

While I have been away, Tilly has spent her days on her sofa and her evenings on my chair. Oh, and her nights on her chair in another room. No, she isn't going out much. She's an old dog and it's January. I am going to need a higher chair for a few weeks so asked the Sage to swap them - in the original position, it wasn't a good place to put the computer as the lead would have to run across the doorway.

The Sage wants me to look something up for him. Tilly is in my chair. She isn't even comfortable. No other chair is high enough.

I shall have to stay in bed until she moves.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Z is going home

The Sage has ever so politely explained that he has a couple of things on tomorrow, but that he should be with me around 11 o'clock. Oh well. I know my place. Today, I've demonstrated an ability to go up and down stairs and can get about independently. I've felt much better too and blood pressure has returned to normal.

Certainly, the best things I've brought have been my iPod and iPhone. I've listened to music (of my choice) when I didn't feel like watching television - I haven't actually wanted to watch tv at all and it hasn't helped that I haven't had my contact lens in so the screen would be blurred a bit. And I've had encouraging emails from friends and, er, played games. As well as making phone calls, of course.

Odds are that a hospital won't let you plug in an appliance so you have to give it to someone to take away and charge up or - our cunning ploy - get someone to bring in a laptop and charge it up from that. Too many phone conversations may be frowned on for disturbing other patients and in a ward you won't be allowed to receive calls unless the phone is on silent. Oh, and I was glad of my old phone when I'd run down the battery on the new one.

I'm going to have to think about fresh subjects to talk about now.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Z is still stuck

I still feel fine, as long as I'm lying in bed. But as soon as I get up, my blood pressure goes right down. So I haven't been out and about as much as intended yet. I think I need a good day's rest and then I can spend tomorrow getting ready to go home on Tuesday. I hope so, anyway. I couldn't eat any lunch, for which I was very apologetic.

Having said that, the walking is going really well. I went from loo to washbasin without a stick although, when I then saw that the towel was on the rail the other side of the room, I called for help. Honestly, I am being completely sensible. I do not feel I'm in a competition. Afterwards I sat in the chair for a few minutes but soon realised I'd used all my strength and went back to bed. Pathetic.

Now, what is it with this newish thing of signing off from a phone call with "love you lots"? It's one thing when your sister or a close friend does it, but surely it's a girl thing anyway? I was totally taken aback when the Sage did it this morning. He's been using the L word with slightly unexpected frequency recently, but then a certain exrra emotionalism is quite acceptabe in circumstances like these, but I've known him 40 years and I've never heard him say that before.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Z sticks

I was a bit disconcerted this morning. Breakfast arrived and I carefully sat up, took two small nibbles of toast and felt hot, faint, sick and dizzy. I hastily lowered the bed back down and rang for a bowl (sorry), taking the view that it might not be needed but I'd better have it. I stuck my good leg out and asked the nurse to open the window.

It passed, and I did eat, and after another half hour, knowing I was going to get up, I spent some time gradually raising the back of the bed and slowly sitting up. This worked and I didn't feel faint again.

Weeza came to see me and found me all cheery and animated. A few minutes later, a nurse came to give me a bowl of water to wash myself, and Weeza kindly washed and dried my back. Then the physiotherapist came and helped me out of bed and I was able to walk into the corridor using a frame, and back again. When I was back in bed, the Sage and Ro arrived.

This afternoon, I've walked with two sticks and tomorrow I will go further. Most people don't get on to sticks until the third day, so doing it on day one is good. If all is well, I should tackle stairs on Monday and maybe go home in the afternoon. I feel so much less helpless now I've been up, and generally more mobile. I have to be very careful not to twist around and to keep my legs apart, which I suspect will be hard to remember once I'm more recovered but, knowing more than I want to about dislocation, I do appreciate how careful I must be.

It's misty and dull out. A winter operation is much better than a summer one, where you might miss fine weather. After all, we don't always get much of it.

I didn't mention that Dilly picked up our seed order on Tuesday. By the time I'm getting out and about better, it'll be time to start thinking of sowing seeds.

Z is awake

I have been asleep, but a nurse came in to check my drip. They'd taken that out during the afternoon but put it back overnight. The nurse wasn't being inconsiderate, someone had rung their bell which they knew would wake me. My bedroom door is open, presumably so that they can peep in on me without disturbing me. Hope that won't last another night.

I'm perfectly comfortable but it's hard not to move. If not for the wedge between my legs, I'd have turned in my sleep for sure. And I can't possibly bother a nurse for a little thing - the blanket was folded back and off my right toes ( the sheet is there) and I was a little chilly just there, but how prima donna would that be? Anyway, I asked her to move it when she came in, so it's fine now.

Also, I'm under instructions to own up to the least discomfort. I put 'pain' but there isn't any - I am on analgesics of course. But it makes one feel a wuss to do so.

I'm still on oxygen, a nifty little tube that goes over both ears. The ends go into the tip of my nose rather like those little plastic moustaches one gets in a Christmas cracker (sorry to use the c word already but I don't want you to imagine a biscuit, like a fortune cookie with prizes). It feels like wearing comfortable goggles with no lenses. I think all the tubes and stuff will come out later, especially if I can walk as far as the bathroom, and I see no reason why not.

The anaesthetist was surprised I didn't ask for a sedative. He said I was the first patient of his not to. I wasn't showing off, it genuinely was fine. I wouldn't have opted for that if it was an operation the outcome of which I was scared about. Or maybe I would, I've just remembered. I'd want to know at once.

Not that I meant to take a gloomy turn. I might listen to the iPod for a bit. Dinu Lipati, Tom Waits and Hoagy Carmichael have been cheering me so far, along with an assortment of music that Julie (Hey Bartender) sent me two or three years back.

I've been good and asked for fruit juice, plain yoghurt and toast for breakfast. But I have splashed out decadently and requested marmalade.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Z's back. Or maybe that should be z's hip.

Well, that went very well. No drugged posting i'm afraid because the spinal anaesthetic went so well that I didn't feel any need for any sedation. I was quite happy to be wide awake throughout and, as I didn't need any recovery, I'd Recommend it. Sorry about random capital there, it's a bit awkward.

I'm going to be got up later, I'll report back.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Z forgets to drink

The internet is even slower than usual today. Emails are so slow to load that the page keeps getting timed out and I have to start again. Just a bit frustrating. However, I'm nearly there and will soon be able to think about packing. I have made a start, this morning I put stuff on the spare room bed and removed the shop labels from the nightdresses and things, and it won't take long to do.

Last night, I was talking to a High Powered friend, and he said that his daughter and family had spent a long weekend at Center Parcs. He'd gone for one night and, among other things, had played badminton with his grandson, who's three and a half. He was quite impressed, the lad has a good eye and was able to hit the shuttlecock most times. "The stuttlecock," he said - the lad hadn't been able to get his tongue round the word and in the end they'd decided to adopt his version. "You can't say words properly yourself," the boy pointed out. "You can't even say 'path.'" It's true. He says 'path' with a short a, but we're all effete southerners around here and say 'pahth'. I cracked up. He commands such respect, normally.

Because I had an evening meeting, I hadn't had my meagre allocation of wine, and was saving it for when I arrived home. However, I got on with some sorting out of papers and it wasn't until I decided to have an earlyish night that I realised that I was thirsty, and then that I hadn't had anything to drink all evening. I made a cup of tea instead and drank it in the bath. Bahth, that is, with a long drawling a.

I've got three letters of appreciation to write to teachers - well, emails - and one about a meeting to a committee, and then a couple of personal ones. Then, you know, I think I'm going to switch the computer off for a few days.

'Course, there's the iPhone. Heh.

Oh, I nearly forgot - I expended £2 on 4 oysters and successfully opened them without severing a knife or my finger. And I've eaten a few brazil nuts. I'm just so obedient.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Z is Perfect

My BMI is, at any rate. My blood pressure and heart rate are excellent and everything else is fine too. It's worth spending £80 on a visit to an anaesthetist if she's going to tell you that you weigh exactly the right amount.

She's also advised foods with plenty of vitamin C, selenium and zinc. Mm, veggies, brazil nuts and oysters. Could be my favourite diet.

As long as I don't turn out to be a carrier for some nasty superbug, all is on track.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Z has another New Toy

Something cropped up yesterday that meant I had to spend a couple of hours at the school this afternoon. Then I wanted to fill the car with petrol, so I had to go and spend £40 at the co op to get 4p per litre off. Petrol is shooting up in price, isn't it? It's a shocking price. It would be more than £5 per gallon without the offer.

It was really foggy this morning - I didn't leave home until after 10, but it was still quite thick. Because of that, it wasn't until I was driving around the multi-storey car park that I realised I had very slight fuzziness in my sight and I hadn't put in my contact lens. My sight is borderline for driving, so I wasn't actually illegal, but it's remarkable that I didn't even notice. I never had time to put it in all day. I had to go straight back from Norwich to the meeting, with no lunch, and then I was given a lift to this evening's meeting. I thought I'd got two clear afternoons, but it hasn't worked out that way. Tomorrow, I've got a two-hour assessment at the hospital and then meetings in the afternoon and evening, so I can't see myself packing then either. I had a text from Weeza, suggesting we meet up during the week, but I don't think we'll have time. Never mind, we've got all the time in the world next week. Well, I have.

I was very excited to receive a parcel this morning - my latest treat for myself, a Magic Mouse. Don't blame me for the name. It is a delight. I'm ever so happy with it. Although I think that'll be it, as far as presents for myself are concerned, for the time being. I shall revert to my usual cautious ways. It has been fun though. I have not had as much pleasure from a new toy in years as with the iphone. And I'm quite content to hang on to a car I'm not fond of, serviceable though it is, to make up for the extravagance.

Weeza was very fed up when she took Zerlina to the toddler class at the swimming pool. It's supposed to be no more than nine children, plus a parent for each. But there were several more than that last week, which they said was a one-off, and today there were fourteen. They all have to go in the same area to receive instructions from the - er- instructor, and there isn't really room for twenty-eight to line up and everything has to be said twice, to left and to right, and the children are getting chilly and bored. And then, afterwards, they all leave the pool together and there are only four changing rooms with a nappy changing table. There was a seat where Weeza took little z, but it was broken so she couldn't be strapped in while Weeza got dressed and she went and toddled into the shower where the floor was wet. Weeza had a run-in with them last year because the bins were only cleared once a week and were always overflowing with used nappies - once she'd finished with them, they agreed to have a second clearance, but Weeza's had enough now. She's tired of complaining and she doesn't want to go there again. She's going to ask for her money back. Zerlina loves the pool, but they can go to another one, although she doesn't want to commit to classes further away.

I only had a spare few minutes to glance through blogs this afternoon, I'm so sorry not to be visiting many of you. Hope all's well. And if I owe you an email, that might take a while too.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Greener transport makes a duller Z

How is it that an early night is impossible? The evenings seem to be extremely long, mind you, with a single glassful to cheer me. I'm getting a bit fed up with tomato juice but still, I suppose it's terribly healthy.

I've just noticed a splendid cobweb attached to the beam across the middle of the room. I'm glad to see the spiders are thriving. I haven't seen any for ages. I never saw cobwebs in my last house- there were really high ceilings and a whole arachnoid menagerie could have stalked across the top of the room and I'd have known nothing about it. Here, the drawing room ceiling is touchable even by me - about 2 metres, and 6 feet under the beam*. Tall people duck or grouse, as they say. The doorways are lower again, of course. I don't notice the lowness. This house fits me just fine.

The Sage has been out all day today, having ventured into Lincolnshire to meet a client. I used to drive through Lincolnshire when Ro was at university - the trains took even longer than the drive and he was usually bused part of the way, so I drove him as often as not. He came home once for a weekend and soon realised his mistake when his Sunday morning train finally delivered him back to Lancashire just before midnight. I have to say, I've never come across such reckless drivers anywhere in this country as in Lincs. They seem to use the hatching in the road as a convenient narrow lane for overtaking, particularly where visibility isn't good. Once, I was following a car in legally overtaking a lorry when the car driver spotted a speed camera and braked sharply. I was taken unawares and nearly ploughed into him. We were well under the speed limit, but the driver was evidently not sure what that was, or didn't know what speed he was doing. He wasn't checking his rear view mirror, for sure.

Driving in this county isn't all that sharp, mind you. We go in for a combination of driving a bit too fast with not really looking where we're going, as we don't expect trouble. Or else we pootle along slowly in the middle of the road. And we think nothing of parking on a roundabout if a passenger would like to be dropped off (actually, that's in Yagnub). My mother, who was normally a good driver, became very casual on roundabouts in her 70s. She drove as close to a straight line as she could, changing lanes willy-nilly. "Why is that man hooting at me?" she would ask. "You just cut him up without signalling," I explained. It was, I'm afraid, not unusual behaviour at all. Actually, the hooting was more unlikely. It's quite startling when you go to more car-minded places and the least hesitation gives rise to a chorus of toots.

In the past few years, I've used the car less and less. Years ago, I'd reckon on driving 1,000 miles a month, which now seems an awful lot. It came down to 10,000 a year and then to 8,000. It hasn't been much over 6,000 in the past year I suppose - that is, I've had this car 16 months and I still haven't driven anywhere near 10,000 miles. Other than not driving locally - that is, I cycle if possible if the journey is less than 5 miles - it doesn't represent me using public transport though. I just don't get out much. I haven't been to the cinema in Norwich for a year and I've only been to the theatre twice and to half a dozen concerts. There's no public transport in the evenings, I don't go to Norwich by bus to do shopping as I can't carry it around and the railway station is 15 miles away.

So I sit at home and write a blog.

*I'm bilingual and use whichever measurement is neater for the occasion.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Z doesn't go anywhere

I'm having to get myself organised. I have written a lot of emails, including one that's been hanging over me since I returned from my holiday at the end of November. It reached the stage that I was putting it off because I'd left it so long. Sometimes one needs a deadline and there wasn't one, as such.

Tomorrow, I'm going to a Spanish lesson. Not to learn Spanish, just to watch Year 10s learn Spanish. I'm quite up for joining in though. I find the whole governor lesson observation thing quite hard, I feel a bit of a lemon, but it's all right if I talk to people and ask questions and that sort of thing. I've also got to extricate myself from something I'm supposed to be doing in a fortnight's time. Reluctantly, I've decided that, as it includes walking over the entire school, it will be too much for me ten days after a major leg operation.

Wink has returned home, but will come back in two or three weekends' time to check up on me. I've never been so looked after in my life, and I've led a pampered life. Well, that is, I am faced with the prospect of all this pampering. Mind you, I found myself being prayed for in church this morning, which is a disconcerting experience, I can tell you. I knew it would be on the cards and was embarrassedly resigned to it, but I thought they would at least wait until I'd been under the knife and wasn't actually there to be startled.

A film starring Richard Burton has just started on television. I'm not going to stay and watch it - I can't take war films any more, and besides, it's late. But didn't he have a wonderful voice? And my goodness, Leo McKern too. Looking remarkably young. Young is a bit of a relative term, I don't think he ever actually looked "young". Anyway. I digress.

Not that I was actually talking about anything. Maybe this is one of those posts that isn't going anywhere.

Right. The only place I'm going is to bed. It's after half past twelve, whatever the time at the bottom of the post says, and I've hardly started on the Sunday papers yet.

Saturday, 16 January 2010


We all, except Al who was at work, had lunch together at the very good pub (with brewery attached) near Weeza's house. Pugsley surprised me by eating all his lunch except the chips. He's been very difficult to feed for a while - it's not so much that he's a fussy eater, though he's never been keen on vegetables, but he often eats little or nothing. He's by no means thin, so we don't quite know how he gets his nourishment. However, his parents decided to be firm and insist on him eating at least some of every meal, a week or two ago and, although he was very reluctant and meals took a long time for a while, he's now turned a corner and is a much better eater.

All three children were in high spirits but well-behaved, which was such a pleasure. We had a very good time. Wink and I spent the evening with Al and Dilly - Wink will be going home tomorrow morning but is planning on coming back the weekend after next to help in the arduous task of looking after me.

I have to confess, I'm quite looking forward to the prospect of having a bed to myself for a bit, and I'm sure he is too. We wake each other up frequently and neither of us is getting much rest. And after all, it's not as if there will be any marital hanky-panky for ages.

Seville oranges are in the shops now, so it's time to start making marmalade. Al is making his already. I've got some time on Monday and Tuesday afternoons, but actually I'll probably leave it for a month or so when I'm getting back to normal. I made so much the year before last that I didn't need to make any at all last year, but now we're nearly out. Not that I eat it very often, much as I like it. I like the peel best and the Sage prefers the jelly. We're well suited to each other in a Jack and Mrs Sprattish way.

Friday, 15 January 2010

A frozen Z bed

It rained today, but it's still pretty cold so the snow is slow to be washed away. It's so unusual to see it linger this long - I remember many winters when we've had more snow; that is, greater average depth as well as deep drifts, some well above my head (no cracks about this being knee high to everyone else, if you please) but it's always gone within a week. Except in 1963 of course, which is The Winter of living memory to anyone born in the first decade or so since the second world war.

7.51 pm and I'm just draining my glass of the last of tonight's wine. "Any more?" asked the Sage with suavely unaware sadism. Still, at least Wink is here to say yes. She has returned for the weekend to attend the funeral of her brother-in-law (on her late husband's side).

Momentarily, yesterday, everyone became over-efficient to the extent that vital papers were taken to the tip. With the greatest of good fortune, I didn't have the only copy, but all the same I had to inconvenience someone - two people - into replacing them for me. I owned up to the headmaster today, to his amusement - I could have kept quiet but that would have meant his staff, whether they knew it or not, colluding in mild deception.

I think it'll be red wine from now on. It's more satisfying. A glass of white has merely teased the tastebuds. Interestingly, I realise that it is the taste of it that I miss, not the alcohol. I always said I wasn't unhealthily reliant on alcohol. Tomato juice is okay if you add some Tabasco as well as the Worcestershire sauce.

I received more correspondence from the hospital, including an information letter. It started by describing the pain of an arthritic hip, usually in the groin. What? I have, at various occasions, pain in the top of the foot, the shin, the calf, in both the front and the back of the thigh (distinctly different pains), in the back and the other hip and a sore right hip, but in the groin, never a twinge.

I was silly last night. I knew I wouldn't have time to wash my hair this morning and the electric shower is not very hot - I think one of the heating elements isn't working - so I decided on an early bath and washed my hair before dinner. So I didn't bath before going to bed. I mostly have a bath to warm up. The Sage hugged me relatively warm - the man is a masochist too, I was freezing - but when I woke an hour later, I was so cold that I'd frozen the bed again, even though we'd fallen asleep with the electric blanket on. I didn't sleep much after that. Took hours to get the same degree of warmth all over. Then it was time to get up. Still, it means I'll sleep well tonight. I said to the Sage, he must be looking forward to a week or so of tranquil solitary night times. If he can't sleep, he can always come downstairs and entertain me with scintillating gossip.

Thursday, 14 January 2010


That is, semi-dry. I've decided to Cut Down in preparation for the operation. I shall limit myself to one glass of wine a day, apart from Saturday when we're all going out for lunch to a pub with its own brewery, so I shall have a glass of beer as well.

It's always a puzzle, knowing what to drink if one wishes to keep off the sauce. I mean, nothing else tastes right apart from beer and wine, because everything else is fruity or sweet - apart from water, of course. And I don't understand why one would be able to drink a sugary-tasting drink with savoury food - well, or without it. Anyway, I'm going to try tomato juice before a meal and the single glass of good wine with it.

All the various electrical appliances that have been squirrelled away over the past few years have gone to the tip. I mean, the recycling centre. And so far I have removed two boxes of books - and saved another boxful - still, I'm tackling the bookcase in the cloakroom next. The thing is, I've got a whole lot of books that were my mother's that need to find a home rather urgently - Al and Dilly hung on to them for a long time for me, but now need the space themselves. I just can't fit in any more bookcases, and besides I really don't have to feel obliged to keep every potboiler novel or out-of-date reference book, just because of a reverence and affection for printed paper.

I filled in forms from the hospital today - it's all on for next Friday, unless I'm suddenly declared to be unfit for an operation on Wednesday, for which I can't see any reason at present. And, of course, I'll be able to say that I've more than halved my alcohol consumption in preparation.

I think I'm going to make a big pot of coffee now. What is there to drink when you don't have alcohol?

Wednesday, 13 January 2010


Ro is home. It took him a few minutes to sort out the internet connection. He thinks the booster thingy froze when the BT connection went off and then reset itself when it came back on. The Sage is very happy.

I spent a couple of hours shopping in Norwich this afternoon. I really didn't enjoy it. Buying necessary but dull clothes is not my favourite way of spending my time or my money. However, it's done now and all sorted. But my goodness, Marks and Spencer is a dull shop*. "Would you like to apply for a charge card?" asked the assistant. "I used to have one," I admitted, "but I used it so little that they took it away."

As usual, I have plied Ro with much good food and wine. Not, I reminded him, to tempt him to move back home, just to show what he is missing. However, he has discovered, in a phone call to Weeza, that she has him lined up to help in the Great Clear Up tomorrow. He has some reservations about that.

Actually the Luck of Z has struck yet again. A friend phoned this morning and, after she'd explained what she was ringing about and we'd sorted it out, she mentioned that she's putting things together for a big jumble sale in a nearby town in a couple of months. "Books and stuff?" I said hopefully. She will be glad of anything.

Oh, dear girl, she doesn't know what she's let herself in for. If Weeza has her way, half the contents of this house will transfer, in boxfuls, to hers.

* I don't blame M&S specifically for this - I think all chain stores are dull and annoying. Rows of almost identical clothes and when you finally find something you like, it's there in every size but the one you want.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Z starts planning for the Festival

I'm supposed to phone the surgery to arrange for a home assessment. This would happen automatically, As If By Magic, with the NHS, but both Weeza and a friend who is a Health Visitor have advised me I'll have to sort it.

It's slightly embarrassing. I've only got a few segments of spare time. I'm sure it's not the done thing to say you're too busy to see a health worker except on a few specific occasions - choice of, that is. It's not that easy to go back and insert a couple of words with the phone. Much as I appreciate it, I'll be glad to get online on the computer again.

I'm none too pleased with myself. I had a little nap after dinner. I never sleep in the evening normally, it's such a staid thing to do. But neither the Sage nor I slept well last night. And Dilly said that nor did she and Al. I think the temperature went up in the night. Seems absurd, a couple of degrees difference when it's not much above freezing, but four of us can't be wrong.

This afternoon's meeting was the Festival committee. The Festival happens in six months' time. No one can say we're not dedicated. Actually, I only ever offered to write up the notes. I do my best to steer clear of most of the actual work.

We think the children's disco has had its day. It's just a matter of what to put in its place. A Friday evening when High Jinks are planned for the weekend - there's some money in hand to pay for some entertainment, but it's a matter of attracting children and their parents. And not being too much work for those who will be working flat out the rest of the weekend. Hmm.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Z is looked after

One of the more useful decisions I made in the last few weeks was to buy a phone contract with Internet use. Because I seem to have broken our home internet connection. Ro is coming home on Wednesday evening to put it right (I say with confident trust) but until then, this is all I have and it is, of course, the week I have to get back to work. I've spent half the day painstakingly tapping out emails and the rest typing and my eyes have gone a bit funny.

Al and Dilly aren't so lucky, unfortunately and none of them has Internet at all. I feel very abashed.

I'm afraid I won't be visiting many blogs until things get put right.

I've been meekly taking Good Advice from my daughter again. Zerlina is quite strong-willed already, I'm already forseeing some clashes of personality in six or seven years' time, or whenever girls turn into teenagers nowadays. Weeza is, of course, right and I have capitulated meekly. If she didn't love me she wouldn't care. I have warned the Sage that the house is going to be thoroughly done over on Thursday as complete decluttering is her way of doing housework and, with enormous kindness, she and Dilly don't want me to be worrying about it while I'm laid up. Bless, as they say. My sister has similar thoughts. It's only too evident that other people are far more concerned about my housework than I am.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Z didn't make a fuss

I don't think I've ever told you about one of my more silly adventures, some years ago. It was New Year's Day. We'd spent the evening with our friends Stuart and Caroline, and it had snowed hard during the evening. The next morning was dry and sunny and I took my dog Chester and my mother's greyhound Henry out for a walk. Tilly stayed at home in the warm.

The temperature had been freezing for several days and the river was iced over. We walked over the three bridges towards the marshes - I should mention that, here, "marsh" does not imply boggy ground, but low-lying water meadows that provide a natural flood plain in wet weather. The dogs ran and played over the snowy field. The ice on the river made a strange 'singing' sound as it creaked and crackled against the bank and Chester was intrigued and trotted over to investigate. I called him back but it was too late. His feet slipped from under him and he fell into the water.

I went to the bank and looked down. He had vanished. I thought he had gone under the ice and I felt strangely resigned, as there was nothing I could do. Then I realised there was a slight overhang and Chester was there, treading water, looking up at me trustingly. There was nothing to hang on to and it was at least a couple of feet down to the water, too far to reach. I took his lead and made a loop - I thought that if I could get it over his head, I might be able to yank it enough to grab his collar. It wouldn't matter if I half-choked him, if I could only get a grip on him.

It was awkward and I couldn't get it over his head, and then my feet slipped and I found myself lying on my back on the edge of the bank, unable to move. I lay there wondering what to do. Any movement would send me in. Chester was still silently paddling. Fortunately, Henry was ignoring us and rambling around the field. After a few minutes, I decided that something was better than nothing, and I let myself slide into the water.

Chester was thrilled and immediately climbed up me and draped himself about my head and shoulders. He was an Irish setter/bearded collie cross, about the size of a golden retriever. He was heavy. I was up to my chest in water, but there was a slight shelf for me to stand on. I started to walk along the edge of the river. It was only a few yards to a bend and then, a few more yards on, the bank fell away to a watering place for cattle - if I could get there, I could just walk out.

I discovered that the ice came in three layers where the water level had fluctuated and it had frozen each time. So I couldn't walk directly and it would be impossible to swim, even if I didn't have 40 pounds or so of dog on my head. I lifted my leg up and smashed the ice down with each step. I rounded the corner and the bank was a little lower. Chester seized his chance and clambered up on the bank and ran joyfully around, shaking the water off his coat and rubbing himself along the snow to dry himself. I wondered if he'd fall in again, but he and Henry scampered about and ignored me.

And there I stood. I couldn't go any further without getting into deep water. The shallows weren't far away, but unreachable. I'm not sure how long I stood, and I considered how long I could last. I didn't feel all that cold, funnily enough, but the longer I was there, the less I could help myself. However, Z's luck held and, after several minutes, I heard footsteps.

"Er, excuse me," I called out diffidently, "Do you think you could help me?" Yes, polite and frightfully English to the end. Stephen appeared and looked down at me. He'd brought his camera to film the snowy scenery, which was very beautiful. He's keen on wildlife and hoped to film the birds. I gave him my hand - it wasn't far up to the bank, but there was nothing to hold on to - and he hauled me out. I dripped. He went and fetched my sheepskin gloves, which I'd taken off while I was trying to loop the lead, and held one out. I pushed my fingers at it but they wouldn't bend and I couldn't get it on. I didn't feel cold but I was completely numb, too numb to know how cold I was. Stephen walked me home and delivered me into the care of the Sage, who ran me a hot bath and poured me whisky.

I was fine and so was Chester. No after-effects at all. Except I had awful bruises on my legs from forcing my way through the ice. The next day, my mother noticed them and asked what I'd done. I said that I'd fallen up the metal steps of the bridge and bruised myself. I never told her the truth. A bit late to worry her about it and she'd only fuss.

I understand that Stephen has dined out on the story ever since. Fair enough.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Z enjoys the snow

I had an email from someone, sending me some pictures of Oulton Broad frozen over, because he'd read here that I'd grown up there. He's left a couple of comments a while ago, under the name Bill in Lowestoft. His email address had his last name in too, and so I wrote back asking if he was a son of people I'd known years ago, and he is. He hadn't realised who I was - in fact, I don't think we've ever met, but he knew my family name. I think that's great - my parents knew his father professionally and my sister worked for his mother at one point, and they were good enough friends to visit each others houses. My mother still kept in touch with his father with Christmas cards after his mother died.

And I received Dave Walker's calendar in the post, and he also put in a couple of his church cartoon cards and postcards. Really kind, I'm ever so pleased.

It's lovely dry crisp cold, with perfect snow for building snowmen. I'm not very bendy at present but helped Al and Squiffany for a bit. The Sage got out the sledge and took Squiffany out on it. I'm enjoying this much more than the damp iciness before Christmas. It's not too easy to get about in, but all the reflected light off the snow dispels any SAD tendencies.

Wink went home today - we were all a bit anxious about road conditions, but she said it was all right and she's got home safe. It's a bit dull here without her, and my wine consumption has gone right down. I suppose I'd better get into condition for a few dry days in hospital. I daresay I won't be allowed while I'm taking painkillers - a good reason to be as stoic as possible. Anyway, my liver is looking forward to the rest. I wonder if I'll feel the better for it?

Nothing on television so I've been listening to music all evening.

I've got to be out by 7.30 tomorrow morning for the early service. I suspect no one else, except the minister, will turn up.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Z's still going on a bit

Very aware, the young consultant. He came out to greet me and walked back to his room - I slowed down and didn't try to keep up with him. When we went in and I'd shut the door, he said that I felt I'd thrown in the towel, but that I was making the right choice. That was exactly it, I hadn't put it in the right words. I replied that I do feel I'm throwing in the towel, but that it's the necessary decision, so I'm accepting the situation.

Then he said that the manufacturer has, in the last few weeks, withdrawn the hip resurfacing technique that they have, in Norwich, tried and found wanting. That gave me the opportunity to say that I hadn't realised, until I read his letter to my doctor, that he was left with the impression that I wanted to pursue that option - he'd convinced me that it wasn't right for me - in fact, had I been going to ask for a second opinion I'd have told him so. I explained that the main reason I was interested in it was because I knew I couldn't hold out much longer. However, I'd hoped to last another year without a full hip replacement but, fortnight by fortnight, my hip has deteriorated a lot in the last three months .

Later on, he said that a year was worth waiting but a few months isn't. That was exactly what I've been saying and my self-justification for going for it now.

Also, he used his dictaphone to say what we'd agreed, and also for his secretary to type a letter to my GP. Interestingly, he did it in front of me whereas, when he thought I might not agree with his point of view, he did it later, whilst sending me a copy. Also interestingly, he mentioned that I had walked carefully so as to minimise my limp - I knew that, but intended to disguise it. I had chosen not to use a stick, although I would have if it would have meant I'd limped less, but had walked slowly and carefully. He's perceptive and makes the effort to empathise, which I appreciate. I thanked him, at one point, for not resenting my pointed questions (he could have taken offence, I didn't hold back) but answering them fully without justifying himself. Good chap. I like him and am predisposed to trust him. He might well have been surprised by how easy I was to deal with, compared to how I was before - but if you know me well enough (it'd have to be very well or in specific circumstances) you'd understand that. I challenge if I disagree and it matters enough, or if I think there's any point to it.

Put it this way, if you came to me for a high-up job and you thought you'd had an easy interview, you'd probably not get the job. If I gave you a hard time, it'd be because I thought you might be worth it. And if you disagreed with me completely but argued your case convincingly, I wouldn't have to be convinced of the argument to appreciate the strength of your ability to make your case.

I asked about the anaesthetic, angling it rather from the hope of a spinal one (which I mistakenly called an epidural - they're both in the spine but different apparently). He said his preferred option is a spinal anaesthetic as patients recover so much quicker, but a full one can be chosen if the patient doesn't care for the idea or is very nervous. I assured him I'm very relaxed. The operation should take about an hour, which is less than I'd thought, and I will have a horizontal incision across my hip, going from the side backwards. He said I should be largely, and probably completely, recovered, in 6 to 12 weeks.

I am, as LZM says, tough (in an awfully girly and gentle way, natch). Focusing on the operation as an interesting and very clever thing will help me to ignore the bloody and creepy part. I don't want to carry on as I am, getting worse. However, I can cope. I managed perfectly well in the shop today, but carried things a few at a time instead of a whole bag or boxful. I could have, but that wouldn't be sensible. I don't want to hurt myself unnecessarily just to prove I'm man enough.

I had a lovely email today, and something lovely in the post. Tell you tomorrow. It's well after midnight now and I'm going to have to backdate to make it Friday's post as it is.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Z sets the ball (and socket) rolling

I was too worried about the prospect of having the consultant's appointment cancelled to ramble on as usual yesterday, but now at least you all know what I look like full-face.

There was only another inch of snow this morning, but there was no telling how the weather would go - this area seemed to be the least likely to be badly affected - but the roads were quite bad and the schools were closed. The Head rang me during the morning, he said that it was largely that uncertainty that decided him; having 1,000 people milling about with it being several hours before school buses would turn up and a lot of staff needing to get home is an incentive to err on the safe side.

Matt the Fishman (not in a merman sense) turned up to the market, so I bought fish for dinner and we finished off the beef casserole for lunch. That was the last of the Christmas joint.

The appointment wasn't cancelled, but I cautiously set off in such ample time that I arrived nearly 40 minutes early. All's okay, if there's room on his schedule and in the hospital (his secretary will be in touch shortly) I will have the operation on the 22nd.

I've assured him that I'm a model patient. It's true, I am. I'm very motivated and I take good advice well and act on it. I think the fact that, on being advised by my doctor a couple of years ago to take more non-weight-bearing exercise, I went straight out and bought a bicycle and started to use it at once (I rode home from the shop) even though it was November, and have been cycling regularly ever since, demonstrates that. I don't enjoy it at all, although it sometimes is not an unpleasant way to travel, but I still do it, whatever the weather ... except snow. Or extremely strong winds. A neighbour was blown off her bike in a North Sea gale (that is, she was on land but only by 50 yards or so) and broke her femur.

The last couple of nights, I haven't been able to sleep in any position but my left side and even then I've woken in discomfort several times. I want this all to be over - I'm finding it difficult. I still feel that I'm a bit young to be faced with old-lady arthritis (that is, it's not early-onset, nor is it caused by accident or injury) and, whilst I'm quite relaxed about the prospect of the operation from a procedural point of view - I assume it'll all go fine and if there's any sort of problem it'll get dealt with - I am actually quite horrified to have a bit of my body cut off in a body-is-a-temple, self-cherishing sort of way. And yet at the same time, I feel quite drawn to the practical side of the operation itself. It'll be a spinal anaesthetic, not a general one, so I hope I'll be aware enough to remember about it afterwards. If I'm offered a choice of level of sedation, I am interested to find out what I'll choose.

Anyway. There we go.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Nothing to say

so here's a photo from several months ago, when Weeza, Zerlina and I went to one of the Broads to watch birds. We took a boat back in between downpours - unfortunately the timing wasn't brilliant and we were soaked a few minutes after this picture was taken by random friendly strangers.

Anyway, here are the three generations of Z-girls -

I should add that I don't normally put up such total exposure, so it may vanish in a day or two.

PS. I have got a right eyebrow all the way, it just was a bit faint that day, is all.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Z Wins a Prize!!(!)

Really, I have, and it's up there in marigold for all to see. Not having received any calendars for Christmas, I am most thrilled to have won this one, and many thanks to Dave (not you, Dave, Dave).

We did take our friend to lunch to the Yacht Club and looked out at the yacht basin. You can see it yourself if you look here - - excuse me doing a proper linky but, just in case they check referrals, I think I'll retain a hint of anonymity here. It's worth copy'n'pasting though, as there's a Live Webcam which updates every minute. I should warn you that at present there is little to see but twinkly mooring lights and a large edifice which is an oil rig site under construction, which will eventually be towed out to its destination, so it might be better to try again during daylight hours.

The temperature was zero all day and the forecast is more snow. However, I'm pleased to say that the pavements of Yagnub are impressively well gritted. It was a good thing I went in this morning to check prices, because sprout stalks, aubergines and cauliflowers had all come in from the wholesaler at more than yesterday's retail price. Eileen was very busy all day and I should think she's tired out tonight. The Sage was just locking up when an anxious man came up wanting potatoes, so he opened up the shop again and sold him some. Occasionally, local shops hold more appeal than supermarkets several miles away.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Z and Wink have a quiet day

I looked after Squiffany and Pugsley for an hour this morning, early because Dilly was tutoring out in the Saints at 9 o'clock and the roads are still icy. Al went into the shop to set up, and then left Eileen to it because the family were going on holiday. Just for the week, at Center Parcs - they all like it there, there's lots to do and it doesn't matter what the weather is like. And it's almost impossible for Al to take more than a week off work, at least with me in my state of being pampered. Of course I could manage the shop for a week or two, but I'm not allowed to do anything much by anyone any more. I look rather worse than I feel.

So, Eileen is going to run the shop from 8.30 to 2.00 every day, and the Sage will help her to set up. I'll go in and check the prices from the wholesaler in case grapes or cauliflowers have suddenly shot up overnight to more than the previous day's sale price - this sometimes happens, in a manner that can be understandable but can appear quite random. For example, do you remember a big container ship that sank off the south-west coast a year or two back? All sorts of things were washed up on the local beaches, including motor bikes and heaven knows what, but for the next week or so there was a decided shortage of bananas. And cauliflowers do not care for weather like this and if they get frosted they don't keep, unlike cabbages and sprouts which don't mind in the least, but can be difficult to harvest. Even under glass, tomatoes and the like won't ripen - not that you can get English tomatoes at this time of year, but it's no warmer in Holland.

Tilly is being especially sweet and happy at present. She's seen a lot of the children, which she loves, and she's also thrilled that Wink is here. At this time of the evening she'd usually be on her own on the sofa, but she's cuddled up behind me on my armchair instead. I am pleased to have her there and don't mind in the least that I'm perched numbly on the very edge of the seat.

We're slightly limited in what we're doing because of the weather. I can't get out on foot and the road is icy, though the main roads are clear. We will ring up a friend in Lowestoft tomorrow and see if he's free for lunch - he's been ill and has had to go into residential care because he can't manage on his own any more, but he's been well enough to get out more recently. Tomorrow is the only day I've got completely free this week, but Wink has got other friends she wants to see and, as I've got a meeting in Bury St Edmunds on Friday afternoon, we're planning to go there for lunch first and then she can potter round the town for a couple of hours. My meeting is in the Cathedral, though it's not church-related - just using a meeting room there - so she can end up having a look round there before we go home again.

We might have lunch in the Yacht Club in Lowestoft. I'm still a member and so is the Sage, although we rarely go there any more. I can't possibly give up membership - I've been going there since I was a baby and my grandfather became a member there about 100 years ago, when he came to live in Oulton Broad. The Sage and I had our wedding reception there.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Z is irresolute

Since starting to write a blog I've made new year's resolutions, something I'd never done in my life before. They are normally specific and reasonably purposeful, intended to be enjoyable but to take a certain effort. This year, I'm not sure I'm going to. I'm rather inclined to just hang about and see what happens.

I do rather hope music happens, however. I was listening to a Reicha clarinet quintet CD yesterday while cooking today's lunch, and the second piece played turned out to be Mozart's clarinet quintet. I was quite distressed to remember that I used to play that, not entirely badly, but now would run out of breath after five minutes, even if I could manage the fingerwork, which I couldn't. I piled on the agony by playing various other CDs of clarinet music I used to play. Yes, I could do it again. To start with, I'd have to practise every day until my lips could cope with a couple of hours-worth, and then keep that going for a few weeks as I built up memory and technique again. After that, two or three hours a week would keep me going nicely unless I wanted to learn anything tricky, in which case I'd need lessons as well. And people to play with. Not sure I can see it happening. I'd like it to, but I'm not promising myself anything.

I'd also like to learn the basics, at any rate, of playing the guitar. I've been helping with school music lessons for more than two years now and I still haven't picked one up. I'm a very slow starter and teenagers are quick at picking up basics. Ro has left his guitar behind, I might ask him if I might give it a try. Once I do get started (I have to understand it before I can start to remember it) I would be much more useful. I've no inclination to take lessons there, however. I know there's no likelihood of getting past the basics, nor even much wish to.

There's the wall to finish of course and a new hip to welcome and much more walking to be done (although if I did much less I would be entirely sedentary). But they aren't resolutions, although they involve resolve.

I'd rather like to think that the year might bring a puppy into the household at some point -Weeza thinks that Tilly would cope - indeed, she likes babies, although human babies aren't as boisterous as canine ones.

But I'll just drift on and be quite interested to see what happens. Maybe I should try to surprise myself?

Saturday, 2 January 2010

It's Christmas again!!(!)*

*For any newer readers, three exclamation marks are ©JonnyB and he does not care to be taken advantage of. I have been told.

Anyhoo, the festive season has, indeed, returned, for my sister Wink has come. She had said she was coming a week ago, but parties intervened and she has only just arrived. Hiccuping slightly.

It's all jolly frosty again. I'm not venturing out except in the car, I had enough of staggering about on slipping stick the last time it snew (thass a bit of Norfolk, is 'snew'). I went to the Co-op and had to queue to get in the car park which was a bit surprising, especially when I went into a fairly quiet shop. Don't know where everyone was who'd parked there. Anyway, I got a trolley, filled it, queued, paid and went back to the car. It's not a well-designed car park, although it's quite a new shop, because it's on a slight slope, so you have to fight your trolley's tendency to roll the way you don't want it to go at the best of times. Sadly, the way it wants to go is not a useful direction. But at least, on ice, it's something to hang on to. However, having unloaded my bags, I couldn't face taking it back to the trolley park so decided to abandon it. It was lucky that some poor employee was taking trolleys back to the shop at that time, so I apologetically told him (for which he thanked me, dear chap) I was leaving it and then I beetled off home to start cooking.

Tomorrow, everyone's coming for lunch (I've made a chicken casserole already) so we can have high jinks and more present giving afterwards. Joy!

Friday, 1 January 2010

Jane was amused

At the party the other day, I was chatting to friends, whose son got married a few weeks ago. Jane said that she was, at one point, not far from her husband's twin brother and his wife, but far enough (they believed incorrectly) not to be heard.

"What on earth is Jane wearing on her head?" (from the brother) "It's called a 'fascinator'. They're very fashionable", she replied. "Oh. Does it make her fascinating?" "No. Only fashionable."