Scotland says No – just

I am very relieved that the Noes won eventually – despite a dreadful campaign and having to put up with Cameron pleading with the Scots to stay. (I fear that one bad outcome of the referendum result is that he won’t be dumped yet.)

I have found the campaign quite upsetting, especially given the euphoric mood of some of my friends in the Yes camp and in some cases the violence of their dislike for England. I just hope bridges can be built and we can work out together what is best for Scotland but also for all parts of the UK.

I don’t know whether it is realistic, but I kind of hanker after a federal system, rather like in Germany, where Britain is divided into several states – Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, and several for England (therein lies a real problem – where to put the boundaries, what to do with London), the House of Lords is abolished and the House of Commons is replaced by an upper house or senate. The trouble is, if not, with increased devolution we are heading for an almighty row about the West Lothian question.

Dramatic weather

Yesterday’s torrential rain got more and more violent, the claps of thunder louder and louder and overhead. We are used to violent storms in September but this was the worst anybody could remember. As news of more and more roads being blocked arrived, it became apparent that the night staff could not get through; the day staff carried on uncomplaining.

I worried about Hans and Margaret, who had been to Montpellier (with Poppy!) for a medical visit and were not back yet. At 9pm I got a fairly frantic phone call from Margaret. They had been evacuated from their car by the pompiers and were now in a shelter opened by the Mairie of Ganges, still wearing sodden clothes. This morning I had just started the process of getting help for them from our Mairie when Margaret rang. They were back home and their car had started first time.

It had been a pretty traumatic night. They were one of a convoy of cars trying to use a higher back road to get to the Le Vigan exit. Then a caravan blocked the way ahead and when they all turned round a huge four by four with a trailer load of hunting dogs stalled, so they were all stuck. The pompiers arrived, crammed as many people as possible into the four by four (poppy was petrified by the hunting dogs), and towed it along the road to the nearest hotel (the poshest in Ganges). There they were told the hotel was full and when they asked what should they do, the reply was that was their problem!

Hans and Margaret set off to walk to Ganges. Luckily an old lady let them shelter for a moment in her doorway while her granddaughter rang the Mairie to ask where they should go. The hall was about a kilometre away and much of the time Hans and Margaret were knee deep in water. Eventually they had to stop carrying Poppy so they could keep their balance in the dark, so Poppy swam beside them!

Their reception at the hall was wonderful: the mayor paid regular visits, volunteers brought food and drink, and they were provided with large tee-shirts emblazoned with ‘Ville de Ganges’, so at least their top half was dry. People even rushed up with paper towels to dry Poppy. They were given camp beds for the night. Margaret had to share hers with Poppy. The only disturbance was when a giant sized dog could no longer resist coming over to make friends with Poppy, who responded with fierce growling and barking, waking everybody up. The pompiers came in the morning to say they had gone back at 4am to tow Hans and Margaret’s car to higher ground. Just as well, as the next car ended upside down.

Hans and Margaret are full of praise for the Mairie and pompiers for a really well run exercise. Poppy, needless to say, is completely unscathed by her exciting night.

Nothing to report

Two days have slipped by in a pretty monotonous routine of morning and afternoon physio sessions interspersed with unappetising meals. (Thank you Margaret for the tasty salad. Something fresh with recognisable flavours!)

Some of you may have tried to email me, but email via wifi is still not working and now my iPhone is also refusing to get emails, perhaps because we are having two days of dramatic storms and rain. Not enough energy today to try to work out what is happening. I have a landline, should I be in my room and within reach: 0033(0)467814102. Number faulty. Awaiting technician! Or family you can msg me on Facebook.

Big event of the day: I have a new wheelchair. The old one had foot pedals which could not be removed making it particularly difficult to get into the bathroom. Now my challenge is to get more adept at passing between bed and wheelchair without letting the left foot touch the ground.

Most of the people I see in physio – ‘réeduc’ -are older than me. The woman in the room opposite must be in her eighties. She had polio as a child and wears horrible big heavy black boots. She fell (again) three weeks ago and broke her hip. Another woman of 89 has just arrived with a knee replacement (done by the same surgeon as me) and is already marching the corridors, with sticks of course, with great determination.

The saddest case is the man in the room next to me. I already know him as he lives in Mars. In his mid forties he is seriously paralysed following a stroke last winter, then a week or two ago he had an epileptic fit and fell, breaking several ribs. Yesterday he was told his mother had died. I feel so sorry for him and there seems no way to help lift him out of depression.

Apart from getting to know my neighbours I spend a lot of time reading about Scotland. I commend the site
The lights are flickering and any moment now we may lose electricity. Eavesdropping neighbours’ visitors there are apparently huge floods in the usual places like Sommieres.

A technology fan – but not today

Ever since I arrived in this hospital I have been asking for a wifi connection (a service included in their brochure). And I have had the same sort of problems as in the Centre Ster in winter. First it took a day to be given the password.

Then it didn’t work – I got a message there were too many users. Ah, said the secretary, it’s probably a storm somewhere. No, no, I insisted, it means that there are too many people registered on the router, no doubt because the names of patients who have left have not been removed. Oh, she said, the computing guy who looks after their system only visits once a month. Can’t he be telephoned, I asked. She said she would do it the next day (Saturday). So of course nothing happened till Monday. Et voila, today i could go onto the internet at last. Except, except, I can’t use email. This happened at Ster, so back I went to reception and asked if email services could be enabled for room 102. Again I had to press my case and she says she will email the computing guy tomorrow, but it might take several days. I of course could not resist saying it was a couple of minutes work….

Why did I get so worked up? Because the internet is essential for my sanity here. Apart from FaceTime or Skype sessions with family and friends, I want it for newspapers, radio, books (via kindle) and of course to bore you with this blog.

I can use my iPhone for email, but the signal is very poor here, and certainly not strong enough for FaceTime. So emails may be fewer for the time being, but at least I can write my blog 🙂

Today was my first full day of physio: a full hour this morning with pulleys and weights to strengthen my leg muscles during this period of immobility. And then an hour with pulleys to strengthen my arms, in preparation for the day I use crutches (cannes anglaises in French). The physio thinks I might use tem before the end of the month provided I only use one leg. I’m not at all sure I have enough balance or confidence to do this.

My afternoon ended on a wonderful note – a long telephone natter with my old friend, Joanna Blythman. We talked almost exclusively about the pending Scottish referendum. I’m appalled by the fever of the yes supporters. I asked if I was going mad and if my judgement had become impaired. No, no, she said, agreeing with all my reasons against independence, and added that most of her friends (but not her mother!) agreed with us. (See for example this article by mp://”>Carole Craig.). She is so upset by the demagogic, sentimental ranting and playing on the ‘we are victims’ theme that she is almost ashamed of being Scottish and is talking of leaving Scotland.

My small world

It is amazing how quickly one adapts to being institutionalised. I’m beginning to work out the unwritten routines – when it is best not to ask for help, whose job it is to do what.

Help I do need, in particular someone needs to transfer me from bed to wheelchair. Amazingly I’m getting quite good at hopping round the bathroom, but I do need to plan all movements in advance. Thank goodness for the NHS issued grabber, now 14 years old. Yesterday I found myself separated from my nightie, but then hopped and grabbed.

Not that it can solve the problem of the locker, on the left side of the bed and therefore pretty inaccessible.

I don’t think I have ever met such kind, friendly staff. Perhaps it helps I’m one of the younger patients, but I hear them being kind to a neighbour who has a tendency to wander and get lost.

Typical is the young woman who gave me a shower and washed my hair this morning. She has a tendency to mislay or drop things. But who cares? She smiles, chats and loves her work.

One of the disadvantages of being served meals in my bedroom is I don’t get to met other patients. I keep my door open much of the time but all the same it is a solitary life. All the more reason I’m grateful for the visits from Margaret, Sylvia and Yves, and Charles and Pierre.

The glory of sleep

I think I slept for about six hours last night and I am a transformed person. I feel I can take on the world. Let’s just hope I’m allowed to take the current cocktail for a little longer, so that the last week remains just a horrible blur in my memory.

Now, apart from the food, life is good. I have very little pain (I accept this is partly due to medication) and the staff are without acception friendly and eager to help in any way they can. I’m enjoying the challenge of learning to manoeuvre the wheelchair in incredibly tight spaces, particularly negotiating ridiculous doors not to mention the basin on my way to the loo.

I’m trying to be as independent as possible, though I need help getting in and out of bed and the nurses insist on bedpans at night. I’m also given a thorough bed bath by a nice nurse from Calais, and frankly that is something which makes me feel much better.

My only gripe is the continuing absence of wifi. What makes me so annoyed is that it is totally unnecessary I can see from the messages that the system’s quota of users is full up: the secretary has not been removing the names of patients when they leave. From my brief conversation with her yesterday I suspect she doesn’t know how to. Now I have to wait till Monday before making a fuss.

Life in the local hospital

Another bad night. I developed the practise of spending two hours in bed and then when it got impossible the nurses helped me into a chair where I would try to doze for a while.

Lots of sympathy from all the nurses in the morning and a good old fashioned bed bath with lots of cream to stop the pending bedsores. The doctor passed and said she was trying an ew stronger cocktail. Here we go again.

Now big excitement, I get to try out my wheelchair ( only just big enough) to go to the Didier the kiné (physio). He gave me a detailed examination, with lots of measurement of limbs and testing of strength of muscles.
I will be seeing him twice a day. He was not precise on how long before I can stand – I got the impression it might be six rather than four weeks. But I’m less shell shocked than before as I can see that during this time rehabilitation still goes ahead.

Most irritating thing today is that the wifi still does not work. I’ve been to see the secretary and I know the problem. There are too many users in the database because I suspect she is not removing the names of patients when they leave. Very frustrating because I could probably do it for her.

The wheelchair means I have the liberty to roam the corridors. Quite a sad experience

Stop press: now in room 102
Hurray. I’m in a room of my own. Nice view of local rooftops and the hills beyond.

L’Hopital du Vigan

I emerged after a reasonable sleep, not quite so good as the previous night as they had to substitute a key relaxing ingredient after noting that I have Glaucoma.

Suddenly it was all rush to get me ready for the ambulance to Le Vigan. I did not even get a chance to see and thank surgeon and staff. And in the rush I left my spare eye medicines in the nurses’ fridge!

First impressions of L’hopital du Vigan are: ‘on est dans la campagne’. There seemed a fair amount of chaos both at the accueil and when I reached my room, with lots of people asking me the same question – who was my contact person. But also a lot of warmth and welcoming smiles. I’m amongst the sort of folk I meet every day round here.

The only person I didn’t take to was the doctor, also Margaret’s GP, whom I found dour, and offended that she had not personally received a report about my bone graft and how long I’m supposed to remain immobile.

My room is minute and has two beds. As usual I imagine I have to wait till a single room becomes available. Bad luck if a second person arrives and has to cope with all my wheelchairs etc!

Just managed to have a rest! The room faces north and is refreshingly cool. All I can see are some fir trees. And the only noise is intermittent bursts of happy yelling from a primary school,

The biggest challenge so far is going to the loo. The is simply not enough room for the chair I’m sitting on ana nurse to help transfer me to the loo (which is sadly one of those heighteneres on top of a normal loo rather than the bespoke high ones in St Roch. Margaret visited and created order out of my suitcase order, bless her. She had several nightmarish months on her back after her accident (falling off terrace wall)’, so I had a suitable companion with whom to discuss hospital lav nightmares.

Just met the chief kiné, Didier. He says, with an approving smile, he knows my surgeon well. He has gone off to find me a suitable wheelchair, given my ‘grande taille’.

I now have a swanky new ambulatoire (main problem is retaining energy for hopping), a commode for the night, when if can’t risk hopping, and a wheelchair which I’m longing to try out tomorrow.

Only failure today is getting wifi to work. I fear incompetent admin. A too many users message which I know how to sort out with my own router.

Little hiccup over medication. I have been given less powerful stuff and really fear another bad night.

Ps I’m in room 106,
Centre Hospitalier, Avenue Emmanuel d’Alzon, BP 61023, 30123 Le Vigan. Tel 04 67 81 61 00


This time I was being given a cocktail devised by the anaesthetists, starting with half an anonymous pill in the afternoon and a whole one at supper time. Plus ice packs for my headache. From then on I was feeling satisfactorily relaxed and no signs of leg spasms.

The sleeping stuff did not arrive till 10pm (I seem near the end of the medicine trolley round) and I was starting to get agitated in case the relaxants eased off. No spasms, but my hip started really hurting, so the nurse started with a painkiller. Then the cocktail: four more anonymous little pills and a blue drink.

At last, after thirty minutes, I dozed off, and apart from waking up from some weird dreams for a bed pan, I slept through to nearly six am. Nearly eight hours.

The world is now a different place. I even slept for an hour in the afternoon. Apparently I’m to be given the same treatment tonight, thank goodness. I will know I’m recovered though when I stop having migraines.

All being well I am to be moved to l’hopital du Vigan tomorrow.

The corner turned?

Well, Mme Bertrand, the surgeon’s advice that the side rails should be put up in case, full of drugs, I lost the plot, proved an unnecessary precaution. The relaxant turned out to be Valium. It stopped most of the muscle cramps but did not really send me into a nice dreamy state. The sleeping drug, given nearly two hours later, took 40 minutes to work. Then, bliss, I fell asleep. But for just under four hours. 2.30 am there I was once again, wide awake, with another four or five hours ahead of me before the morning routines.

Mme Bertrand came early to see me and couldn’t believe I had resisted these drugs. She said she would consult the anaesthetists for more ideas. An hour later an anaesthetist came to see me (another woman in a senior position, I’m pleased to say) and said they would go away and devise a new ‘cocktail’. Meanwhile my favourite nurse comes regularly to give me paracetamol and ibuprofen, as well as ice packs for my hip and throbbing head.

Afternoon: bad migraine