First grandchild to go to school

Ella started big school today – the local primary just round the corner. Her cousin, Otto, starts on Wednesday.
Ella just does two hours a day this week. A nice school apparently, but perhaps not an easy transition for someone who has been going to an outstanding nursery.


Daddy said she seemed Ok.

Kinda repetitive

I think I can truthfully say this has been my worst ever post operative experience, through no fault of the people here. I had worse pain 14 years with my first hip replacement, but it only lasted a couple of days.

The killer has been the inability to sleep. Last night I was all excited having been prescribed not one but two different potions. Unbelievably the muscular spasms I have been getting in the evenings started as usual, and lasted for hours, rendering both drugs useless. I did not sleep a wink. That makes a total of four hours sleep in three days and nights.

I lay there tossing and turning – except that is exactly what you cannot do when one leg is held in a sort of trunk, precisely to prevent me turning. I felt I understood how awful life has been for prisoners chained up and unable to move. I thought also of my poor mother, who lay trapped in a broken body for two years. I particularly thought of her when endlessly making the bed go up and down, for something to do, and when hanging onto the monkey pole – her lifeline.

The night staff were incredibly sympathetic, but helpless.

The morning had the usual routines. I was washed this time by a man from Algeria and woman from Benin (who was most impressed when I said my husband had written a book about Benin). The young physio helped me make my first hopping trek to the loo. (There are strategic problems about these visits which I won’t go into.) by lunchtime I was wilting, and abandoned my chair for the bed.

Today’s nurse is my favourite, and that is not just because she complements me on my French. She is intelligent and interesting and very easy to chat to. She found me lying uncomplaining (yes, I reserve that for this blog), closed the shutters and put ice packs on my hip and head.

At this point Mme Bertrand turned up for her daily visit. She was flabbergasted, horrified and sympathetic that the sleeping drugs had not worked. She and the nurse had a long discussion about what to give me. I like the way she deferred to the nurse. This evening’s programme is therefore to give me an extremely powerful muscle decontractant (?) (lexomil Roche 6mg) and then once this has worked give me a whopping big sleeping drug, with the possibility of a different one at midnight. They warned me that I will be very woozy (I dream on) and in order that I don’t try to get out of bed, will probably put the side bars up. I of course will agree to anything if I can sleep.

Anyhow apologies for these long self pitying ramblings. It’s my way of bringing family up to date without repeating myself endlessly. If you see the category Health you can just skip the post ūüôā

Another bad night

Surgeon had not marked sleeping pills. Two hours sleep and lots of discomfort. Plus room too hot – faulty air conditioning. Now after 9am. Hip hurting. Not in a good place at present.

11am. Better. The nurse has just come and removed most of the tubes and drains. I reckon it was the drain to the bone graft causing pain. She also confirmed no infections, which is a relief.

Now I’m installed in my chair. Dreading my first trip to the loo, as I have hop, leaning on the ambulatoire (made for a midge). ‘Aided’ by the two aide soignants who have just discussed house rents the entire time they did my bed bath.

6.30pm.
I needed help getting back into bed. I just did not have the courage to believe I could get upright not touching the floor with the operated side, being helped by the aide soignante who seems half asleep. So the nurse came to help. She confirmed the anaesthetist had prescribed some sleeping pills. Phew. Collapsed in bed in a somewhat fragile weepy state, when in walks Mme Bertrand. She understood immediately that the problem was lack of sleep rather than excessive pain. She was clearly irritated that the prescription she wrote yesterday had not been passed through and went off to personally ensure that I got a big dose this evening. Fingers crossed.

Shitty night

Hot. I had a temperature. Incredibly noisy outside (I think I’m over the deliveries and rubbish). Everything hurting in a minor way – not just the hip but the knee waiting to be done. And nurses in short supply. In short, after about two hours sleep I was in a grumpy poor state.

Things marginally better this morning, and I have managed three hours in the chair. But now time to summon assistance to climb back to bed, get the air conditioning put up and hopefully sleep.

No sleep, but I have just asked the surgeon to prescribe sleeping pills. (She arrived – stylish as ever – in shorts and black singlet.) Tomorrow they take out all tubes. The challenge will no doubt be hopping to the loo. It takes a surgeon to bricoler – do DIY. She spotted you can raise the arms of my chair. And someone has just arrived with a cushion made for me, so descending should not be so precarious.

The not so good news

I took in yesterday that I had not had a full replacement, but that I had had a bone graft. The kin√© (physio) came to see me after lunch, but just to put me in a chair for a while. On no account must I out any weight on my left leg. Since he was half my size and both hands have tubes coming out of them, this was a very scary exercise, involving lots of hanging onto the monkey pole above my bed while pivoting round, and then leaning on a walking frame while hopping on my ‘good’ leg before trusting the kin√© while reaching out for the arms of the chair. I was sort of taking in the problems but soon I understood more.

In walked my glamorous surgeon, Mme Bertrand. I registered another stylish outfit and an impressive tan, but also a warm friendly smile.

I knew that the main problem was not the prothese itself (the lower bit) but le cotyle, the round surface of the pelvis which takes the pivoting head for the joint. The cemented head was badly damaged and had damaged the bone behind it. So after removing the damaged bits, she said, there was quite a hole to be bunged up with bone graft, onto which she had to cement a new head (as well as putting a new top onto the bottom half). The big challenge is getting the graft and cement to come together, and for this reason I must put no weight on the hip for about a month, which of course prolongs the reeducation. What if they don’t take, I asked. She clearly did not want to answer that one and muttered something about screws.

So, now I have to come to terms with another prolonged hospital stay. But at least this time after the initial week or so here I will be in Le Vigan and closer to friends.

Despite all this I’m in reasonable spirits (the morphine speaking) but ready to sink onto my pillows again.

Alive but not kicking

Crack of dawn head to toe immersion in Bétadine. Dressed myself in the all revealing op gown and then whizzed down to the operation block, where the anaesthetist exclaimed as usual about how thin my veins were.

woke up several hours later unable to talk much, needing oxygen but not in too bad pain thanks to the Morphine. ¬†The op took about three hours and in the end I was only in resuscitation for a few more hours. I can’t say the rest of day one and night were a ball. But hey, here I am semi-sitting up writing on my ipad. It’s a question of whether it or I run out of battery first.

The good news is that the staff are all very nice And the food so far many degrees better than last time. The hip pain is not helped by my non-operated on right shoulder and knee giving me grief.

The first wash is always a strain, forcing oneself to move and trying not to pour tooth paste onto the sheets. My aide soignant for this operation was a man. A bit disconcerting at first, but he was very nice and very efficient with the gymnastics of replacing sheets under me. When he asked me if I spoke English too (!) I asked him where he came from originally. He was Persian, he replied. Interesting he did not say Iranian.

Definitely in hospital

What a shame to be in hospital when the sun seems to be shining indefinitely – at last. But here I am, being processed through the pre-op routine.
I was taken up to my room by a ‘hostess’. More, equally pleasant staff have taken down my details, issued me with telephone information and wifi (TV comes free!). It turns out that my lost dossier is not a real problem and the various services have provided duplicates. All that angst for nothing.
Room 325 is pretty standard stuff, but spotlessly clean and seems recently equipped. Strange given this is one of many clinics due to relocate in about a year. The poor old NHS can’t compete – on the other hand I’m paying for the single room (as opposed to standard double) through my assurance complementaire – my private health insurance.
I’ve been down for more x-rays, had blood samples taken, and seen the anaesthetist, who ticked me off for having taken my blood pressure tablet this morning (against instructions) and for not telling him about my antibiotics. I forgave him because he is young and handsome.
I’ve just been visited by my surgeon, Mme Bertrand. This is indeed France. No white coat: an elegant, friendly woman of about 50 wearing a really stylish all in one black linen trouser suit. I will be the first operation of the day (8am)!and it could take anything between two and five hours, depending on what she decides to do once she opens me up (not quite how she put it).
I think her ideal would be to simply replace just the socket, which is the part disintegrating. But she is all set to replace everything if necessary and has ordered a complete replacement set as well as bone graft for the socket. She was very friendly and reassuring – and sympathetic about my lost front tooth!

Next task, after supper, is to immerse myself head to foot in Bétadine, the French disinfectant. Nil by mouth from midnight. And another Bétadine douche tomorrow at 6am.

Hospital – again – maybe

Today I go into hospital again (Clinique St Roch, Montpellier) to have my original (Scottish) hip replacement taken out and replaced by a French one. But will it happen? I have just had a few nightmarish days and all is up in the air.

It all began on Friday, when I returned from taking Jude and family to the airport in Montpellier feeling distinctly unwell.  I put it down to fatigue and went ahead with preparing lunch on Saturday for Gideon Simon and family (a lovely event).  Saturday evening I knew I was unwell Рshivery and sore throat. Had I caught the bug which somewhat plagued Jude and family when here?  On top of this, a slight reddening beside my right thumbnail developed into a full-blown infection.  Why do these things always happen at weekends?

I saw my GP on Monday evening and she described heavy antibiotics.  I rang the surgeon to warn her and she said to assume I was coming in, but to let her know of progress on Wednesday morning. (The clinic has been extremely vigilant on the avoidance of infections and I had had to produce dental reports and have a nose swab.)

That evening I started to sort out my medical papers. ¬†In France the patient holds x-rays and medical reports. ¬†Horrors: I could not find the bag which contains the x-rays and blood tests plus reports from the anaesthetist and cardiologist. At intervals during the sleepless night I hunted everywhere – in my study, the spare room, the ‘garage’ (utility room). ¬†Nowhere.

Yesterday I rang the surgeon’s office to break the news, fearing the operation would have to postponed while I redid all these tests.I got passed round people quite a bit and nobody would come up with a definitive answer. ¬†I get the impression I must be the first person to have done something so completely bonkers so am breaking new ground. I’m going to ring the surgeon’s secretary again this morning, before setting off for Montpellier.

Meanwhile, if that was not nightmarish enough, on Monday night one of my front crowns came out (again). ¬†I rang my dentist and as I feared he had just gone on holiday, leaving the name of a dentist in Quissac (an hours drive away) for emergencies. ¬†As this is a crown on an implant I knew know other le Vigan dentist could do it and set off for Quissac (a hot drive in temperatures above 30). ¬†The dentist took one look at the crown and said he could not put it back: it was a system he did not know and he was not prepared to break it. ¬†He reassured me there was no infection and seemed oblivious to my concern that this would mean spending at least a month with a huge gap at the front of my teeth. ¬†I must learn not to smile….

So here I am, Wednesday morning, starting to pack, having lost much of the last few days to doctor and dentist visits and feeling unwell. ¬†I’ll pack OK but I’m leaving the house in a complete mess.

And who knows, I might be back here tonight.

Stop press

11am ¬†The op is going ahead. ¬†All the specialists will make another copy available to the clinic and I will have more x-rays this afternoon. ¬†The surgeon’s secretary, Joelle, is really nice. ¬†How refreshing not to have to cope with disapproving bureaucracy.

August whizzed by

No sooner had Sara set off for Cagnes sur Mer, but Kate, Steve, Otto and Willow arrived, and after them, Jude, Ed, Ella and Maddie. So August was very much a family holiday month.  It was so lovely for me to see the two families.  I treasure these visits.

Gillies family visit
Kate’s family in particular suffered from the weird weather we have had this year. It is hard to remember now that we are basking in never-ending warm, sunny days, that early August was unseasonably cool, with a tendency to unpredictable rain (though in fairness I think it rained twice during the Gillies’ visit). It did mean that the water was disappointingly cool, which did not encourage Otto to become a water baby. However he thrived again with his horse rides. thanks, Vanessa, for some nice trips with Texas and Floride.
And I had my culture education brought up to date by Otto, with his passion for Buzz Lightyear (Disney – Toystory) and a cowboy called Andy. I have to say I still prefer Otto’s old friend, Monkey.


For those who have the password, there are more grandchildren photos. Friends and family – you can ask Kate, Jude or me for the password.

Bennion-Pedley family visit

Jude’s family were a bit luckier with the weather, though the pool water was still not warm enough for Ella’s pal, Henry, who came with his family for a week. Ella thrived in the water, oblivious to its temperature, and can now swim the length of the pool, jump in (with her own inimitable style, and started to swim underwater.

The big excitement of the holiday was witnessing Maddie, who started to walk a couple of days before coming, become a fearless and accomplished walker, abandoning the Quasimodo style which has amused us for months.


A music evening
I did not get to as many festival concerts as I would have liked, but I did manage to slip away one evening for an excellent concert in Aumessas by my friends Christine Capieu and other members of her ensemble I Musicanti. The second photo, of Stephen Rivers Moore is of poor quality; his recorder playing, however, was sublime.

Trip to the trout farm

We had a lovely trip to the trout farm, with a picnic beside the water. It’s the end of the trout season, so only Sam (Henry’s dad) was successful and we had to buy the others. But still a lovely place to go. I bumped into my old friend, Roy Carr-Hill, who was having lunch with V√©ro, owner of le Gravas, the trout farm.

Visits to le Rieumage
Our local river is still a lovely spot for pottering, paddling and picknicing.


The bassin enchants everybody

Despite the inclement weather and some hardworking fights with algae (hopefully better as the plant pool becomes established) the bassin was a joy.