Yet more health news

When I was at school, I failed O level biology (deliberately, refusing to revise). My inability and unwillingness to take in graphic information, whether pictures of flowers or anatomical images has continued.

So when my physio, Joceline, called on me with some information about my recalcitrant shoulder and biceps tendon, I struggled while she attempted to explain. the problem, using images and photos on the internet. It didn’t help of course that this is all in French.

The reason she wanted me to understand more was that she and my GP, Maëlle, had got together to discuss what could be done about my painful biceps tendonitis, as this has prevented proper recovery of the shoulder replacement done nine months ago. They had agreed that Joceline should contact the surgeon, Marion Bertrand, for more information and advice.

If I have understood the email exchanges correctly, Marion Bertrand proposes surgery on the recalcitrant long head biceps tendon. I think what she is proposing is to cut the top section of the biceps tendon and I think reattach it to a bone lower down.  I have found a site in English which explains this procedure.  Alternatively, of course she might be proposing the simpler, more dramatic solution – simply cutting the tendon without reattaching it (biceps tenotomy). I have an appointment with her in September to discuss the options.  In the meantime, Maelle has given me stronger medication in an attempt to relax the tendonitis and enable me to better perform my rehabilitation exercises.  And Marion Bertrand has asked for a detailed echography.

Running in parallel with my ongoing shoulder saga is my ongoing back saga!  For over a year I have had increasing sensations of discomfort in my left leg and back.  I am currently seeing a neurologist who prescribed an MRI, which I had on Friday.  This confirmed what I knew already: arthritis everywhere in the spine and in particular problems in lumbar vertebrae 3, 4 and 5.  The radiologist was very perfunctory and not particularly polite, so I await explanations and decision about treatment from the neurologist.  She is on holiday now, so again, I have to wait till September. I’m hoping not just yet back surgery! Meanwhile, again, I am on medication to suppress the symptoms and enable me to sleep.

To Istanbul – or not?

Several times in my life my plans to travel have been affected by the world’s instability.

Way back in the winter of 1965 I was all set to go as a VSO volunteer to Kashmir.  But the Kashmir war rumbled on, so instead, in January 1966, I was sent to nice, safe Nigeria.  Four days after my arrival there was the first, bloody military coup, followed by a year of massacres, another coup, and the army was billeted on the school where I was teaching. All very exciting for a young 22 year old, and a major factor in my deciding to become a reporter.

Two years later, now a reporter in Oxford and living with Chris, we were about to set off for Prague and had packed my Mini with supplies for friends living there – when the Soviet troops invaded Czechoslovakia. No way could we have got in, given my passport was marked ‘journalist’.  So instead we went to nice safe Scotland, where I discovered Chris did not really share my enthusiasm for camping, particularly in my parents’ leaky old tent which more or less collapsed in Glen Coe.

Fast forward many years and i was listening to my daughter Jude’s stories of her wonderful trip through Jordan and Syria.  Soon, I said to myself, I too will visit Petra and Damascus – and Palmyra, which I had also read about.  Sadly this was not to be and I will probably never see these wonderful places.

So imagine my delight when Jude suggested I joined her and Ed and their two children in a short autumn break in Istanbul. I was very excited and pleased they were willing to have me tag on. (I had been sad when earlier in the year the two families went to Sicily without me).

I have established that there are cheap flights to Istanbul from Marseilles. But then the moral dilemmas have clouded my excitement.  Should I go to a country whose human rights record has descended from extremely bad to totally unacceptable?  I have boycotted Spain during the time of Franco, South Africa while there was apartheid, and continue to boycott Israel for the appalling treatment of the Palestinian Arabs (though there again, I have been sorely tempted to justify a visit).

The Germans, with several German citizens including a human rights activist in detention, are taking a much tougher line than other EU countries and are warning people not to travel there.  My friend, Margaret, is of a similar, strong view.  So am I making a case of special pleading because I so want to see a city everybody says is marvellous?  If I don’t get there this year I fear I may never live to see it.

I am on the verge of clicking on ‘Buy’ for my ticket to Istanbul, but the principled bit of me is holding back that finger. Soon I must stop wavering.

Quirky weather

Sunday was glorious. Seventy of us had a lovely village lunch (Margaret one of the four key volunteers) with lovely sunny weather.

I then spent a lot of the late afternoon in the bassin, on the seemingly endless task of fighting the algae which the earlier heatwave had brought on. The water was balmy; the dragonflies and, later, the swifts swooped around me. A lovely end to a good day.

Then suddenly the weather has deteriorated- not the rain which all the locals hope for – but endless strong winds and therefore plummeting temperatures. Well, for here, that is. We are now seeing days in the 20s rather than 30s. As Jacky, who had passed by to look after the bassin, said, over his customary coffee: “un drôle de temps” .

Another piscine encounter

Today the admirer of my tankini top was back. Like so many people here she like to give advice. This time it was instructions on how better to hold the baton (pole) in an exercise to help me raise my arm.

She was quite right! She then remarked that I was walking straighter. Yes, I replied, less pain than last week. This opened the floodgates to advice as to what remedies – mainly homeopathic – to take. And before I left she handed me with a list  and urged me to telephone if I had any problems.

When not dispensing health advice she spends her time running brocant (secondhand or junk stalls) in aid of L’Association Perle, a very worthy local animal refuge. Don’t go on their site – all those photos of dogs needing homes is heartbreaking.

Séances dans la piscine

Three times a week I do the 50 km round trip to Ganges to spend 30 minutes in warm water doing shoulder exercises, followed by a shoulder massage.

It’s quite a pleasant, roomy pool, with rarely more than about four people in it. Some are walking back and forth, often with paddles under their feet, clearly trying to establish balance.  Others are flexing and bending knees.  And I am stretching my right arm in all directions, some more painful than others.

Apart from one young man who sits in his corner, replying at best monosyllabically, there is a relaxed atmosphere with the odd conversation.  I haven’t recently seen the woman whose idea of conversation is that it should be totally one-sided.  Maybe she has come to the end of her treatment, as has the pleasant enough farmer’s wife from the hills between Ganges and le Vigan. I still see the woman who has admired my tankini (two part swimming costume) from Lands End.  Only people of my size could admire it …  I have given her various internet clothes catalogues, so we are now friends.

I enjoy the conversations which are not exchanging recipes or ailments.  So I’m sorry that the Latin teacher from the local collège no longer comes.  Still, I enjoy a daily chat with the young woman who comes in daily.  When not dealing with injuries (caused by old skiing accidents) she commutes daily to Montpellier, where she is an architect specialising in harbour constructions.

A newcomer to the group is a construction engineer who was engaged in an energetic denunciation of Macron’s libérale policies when I arrived in the water.  In five years, he said gloomily, Mme Le Pen will be back.  It turned out that he has taken to reading up on economics and we had an aimable discussion about the importance of keynesian economics.

Most come from round Ganges (there is a pool in le Vigan which I have failed regularly to obtain a place) so I was surprised to meet a man, of about my age, who came from near le Vigan.  Even more surprised when I learnt that he came from the next commune, Mars – he in fact lives on the hill above my house, which he knows about from Jacky (who built my pool). And he also employs my friend, Arnard, who built the handsome curved steps above our original house. He is maire adjoint on the council.

I was looking forward to more conversations with him, but haven’t seen him this week.  That is something I have learnt from my extensive experience of rééducation: there are the characters who make a brief appearance – and then get better – and then there are us long-termers.

My doctor has just renewed my prescription for the piscine sessions.  She and my physio, Joceline, have both expressed their frustration at not managing to establish what to do to make these **** tendons heal. At their request I have made an appointment to see the surgeon again, in September, though nobody is very optimistic that she has the magic solution either.

Thank goodness any rate for my little car with no gears to change, a light steering which really only requires one hand, and the freedom of a roof that opens, making these regular journeys a pleasure.



This wretched tendon

The last ten days have passed in something of a blur. I have done the thrice a week 25km round trip for pool physiotherapy, progressed the plans for capricorn eradication, lunched and dined with friends, and  enjoyed sitting beside my bassin.

But i have also faced a sudden return bout of the shooting, unpredictable pain in my arm. There is no doubt my shoulder is a bit better.  But not the biceps tendon. It flared up again, telling me not to kid myself. I do wonder if it is my efforts to take on the cello which brought it on.

In any case I have not touched the cello for several days and the biceps tendon is calming down. Thank goodness for my automatic car, which at least allows me to preserve my independence at times like this. And now that it only hurts when I make certain movements I can emerge from this bout of self pity.


Solidarity with African refugees

I attended – after a fashion – a rather extraordinary occasion. It was a parrainnage for illegal African refugees who are about to be send back to Italy (and thence, presumably, Africa) by the French Government.

It was extraordinary because I only got to hear about it at the last moment (from Philippe) and by the time I got to the Hotel de Ville, the grandiose 19th century council building, the first floor council chamber was packed, as was the space outside and the two stone staircases leading down to the ground floor. There must have been 100-200 people.

Since nobody could hear a thing going on in the council chamber, the only indication I had that an event had just taken place was when the whole crowd erupted in cheering.  The crowd I should add was the usual splendid collection of le Vigan’s Left – I knew quite a few, including Philippe and Odile.

Meanwhile I tried to get people to explain what was happening.  There were apparently a group of young Africans who have been staying in the centre de Salagosse up my road or in St Hippolyte, 40 kms away, who were about to be sent to Italy.

What was happening inside the chamber was a ceremony of sponsorship. I’ve since found this site which explains in detail what is involved in parrainage. The mayor of le Vigan, Eric Doulcier (the one good mayor around here) was clearly conducting some semi formal ceremony and when I finally got in afterwards, I saw that each refugee had been given documents.

I can imagine that Doulcier performed a dignified and moving ceremony, The groups who are now parrains with the refugees will sadly not have much time to fulfil their roles of support each month, as it seems clear they are destined for Italy shortly. But I think the idea is that all this paperwork will demonstrate to the authorities that the refugees are not alone and there are people to support them here, in the hope of getting them to change their decision.

I finally got into the chamber and saw several Africans clutching papers – like students at a graduation.  I asked one where he came from.  The Sudan, he said.  I wished him good luck and then decided to go.

Outside, a band was playing.  I thought this slightly  incongruous; this was more a moment for funereal sad music, or perhaps something stirring to encourage us to take up arms.

Perhaps tomorrow I will get a clearer understanding of what happened.

Nasty shock

Houses have an annoying habit of requiring maintenance.  Expensive maintenance.

I finally decided that I needed expert help to deal with the holes in the posts of my verandah .

So I summoned M. Altadill, who has already dealt with a nasty insect experience two years ago (but at least that time it was my builder who paid). He has a good reputation and is recommended by my builder.

I thought I had masonry bees and just needed some advice about what to do.  So it came as a horrible surprise to be told this was capricornes again.  Although one post is the main place, he found holes elsewhere.

So I am going to have to get Philippe, who is currently painting the railings on the back terrace, but turns his hand to anything I need, to sand down the wood and then Serge Atadill’s company, Rastop, will inject and blast the whole verandah.

Bye bye at least a thousand euros.




Les ainés

Somehow I find the phrase “les ainés” less depressing than les personnes agées, or the old folk.  But that was what we all were at lunch today.

We were celebrating the 40th anniversary of Lou Rossignol, the local old folks club. All the usual suspects were there, music provided by two of the sons of Lulu Vaquier, a delightful old man who now he is in his mid-eighties, has sadly decided to no longer sing in public. He did however stand up to explain how the club got its name (I was not paying enough attention to follow him) and then Christine Capieu led the singing of a song about rossignols (nightingales) which everybody seemed to know.

Low-key but aimable.  I was sitting next to my friends, Charles and Pierre, so at least Pierre and I were able to have a – mutually agreeing – conversion about the lunacy of Brexit, our mistrust of Mélenchon, and our hope that Macron and Merkel might succeed in reforming the EU.

Back to playing music

On Wednesday I played in the end of year concert of l’Ecole de Musique du Vigan.

It was a jolly, if somewhat too long, occasion. The different instrumental groups demonstrated their work- including two pieces by us, the four cello students (all adult), and we finished with several pieces by the ‘orchestra’.

The music was below the level I used to play at, but after my chequered playing history (nine months not touching the cello), plus my usual problem of performance nerves, I did not play particularly well.

My shoulder and arm have improved in the two weeks of playing, but it is still a great physical strain. By the end of the concert I had had enough and messed up a tricky passage where I usually play solo (the other three have only been playing for a couple of years). Luckily Anne, our teacher, was with us, so I hope no one noticed that one rather than two cellos did the nippy syncopated bit.

What has been- and is- a great pleasure in playing with the other three-Pascale, Astrid and Lihaie. They are such nice woman, all around 40 (and spoil me by insisting on carrying my cello and putting up my stand), but also ragging me about my accent and ‘Britishness’.

It’s great that they are  pleased I’m back and have since the concert texted to say they want to meet up play with me over the summer. Anne has also given me homework, so I’m going to be busy. I have to hope the shoulder and miscreant biceps tendon improve enough to for me to play properlyby the autumn.

Since I wrote this, Pascale has circulated a shot of the cello section: