Living with a problematic shoulder

With the shingles virtually gone, I return to thinking about my painful, non-functioning shoulder.

Nobody appears to agree about the reasons or prognosis. But in order to put myself into a better frame of mind, I am trying to address a couple of the daily practical problems I face.

This may not be high on most people’s list of priorities, but I was finding it difficult to use my computer, because my desk was too high: raising my arm to use the mouse was particularly painful.  So, courtesy of Ikea, I have bought a new table, which can be adjusted down to 68cm (27 ins).

My other problem is much more important.  And difficult to resolve.  Three weeks after leaving the clinic, but four months since the operation, and I still cannot move my arm up very high or without pain.  I have tried and failed to operate the gears in my car.  This means I am beholden to friends to do my shopping, run my errands, or take me into town. Despite everybody’s assurances that this is not a problem, it leaves me frustrated, with a sense of impotence.

The only answer is to drive an automatic car.  I have tried Dessa’s Skoda Yeti and I am fine: there are no gear stick movements while the car is in motion and I drive mainly with my left hand, with my right hand at the bottom, only really in action when Im turning the wheel to go round sharp corners.

The only place where I can hire a car locally does not have automatic cars.  I have come to the conclusion that the solution has to be to sell my Citroen Berlingo – which I love – and settle for a modest automatic, whose main purpose is to get me to le Vigan or on occasions to Montpellier.

Car prices in France are ridiculous, new ones are dearer than in the UK and secondhand ones don’t drop their price very much (for the buyer!).  The other complication is Brexit: not knowing how long I can stay in France.  So I don’t want to spend on a car which I might have to sell in two years time.

Four seater automatics are expensive. So I started looking at the Smart ForTwo, a zippy little two seater which would be as at home in London as in France.  The big disadvantage is not being able to accommodate friends and family.

But can I justify buying a more expensive car for about two months of the year (and anyhow the family frequently hire or bring their cars)?  I looked at alternatives like the Golf, but they were much more expensive.  And boring to drive – I’m afraid that I have to confess to enjoying driving cars! If I have two or more visitors who don’t drive I will simply hire an automatic in Montpellier.  It is still cheaper than the thousands extra for a larger car. Oh, and that will apply if I have one visitor who cant stand having Poppy on his or her lap!

More difficult to justify is why I am going for a convertible version.  Well, the answer is it cant be justified, just explained.  If I’m shelling out on a smaller car, might as well make it a fun purchase so I can be happy.  Buying the cabrio (convertible) version adds a couple of grand to the bill.

Believe it or not there seem to be more Smart ForTwo cabrios for sale in London than in the south of France (except Monaco and Nice, where they specialise in the upmarket top of the range models).

My friend Dessa kindly took me down to Montpellier today to see what was on offer and to try out a Smart, to make sure it was what I wanted.  The Mercedes-Smart agents had sold their last one with the spec I asked for yesterday, but I was still able to go for a spin in it.

Second time I have been able to be behind a wheel for four months.  Already I was having visions of liberty again!  It was very comfortable. The automatic gears meant my right shoulder had very little work to do, particularly as the steering wheel can be lowered.  And the steering was lighter than in my Berlingo or Dessa’s Skoda. Acceleration was nippy, though I expect the ride to be a little bumpier on bad roads than in my larger car.  It is tiny, but feels solid and comfortable provided you only have one passage and not too much luggage.

The only other cabrio on show at the garage – the only Smart dealer for miles – was a very stylish black and grey number with a higher specification than I had asked for – and a higher price. But the young salesman offered to reduce it by 1340€ to my price limit. The only extra option I would want to go for is a basic parking aide – noises if I get too close to the bollard behind me!

All depends now on what price they will give me for my Berlingo, which I love dearly but have to accept that it is not in the prime of youth and it has come up against several bollards (the nasty low concrete ones out of sight) as well as some bushes and trees.  I’m going back to Montpellier on Wednesday with Richard, a friend who was once a garage owner.

If all goes well, the week after I just might be mobile again.



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