Monthly Archives: April 2017

Back to Thebus and Phoebe

Mike came to Malvern early and we breakfasted together – I think he was getting into having a ‘Full English’ start to the day – then we headed off down (or is it up) the motorway system to Cannock where Thebus was still at the motorhome repairers.

Although Dave’s workshops are situated right next to the motorway system, with all the noise that produces, the buildings are sited on farmland with open fields, fishing lakes, and lots of off-road country walks for Phoebe, so (other than the incessant drone of traffic – which only slows down between midnight and about three in the morning) it is a pleasant spot to be parked.

Dave and his work-force are lovely, and as he specialises in the larger American motorhomes there are lots and lots of like-minded folk calling by for ‘fixes’ on their various ‘rigs’

In fact probably slightly tooooo many!  Which meant that although he had managed to get some of the jobs on Thebus finished there were a few half finished, and some not started.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to drive for the next few weeks, so was really in no particular rush and just decided to relax and let things take their course.

Jack’s mum and grandad (who together with the family) had been looking after Phoebe for me over the last couple of weeks brought her over to Cannock and she was very pleased to see me – though somewhat boisterous from her stay with three teenaged boys and two border collies – but after a rampacious greeting and wanting to meet up with Charlie (the resident beagle) she settled down.  After everyone had left she was actually quite tired and couldn’t wait to get her head down in her own bed again.

As I mentioned before I felt I was doing well after my operation, and the (rather large) scar seemed to be healing nicely – BUT after a a few more days it became apparent that there was something going on internally and eventually I needed to phone the nurse attached to my consultant.  She suggested I came in so the consultant could have a look at it.  Apart from an obvious swelling I hadn’t realised I was developing an infection, but by the time the consultant examined me the scar site was red and angry looking, and antibiotics were prescribed with instructions that, should they not work, I may need to visit my doctor.

Kind brother Mike had driven me from Cannock to Worcester, waited for me, and then taken me back again.  So back in Thebus I took my antibiotics and waited for things to improve.  I had visited the consultant on Thursday and waited until the weekend hoping for an improvement but by Sunday it was looking worse, and of course no doctors open.  I phoned 111 NHS health care-line, assuming they would send someone out to me, but of course no such luck.  A doctor did phone back eventually, but said if he did visit he would only refer me to the local A&E – as I would need blood tests and intravenous antibiotics.  So I phoned for a taxi, then waited the obligatory couple of hours at A&E, and without blood tests was simply given different course of antibiotic tablet by the somewhat laconic doctor.  Having waited a further half an hour or so for my tablets I phoned for another taxi and returned, feeling less well than when I started, though thankfully I didn’t catch anything else whilst I was there despite the incessant coughing and sneezing of the other patients.  I wonder if that is how the word ‘patient’ arises, in that one has to ‘be patient’ in order to get treatment.

Over the ensuing days here seemed little improvement – but it wasn’t getting worse either, and eventually the pressure was released and the swelling began to reduce.

I had sent off to Ainsworth’s for anything homeopathic which might assist and gradually, gradually I began to feel less anxious about things.  After my operation I had been been given an appointment to see the consultant for a post-op check up – so I left that to run.  Still not being able to drive brother Mike kindly came all the way over to Cannock to ferry me about.

Though I think I did make up for things slightly by taking him out for a nice lunch at The Venture Inn at Ombersley before my late afternoon appointment with the consultant.  And I have to say for a first course we had home made bread – and the very nicest Wild Mushroom and Cep Soup with Truffle Oil Foam that I have ever tasted!

Getting over the Op.

I intended to stay in Malvern for at least a couple of weeks if not longer, and various friends had said they would pop by and see me.  Another Sue was coming over that very evening after work and together we tried out the restaurant and it was excellent.  I had one of their superb gin and tonics whilst I was waiting her arrival, then as she was driving I had to finish more than my share of the wine, so once again I slept very soundly.

Some old friends popped by for coffee which we enjoyed in the lounge (the Bishop’s drawing room) again with its lovely full length bay windows. lounge-seating_gallery

And they bought me a most beautiful bunch of spring flowers, the colour and scent of which gave much pleasure in my bedroom throughout my stay.

img_4629

That evening there was some sort of blip and it seemed the hotel restaurant was fully booked. Although I had spoken with the owners who were happy to give room service, the young girl on duty that evening told me the chef had been taken suddenly ill – I think we had got our lines crossed somehow.  But it was a pleasant evening and I was happy to walk up into the town to an interesting looking cafe/bar I had spotted the previous evening right by the old Abbey Gatehouse where I mingled in with the buzz of the pre-theatre crowd and enjoyed a very pleasant meal and glass of wine.

cuumktzxyaawr6p

Then strolled back down though the now dark Abbey grounds

img_4647

For some reason Netflix had been emailing me with an offer of a free month’s trial, and as I had been wanting to see ‘The Crown’ I subscribed and have to say throughly enjoyed it, though there was little else of interest on offer, and I made a mental note to cancel before any payments became due.  But it filled in the odd hours at the hotel most pleasantly.

Wednesday was a bit grey and showery, so I relaxed and did nothing much, though when the weather brightened in the afternoon I took another walk up into the town.  I had half intended to have something at the charming old coaching inn now – as so many are – owned by Wetherspoons, but in the end opted for tea and home made cake a little further along the road

img_4700

img_4696

Thursday was another wonderful early spring day and more friends called for coffee, which, as the day was so warm we enjoyed on the upper terrace of the hotel gardens, admiring the flowers and listening to the early spring birds and bumble bees.  That afternoon I was booked in for a couple of hours massage and reiki with a lovely lady at a nice health and relaxation centre just a short walk from the hotel.  If I ever move back to the area I think I may become a regular – and on my way back passed a beauty salon: so I booked for the next day for reflexology on my hands and feet, followed by a full manicure and pedicure – and by the weekend I was feeling throughly relaxed and pampered.

Brother Mike had called over on Thursday evening and we enjoyed an excellent meal together in the hotel restaurant, but he had forgotten some important papers that needed to be signed, so returned the following morning to join me for breakfast.

Though I had originally intended to spend at least two or even three weeks in Malvern recuperating I had surprised myself with how well I was feeling and how quickly I seemed to be healing.  Not only was I sure I was well enough to look after myself, but was beginning to miss those little things one always has at hand when one is ‘at home’ – plus of course my darling Phoebe.  So decided I was well enough to return and Mike was kind enough to offer to call for me and drive me and my cases back.

But before then on Sunday I was collected by friends to attend their lively and thriving local church for the morning family service, and afterwards back to their house for a home cooked Sunday lunch.  And as soon as they had returned me to the hotel there was a message to say that Sally and Mark were up in the town centre and wanted to know if I would like to come for a drink.

As I was still feeling good I walked on up to meet them.  They had been there so long waiting to hear back from me they had consumed more lager than they intended, and had decided to stay the night at one of the other hotels I had initially considered, and so we headed up the street to check it out.  Of course Sally and Mark needed to eat, as usual having had nothing much for most of the day so we all had a meal, though I could not do justice to my food after my excellent lunch.  Afterwards Mark was all for driving me back to my hotel, but I felt that would be an unnecessary risk, especially as it was not that long a walk and all downhill. So we all walked back together our footsteps and voices echoing through the otherwise silent Malvern streets.

Then on Monday brother Mike came over again and we breakfasted together before he took and my cases  over to Cannock where Thebus was currently parked.

And all this in less than a week since a major operation – I think I must be a tough old bird!

 

 

The Cotford Hotel

Next day, refreshed and re-showered I headed off to the dining room for breakfast, and a very nice breakfast it was too, with a good variety of fresh fruit and cereals plus a real range of hot cooked food from ‘full English’ to kippers.  The food at The Cotford was a treat, especially after the hospital menu.  In my short hospital stay I tried various things and discovered that they could not toast bread, the coffee made in the morning was excellent, then kept warm throughout the day gradually becoming more and more stewed until, as at the day wore on, it was untenable.  Their best efforts were stewed meats or dishes involving mince, and though  I had high hopes of the battered fish and chips with mushy peas on Friday in the event I think ‘assaulted and battered’ might have been a more accurate description – but that is much the same of canteen food anywhere.

But now I could relax and be pampered.  So after enjoying hearty Cotford breakfast, and having had a look at the papers (a rather limited selection of The Daily Mail or weekly Malvern Gazette)  I strolled in the pretty gardens on the slopes of The Malvern Hills and sat on various benches in the sun.

exterior-garden-1_gallery

malvern-theatre_gallery

exterior-garden-2_gallery As it was such a lovely sunny day decided I might try a short walk along the flat road leading towards the town.  When I had booked I imagined the hotel to be further out from the centre, but in the event it was a reasonably short walk – even for me in my post-operative state.  The physiotherapist at the hospital said walking was positively encouraged, even up hills and steps, and Great Malvern is short of neither of those.  So feeling still pretty well I walked on, then decided I might as well try going on up the hill towards the upper level of the town.  I have to say I surprised myself and was soon there, though feeling a break and a sit down might be in order and as it was by now mid-morning decided to re-visit The Blue Bird Tearooms
15420894_10154133952493730_7937931952184696377_n img_4599

img_4601

15380627_10154133956898730_8748187654066876498_n

I had last visited these tea rooms with my mother and brothers, probably after being fitted for  school shoes at Elt’s Shoe Shop – brown Startrite sandals for summer with white ankle socks, or black leather lace-ups for winter, worn with great woollen knee-socks and flashes.  Elt’s shoe shop is on the  ground floor and has been in business in Worcestershire for 140 years, and the Bluebird Tearooms occupy the first floor and have possibly been there a similar length of time.  They were certainly not a new addition to the town even in the 1950’s.

I have to say they had changed a little in all that time.  There was now carpet on the floor, cheerful flowery wallpaper on the walls and chintz cotton tablecloths on the little individual tables, but in essence it was much the same and I chose what I had probably had last time I called – a pot of tea and a toasted tea-cake, both costing well under £2 each and the tea in a nice pot and china cups with a large teacake and plenty of butter.  All very good, especially the sit down.

And of course I couldn’t resist a look inside Elt’s Shoe Shop on the way out and came away with a pair of brown leather shoes.

But it was not a week since my operation – should I head back to the hotel?  Well I was still feeling fairly perky so decided to head back via the Abbey and maybe have a mooch round inside.  I had been there before but not for quite a while and it was interesting to take a good look round.  Wonderful stained glass windows, and medieval floor tiles (now safely re-sited on the walls, plus an interesting selection of medieval and later misericords.

img_4693

img_4695

img_4672 img_4664 img_4674

Prayers in the early medieval church took place every four hours throughout the day and night and were long and chanted standing with uplifted hands. As time went on, misericords (literally “act of mercy”) were constructed, so that when each seat was turned up the underside had a small shelf allowing the user to rest their bottom on it.  Often these had strange and sometimes humous carvings, presumably not exposed to general view as when the seats were down they were not visible, and when the seats were up someone was leaning against them.  Nowadays of course we are less coy  – though some of the carvings are surprising even to today’s eyes.

img_4660Misericords with seats up and later, rather innocuous, carvings

But what on earth is going on here – the official interpretation is that it is a man blowing away a demon!!! img_4689 img_4686And what is that man doing to that pig !?!  We are told he is shaving it !?!

img_4603

As I walked on down through the churchyard I noticed a sign for the winter gardens and thought this might be a good place to take another break, though having got inside the views and sunshine though the windows beckoned me and I took my break on some outside benches – it was a truly warm day out of the breeze.

malvern-theate-m

Then on, over the bridge for another rest and gaze out up at the hill behind the pond, and watch fond grandparents bringing children for the time honoured ritual of feeding the ducks.

img_4615

A meander through the parkland, and then slowly back to the hotel, still feeling surprisingly well.

Booking in at Malvern

I had booked in to stay at The Cotford, which although not as central as say The Abbey Hotel, had a lovely garden, and I felt walking round the hotel and grounds might be as much as I wanted to do for the first week anyway: not being exactly sure how I might feel having left the cocoon one inhabits whilst in hospital.

But, surprisingly I coped with the journey to Malvern well and checked into the hotel, where, sadly, afternoon tea was only available by prior arrangement.  So having left my cases we drove to The Abbey Hotel for tea.  I have to say though I felt the price quite high they made a good job of both the food and the presentation, and there was so much of it, that between us we could not finish all the sandwiches and cakes.  The Abbey Hotel was one that I had considered for my stay, but having revisited I was pleased I had chosen The Cotford.  Although the Abbey staff were friendly and helpful (and all, I think, Polish) it had the faded, worn air of many older hotels.  Not unpleasant, but not faded enough to be interesting and not modern enough to be grand.

Still, as I said the afternoon tea was good and we sat in the lounge/bar enjoying lovely views out over the Severn Valley and with the picturesque Malvern Abbey and gardens right at its side. the_abbey_hotel

Back at The Cotford Nick got me settled, then set of for his long journey home and I was free to have a look at my room.  I have an idea it was either called The Snug, or The Cosy – either epithet would have been equally suitable.  It was a single room, and it did have a lovely large shower, and nicely fitted bathroom with lots of fluffy towels, but it was on the ground floor and at the back of the hotel, so no views and seemed a rather dark sort of room.  Fine if one was staying for a single night on business, but not ideal for a week.

After the first night I asked if they was anything more suitable, not minding if I paid the extra for a double room – though hopefully with a view and a bath tub.  And although it meant changing rooms after three nights I was given a lovely bright room with big windows overlooking the Severn plain, then mid-week was changed to an equally pleasant room but with views of the pretty gardens and the Malvern Hills.

img_4623 img_4595 img_4641

After such a large and late tea at The Abbey I didn’t want to bother with dinner, plus I was rather tired after the day, so having had a lovely shower went straight to bed.  And it was nice to have such a quiet and peaceful night’s sleep after the hurly burly of a post-operative ward at night time.

Whilst I had been in hospital two of the ladies in beds close to mine had suffered night time emergencies: and sadly another patient I had never met died – though I was not aware of that at the time, only the rush of doctors, nurses and orderlies passing and re-passing.  Over the corridor, in the men’s ward section, an elderly man, probably suffering from some sort of dementia as well as his illness, continually called for a nurse – insistently and loudly for most of each night time. Add to that the changing of day-time to night-time staff and the bright overhead lights, not doused until nearly 11pm, making sleeping nigh on impossible.  Though with the amount of nights I have spent in various hospitals over the last year I have now mastered the trick of how to sleep moderately comfortably hospital beds.

But in my little single room at The Cotford, tucked in between the hotel and the lee of the Malvern Hills peace reigned supreme, and I enjoyed a lovely night’s sleep in the comfortable bed with its luxurious bed linen.

Making Arrangements

To say I felt flustered would be to put it mildly.

I only had the operation late in the day on Tuesday, and to be told on Friday morning they could be discharging me that afternoon gave no time at all.  Fine if one was living in Cheltenham and all one needed to do was phone home and ask someone to collect you.  But they all knew that was not the case in my circumstances.

I needed more time to make some arrangements.  As soon as the doctors left I got straight onto the laptop –  I hadn’t even had time to decide on which hotel let alone book it, and I still needed to arrange a lift from Cheltenham to Malvern.

I wasn’t sure whether to go for one of the larger hotels right in the centre of Malvern – such as the Abbey Hotel, or choose a smaller boutique type hotel where the food was likely to be better.  In the event I chose a lovely little hotel just a short distance from the centre, though because I was booking at the last minute nothing was available for the weekend.   Monday was the earliest date I could find if I wanted to stay for even a week, and that was not a room I would have normally chosen.  But I had little time to waste and the decision was made.

Fortunately my brother Nick had already said he intended to call over and visit me – an epic journey from Norfolk to Cheltenham, so I contacted him to ask if could he come on Monday and ferry me from Cheltenham to Malvern: then made his journey even longer by asking him to call at brother Mike’s house and collect the extra clothes I had packed ready for when I left hospital.

It was as well that I had not gone with leaving on Friday afternoon, as it took till nearly lunchtime on Monday to get the medicines I needed for my discharge, and even then everything had not been included.  But they had managed to include a three week course of anticoagulant injections which – to add insult to my needle phobia – I was going to have to self-administer.

On the Monday I was up, showered, dressed and packed early.  My medications were brought and the physiotherapist paid me another visit, though gave little useful information other than to say it was alright to shower and dress myself, which I had been doing since Wednesday.  And to tell me not to lift anything heavy.  When I queried how heavy was too heavy, she indicated the bags I had packed that morning and had lifted onto the bed – saying ‘nothing like that’.  But as no-one had offered any help I had just thought I had better get on with it!

It was a long journey for Nick and he didn’t arrive until after lunch.   But then sorted things out, getting my cases and me down to the car which he had parked close to the exit, and we set off for Malvern.

NHS Convalescence in the 21st Century

The reason I needed my laptop so desperately was that I urgently needed to research where I would be going when I was discharged from the hospital.

My grandmother had a hysterectomy back in the 1980’s and after being discharged she spent some six weeks at a convalescent home, and I foolishly imagined that some such help would be available to me; as I was not sure how I would cope living in Thebus after such major surgery as a radical hysterectomy.

Knowing the operation was booked I had started asking what options might be available to me when I had been unexpectedly admitted after my visit to the consultant in January.  I have to say in hindsight the answers to my questions were evasive; saying that nothing could be done until my operation was over and I had been given a discharge date.

But now my operation was over.  I seemed to be recovering well and I expected to be discharged fairly soon, so began to renew my enquires.  That was why I desperately needed my laptop.

Basically there seemed to be no convalescence available and, as far as I was informed, few other options available.  I was asked if I was computer literate and advised that my best option would be to search on the internet myself, and given a gateway site – which in fact seemed to contain little relevant information.   A social worker called and gave me a piece of paper with some pencilled suggestions, including a bed and breakfast address in Gloucester Docks and the local Travelodge.  But one thing did emerge from our conversation and that was that, if I had funds, I would be required to contribute to the costs of any care.  When I pressed to know to what extent, it transpired that I would be required to pay any costs in full.

I phoned a few care homes.  The cheapest was £450 a week but that was sharing a room with a dementia patient, and the dearest was £2,350 a week plus extras!  And I must say I felt neither was suitable!

Thinking it through I felt my best option would be a comfortable hotel in a smallish town and having some knowledge of the area decided on Malvern as a good place as any to spent the next few weeks. But of course I still hadn’t been given a discharge date, so could do nothing about booking up.

On Friday morning the doctors visited the ward on their rounds, examined me and said everything was looking okay and I would be discharged later in the day!!!

Brother Mike having only delivered my laptop the evening before I had not had time to do any research and was hardly in a position to book, pack and arrange to get from Cheltenham to Malvern, and as yet had no idea where I would be staying when I got there!

 

Hospital

Soon they came to wheel me down to the operating theatre, and then, before I knew it, I was being wheeled back up again and put into a bed in the ward where I was to spend the next few days

I have to say what with the pre-op anaesthetic, the epidural, the post-op painkillers, the morphine and the oxygen, when I did ‘come round’ not only was I in no pain, I think I felt better than I had for a few months.

But gradually everything began to wear off, and I became aware that a radical hysterectomy is a pretty major operation.  Then they took away the oxygen as well, but the nurses were very good and one didn’t have to stay in pain – only ask for help.

Next day, was spent mostly in bed, my lovely surgeon came to check on me and tell me a little about the operation.  It was as I had thought, and things had worsened, but the operation had been a success in that they had removed my womb which was the seat of the cancer, and although there were some adhesions to the colon they had managed to peel things apart.

After the doctor’s rounds a lovely nurse came along to ask if I would like to be accompanied to one of the shower rooms to freshen up and change my gown, and of course I was longing to do just that.  So together we wheeled the stand festooned with bags and i.v. drips, and negotiated our way to the shower.  My experience of these stands is that they behave rather like errant supermarket trollies and have a mind of their own as to which direction they will take – but with two of us to control it we soon had the upper hand, and feeling cleaner and happier I was escorted back to bed.

In the shower I was surprised to find my rather large scar, though neatly stitched up, had been left without any dressing.  It was felt that it would heal more quickly that way and I was advised to keep everything clean, so it was good to be able to shower each day, and as usual I took lots of homoeopathy to help with the healing process.

Over the next days the drips and bags were removed one by one, and finally the two canulas on the back of my hand – which seemed to want to snag on everything. I could shower and dress myself and asked to see a physiotherapist as I was keen to make progress, and she duly called – though simply gave me a walking stick, and walked with me along the hallway – which I had already accomplished alone.  Though she did check I could cope with the stairs.

Sally and Mark called in to see me on their way to collect a lorry, and brother Mike drove down on Thursday evening with extra bits and bobs – as one is only allowed to take a single small case when admitted, and I desperately needed my laptop.

Pre-Op Permissions

I mentioned before that over the months since the September scan which showed such an improvement, for some reason I felt I was going backwards.  Was it too much chemo I wondered?  Something I may ask about when I re-visit the hospital, though I expect they will discount it.

I had felt an immediate improvement with ten days or less of my first chemo, which lasted past the third session, then gradually I seemed to drop back.  By the time my operation was due I was really getting into trouble, and had it not been scheduled  for that very day I think I would have had to attend hospital in any case.

As I said the pain had been getting worse, and was back to the pre-chemo levels, plus once again it was getting more and more difficult to pass water.  I supposed something was pressing on something else somewhere inside me.  Anyway on the day Mike took me to Cheltenham we arrived before 7am – they having asked me to arrive by 7.30 (though in fact they then decided to put me to the end of the operating list for the day)  No matter.

The first thing I said to the nurse who welcomed us to the ward was ‘Could I have a catheter fitted now please – I haven’t been able to pee since yesterday, and I am really in trouble’  –  Sorry to be a bit graphic, but that’s how it was.

She said that was fine as one would need to be fitted before the operation anyway and another nurse was duly sent for.  But it wasn’t to prove that easy, and in the end my surgeon’s assistant arrived and even she had quite a lot of difficulty.  I prayed that they wouldn’t now cancel the operation, and thankfully they didn’t – but later she came back to ask me to sign an amendment to the operating permissions stating, that should it be necessary, they would perform a colostomy as well.

Taken by surprise like that one tends to acquiesce, and in my pre-op gown and with my pre-op nerves that is exactly what I did.  But then of course, as my operation was not to be until later in the day I had time to sit and think.  Plus I had my iPhone with me, which gave me the opportunity to google for more information.

Apparently when something like this is planned one generally sees a specialist colostomy nurse who explains everything and various decisions are made and agreed.  Of course non of this had happened and so I asked if I could speak with someone.  Eventually the surgeon must have been told I was unhappy and her assistant returned and somewhat peremptorily struck though my previous extended permission and asked me to initial it – saying that should it turn out to be imperative it would involve me undergoing another serious operation.  I explained that though I fully understood I felt I couldn’t go under the anaesthetic without knowing what to expect when I came round.

I think what really decided me against just signing was remembering my mother’s experiences of many years before.  Having visited her doctor’s for a routine smear test the doctor said –  ‘ I see you have a little problem with your waterworks – we can fix that for you – it’s a very simple operation ‘  So Mum of course said yes.

She along with many other women in their sixties felt that this was just one of the problems experienced by those who had given birth during the middle of the last century, but to be told that nowadays there was a simple fix made her happily agree.

Once at the hospital and having previously signed the permission papers they called in at the eleventh hour to ask her to give her permission to perform a hysterectomy should it seem necessary once the operation was underway.  She was nervous and flustered as anyone is facing an operation, and of course signed.  And when she regained consciousness was told that they had removed her womb, but she would be pleased to know it was totally healthy.  Perhaps it was for the best – but following the operation she got a severe infection, resulting in weeks at the hospital in pain, and when everything finally healed up her ‘little water problem’ was slightly worse than at the beginning.

All of this also had its impact on me at the time.  I had expected her out after a minor operation, instead she was now told not to do anything for several months, and I ended up visiting her daily to help with chores and see she was alright.  At the time she lived a distance of 32 miles from me door to door, and over the next year I got the travelling time down to 32 minutes along country roads and through the suburbs of Hereford.  It was a wonder I did not end up in hospital myself!  After a whole year of this to the day I felt she was now safe to resume normal life.  So to celebrate she polished her wooden stairs and fell top to bottom breaking several bones in her back, resulting, as you might imagine in more travelling for me to the extent I decided to move house to be nearer.

No wonder I was worried about last minute hospital decisions.

Cannock – then Hospital

I meanwhile was in Cannock.

Dave’s motorhome repair shop is situated in vast buildings which were once the stock buildings of a farm.  The farmer still works the surrounding arable fields  as well as some managing some store cattle, a shooting range and farm shop.  It is all sited hard by the motorway system, which does make it a little noisy; but one soon gets used to, and switches off from the incessant drone of traffic; and the view from Thebus’ front window – out over a fishing lake to the fields and copse beyond is really very pleasant.

There is a small network of tracks and footpaths leading off from the old abandoned farmhouse, some of which are accessible to the scooter; and all are safe from any traffic so it is fine for exercising Phoebe.  Also there is a resident Beagle – Charlie.  Whom Phoebe loves, and who, in return tolerates Phoebe.  Well most of the time anyway.

They first met when she was only a few months old, and, though already bigger than Charlie, she was gangly and unsure of her footing – and also her place in canine society.  Charlie pretty soon explained all of that to her and they got along just fine.

Of course when we returned this time Phoebe, at rising two years old is massively bigger than Charlie, but still wanted to play by the rules established back  2015 – which I have to say resulted in a very, very cross Charlie.  But of course the crosser he got about everything the more Phoebe thought it a very good game; charging around and keeping just out of reach of his very cross teeth.

Also Charlie has the typical Beagle attitude to food of any description: which is, if I can smell it its mine and I am going to eat it.  It didn’t take long for Phoebe to work this out, and endless tease him by discovering his hidden bones, buried long ago in odd places.  Then, having searched them out, running around in front of him showing him it was she who was now in possession of his lost treasures thus encouraging him to run after her.  She, thinking it was a great game, and Charlie taking it all very seriously.

If he could catch up with her he bit her legs – being the only part of her he could reasonably reach: and worked out that if he could get her to stop running he could position himself squarely beneath her belly and from there bite at her elbows with impunity.  Turning round every time she did, and keeping her elbows at a suitable biting position.

I have to say Phoebe thought it was great, and as long as it didn’t go on for too long, I am pretty sure Charlie thought it was okay too.  If he had enough he retreated to one of his many hiding places in the vast workshops, out of reach of Phoebe who normally couldn’t find him anyway.  So all in all she was having a great time.

But my operation was drawing closer and I had arranged to her to stay over with Jack from Sally’s office, with whom she had stayed on the times I had to go to hospital, or gone on holiday.  She loved it there – I only had to say ‘You are going to stay with Jack’ and she would be at the door looking for him, and I think he and his family loved her too.  Jack has an older and a younger brother – so with three teenage boys to play with plus two Welsh Border Collies she was in her element – though she did come back a little on the rough side, and took a bit of retraining before she would calm down.  Still at her age a little rough and tumble is good for them, and it’s something I can’t offer.

So she was delivered to Jack, and I arranged to spend the weekend prior to my operation with my brother Mike and his family, then Mike would drive me down to the hospital at Cheltenham where my hysterectomy was to be performed.

Not only had Sally’s business pace been ‘hotting-up’ over the months since I arrived in July of 2016, but so had the ‘romance’ between Sally and Mark (or as I first knew him – Tibbo)

This romance had been in its very early days back in the summer of last year, with Sally blowing hot and cold, but Tibbo determinedly in pursuit, and it finally paid off and I could see her falling in love with him.

I think they will be very well suited.  Sally is a strong-minded girl, and Tibbo loves her very deeply.  They both often talked of marriage and children, buying a house, even what any offspring might be named, what sort of wedding they wanted and so many other things that I was surprised it took him so long to ask her.  But finally after many hints and stutterings he did and she accepted.

The two of them are from similar backgrounds.  Both being third generation offspring of transport business grandparents.  Tibbo runs a small fleet of trucks for the family firm.  It was for his grandfather when I first met him, who at 82 still went into work daily, driving himself there to oversee everything and keeping his hands firmly on the reins.  But he sadly died this year, though I am sure having led a full and satisfying life.

So they both understand the way of life involved with this sort of business; and the trials and commitment to the job which is needed to make a success of things.  They are around the same age and with so many interests in common I feel they have a better than average chance of making a go of things in our uncertain modern world.

So Tibbo having been given the green light went off for the day with Sally’s Mum to choose the engagement ring in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter and came back with an elegant solitaire diamond.  I think he had intended to take Sally out for a special meal on Valentines day to officially ‘Pop the Question’ and slip the ring on her finger.  But Sally’s Mum, excited to see them together encouraged him to do the deed whilst the family were around to help celebrate, having spent the day at the Marina over the road watching the Rugby, being keen supported of Wales – Sally’s grandparents on both sides having come from Wales, which with a name like Jones is hardly surpising.

I, of course, by now was in Cannock, so missed out on the celebrations but Tibbo finally went down on one knee if front of everyone to ask, and to be officially accepted.

And what a fortuitous place to have proposed, as within a couple of weeks the Landlord of the Marina decided to give up the lease.  And Sally as impetuous as ever has taken it on, in addition to the small-holding and the transport firm.  I do hope she doesn’t burn herself out trying to do too much, but she is a determined girl, and if anyone can make a success of running three businesses at the same time it will be her.

I remember some time ago someone saying to me – ‘ I don’t know what it is that gives her the energy, but if anyone could bottle it and sell it they would make their fortune! ‘.

14448888_10210119481885637_232600841407915669_n

First one of Tibbo, and yes, they are both for Sally

13882156_10210096091145591_2122420306776340504_n
Early days just after a friend’s wedding summer 2016.
14642089_10210259066295160_3818275380748926957_n
A reluctant Tibbo ready for the Rocky Horror Show


IMG_3013 Off to Venice with Sally asleep on his shoulder before the plane had even taxied to the runway

 

img_3467
Kissing on a Venetian Gondola

 

img_3870Ready to leave Venice

14563472_10209881244163690_2302524898285237694_nLooking happy at The Marina

14907220_10210466237954322_3748604847641515737_n
And another one

15439994_10211480899004922_2543763228430550175_n
Tibbo’s first ever DJ and bow tie ready for the Christmas Bash

`
15380485_10210553255403551_4407170708032580762_nLooking happy together at the Boxing Match

 

15732088_10211105370372233_1833824175917929861_oMuffled up  in Switzerland

 

16707450_10211149498869265_7131341511066806828_o
The Ring

16711793_1645719148788491_1267320385917533505_n Engaged – I can’t say at last, as it is only 6 months.  But many congratulations and all the very best for your joint futures xxx

 

Moving On

As I mentioned Sally’s business had been expanding and increasing at an exponential pace, and the yard, which had once held the five lorries and ten trailers, was now expected to hold ten lorries and fifteen trailers, plus three other lorries with trailers which parked there overnight and at the weekends.  Sally, now Mark was there full time, had needed more living space so another larger caravan had been purchased which also needed siting; plus some problems up at the farm meant a large static caravan, and an RV as big as Thebus now needed to be housed.

I had finished with my seemingly endless rounds of chemo, and was recuperating and waiting for the hysterectomy promised to me at the end of February.  So I decided that if someone would drive there it would be sensible for Thebus Phobe and Me to move onto the piece of riverside land I purchased last year; and which was sited just along the river, less than ten minutes from Sally and half an hour from my brother in Pedmore.

.The little plot of land is in very pretty countryside, bordering right onto the River Severn and has its own pontoon and moorings, though I have little intention of using them.  I had already paid for a borehole to be sunk and some hardstanding for Thebus and any visitors, so it is a good place to park up as and when I need to. Its only drawback being the approach to it (and of course exit) is very tight and steep for most vehicles, let along something as large as Thebus.

My original intention (before I was diagnosed) had been to travel to warmer foreign climes during the winter months, then return to the UK when the weather got too hot for me (and the summer tourist traffic was building up) to spend the summer catching up with friends and family in the UK.

So as soon as Thebus could be extricated from within the tangle of lorries and trailers Sally drove us down, and Phoebe and I soon settled down to our new surroundings.

The view out is lovely – looking across the river to the open fields and countryside.  My plot is within yards of a riverside walk through beautiful hanging woods growing on the steep river cliff, and leading through to Stourport town centre, though sadly impassable for me on my scooter.  Considering it is the Severn Way and quite a major walking route I would have thought there might have been more maintenance – I have to say France takes far more pride in their surroundings; but as always, perhaps the grass appears greener on unreachable fields!

Still speaking of grass Phoebe was in her element.  Having spent so much time cooped up on the tarmac yard since last July it was the first time, other than a the few Christmas days at my brother’s house where she had enjoyed the freedom of his lawn, that she had a chance to feel grass under her feet, and as always it gave her ‘The Zoomies’  –  A phrase that all the Great Dane owner’s understand; namely, when, feeling the softness of the ground under their pads, they feel an irresistible urge to ‘zoom’ round in large circles, tails tucked underneath them and backs hunched.  So funny to watch.  She is so quick and the circles so very large it was impossible for me to film, so I will add some of the photos taken at Christmas where she had less acreage to ‘let fly’ but even then filming was impossible for me.

Not exactly ‘The Zoomies’ but Phoebe enjoying the feeling of grass rather than gravel under her feet.

img_4104 img_4102 img_4105 img_4100 img_4099 img_4093 img_4091 img_4088

We pootled around – taking the occasional walk along the towpath, seeing the slots of the local woodland deer in the muddy path, watching the water birds, and listening to the early spring songs of the birds, and the hooting of owls at night.  All very peaceful and soothing.  But the aforementioned mud was soon to cause a problem.

Knowing I had the operation coming up, but not knowing how long I might have to spend in hospital or recuperating somewhere, I felt that the time was opportune to sort out those jobs inevitably needed on Thebus, as it would give Dave, at the Motorhome Repairer’s, free access to Thebus with both Phoebe and myself elsewhere.  But there was a bit of a problem.

The spot I was parked in, though idyllic, was situated at the bottom of a steep river cliff, adjacent to a major river, consequently the land was subject to waterlogging.  When I decided to move there the weather had been dry and sunny for quite a while, and everywhere conditions underfoot were drying out.  But I might have foreseen that ‘February Fill-dyke’ would catch me out – and he did.

After a couple of glorious spring days full of sunshine, sparkling water and bird song the weather changed and it began to rain.  Then rain some more, then rain quite a lot more, with the result that when I decided I needed to drive over to Cannock I instantly got ‘stuck in the mud’.

I knew Mike was coming over to see me that morning and thought it was a good idea to try moving before he arrived, as if I got stuck he might be able to help, but in fact the ground was so wet and Thebus so heavy that as soon as one of the back wheels was off the only bit of hardcore I was well and truly stuck.

Sally was called for, and lovely girl that she is, came down with a four-wheel drive pick-up and re-inforcements to see what could be done.  With lots of bricks under the wheels, some digging out, and a tow-rope on the front axle (why don’t they fit a towing eye to RV’s?) We finally made it out of the mud – only to be confronted with another problem.

The trackway which links all the riverside plots back to the track up to the lane, has wisely been sited about two-thirds of the way back from the river towards the river cliff, which is good, but does mean that the track camber slopes at quite an angle river-wards.  Not a problem if the track is dry, and not too much of a problem when the bus is moving …….   But…… (why is there so often a but when driving Thebus)

This particular ‘but’ is that part way along the track is a field gate, situated at the top of a small incline and just about wide enough for Thebus to squeeze through.  And the  ‘but’ arises because (a) you need to go slowly to negotiate the gate (b) you are on an upwards incline and (c) the camber of the road towards the river is at its sharpest just at the approach to the gateway.  With the result that each time Thebus approached – I have to say by now with Sally at the wheel (I having chickened out long before) Thebus’ back-end began to slide at an angle downhill meaning inevitable collision with the metal gatepost.

Two or three attempts at various speeds had the same result, though with the added effect of churning up even more mud on the already slippery track.  In the end the power of prayer seems to have prevailed and with a steady pulling from the tow-vehicle at the front, plus some pushing uphill from the side (and a wing and a prayer ! ) he cleared the gate-post with millimetres to spare.

Then along the reasonable part of the track, before the sharp left hand hairpin-bend, where the incline and the track camber are both against you.  Plus of course the narrowness of the track and the overhanging untrimmed tree-lined hedge.

Sally had to have two or three goes before which – with wheels spinning and the smell of burning rubber  – we triumphed and made it to the junction of track with the lane.

Sally needed a cigarette break as soon as she got to a wide enough section of the track, and with frazzled nerves bade me a shaky farewell to return to the fray at work.  Mike stayed behind to clear up the debris and general mayhem we had left in our trail, and I took over at the wheel, down the narrow lane with hedges brushing our sides to the roads which would lead me to the motorway.

I had half thought I would need to park up and get someone to drive me along the M5, M6 and M54, as it had been almost a year since I had been out in Thebus alone, but in fact I soon settled back into driving him.

So we joined the motorway network and with very little trouble arrived at our destination

Back to Britain

On our last night it snowed and this was my view before bed.,img_4231

When the morning dawned it was on a white world and this was my balcony view whilst I was packing to leave.  It was a lovely hotel and I shall certainly return if I can.img_4505 img_4499

By the time we had packed and sorted everything out we all felt it best to get nearer to Zurich, just in case the snow got any worse, and in fact within less than a week it had snowed so much that all the ski slopes where shut, though I suspect the efficient Swiss trains would have still been running.

Some last photos of  Wengen and views from the train journey down to the valley.15895288_10211128718715927_8676122207359548962_n
Outside our Hotel door

15826506_10211128716075861_696324974673353032_n
Last view of Wengen with our hotel and the church in the background

 

img_4514
Lauterbrunnen in the valley with the waterfall from the cliff showing just below the cloud line
img_4542

So back in Zurich we boarded our flight and before long our plane was landing at Birmingham airport.

Next morning it was back to reality with a bang for us all.  Sally and Mark were busy catching up with work, and I had an appointment for chemo.

I have to say chemo number five had taken a heavy toll on me, and I was feeling weak and weepy before the inevitable blood sampling and vein prodding even started.  But it had to be done, and eventually we got there.  But number six had some bad after effects for me.  I ran a high temperature and had to visit A&E.  Then took to my bed for about 5 days; neither wanting to eat or even drink anything.  But the appointment to see my consultant had been booked quite some time ago, and I felt if I missed it they may well decide against the operation which had been promised.  So I hauled myself out of bed, though feeling far too ill to get dressed, and in pyjamas and a thick dressing gown my brother drove over to take me into the hospital.  Sally being far too rushed to have spared the time – her business commitments having increased dramatically over the time I had been back in England.

Having arrived at the hospital there was no way I would have made it down all the hospital corridors, so Mike went off to find a wheelchair and with him pushing we trundled though to see the consultant.

I have to say she was surprised and dismayed to see how I looked, and of course I still felt very weak and tearful, so she decided it would be safer to admit me for further observation, and the operation was to be delayed – though – thank goodness, not cancelled.

I think one knows one’s own body, and I had felt that for some reason things had been going down hill for me since my last encouraging scan. I was in far more pain again, and was now up to the maximum dose of regular painkillers.  Perhaps naughtily I didn’t mention this as I felt that the operation might be cancelled, and that if I said nothing and was put on the list it would probably just go ahead.  And in fact I just about managed to hold on until the 28th of the month – the day scheduled for the operation, though getting a little worse each day.

007 Revolving Restaurant

Before Christmas, when we had visited Go Outdoors in Kidderminster to buy some suitable winter clothing for our forthcoming trip, Sally and I bumped into someone who had lived in Wengen.  She had said – ‘You really must visit the Rotating Restaurant at Shilthorn where they filmed the James Bond movie’  and as the day dawned bright and sunny we decided to give it a try.  Well that is Sally and I decided – Mark was less than keen.

Sally had persuaded him up the mountain in the cable car yesterday and he found the whole experience somewhat disturbing.  But Sally said cheerfully (and untruthfully)  ‘Its okay we go by train’ – and suitably reassured he agreed.

Well I suppose there was a small amount of truth there – in that we started from Wengen train station going down hill to the valley bottom, then took another train before embarking on a long and steep cable car ride to the ski-ing village of Stechelberg, full of charming wooden chalets and very, very Swiss.

15871960_10211108663214552_7943324939245156771_n

img_4455

img_4367

img_4456

img_4482

img_4464 img_4468 img_4486

Above are photos of the pretty village of Strechelberg, and below the cable trip upwards towards Birg, which is part way up the mountain

 

15871896_10211117154426827_3894612416953159365_n

This cable car took us as far as Birg where there was a lovely terrace with far reaching views and outdoor seating for the restaurants, which being a gloriously sunny day, were warm enough for us to sit out on even in January to await the cable car for the onward (and upwards) leg of our journey.  Sally and I took photos from the viewing platform with its glass and grid floor, but Mark stayed firmly on the solid flooring.

15727238_10211115332221273_1116625551188130913_n
Sally standing fearlessly on the glass floor over the abyss – the stock photo below show the glass floor projecting out, and the Fear Walk clinging to the mountain side beneath14723212_1113177735463731_1947683289808502784_n

But we then had to go onwards and upwards on the steepest part of the cable-car climb up the Shilthorn to the Piz Gloria Skyline Restaurant which rotates around its own axis every 45 minutes, gliding past more than two hundred mountain peaks, which on  such a glorious sunny day made for a superb place to sit and eat lunch.

Below are some photos of the cable car ride to the top

15873458_10211117156426877_8245054650118605374_n

15826726_10211117159226947_5074995189018586028_n

15781607_10211117160106969_4059357283994000286_n

And these are the view we enjoyed when we got there

15871563_10211108566492134_4856074596301842946_n

15822754_10211117142546530_5987700170588545588_n

And this one is of Mark enjoying the stunning viewing platform surrounding the revolving restaurant 15823207_10211117128786186_356503735753858300_n

We were lucky enough to find a table next to the window and Sally decided on a 007 Beefburger and 007 Martini Cocktail, which (even sans ice in the cocktail) came in at a cool forty euros – I have to admit being shaken – if not stirred – but it was worth it for the experience of seeing the wonderful scenery.

15780687_10211115309100695_8546702523488557034_n

15823019_10211115308900690_1666480853628853124_n

As the James Bond film used this as a location there were lots of photos opportunities to be had as well as the wonderful views.15780933_10211115741151496_1532721869202996755_n

img_4437

Door to the Loos

15747384_10211117127946165_2279215292683112642_n

Then we retraced our steps as that evening we were booked into the charming little chalet in the hotel grounds for Raclette which is a Swiss dish of melted cheese, and a barbecue.

kota-sunstar-hotel-wengen

As there were only three of us, and the hut needed to be booked for an entire party, we had been lucky enough to be able to tag onto a lovely group of folk from the north of Britain, who knew the hotel and area well visiting often – this year for the birthday of one of the ladies and it was her Birthday evening treat.  Needless to say a convivial time was had by all round the open fire in the centre of the hut where we were able to grill cheese or meats to enjoy with our drinks.  A most unusual and atmospheric experience.

15844658_10211128820158463_4306042046956858134_o

I was whacked by the time we left at gone midnight so it was off to bed for me, but I think Sally and Mark were up till nearly four o’clock for a last night of lagers – well, a last Swiss night of lagers anyway!