Wednesday, 25 August 2021

Mind how you go: why six swallows do not a summer make, and one cuckoo flew the nest

This post is a tale of two starts with the latest on my "supermarket sweep" of comorbidities (I exaggerate, I know, but I have gone and picked up another diagnosis!), and then the action moves to France, where I have boldly gone, despite the Government's relentless pushing of "staycations". The very word alone would propel me to go abroad for a holiday, I will be honest. More on that anon. 

The Thursday before I left I had a bone density scan at a hospital in Burslem (one of The Five Towns in The Potteries, not to be confused with bursitis). I didn't know this hospital even existed - and I nearly didn't have the scan at all, as there was some confusion in my records as to whether I had actually fractured my scaphoid bone back in January when I fell on ice, as you may recall. For they could only scan people who had sustained a fracture, being strictly a Fracture Clinic, not a "Had a Nasty Fall of Any Kind Clinic". However the staff put their heads together and decided to let me through based on a 1-1 draw of medical opinion for and against, plus the fact that it had taken me an hour to get there, what with the roadworks on Stoke's notorious 'D-Road' being such a nightmare at the moment. Good job they did, as I came out with osteoporosis(!), which I did not see coming. 

Source: Pinterest

The nurse in the Fracture Clinic I was sent straight in to see after the scan had what looked like two plaster of Paris objects on her desk. I had no idea what they were, and was told they were cross-sections of two kinds of bone: one normal, one with osteoporosis. The healthy one was dense and thick and full of wavy lines with reasonably small holes in between like a Gaudi building in Barcelona (okay, eyeballing that photo maybe the holes are bigger than I remember ;)); the other one looked like a Cadbury's Crunchie bar you had sucked the middle out of - surely you must have done that? It had much thinner stalagmites and stalactites that had been snapped off here and there as though someone had driven a model Dinky car all the way through. Plus the top and bottom of the cast skewed sideways at a disconcerting angle, like a Leaning Tower of Pisa made of bone. I did not want to accept the conclusion in the direction of which I was being pointed, namely that my bones looked more like that one...Next up, a perky young student with the Stoke equivalent of Scouse brows took blood - to rule out other unspecified sinister things (as they do). She announced brightly afterwards that she hadn't had any practice with needles since Christmas. ;) It looks like they might want me to go on bone strengthening drugs, but these are quite punishing on the oesophagus apparently, so there would need to be 'buy in' from the nice gastric consultant who made a cameo appearance in a previous post. At the very least now I need to mind where I put my feet.

Like this, but *much* holier and more slanty ~ Source: ABC7

Moving on, the very next day I had a barium swallow requiring a six hour fast in the run up...well, I say "swallow" - it was in fact a series of about six tightly choreographed swallows preceded by a pause where you have to hold the liquid in your mouth first. I found it a strange and interesting procedure, standing on a platform that tilted this way and that - a bit like being an astronaut. Plus some lying down in an Odalisque pose and drinking through a straw at exactly the sort of angle a person suffering from reflux like me would never dare to do, hehe. And rolling over through a full 360 degrees in fits and starts as though you were an insomniac (which I also am) trying to find a comfortable sleeping position. The barium stuff tasted way better than I expected: like molten Love Hearts or a raspberry flavoured Sherbert Fountain crossed with Gaviscon. I was bracing myself for something far more elemental, like sucking on Shungite. 

Blimey, I wasn't far off too... They must have a jolly good juicer is all I can say. 

I don't have the results of that procedure yet, but calculated that I had a perfect window of opportunity to come away to France and check on my house there while waiting...the lifting of quarantine on my return, and the removal of the requirement for TWO of the four Covid tests being the icing on the cake. There's even talk of capping the prices of the PCR test I have to take on Day 2 after I get back.

[In case anyone is shocked at my skipping the country in this manner, I promise I didn't take my decision lightly: I checked the French pandemic situation on the Worldometer site, and note that France is running at 22,636 new cases at the time of writing, with 81 deaths a day. The vast majority of people with Covid at the moment (99.86%!) have mild symptoms. Then the dreaded Beta variant accounts for about 2% of cases, mostly in Reunion Island, some 5,700 miles away. So the country looked as safe if not more safe than Britain, not least the sleepy village where I was headed. Masks are still compulsory in French shops, and vaccine passports are required in a whole clatter of public places like cafes, restaurants, museums and cinemas - even open air markets.]

I also took a lateral flow test for my own peace of mind before leaving the country, even though that was one of the tests you no longer have to do, and arrived at Newhaven ferry terminal with a bristling clutch of documentation - as much to do with Brexit as with Covid to be fair: passport, International Driving Permit, Green Card, vaccination certificate, and a sworn statement in two languages to the effect that I didn't have any Coronavirus symptoms. A marshal from the ferry company promptly gave me yet another similar form of their own to fill in, so I had now sworn my health status in triplicateAll my paperwork was found to be in order, which felt like a win, and I had a lighthearted moment with the Border Force team, explaining that I had a Hoover, ironing board and two feather dusters with me, and was driving 600 miles to do a load of housework. As I drove onto the ferry I felt a surge of excitement, as though Neptune was favouring the brave. Mad, bad, completely cuckoo? You decide.

The ferry was sparsely populated for August, and there were probably no more than 25 cars aboard. I met a lady who had made the trip to the UK back in April (I am not sure on what grounds, as travel was even more tightly controlled back then) and she said there were only 8 cars on her sailing, yet the ferry staff said that was a good day! I managed to use the ship's wifi during the crossing, and given the mere smattering of passengers I'd say there would have been ample bandwidth to go round, even if all the mostly retired folk in the lounge had been avid gamers.

Some 400 miles later, I reached journey's end, having only spotted half a dozen British cars since leaving Dieppe. And felt sad for the many more who didn't feel they could or should have the holiday they had planned.

The house was nowhere near as dirty or damp and musty as I was expecting after my long absence, though there were numerous impudent lianas of wisteria which had insinuated themselves inside the shutters and dead leaves all over the floor, while spiders had taken back control like a spindly multi-legged version of the Taliban. There was also a huge pile of post for a couple who have the same street address as me, but in the next village. The next day, I walked to their house to deliver it all. Luckily they had a sufficiently roomy letter box. They weren't around in person so I could explain, so I imagine it will give them a bit of a shock... All those offers on casual slacks and camping stools they have missed!

There have been a couple of incidents so far which brought it home to me how much I value the little quirks of village life. My French elderly friend is very ill, sadly, and I went to buy her some flowers in the supermarket. A man of a similar age jokily asked me at the till if they were for him, and quick as a flash I said: "No, they're for R...", knowing full well he would know who I meant.

After that I popped to the Post Office, which is housed in a Media Centre at the end of a long passageway. The postmistress was sitting on the ground, leaning against a wall, mask slung round her chin, soaking up the sun. On my approach, she scrambled to her feet, reassembled herself, and scurried into the PO seconds ahead of me.

On the way back, armed with lots of stamps for postcards I may not get around to writing if past years are anything to go by, I was astonished to chance across Neptune himself nestling in some boulders on the ground.

Another evening I ran into the sick friend's cousin, who was sitting outside his house in the dark, his little auburn-coloured dachshund by his side. He mentioned his upcoming visit to the doctor's in another village. "I drive there with the dog - she's no bother. As long as I can drive I will stay with that practice, as I am used to them. Obviously not when I can't anymore, as she would not be great behind the wheel." "No indeed", I replied, "There are her short legs for starters."

I haven't spent any time yet in holiday mode, as I am trying to get the house shipshape ahead of a friend coming to stay. The other day saw me brushing the cobwebs off the rafters of Miss Havisham's attic and sweeping the floor and stairs. I am not sure I could have faced the task were it not for the prospect of a visitor spurring me on.

In other news, I am now on Day 2 of waiting in for an Amazon parcel. In the UK you are given a precise and narrow time slot for delivery, whereas Amazon France have guaranteed delivery days, not hours, and thanks to a nifty oxymoron these 'guaranteed' days are only estimates, as I now realise. And this despite signing up to a free trial of the French version of Amazon Prime: normally held in high regard as a behemoth of speedy shipping, over here it is a completely meaningless concept. I am the only one who appears to be 'primed' so far, eagerly awaiting the mattress topper I have bought for my guest...

Touching briefly on scented matters(!), I have brought a few more perfumes out here to join my growing collection. I keep them in the bathroom cabinet - I know, sacrilege, flying in the face of my own advice from way back - because I am on holiday, and have clearly let my usual standards drop. ;)

Oh, plus I have made a new furry friend! Please don't tell Truffle...


Tara said...

Lovely to read a dispatch from France, V. You are so good at making friends and settling in wherever you go. You even have a French elderly friend! We can only hope she turns out to be as generous when she's well again ;)

I know they are meant to be a visual aid but honestly those plaster models would scare me more than anything.

Oh and very impressed your village has a 'Media Centre'. Sounds like it has everything you need and more.

Hope the mattress topper turns up soon. I must try not to take next day Prime delivery for granted quite as much now.

K Matt said...

That was a delightful bath-time read.
Which perfumes are they please, Vanessa? I’m drawn to the fourth bottle from the left.

Vanessa said...

Hi Tara,

It has been very sociable this trip as well - it always surprises me how much, compared to back home.

The Media Centre is more of a grand title really, hehe: it was a little library which acquired a few computers for people to go on the Internet, and is temporarily housing the PO because the normal PO building is next door to a building site and neither staff nor customers could cope with the noise. ;)

Am still waiting for the mattress topper - it is Day 3 now! What a way to spend the holiday...I will know better next time.

Vanessa said...

Hi Kayleigh,

The perfumes are, from left to right (plus reviews where applicable):

Annick Goutal Songes Edp (review has bonus TMS theme!)

En Voyages Perfumes Zelda

Kenzo Eau de Fleur de Magnolia

Ajne Calypso - the one you were curious about!

Gucci by Gucci

Anonymous said...

I am breathless! You have packed so much in and are doing housework on top of it all - where do you get your energy?

The NHS constantly confounds me. I am so grateful for it but at the same time certain elements make me really angry, although better the devil you know and we are lucky to have it.

Depending on what degree of osteoporosis you have and what the gastro man says, it might be worth you asking about Prolia - it's a bone densifier given via injection (usually every six months) thereby avoiding your poor digestive tract. It's not pleasant but it might suit you.

Glad you have found a Truffle substitute, and I won't tell.

Have a happy time in France.


Vanessa said...

Hi Jillie,

I am not sure I do have energy exactly, as I haven't managed to crack my insomnia yet, but I think I am used to doing things without energy, if that doesn't sound like a contradiction in terms. Am pretty tired today, mind - all that waiting for a delivery (which finally came just before 4pm) takes it out of you.

We are very lucky to have the NHS, having learnt more about the French system on this trip. I had heard of those injections, as my friend has them, and was wondering if they might do the job better. An injection sounds a lot easier than a daily pill on the face of it.

My new furry friend has also taken a shine to my visitor. What a fickle feline! ;)

Anonymous said...

What a lovely newsy post! And so glad you made a new feline friend (Truffle, avert your ears!). Your blog review about Songes is what led to a sample buy on eBay which led to a full bottle purchase of the EDP. It is a compelling mix of dreaminess and earthy sexiness. So thanks again for the excellent review. Enjoy your beautiful holiday!


Undina said...

As always, enjoyed you stories.

I was wondering… Are you sure you have all those conditions they keep finding? It sounds like some bizarre psychological experiment: as if they were trying to hint you that coming to see a doctor isn’t a good idea.

On a more serious note, I’m sorry you’re having all these issues piling on top of each other. I hope you’ll be able to at least improve on your sleep now when you are on a vacation (of a sort).

Whose cat is that and what’s his name?

Vanessa said...

Hi Joyce,

Nice to hear from you again! I am glad you enjoyed the post, and delighted that my review of Songes led you to a full bottle purchase, and a new scent to love.

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

It does feel quite like a bizarre psychological experiment, I know. ;) The new conditions I definitely have are a form of GERD, widespread arthritis, osteoporosis and blepharitis. I don't know yet if there is anything anatomically wrong with my upper gastric system, but will learn that on my return. And they have given up on my pancreas and its anomalous enzyme for the time being, despite the persistently high level of my blood test results.

I have slept terribly on this trip, actually(!), but my friend had some sleep aids with him that helped the last couple of nights. I think I literally have almost no "sleep drive", as they say - my brain won't switch off, basically.

We have an idea who the owner is, but don't know their name or the name of the cat, though I am calling him Hemming, at a friend's suggestion, because he looks a bit like a Viking. He has been in the house every day, including this morning to see my visitor off, then after watching him go from the kitchen table, promptly went and lay on his bed!

Anonymous said...

How lovely to have friends, furry or otherwise, to visit. It's lovely to hear of other people's European vacations, and even the most quotidien details of French pharmacy soaps and the like would be welcome...AnnieA

Carol said...

Hello beautiful! We need a good chin wag (did I ever ask if you use a wedge pillow for your GERD?) at some point but in the meantime take good care and and have a wonderful end of summer and visit. xox

Anonymous said...

Hello! Bad news about the potential osteoporosis-there is a drug you can take here (In Canada) I think it's only by IV but it's supposed to have some pretty magical healing properties. By which I mean stops more bone loss. We women can only lay down bone density until we're about 35-after that it's all about maintenance, so we don't dip into our stood bone density. And it's so important-my mom's bones were so fragile she had fractured her back in five places-from a hug. So don't panic, but do investigate all options, and I hope your health related troubles calm down soon.

I love your French Truffle lol-

Best regards,

PS-the bottle of AG you brought-is it Songes? Such a beautiful summer scent :)

AustralianPerfumeJunkies said...

Well, for someone with so many bloody illnesses you are having a stellar hair day in the photo with Undina's cat Rusty!
Sorry to hear you've added another to the list, bummer.
Did it all feel lovely and cozy once you'd cleaned?
Portia x

Vanessa said...

Hi AnnieA,

Sorry for the late reply - my comments notification system seems to have been on a go-slow!

Even though I am reunited with my own cat, I really miss my French feline friend - he was in the house every day after that, and is still hanging around outside according to a neighbour, perhaps wondering when I will open the door again...

The only French pharmacy soap I have bought over there - because they are more plentiful in France than the UK - is a Roger & Gallet Tea Rose one. Highly recommended!

Vanessa said...

Hi Carol,

We do need a catch up! Around your birthday if not before? I tried the wedge pillow tactic but am sorry to report that it was so uncomfortable for my pelvis (sprained ligament still gives me gyp) that I couldn't stand it, plus it made no noticeable difference to the reflux. I gave it up after a week much to the relief of my osteopath, who is of the firm belief that the human body is designed to lie flat!

Vanessa said...

Hi Carole,

Nice to hear from you! Yes, the bottle is Songes - I have a teeny bit of the edp in France and bought my own bottle of the edt, which I keep at home.

I have heard of injections being used here instead of the oral delivery route for the bisphosphonates - wonder if that is the same as the IV method?

Meanwhile, despite my great age(!), I plan to ask if I could possibly consider HRT again, which is good for osteoporosis. And I also made the happy discovery that the oral collagen I was taking - which I recently took up again - is also good for bone building if this article is to be believed. So there are a number of things to explore.

Vanessa said...

Hi Portia,

The cat - Hemming as I came to call him - does look a bit like Rusty, actually!

Kind of you to say I was having a stellar hair day. I didn't know I had ever had one of those, hehe.

Yes, the house was cosy and homely once I had cleaned. Though after my friend had been to visit obviously I had to clean it again. ;) Not because they were messy or anything - far from it! - but there is always stuff to do when you have (had) guests.

Lady Jane Grey said...

What a gorgeous ersatz-cat ! (S)he also looks very self-confident, as if saying „yes, I know, it‘s my house where she moved in !“…

Anonymous said...

Hello, Vanessa,

Now that you brought it up, it probably is injectable-my mom was in the hospital at the time, on an IV, and that's probably why I associate it with an IV drug.

When you have time-can you tell me if the EDP and EDT of Songes is very different? In Eau de Hadrien, so huge differences, but Matin d'Orage-alsomost like two different fragrances :)



Vanessa said...

Hi Lady Jane Grey,

That is exactly the proprietary vibe the Ersatz Katze gives off!

Vanessa said...

Hi Carole,

That makes sense about the IV being in your mind...

I'd say the EDP is only different inasmuch as it is more unctuous and rich, but scentwise there isn't much to choose between them. I am happy with my EDT for everyday use, which is already quite strong, I'd say, as floral perfumes go. For the full va-va-voom factor you could go for the EDP.