Auckland

Our adventure begins…… Aside from the usual body search/pat downs as my metal hip set the security sensors into overdrive all my worries about surviving the long flight – elephant legs, blood clots, acute stiffness, plane crashing, hyperventilating over long hours in a confined space – thankfully came to nothing. Flying Air New Zealand, premium economy in their comfy adaptable space seats did much to soothe both hip and overactive imagination.

Clear blue sky was the forecast in Auckland and it didn’t disappoint. A quick shower and change of clothes and we were ready to explore. Our hotel concierge suggested a harbourside walk to the ferry terminal, from there we could catch the half hourly ferry over to Devonport and maybe climb two of the fifty or so volcanic cones Auckland is built on and around. Considering our lack of sleep we were feeling surprisingly energetic!

It was Auckland anniversary day – a public holiday – the quiet harbour would soon become a bustling hub of life as the biggest sailing regatta got underway.

The ferry crossing was short approx ten minutes. We decided to climb Mount Victoria first being the nearer of the two. The journey was straight up from the ferry drop  taking us past rows of quaint shops and cafes. The steep climb up to the top was well worth the stunning panoramic views out over Auckland to the sky tower in the distance and the Bay surrounding us, water sparkling between the many flotillas of sailing boats from small dinghys to stately yachts.

Ice cold beers beckoned on our descent in one of the cafes we passed on the way up,before walking back towards the harbours edge to continue our short tour of Devonports coast route.

Deciding north head – the second volcanic cone was within our range we walked on and up once more. Again the view from the top was just as stunning. Both were once fortified village sites with gun embankments and bunkers. The Navy still maintains a presence here today.

Back down at the waterfront there followed late lunch a tasty affair consisting of: venison burgers, chips and salad washed down with another refreshing ice cold beer, and the standard glass of water to dilute the alcohol effects!

The ferry back was a blustery affair, I was grateful for my hoody, not so the long-suffering who put a brave, now rather fast reddening – no holiday has ever been complete without his starter holiday glow – face as the cold wind whipped through us with the speed of the boat.

 

And so to bed……..zzzzzzzz

 

 

Swimming – a lifeline

Recently I came across a small card, one that had accompanied a flower arrangement sent to me in one of my many low points by my long-suffering. Written inside were the words from a well-known quote, ‘The only time you should look back is to see how far you have come.’ author unknown.

In the midst of the fog, I spent days/weeks looking back at my once active life only to see how far I had fallen, that was then………..

My latest 25m pool swim session approx 70 min duration:

  • 500m freestyle warmup gradual increase in speed with as many tumble turns as I can manage without drowning.
  • 500m freestyle arms only using buoy tumble turns included.
  • 250m combination of backstroke and freestyle kick with a float.
  • 500m alternate lengths of front freestyle and breast stroke, the latter still incredibly tiring, frog kick is very weak still but improving.
  • 300m tumble turn, breaststroke kick practice ending with swim down.
  • 10 minute upper & lower body pool stretches.

Compared with:

  • December 2012 6 weeks post accident 1st Hydrotherapy session; chair lift into pool using winch, floating aids attached to arms & legs, surprise followed by upset at my inactive leg!
  • January 9th 2013 10 weeks; walk up steps and down into hydro pool, all floating aids removed.
  • Jan 13th 1st public pool session; practising walking, physio set strengthening exercises, tentative first front crawl swim.
  • Jan 17th – 4 lengths, Jan 20th – 10 lengths freestyle without stopping thereafter each week the distance increased.

Not to bore you, my point to this post… At the time my progress on land was a one step forward and three back scenario – pain an acute inhibitor to any forward progress. Not so in the pool though, with my  weight supported at all times the pain diminished considerably allowing a greater freedom of movement.

At first the resistance of the water was enough, I could hardly move my left leg against the water in any direction. Slowly with repetition whenever I could beg a lift to the pool its strength improved. I seemed to move backwards on land, in comparison my pool routine progressed to using leg weights making abduction and other exercises more challenging. I was regularly swimming upwards of 40 lengths although not always in a straight line – it was difficult to subdue my dominant leg!

Unfortunately success in the pool didn’t necessarily translate to land – not outwardly anyway. Inside was a different matter my mind on a swim day was more upbeat – for a while anyway. Hidden muscles were getting stronger, not just in my damaged parts, the increased cardio from actual swimming kept my weight down meaning less strain on an already failing hip.

The benefits of the pool exercises and swimming couldn’t change the replacement hip I was heading for, nevertheless because of them and twice weekly Pilates – more on this another time -my recovery after was quicker than if I had simply given in and given up!

Water is life, supporting us inside our bodies and in my case – and maybe yours – outside too.

Today when I look back I really can see how far I have come…. Looking forward to our imminent road trip, I will endeavour to meet full on, the exciting new challenges to come.

Watch this space…………

 

 

 

Invader in the garden!

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The naughty badger called in for a visit again last night without invitation – his usual style.  Our lawn this time was left intact much to long sufferings delight.

His upbeat mood was not to last…..

 

Returning from our Sunday morning excursion out in the surrounding countryside,

we both as is our custom took a turn around our estate. These days our amble around our ‘estate’ is a much quicker affair in our much reduced plot, nevertheless even in a small space there is much to stop and marvel at along the route.

Some of the 300 odd bulbs – the cause of my much maligned wrist anguish – planted in the meadow out the front are pushing up through the grass. The thought of the spectacle to come tempers the daily wrist twinges!

Granny’s snowdrops dug up with care before the move and lovingly transplanted into the border near the back door have pushed through the earth. I will miss the flowers this year but in the promise of the new shoots Granny lives on in this new garden.
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Back to the badger then…On closer inspection although the lawn was happily intact the adjacent long border was the scene of much destruction. Plants were uprooted and tossed to one side, bulbs strewn about, some partly eaten.

Badgers are omnivores eating both plant and animal matter. Judging by the holes through the border his diet last night consisted of plant roots, worms, bulbs and maybe the poor resident mole lurking underground!

 

At this point on sight of the uprooted plants the long-suffering – his delight quickly turning into ‘Victor Meldrew’ mode – made to slope quietly back to the house knowing full well a digging session was imminent.

And of course as is my way, once the spade comes out I can usually find some other digging jobs for him to do…….

Packing Nightmares!

The long-suffering likes nothing better than planning our next holiday. Until I met him nearly 30 years ago Guernsey was the furthest I had traveled outside of the British Isles.

Since then most years we have been to a good many destinations in Europe and increasingly further afield with our family, friends or just us two!  Mostly a fortnight in duration – once or twice a few days longer – some city breaks a week or less.

Pre accident – ‘When we retire we will….’ Post accident – ‘Live life NOW while we can!’

Three years in the planning – and saving for – my long-suffering has booked and organised the holiday of holidays. We are going on a ‘Road Trip’ – five weeks traveling in a Wilderness motor home across New Zealand taking in the sights of first the North Island followed by the South. From there we fly to Australia for two weeks, Brisbane – visiting family, Sydney, Gold Coast and Whitsunday Islands. Finally from Sydney we fly to Thailand for ten days – the wind down before we get back in the real world once more!

The logistics – both of us are self-employed, eight plus weeks is a long time without pay! The long-suffering works freelance in the media industry on short and long contracts. He is booked sometimes months in advance as one job finishes the next starts. Luckily on our return a new long contract starts, editing the series Monkey Life at Monkey World in Dorset.

Winter is the best time for me to be away from work – often the weather is against me – the gardens I maintain have been put to bed until spring and winter planting design is complete.

Our countdown is now single figures, I cannot ignore the dreaded task of packing any longer….. so what to take?

A whole day! The time it took to put together my ‘capsule wardrobe’.      

The negatives – a trashed bedroom, dressing and undressing multiple times all day is exhausting and demoralising the mirror does not lie!

The positives – another thing to tick off the list, I may sleep easier, in the packing process I have culled my wardrobe with…….

  • Items that no longer fit – too small, too big??
  • Items past their sell by date – falling apart, discoloured, swimwear so thin as to be transparent – not a good look at my age!
  • Items bought in shops with mirrors that lie obviously!

Everything, well almost everything is laying on the bed ready, this weekend a practice bag pack will reveal how well I calculated the available space – if a cull is needed, or rubbing hands gleefully an addition can go in!

On my return from our travels I will be able to truthfully report on the success of my ‘capsule wardrobe’………. Packing List will follow….MAYBE!

 

 

Sunday Madness

I have never been a Sunday Gym bunny, much preferring the great outdoors either gardening, walking, visiting gardens or more recently since downsizing, dare I admit it actually doing nothing. My long-suffering I believe is quite happy these days to find me still in bed beside him at the crack of dawn, instead of having to scour the garden torch in hand looking for me.

This morning the long-suffering is in Barcelona on a stag weekend with our son – the groom – and his best man, leaving me home alone. The art of the weekend lie-in still needs practice on my part hence my decision to visit the gym, that and the fact it was tipping down with rain.

Arriving just after opening at nine, I card swiped in and got straight on a cross trainer to warm up.  Already it was busy. After 10 minutes I moved on to the weight machines and from there the free weights area and finally the floor. Halfway through my programme ‘busy’ became ‘hectic’ all shapes and sizes, old and young all with their own goals in mind if not always in body!

The committed bodybuilders – lifting the heaviest weights their loud grunting and groaning making sure everyone else is aware of their every lift, followed by the ringing clang and the bounce of the floor as the weights are dropped with such force as to render anyone near by deafened, myself included.

The less committed – they whizz around the equipment at breakneck speed some at times with such unusual technique, they look to be doing more harm than good.

January newbies – most will have given up by March but for now kitted out in their trendy gym wear they got for Christmas, they are keen and focused on the task ahead, maybe a beach on a pre booked holiday giving further motivation.

There because they have to – Doctors orders – get fit or die – recovering from injury, wife/husband/teenager pressure.

Lastly the stayers – never miss a session, respect the equipment, friendly, not scary, happy to chat while in recovery period between reps if they are not on their phone that is!

Where do I fit in then? Somewhere between the last two I think and occasionally when life, holidays get in the way I become the newbie again and boy does my body let me know.

After only a two week break the first session back renders my bad side especially, into a meltdown. My left bum cheek feels as though its reverted to its post operative size – think celebrity implants, it never is but I check nevertheless.  I walk around with the feeling of carrying a bag of spanners in my left back pocket. If I abstain for too long nerves come into play and I am rendered temporarily immobile as the shocks radiate from my hip, bum and down the back of my leg with no warning. The latter I am enjoying a current respite from.

If I’m really honest the gym is not my preferred place to be on any morning, I go because it really does make a difference to the strength of the muscles around my hip.  When I don’t get to the gym or do home exercises my leg becomes weak again. The saying really is true ‘use it or lose it’ I still have a lot of work to do on stubborn weak muscles to reach my own personal goals but I am nothing if not determined……just not on a sunday!

Goal one – that shopping for any length of time will be a comfortable experience and not send my gait into decline.

Goal two – not lurching sideways when rising from the table on a meal out as though I am inebriated – on the many times I am not!

Goal three – to be able to relax and just walk normally again without constantly thinking about my shoulders being even, heel to toe, roll the foot etc.. etc…….

Goal four – Having strong enough muscles to stop the dreaded limp coming back when my leg is tired.

 

 

 

 

Back on the Treadmill

This morning after four weeks apart the spinning bike and I were reunited. Over the festive period I must confess the gym and bike fell by the wayside only walking and swimming prevailed.

I arrived for the class early to get set up. There are about twenty bikes in all arranged around the room in a gently curved half circle two or three deep all facing to the lone instructor bike in the corner. The back ones always seem to get taken first – presumably to be less visible if a rest mid session is needed!

Duly taking my place at the back near an open window for air – my excuse – I set up my bike. By the start of the session a few front bikes remained empty, the rest carried riders regular and newbies varying in age between twenty and sixty.

A few facts about spinning…..It is ridiculously hard – if you don’t cheat. The music is LOUD. You will be SHOUTED at throughout – ‘keep going, you’re doing well, don’t give up’ and ‘last push’ the favourites. Saddles are NOT comfy. No matter how many fans are blowing, windows, doors are open, by the end all will be steamy and the floor will be wet from yours and others sweat!

The session got going with everyone settling into their own particular rhythm as we warmed up. Heads nodded up and down like the nodding dogs in back of cars, bodies hunched forward over the handlebars, Tour de France style, some sat upright hands on thighs, others swayed, side to side to the beat of the song. All of us building to the challenge to come.

Why do I do it? Twenty minutes in this morning I wondered precisely that as after a few sprints, seated and standing hill climbs I was secretly slumped over my bike, legs still spinning, trying to dismiss the very real threat of adding yesterdays food to the already damp floor.

The answer…because I can, low impact on my hip, pure adrenaline rush, great workout for the lower half and heart, safer than muddy roads, sociable – although last not strictly true given the loud music and sheer exhaustion rendering idle chat nigh on impossible.

I did recover as I knew I would – first time back is always the worst – and made it to the finish line without mishap however with a river running between my chest and down my back, hair sticking out at all angles, my face resembling a shiny tomato, and my legs like jelly I was not a pretty sight.

Glancing around the room happily revealed I was not the only one!

 

 

 

 

Gardening on Ice is NOT Hip

On an already short week work has been sporadic due to temperatures on two days barely rising above freezing. Icy conditions are not a ‘Hippy’ gardeners friend.  Pre accident even if the ground was too hard to work there was always fruit trees to prune and rambling/climbing roses, Vines and Wisteria to tame – back then I had no qualms about using ladders on the sides of houses/outbuildings and up through the boughs of larger top fruit trees. The hazards of icy ground never entered my head until after…….

The spring after the RTA, restarting work in hands on horticulture came with conditions – set out by my long-suffering, duly backed by my surgeon and further by my Rottweiler solicitor – ladders were for the foreseeable future and beyond out of bounds, as was walking on frosted ground.  I complied, after all using crutches or a stick rendered ladders and icy ground impossible anyway!  I was excited enough just to get stuck in at soil level with a kneeler in tow along with some standing pruning within the confines of my arms reach.

With a newly employed assistant to work alongside, carrying weed buckets, pushing wheelbarrows, climbing ladders, doing all the things I could no longer do I resumed my business lurching around in a Quasimodo like fashion the few gardens suitable – on the flat – along with clients who still trusted me with their upkeep. I earned very little in terms of money and my wasted muscles only allowed for short bursts of activity, despite this the mental stimulation and feeling useful again outweighed the negatives.

That winter I was out of action once again with a Hip replacement – rendering me a true hippie in the literal sense.  By the time I could resume work again with my loyal clients winter was over – a relief considering the now added worry of certain leg positions or worse a fall causing the new hip to dislocate

Winter 2015/16 was my first working since 2011/12. Now a fully fledged hippie my muscles although still not at full capacity felt stronger around the joint. I came proudly through without incident and my confidence level was high for me and my business.

This Winter 2016/17 sees me again tentative after an unexpected hip revision in August. My muscles once again have been compromised by more surgery. The walking, swimming, gym, cycling and Physio have all helped to regain strength but do not lessen my fear of falling.  Having had six weeks off over summer to recover I am still on catch up and desperately need to work for me, and my clients sanity!

Already just this week walking out over my own patio has seen me sliding and flailing about like an animated Bambi on a frozen lake trying to stabilise my limbs and core to keep me upright.  After preparing for the worst I surprised myself by regaining control of my weak wayward leg. It would seem my hip will live to garden another day, whats more, higher temperatures look set for next week!