Living the Dream – 81. A month in bed

Our personal lockdown has now been a full month.

On March 3rd, Mags went to bed, still in agony with a bad back. On the 4th, she couldn’t get up.

Since then she’s been to a couple of hospitals, had three rides in an ambulance and almost had an operation several times. The surgeons were resolved to operate on Friday the 13th until a possible throat infection intervened. With Covid 19 sweeping across the world, they discharged her on the 14th, no better than when she had gone in, a week before.

There was vague talk of an operation in a week, but we knew that was unlikely.

Discharged

Put starkly, Mags was safer bedridden at home with only me to care for her than she was in a private hospital with an excellent rota of medical professionals.

It seems odd in retrospect, but before we got Mags admitted, she was in bed, while our bathrooms were being refurbished. I made coffees for the patient and the builder. Once admitted, I spent the day at the hospital before coming home to sleep. Then, visitors were prohibited for Covid concerns and I had a day or two to bring some order to the house.

Progress

We were able to be more organised for Mag’s return, and set up our ward in the spare room. Here I monitor blood pressure, blood sugar and try to make her as comfortable as possible. On the 18th, her fifth day back home, she sat. Then, on the 19th, she walked a pace or two. On the 20th, she managed a lap of the house with a walker. The 26th, she took a shower!

Mags has to balance pain with movement. She wants to move more and more, but the pain roars back with rapidity and ferocity. She still cannot sit or stand for extended periods – but we’ll get there. Mags has spent a full month in bed.

Perspective

This private drama of a month in bed has overridden the worldwide one, for us. Were Covid not tearing across the planet, I’d still be effectively locked down. I guess I might shop more frequently, but Mags needs a hand around the clock, so not much would be different.

Mags believes that everything happens for a reason. Was that possible throat infection a sign? I don’t know.

From my side, I’m thankful that I stopped drinking this year. Old me would be draining a bottle of wine a night on top of a couple of cold beers in the afternoon, all the while claiming that the drink was getting me through the crisis. By now, I’d be on my knees, beaten down by a persistent hangover.

I might have an alcolohol free beer to celebrate.

Cheers!

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Living the Dream – 80. Lockdown

Before the Lockdown

Adamantios (his real name) took me through the CT. I’m sure he was speaking English, but when it comes to the medical terms, Greek remains the lingua franca. Spondylolisthesis was one of the more entertaining tongue-twisters.

I’m not sure I can accurately explain the breadth of the issues, nor indeed the intricacies of the solutions proposed. The recommendation was to operate. Then it wasn’t. Then it was again. I was getting dizzy. Poor Mags was increasingly confused and most important of all; in agony.

First hints

On Tuesday the 10th, as a response to Corona virus, the hospital limited patients to one designated visitor, who should wear a mask. Then, on Wednesday the 11th, all visiting was suspended. Margaret’s birthday on Thursday, she would be allowed no visitors. Tough.

The operation was now scheduled for Friday the 13th. Well, it would be, wouldn’t it?

Postponed

Then, on the morning of the 13th, Mags awoke with a sore throat. An ear nose and throat specialist examined her and declared the operation off, prescribing a course of antibiotics for a week. Moments later, Mags’ doctor informed her she was being discharged.

Put simply, while the pandemic rages, Mags is safer at home than in hospital.

Time for me to step up. “Nurse Lennon, your patient.”

As I type – the patient has survived 30 hours plus with no mishaps. That’s a start, I suppose.

I have learned a few things.

  1. Nursing is hard. Really hard. A professional nurse is nothing short of a superhero. Likewise those people who are full-time carers for a loved one.
  2. My fear of needles is personal. Turns out I’m fine sticking them into other people.
  3. There are always people worse off. With all that is going on – our problems shrink rapidly.

Lockdown

Right now, the government of Cyprus has effectively closed our borders, and all non-essential business. “Lockdown” is the new buzzword.

Dramatic times.

Now – how’s the patient?

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Living the Dream – 79. Field Test – Medical

Ambulance

“What?”

The paramedic eyed our straightest staircase with horror.

“If we go around the house, there are fewer steps,” I ventured.

We went off to explore this route, while the ambulance driver focused on turning the vehicle around, knocking over the lighting on the driveway as he did so.

Eventually we exited the house through one of the bedrooms. Keen to reassure the patient, strapped to the stretcher, Marios, the paramedic, said,

“This part is very dangerous. But don’t worry Mrs Lennon.”

He and I took the front end of the stretcher. A couple of times he let me bear the weight while he helped his colleague at the other end. A clever tactic to make me feel useful, I’m sure. Eventually, the Chuckle Brothers and I got Margaret into the ambulance. I picked up the hypodermic needle that had fallen to the floor and followed the ambulance to the hospital.

Accident and Emergency

As I entered the Accident and Emergency department from the car park, I met the stretcher coming in from the other side.

Margaret was pale.

“Marios tells me, this is the worst A&E in Europe.”

I made a note to talk to Marios about his over-sharing problem.

We were seen promptly and courteously.

“You need to see an Orthopaedic surgeon.” The A&E Doctor look harassed and tired.

“I know.”

“But they’re upstairs.”

“You have lifts?” I was trying to keep my tone neutral.

“But you can only see Orthopaedics, in the morning. You should come back then.” Dr Stress said.

Disappointing, I felt. “My wife can’t walk, can’t sit or travel in a car. How do I get her home?”

“Ambulance.”

“Ambulance? Had you seen the journey here, you wouldn’t say that. How do we come back?”

“Ambulance.”

“Three ambulances in 15 hours? Would it not be easier just to take her upstairs?”

“There are no beds.”

The Mediterranean

Ultimately, we whistled up a private ambulance and had Margaret admitted to the clinic that, if she could travel, she would have come to as an outpatient. It was half past nine at night.

“Insurance details, please.”

“We’re self-insured.”

Brows were furrowed.

I explained that I had phoned ahead and was happy to pay the medical costs.

“Right. Off we go.”

“Off we go where?” I asked, suspicious.

“CT scan.”

How the other (medical) half live.

After the scan, Margaret was admitted into a room in the surgical ward. Her roomie is an 83 year old who has just had a new knee. They prattle away at each other. I’m not sure that not sharing a common language is any impediment. Several nurses are in and out of the room constantly.

That night, for the first time in a week, Margaret was in good medical hands.

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Living The Dream 78. A plan

This month, I have written about the joys of property repairs, a dodgy pump, and an impending trip to Rome. I had intended to write about that trip and my next one, to London.

The older I get, the more I realise the fragility of plans.

“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”*

Life has come out swinging this week.

Mags’ sore back was fine in Rome. We were strolling all day, every day. There’s no finer place for a meander. Each morning, she would feel stiff, then once we got going, things would loosen up and though not pain free, she could enjoy the day. Until Monday. Monday started poorly and got progressively worse. The pain increased, rather than decreased. By the time we were due to go to the airport, Margaret could barely walk. In fairness, she could barely stand, sit or lie either. The pain was acute and constant.

To their credit, the airline, Aegean, were magnificent. When we landed in Athens, a wheelchair was waiting to help us navigate the farce that is Schengen/Non-Schengen transfers (surely a future Lennon-rant). The team in Athens also organised us to be met by Assistance in Larnaca.

Since being home, Mags has been in agony, interspersed with intervals of worse-than-agony. Physio does not appear to be working and life feels awfully bleak.

As I write she is trying to sleep. No doubt, the dulcet tones of power tools destroying the bathroom adjacent to her pillow are not helping on the nap front. Yep. We are mid-bathroom replacement too.

Our joy is unbounded.

Thankfully, I am in good form, and kept busy. Much though I’d like to help Mags, there is little that I can do, so I content myself with buying the wrong food, cooking it incorrectly and making a mess of the kitchen. Despite my attempts to make the worst coffee, the builder likes a steady flow to be maintained. I have, thus far, thwarted his attempts to liberate the dog by leaving the gates open. When not making a hash of the domestic engineering, or gingerly driving Mags to physio, I’m trying to keep up with a plan.

Next Thursday, we are due to fly to the UK, to visit family and attend a pen show for Nero’s Notes. This will require a marked upturn in Mags state of health. There is no way she can travel as she is, nor could I leave her. Of course, if she does improve, there must be a reasonable chance that Corona virus will thwart the pen show anyway. I imagine an uptick in infections is coming for the UK, and larger gatherings might not be the wisest move. Additionally, I’m not sure there is a more efficient way to spread infection than air travel.

There’s nothing like a plan coming together – and this is nothing like a plan coming together.

Living the Dream, indeed.

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*Mike Tyson

Living The Dream 77. The Haunted Pump of Doom

Question

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the pending bathroom refurbishments.

We were in a second bathroom store, looking at shower units.

“Pump or gravity?” The salesman quizzed Margaret. She turned to me.

“Pump or gravity?”. I turned to the paint pots.

“Pump or gravity?”

Damned paint pots were silent.

“I’m not sure. We’ll check.”

I believed we had a pump, but being sensibly averse to ladders, I hadn’t actually checked the roof myself. I checked with the previous owners.

“Mum. Is there a water pump on the system?”

“No. Definitely not.”

The answer

Several hours later, I received an e-mail from Mum. Memory had returned, there was definitely a pump up on the roof.

This talk of the pump had unsettled it. Within days, the pressure dropped in the bathrooms. The haunted pump of doom was on strike. The following day, water damage was noted the ceiling beneath the water tanks. Had we offended the God of Pumps?

Yianni, our contractor, scampered up a ladder, accompanied by Andreas, a plumber and heating engineer. Together we chatted in a bizarre combination of English, Greek, Russian and sign language.

The haunted pump of doom was a thing of the past.

And the leak?

“That’s nothing to do with the pump. That’s the rain.”

Mags and I looked at each other. Neither believes that the pump is innocent. The timing was just too close.

Solution

It seems that our tanks are designed to be pump-less. Our options therefore, are:

1. Use the tanks as intended (as they currently work). More trickle-shower than monsoon-shower.
2. Replace the haunted pump of doom with a similar model. Better, but not ideal.
3. Replace the hot tank with a new one, designed to work with a pump and have whatever showers we want. Likely to make the credit card squeak.

A series of quotes are inbound, and frankly, I can’t wait to get that belligerent pump off the roof.

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Living the Dream – 76. Property Repairs

Property repairs, not my thing.

We are fortunate to live in a villa with a pool, set on a substantial plot in a beautiful spot. My Mum and Dad bought the land, commissioned architects and builders to create it. That was more than a quarter of a century ago, and the house has been permanently occupied for most of that time. Discounting decoration, the house is unchanged. We have done some work outside – recommissioning the pool, and having a fence built around the property.

Internals

Now, our attention has turned to the inside. First order of business, bathrooms. We are renovating the guest bathroom and our own, main bathroom. We have a quote from our favoured contractor, and are now investigating materials.

There’s a bathroom store, quite local to us. A charming salesman swooped upon us before I had even closed the door. He toured us around the store, furiously taking notes. So far, so good. We’ve done renovations in the UK, and it worked much the same way.

“How much are those tiles?” I asked.

Antonis, our salesman squinted at the fading sticker on the corner.

“22€ per square metre. I’ll do it for 13.”

I nodded, feigning disinterest. Inside, my mind was whirring. 22-13 is 9. 9 over 22 is, give or take, 30%. Blimey.

In the UK, we had been given a price and then, at the end attempted to get a discount. Usually we had got some, but 30%? Never. As we toured the store, I kept stealing glances at Antonis’ notes. Some items we were getting 50% discount. Awesome.

Two days later, we received an itemised quote, covering everything we need for the two bathrooms, from tiles to toilet roll holders. Instinctively, some of the prices look really good, while others look expensive.

Project Management

Here comes my masterstroke. I have put Mags in charge. She is Project Manager. We’ve agreed a provisional budget, and I have declared myself entirely comfortable with whatever decisions she makes. She is drilling down into each cost, and sourcing alternate suppliers, including recycling some of the existing items. Mags possesses a ruthless, investigative streak that I lack. I’m confident we will know what prices we should be paying.

Most importantly, Mags has “an eye” for things. I’ll be honest, once the bathroom has changed, I’ll instantly stop noticing it. I’ll struggle to tell anyone what colour it is, without going to check. Mags sees detail. Constantly. She is a perfectionist. This is, in equal measure, a superpower and a curse. Inspecting work, she misses nothing, meaning that any and all contractors get away with no corner-cutting. On the other hand, once she has spotted something, she can’t un-see it. It’s really, really difficult for her to be accepting of imperfection.

Property Repairs

For example, the floors throughout the house are concrete, and in places are showing their age. Replacing them however, is a big, disruptive and expensive job. One that we have decided not worth doing, at this point. That decision doesn’t stop Margaret noticing every blemish, every day.

Predictions

I predict that we are going to end up with two sparkling bathrooms at a reasonable cost. Whether the contractor will survive the process remains to be seen. My role? Possibly peacemaking from time to time, but mostly, it’ll be the paying thing.

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Living the Dream – 75. Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to you!

Christmas

How were the holidays for you? We’ve had a cracking time.

Christmas was at the mountain hideaway, just Mags, Spice and I. The weather was boisterous, but we managed to get Spice out for a windswept walk on Christmas morning.

Travel

On the 28th, we loaded up the car and headed off for a week in Turkey. Now, Turkey is less than 300 miles from Cyprus, but it’s complicated.

Since 1974, Cyprus has been effectively partitioned. I live in the Republic of Cyprus, which is the officially recognised country. The Northern part of Cyprus is termed the “Illegally Occupied Territories.” In those territories, and in Turkey, the area is known as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. In recent years, relations have thawed a little – and people are permitted to cross from one side to the other through a series of border posts.

Our journey therefore to drive to one of these crossing points, park on the Republic side and be collected by a Taxi from the Turkish side. The taxi took us to the airport, and we made the short hop to Antalya, on the southern coast of Turkey. I’ll talk about the holiday in another post.

Once across the internal border, our cell phones lose signal, and will not connect to local services. Likewise, there is no roaming agreement between Cyprus and Turkey. Wifi gets us round this, but it is extraordinary that such a thing should persist in the 21st century.

World Events

While in Turkey, the USA killed General Qassim Suleimani. Iran, and to a lesser extent Iraq, where the killing took place, are, if not disgruntled, certainly less than gruntled. The region is in flames. War, of one form or another, rages across Iran, Iraq and Syria. Not to mention Yemen.

One of our party commented,

“It’s all a long way from us though…”

Another replied

“Absolutely, after all, Syria is a full 50 miles from Cyprus.”

Happy New Year, eh?

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Living the Dream – 74. All rise

All rise

As predicted, we turned up at 9am and were directed to a courtroom. (If you need to know why, start here.)

We were told to return at 1030 and went for a coffee.

As I carried our purchases towards the terrace, I was nearly knocked over by Margaret coming the other way.

“He’s here.” She trembled.

I guided her to an internal table, and tried to find something reassuring to say. Our question as to whether the defendant would attend had been answered.

We sat through a case, a sentencing, we think, ending with the defendant leaving with two policemen. One of those policemen had through gestures, advised me that I should not be leaving my reading spectacles on top of my head. Margaret had recovered from the shock and was convinced that the defendant in our case had not recognised her.

Eventually, a prosecutor checked that Margaret was, in fact, Margaret. This established, she spoke with the opposing counsel, before returning to us.

“The defence will ask for an adjournment.”

“Right…”

“I will write for you the new date.”

The Process

It turned out that after a recess, we had to wait for this arrangement to be confirmed by the judge. As the judge came in, everybody stood, reminding me of UK court dramas, were the clerk always intoned “All rise” as the judge entered and left the court.

We watched as our nemesis was led to the dock. Call me nasty, but I delighted in his discomfort. I caught one in ten words from the judge, I think he was summarising the charge. The prosecutor rose, and replied in quick fire Greek. The words that I caught, were Margaret’s name and the name and rank of the investigating police officer.

Margaret was asked to stand, immediately drawing the attention of the man in the dock.

Having established that she spoke no Greek, the judge swore in an interpreter to translate his explanation to her. He explained that due to the weight of ongoing cases and because the defence wanted more time, he was adjourning until the 7th of April and that there would be no further summons.

Gratefully, we left. Seconds ahead of the person being prosecuted.

Next Stage

I guess that’s how it works. This is a criminal prosecution, not a civil one. Margaret is a witness not a plaintiff. No justice system anywhere could afford to keep everybody apart, I suppose. Still, it felt a little awkward.

As for your brave correspondent, I worked very hard to avoid eye contact. My focus is Margaret and I’m not sure that macho posturing would be much help to her.

So, as I wrote, the wheels of justice turn slowly and the next instalment will come in April 2020, when again, we will “all rise”.

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Living the Dream – 73. The wheels of justice

The wheels of justice turn slowly.

Margaret took a call in the car. Someone was hoping to serve court papers on her. She explained that we were on our way home and would be there in five minutes. The server elected to post the papers at the gate and continue on with his day.

Background

We felt certain that this related to the nightmare that Margaret endured around a year ago, when an uncontrolled dog attacked her: But what was her role at court? On the advice of lawyers, we had chosen not to pursue a civil case against the owners of the dog. The Police were prosecuting under the criminal code.

Court

The papers turned out to be an un-enveloped docket, half printed and half hand-written. Quite reasonably, it was all Greek to us.

However, we are advised that we are to attend the courts at 9am on the allotted date, with our piece of paper. Somebody will direct us towards a courtroom waiting-area, and at some point, the prosecutor will wish to hear what happened. Then, a date for a hearing will be set and we will be sent home.

I’m planning on taking a book and a packed lunch. The lawyer tells us that the defendant will have been instructed to be there too.

Why?

Frankly, I’m mystified as to the purpose of this. The lawyer said that we have been asked to attend because the defendant has not accepted the charges. I assume means that he has denied that he broke any laws. Were we not to turn up, then the case would be dropped.

Waiting room

If I were a cynical man, I might think that obstacles are setup in the hope that the whole thing will simply go away. I daresay it might all go away in the end – but it won’t be because Margaret and I didn’t do our part.

In the year that has passed, the owner of the dog, still living two minutes from our front gate, has made no effort to communicate with us at all. The day that my wife stood screaming and trembling, Nero, our cherished pet of 11 years, dying at her feet, a few scant yards from this man’s front door; he came out, mumbled something about a vet, put a phone to his ear and that was the last that we have seen or heard from him.

Certainly, that failure to engage will make our time on the waiting room a little tense.

The wheels of justice is a paraphrase, thought to originate from Greek philosopher Sextus Empiricus.

“The mills of the gods grind slowly, but they grind small.”

I hope so.

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Living the Dream – 72. Plotting and Planning

Autumn is for plotting and planning. Ideally, the New Year is when new chapters begin, and to make that happen, I need to get going in November.

Seasons

This is the perfect time to lock myself into the office/cave. The days are getting shorter, the evenings cooler, it’s the perfect time to bury myself in my notebooks. Except, Cyprus weather hasn’t read the script. Having had a try at autumnal, the days have decided to revert to summer. There’s not a cloud in the sky, the temperatures are soaring and the beaches are busy again. This is a problem that I am delighted to have, particularly after the trials of last winter.

Scope

In terms of plotting and planning, I look at several areas. The consulting business, the notebook business, the podcast, this site, the home and myself.

Method

Without getting formal, I put aside time to review the year in each area. What went well, what didn’t. I identify objectives for the next year. Once we get to that funny week between Christmas and New Year, I document all this, but for the moment, I just make notes.

stuartlennon.com

During 2019, I have posted three times a week on the site. Each post being 300-700 words. So, one or two thousand words a week. Work on the novel has been sporadic, to say the least. Hmmm…that needs looking at.

As it happens, my Wednesday posts have just reached the end of a series, “Going Solo”. I’m fairly certain that I am not going to leap straight into another series there – hell, perhaps I could edit 500 words of the novel instead? Now, there’s a revolutionary concept.

The Friday posts, of which this is one, will continue, but perhaps with a wider scope. On Monday’s, I post for Members, and I will continue to do that, perhaps tightening the focus there, moving back towards the novel.

Balance

I love this planning and plotting process. I do have to be careful though, as I have a tendency to forget things. Like the fact that I am married. I recently produced myself a week schedule, that managed to incorporate everything that I wanted to get done on an ongoing basis. It was a seven day schedule, including evenings. I think Mags and I got to spend a couple of waking hours a week together, during a quiz. Whoops.

The schedule

How will my schedule settle? Too early to say. That’s why I start the process in November. One thing for sure, I need to put aside time for writing. If I don’t, then not enough gets written.

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