Thoughts from a Sun lounger (Part 4)

Sun LoungerI don’t think there is any nicer feeling than to take a dip in a swimming pool and then after a few lengths, return to your sun lounger and lie there peacefully while the hot sun dries your body. You can feel little rivulets of water dripping away and in time the sun will gradually dry you. It’s almost like a sort of rebirth or a least a refreshing of the soul. The only sounds in this remote hamlet where we are staying are the gentle breeze swaying through the branches of a nearby tree, the quiet humming of insects, some bird song and the occasional drone of a far away car or tractor.

You might be thinking hang on, why is this guy waxing lyrical about lying on a sun bed? Yes it’s that time of year again, holiday time. Once again Liz and I have travelled to France to spend time in a beautiful gîte in the Cher region of France.

Travelling down here was a little bit of a trial though. Coming down the M6 in  the north-west we had to travel through the roadworks for the new Smart motorway scheme. I don’t know that Smart is really the right name for this concept but the idea is that the traffic runs along the hard shoulder in the busy periods thus shifting more traffic. So the experts say, anyway. Whether that will happen I really don’t know but at the moment the whole area is bit of a nightmare and when we finally got through that we came across more delays round about junction 13. Throw in some torrential rain and spray, creating really poor driving conditions and you begin to get the picture. Anyway, we made it to the terminal in Folkestone with about ten minutes to spare; many thanks to Liz for her fabulous driving.

One thing I noticed during the journey down here was the enormous amount of tyre carcasses in the central reservation. It really seems to me that Highways England need to pull their finger out and clean up the motorway otherwise I may just start up a scrap rubber company and pick up all those discarded tyres, and believe me I’ve counted a hell of a lot of tyres on the way south. I reckon I can make an absolute fortune flogging all those tyres to Goodyear or Pirelli or even some rubber recycling company. Come on Highways, get your act together!

French phrase book After the hell of UK motorway travel, the roads of France are just a delight. OK, it might be busy round Paris and other large towns but out in the countryside driving is once again an enjoyable experience. Stopping at the services is much nicer too. Not for us the packed UK services charging ridiculous amounts for a cup of tea. The French aires are quiet and picturesque. Nice rural stopping places with picnic tables and nice clean toilets. Lovely.

In the UK I have had a great deal of trouble with my back. The doctor offered me pain killers which I declined, well, I must admit I did take some, the pain was that bad. Anyway I asked to be referred to a physiotherapist. Get the problem sorted out at the source I thought. This gets complicated here so bear with me: I started off with a telephone appointment, one in which you are supposed to make an ‘actual’ appointment. It did not go well because although I rang at the specified time, I was given several messages to listen to and options to choose so when I eventually got through, the lady at the other end thought I was late for an ‘actual’ appointment, not a telephone appointment and could not arrange it for me as I was two minutes late. Anyway, to cut a long story short I spoke to her boss and made an appointment (an ‘actual’ appointment) and arrived on the day only to find that my ‘actual’ appointment had been cancelled due to a bereavement at the hospital. Pity they didn’t tell me in advance. (They said that they had left a message on my mobile – which I never received, although on the same day my garage had managed to leave me a message about my car and my brother had also left a message. Strange that two others had no problem leaving messages.)

Anyway, with me so far? Another appointment was duly made and then two days before that appointment I received a letter saying that had been cancelled too. I called  to complain only to be told I had cancelled the appointment! I most certainly did not, I said in my best aggrieved customer voice. I eventually spoke to a manager and she managed to arrange another date which fitted into my calendar just nicely between work and leaving for France.

When I finally found myself face to face with a physiotherapist, or at least someone who claimed to be a physiotherapist, he spent a lot of time asking me questions about my pain, which, when it first occurred three months previously had been very severe but now it wasn’t so bad, in fact the actual spot in the middle of my back seemed OK but the pain was now in my neck and lower back. Sadly, those areas were not the ones that I had been referred for via my GP. Now those two areas, the neck and lower back, happen to be a matter of inches from the source of the original pain so let me throw out a crazy mad concept here: could they be related? Well, we’ll never know because as my physio pointed out yet again; my GP had not referred me for those areas! After a lengthy consultation of which perhaps five minutes was actual hands on my back stuff, my physio declared my back was ‘mechanically’ sound. How did he explain the pain I asked? Well, that was a muscular issue due to my ‘sedentary’ life style. As we were on the way out he mentioned it was perhaps ‘not worth seeing me again.’

Interesting. Perhaps the problem solving concept was not something this guy covered at university, perhaps they don’t even teach that kind of stuff any more. I know that if I was a physio and someone came to me with back pain my job would be trying to find the source of that pain and cure it or ease it or suggest further treatment for my patient. It’s rather like having a problem with your car and telling the customer, well, we can’t fix that, perhaps it’s time to get a new motor. In this case, no new motor is available! I’m tempted to apply my usual rule here, that names have been changed to protect the innocent but Clifton Hospital in St Annes, Lancashire, you have gone way down in my estimation!

Anyway, the temperature here in our little village is currently in the 90s. (Fahrenheit of course. If you want that in Celsius, I don’t do metric, work it out yourself!) Time for a read, perhaps a short doze, then another swim in the pool. After all, exercise is good for your back!

Make sure your click back here next Saturday for at look at my Holiday Book Bag!

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Lost Horizon, Samsara, and a Visit to the Doctor

samsaraDon’t you hate it when you wake up with a tune in your head and can’t seem to get a handle on it? No matter what you do the half remembered tune is playing away in the back of your mind and you cannot concentrate on anything else because you desperately need to identify that tune. It happened to me recently and I was stuck with a tune tinkling away in the background of my head, annoying me no end when eventually a line of the lyric came to me and I was able to track the song down using google. It was a song called  ‘The World is a Circle’ and it came from a musical version of Lost Horizon.


I must have mentioned Lost Horizon by author James Hilton many times in this blog. It’s one of my favourite books and it was made into a classic movie by Hollywood director Frank Capra which is well worth getting on DVD. Surprisingly, the film was remade in the seventies as a musical. It was, perhaps, one of those movies generated by the huge popularity of the Sound of Music but sadly it wasn’t a success despite some great songs by Burt Bacharach and Hal David and it was they who wrote ‘The World is a Circle.’

Lost Horizon is about a community in the Tibetan highlands hidden in a secret valley known as Shangi-la. There the people led by the High Lama, Father Perrault, decide to make the valley into a place of safekeeping for great art, literature and music, fearing it could all be lost in a catastrophe like a world war. The religion of the valley is a mixture of Christianity and Buddhism and that is where the lyrics of the song come from. Samsara, in the Buddhist way is the cycle of life; birth death and rebirth, represented by the circle. That circular vision of life is not always so easy to explain but it brings to mind a little anecdote that I think is worth sharing . .

A long time ago, years ago in fact I had this really bad pain down my right arm. It didn’t get any better, in fact it got worse and worse so I called in for an appointment at the doctors. I got to see Doctor Kowalski (as usual names have been changed to protect the innocent.) The thing with Doctor Kowalski was that anyone could see him any time because he wasn’t a doctor who was much in demand. Why not you might ask? No one really wanted to see him because all he wanted was to get you into his office and get you out again.
I sat down and the doctor smiled and asked ‘how can I help you?’
‘Well’, I began, ‘It’s this pain down the side of my arm . .’
I stopped because Doctor Kowalski was already writing out a prescription. Already, and this was before he examined me and before I even finished speaking. Moments later I was on my way out of his surgery and the next patient was already on his way in. All I had to show for it was a prescription for pain killers.

Dr Kowalski must have looked good on the surgery stats as it looked like he dealt quickly with a lot of people but as we all know, statistics don’t always tell the full story.
A few days later the pain was as bad as ever so I went back but I asked to see Doctor Edwards. Now Doctor Edwards was one of the most popular doctors in the surgery. Why? Because he actually listened to you! He was fully booked up for a while and it took me a week to get in to see him but when finally I sat down in his office, he listened attentively, asked a few questions, took a look at my arm and then sent me for an X ray. It turned out I had a nerve trapped in my neck which was referring pain to my arm and I needed to see the physiotherapist but the waiting time was about six weeks so I decided to go to a private physio.

The fee was something like £50 an hour and my first session was pretty good. A good check-up and a great shoulder and back massage which did me no end of good. The next week I went back but this time the physio said, think I’ll try you on the ‘machine’. He explained quickly what it was: Something which stimulated the muscles and increased blood flow which apparently was a good thing for my condition.

I lay back on his couch and this machine with lots of suckers was attached to various points on my neck and shoulder and went to work. I was on it for thirty minutes. It did nothing for me but lightened my wallet by £25 and I noticed that in the other room another patent was getting the helpful massage I had been expecting. When it came to booking the next appointment I decided that a free day in my busy schedule wasn’t available.

Anyway, a week or so later I got to see the NHS physio. She was a lady, a little old lady in fact. When I walked in to see her she offered me a seat then shouted at me to ‘sit up straight!’ No wonder I had neck and back issues because my posture was dreadful! She may have been a little old lady but she gave me some stick, not only verbally but she did a lot of work on my neck with her hands and eventually the pain in my arm slipped away and I gradually returned to normal.

At the end of my treatment she told me not to bother going to the doctor again; ‘Come straight to me and I’ll sort you out but for heavens sake, sit up straight. Get your posture right and you’ll be fine!’ ‘OK,’ I said, ‘thanks.’

Some months went by and I began to get the same symptoms again so I went into the doctors surgery and asked to see the physio. The lady on the desk said no, I had to see the doctor first. I told her what the physio had said, go straight to her but the receptionist was adamant- I could only see the physio with a referral from the doctor. As I was dejectedly leaving the surgery I saw the physio and went over and told her what happened. She took me back to the reception, gave the receptionist there some first class stick and booked me in the next week to see her. Happy days!

About six to eight months later I once again began getting the neck and arm problems so I returned to the surgery. The receptionist advised me (with far too much smugness, I thought) that the physio had retired and a new younger model had taken over and this one would not see me without first seeing the doctor.

I made an appointment, went into to see the doctor and found myself with Dr Kowalski, pen in hand, ready to write me out a prescription for painkillers!

See, the world is a circle after all!

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