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Watch Out for the Curveballs – Part Three

Watch Out for the Curveballs

 

Copyright © Robert L J Borg 2017

Part Three

 

It’s Friday 21st July – 6.20am. I had a fitful night; in and out of sleep, relieving myself into that horrid bottle at least five times. At one point I had to buzz the nurse to empty it just so I could fill it again.

It was a long night.

The ice bag lost its effect somewhere around 2am. I found that I was willing myself to exercise my leg for fear of developing any DVTs [Deep Vein Thrombosis – a blood clot]. For some reason only known to French medical professionals they don’t like using compression stockings [TEDs] after surgery. When I was in recovery yesterday I asked for one to be fitted and was told they don’t use them until I got up and walked – D’oh!!

A few years ago I was diagnosed with a medical condition known as Factor V Leiden by Dr Christopher Ward who is a haematology specialist at the Royal North Shore Hospital at St Leonards, Sydney. I had first experienced a blood clot in my left leg which was approximately 12cm in July 2007. In May that year my wife, Sandra and me had traveled to Alice Springs to celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary. We then traveled by coach to Uluru a journey of six hours. It was a lovely holiday – but it came at a price: the blood clot was a result of my leg being immobilized for all that time, even though there were some short breaks to ‘stretch’ our legs. Anyway the ‘cure’ was to take a course of Warfarin – not a nice medication, and one which forces you to continually have regular blood tests to make sure all is okay. Five years later, I experienced another blood clot this time in my right leg, one that was 15cm long!

Nowadays, whenever I travel any distance greater than 3 hours I always put on some TEDs, and especially when I fly regardless of how long the flight is. Australian hospitals always put them on patients when they are admitted.

So coming back to the present, as obviously the French don’t follow such procedure I found myself massaging my calves below the knee as far down as I could reach, and flexing and rotating my feet just to get the circulation going.

This is certainly an experience I don’t want to repeat so I may have to put up with the pain in my right hip for a few more years.

The night nurse knocked on the door at 5.30am and emptied my bottle so I could fill it again and then played around with the drips. I asked her if I could get up this morning as I desperately needed a shower and go to the loo – not necessarily in that order. The last time I shifted my bowels was Wednesday morning, the day before surgery. Again I was surprised that not one nurse had asked me the question since surgery of this bodily function. I’m also keen to have a decent shave – I hate looking scruffy.

I’m amazed at the number of patients all recovering from orthopaedic surgery of one sort or another. Despite living in such a beautiful part of the world, there are still a lot of sick people around.

Going back to my request to get up today so that they can also change the sheets as they will no doubt be diving into the laundry basket by themselves the moment I vacate the bed. I was told I would have to wait the surgeon’s visit at around 8am. At this point in time I only have an hour and fifteen minutes to go.

Daylight has revealed itself and it looks like it’s going to be another beautiful day. I doubt I’ll be allowed to venture outside yet, this being day one after surgery – but one lives in hope.

I shall resume quill to paper after the doctor’s visit.

*

It’s 7.55am and the morning nurses have shown their lovely faces just now; and I seriously do mean lovely. Had one of them shaved me yesterday I don’t think I would have been able to control Mister Doodle!! One of them took a sample of my blood. She said if the platelets were okay I might be able to get up. I thought to myself “if you’d put TEDS on my legs that would ensure the platelets would be okay reducing the risk of developing DVTs” Instead I smiled and for once kept my mouth shut – especially as she was the one holding the needle.

Her colleague had entered the room behind her and was patiently waiting to attack my body – wishful thinking on my part; but attack it she did with a syringe full of the drug Lovenox straight into my stomach. She then changed the spent fluid drips with new ones, and left me an anti-inflammatory pill. I questioned her about the Lovenox wondering when I could revert back on to the Pradaxa – at least it is a pill, so much easier to administer and no regular blood tests necessary. She told me it was still too dangerous a drug to switch back to.

Medical practitioners – you love them but you can also hate them.

When the threat of DVTs had been finally controlled in Australia and I was taken off the Warfarin by Dr Christopher Ward. He told me it would now be safe just to take an aspirin a day to ensure the blood would remain thin. The nice thing about aspirin it is a safe drug and if you have to come off it to allow for surgery or a tooth extraction then you can do so without the need of any substitute.

Since leaving Australia early last year I have noticed how the pain in my legs had increased to a point where my walking was being impaired. I was beginning to shuffle rather than walk and it was making me extremely tired. I’m sure it has nothing to do with my new geographical location but everything to do with the reduced amount of walking I was doing. In Oz I was still working, and hence commuting. When you live out in the suburbs and work in the city there’s a fair bit of walking involved as I’m sure a lot of people would agree. In other words I was more active than now, where being retired to a small village-type town where everything is so close, the need for walking great distances has been drastically reduced.

So, as I said earlier in this saga, I got to the point of wanting to do something about the hips once and for all. So what better way to start the New Year than to deal with the offending problem? I was told by a friend, who runs a small hotel in Golfe Juan – http://www.hotel-leprovence.fr/ that she was to have one of her hips done by Dr Bohic later this year and that he had in fact successfully replaced her partner’s knee. Therefore armed with her recommendation I made an appointment to see my General Practitioner.

As usual, before I had a chance to make my request for a referral letter, he examined me. Took my weight: too heavy at 90kg, blood pressure: a bit low, heart beat: too fast at 130 beats/minute and I was at rest at the time [at rest the pulse rate should only be around 60-70 beats per minute].

He picked up the phone and called to make an urgent appointment for me with a Cardiologist.

Hang on!! I only came in here for a referral letter, said I. The hips can wait, the heart can’t, said he. That will be €25 thank you. Sod it!! Oh yes, a note to my fellow Australians do you remember when we all whined about having to pay $5 to visit our GP?

So before I knew it I was stripped to my underpants lying on the cardiologist’s examination table with electrodes all over me while he performed an ECG test. Yup! Definitely too fast AND it skips, said he. Yours would too if all you wanted was to have your hips fixed and now someone is saying you are at risk of having a major cardiac event, thought I. I had told him of my past cardiac events, of the angiogram that went horribly wrong in 1999 – but that’s another story. If you’re interested you can find it on this blog at https://tomewriter.wordpress.com/2012/07/12/pinpoints-of-light/

In this instance however this guy, Dr Houssem MASMOUDI told me something too technical for me to comprehend and then proceeded to conduct a full ultrasound at which he confirmed that my valves weren’t coordinating properly. In other words they weren’t closing when they should because instead of having two electrodes in my heart to coordinate the valves I apparently have a few extra ones sending out confusing signals. Nothing is ever straight forward with me is it? I can’t wait for the future when we all evolve into bodiless beings. He said the best solution was for a surgeon to stick a laser through a catheter in my groin and cauterize the offending electrodes. Sounds too much like an angiogram to me – “No thanks” said I, the last one almost killed me. I’ll wait and let nature take its course.

Having re-dressed I sat in the chair opposite him in his office while he wrote out a couple of prescriptions for medication I would need to buy and start using without delay. They certainly like to put the fear of God into you these people!! That will be €160.42 thank you. WTF!!!

I left his office stunned in more ways than one and went across the road to the pharmacy to purchase the necessary drugs. €130 Thank you… no wonder people are having heart attacks at these prices – I really must sort out my medical insurance a.s.a.p.

And so began treatment for my heart. Aspirin was immediately stopped and the Pradaxa and Amiodarone started; the former twice a day and the latter once a day. I then went around the corner to my insurance broker and took out a policy for health cover with AXA. The premium was/is €59,57 per month, and worth every cent of it [no I haven’t got it wrong, unlike any other normal country that puts a dot after the dollars or pounds followed by the cents, in France they use a comma after the Euro followed by the cents – don’t ask me why, it’s just the way they do things here – they also use it in percentages].

The only snag with Pradaxa however is [once I began to read about it] that once you’re on it you can NEVER come off it completely as there is no antidote for it. What you have to do is apply a similar drug which has an antidote capability such as Lovenox. I used to have to self-administer them in Australia after surgery, but I can’t remember the name of the drug. All I do remember is that it leaves some nasty bruising, and it was the same this time around.

My GP was still refusing to give me the referral letter unless I got approval from the cardiologist. This done I got the letter and here we are…

Okay, coming back to the present – I hope I’m not confusing you too much with my time-hopping, but it’s the only way I can explain to you why some things are happening to me right now.

So, no Pradaxa then… I didn’t get any of my other daily meds either. I expect they’ll bring them later with breakfast [if it appears] – I could murder a cup of tea, but I’d be pushing my luck if I asked.

The Lovenox went in without a pinch – it’s good when you know what you are doing. Unlike my own attempts on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday morning; the injection has to be administered twice a day, but on Wednesday I thought bugger it; if they want it administered in the evening they can do it. They did.

Hello! As I’m writing this I’m suddenly becoming light-headed. Perhaps it’s the stuff in the drip she’s just administered. I’m going to stop writing for a while.

 

To Be Continued…

RLB – Tomewriter

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Baking Day

Anyone following my blog will know that as of the 2nd March this year [2016] I have been living in the south of France.

I retired from my 45 year career in the field of commercial credit management at the end of January and decided it was time for a sea change. As my personal circumstances changed at the same time it seemed logical to leave Australia that has been my home for the past 28 years and return to Europe.

Although I have been writing on a part-time basis, mostly as a hobby on an as and when I have time basis I have now decided to turn my hand to writing full-time. However with my move to Europe has also come a period of adjustment. For a start I am temporarily living with my mum and elder sister in their flat at Golfe Juan located close to Cannes on the Cote d’Azur. It’s a wonderful part of the world and the view from their apartment is spectacular. The view across the Mediterranean Sea is breath-taking. There is always so much to see – huge cruise ships on the horizon, exotic yachts of every size entering and exiting the port of Camille Rayon, sailing boats filling their sails as they skim across the bay of Le Golfe Juan, and occasionally, as moments ago, a show of fire fighting seaplanes practicing their skills in the event of the return of the bush fire season.

Fire Fighter Planes 002 Fire Fighter Planes 006 Fire Fighter Planes 009

Apart from carrying out a bit of research for my next book and a short blog from time to time I haven’t done much writing. My excuse is that I am unable to concentrate. I have bought a flat but I don’t finalise exchange until 7th June 2016, and I am waiting until I move in before I dedicate the lion’s share of my time to writing.

Until then I am killing time playing scrabble with my mother [a note on this: mum is 91 years old, has limited vision due to macular degeneration, but when it comes to playing Bridge and Scrabble she is champion]. I do manage to win sometimes though.

I have also spent time reading – never have I read so many books in such a short time – I have been averaging two to three a month depending on the book. In addition I have completed a hundred or so crosswords and I have been watching endless TV quiz shows… in French: It is a great way to improve my language skills. French isn’t my first language although I have known it since my youth – I am more comfortable with Italian and English [obviously], but since I have chosen to live in France it only seems sensible to improve my mastery of French.

So onto Baking Day…. As another diversion to keep me occupied I have offered on a few occasions to offer to cook for my family. I have prepared omelette; meatballs in a tomato sauce served with pasta; Ivory Coast Beef with rice; a salad or two, and today I experimented in preparing a fruit tart: a first for me. There were some cherries, grapes, a few prunes, and a couple of nectarines looking sad in the fridge. My sister suggested we have a fruit salad, but I said I would do something better. So this morning I nipped down the road to a local Spar supermarket and bought some short crust pastry then returned home to attack the fruit.

The photos speak for themselves [yes that’s me, Koala apron included]:

Baking Day 010616 001 Baking Day 010616 002

Ready for the oven:                                        Baked:

Baking Day 010616 006  Baking Day 010616 009

Presentation:            And of course, ready for eating:

Baking Day 010616 010  Baking Day 010616 011

Served with custard it was quite good – not bad for a first attempt.

I expect the next time I cook anything will be at my new flat.

It’s an exciting prospect.

RLB – Tomewriter

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Valbonne, south of France – Travel Log 25

I had heard so much of Valbonne from a friend who had visited it earlier this year. He was catching up with friends who own the Auberge Provencale. I thought, as I was staying with my mum and sister not too far away at Golfe Juan-Vallauris, that I too should go and take a look at the place and see what all the fuss was about.

A food and craft market is held there every Friday, so my sister and I set off on that particular day to have a browse and kill a few hours.

Ironically at the time I hadn’t realised the Auberge Provencale was the place my friend was referring to and as I snapped away with my camera the restaurant came into frame [it’s the building furthest in shot behind the orange building:

DSC00236

We didn’t visit as we only stopped for a coffee in the square, but in the spirit of friendship I’m adding their website herewith: http://www.auberge-provencale-valbonne.fr/ Trip Advisor gives it a four star rating and it does look nice so perhaps on another visit we might make a point of going there for a meal.

DSC00240

Valbonne is a small town that is located about 14km from Antibes and about the same distance from Cannes. As with most of the towns in this part of France they are all quite old dating back to the times of ancient Greece and Rome. Valbonne was occupied by both civilisations.

The market and local shops are quite diverse and some good quality products are on sale. Whilst my sister checked out and purchased a variety of olives, cheeses and other delicacies I had a look at clothing. However not finding anything for me, I did end up purchasing a beautiful pashmina scarf for my wife [she did love it].

DSC00238 DSC00242 DSC00243

After walking around for a couple of hours it was time to head back to Golfe Juan. We took the same route back as coming along the D3, D35, and D135 skirting the town of Mougins before heading back through Vallauris. The route is extremely picturesque through some beautiful high-forested areas and as you approach the south the glistening Mediterranean comes into view from behind the tree line beckoning you to it.

RLB – Tomewriter

 

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Saint-Paul de Vence – Côte d’Azur : Travel Log 9

One of the nicest things in this part of our delightful world is the numerous medieval fortified towns which are dotted about, usually perched high on the hill tops of the Southern Alps. Saint-Paul de Vence is one such place.

We travelled east from Golfe-Juan on the main road to Nice (Route Nationale 6007) until we arrived at Cagnes-sur-Mer following the signs for St. Paul taking us inland along the Avenue des Alpes (D336). On arrival access into the town is barred to unauthorized traffic, but there are several car parks available on the outskirts.

As you approach the walled town you are confronted with a large area of compounded earth making up a terrace for petang players. This is edged by a large café on one side and a road on the other.

You enter the town through an archway and are delightfully confronted with a network of tiny laneways and passages whose pathways and steps are all cobblestoned. Its numerous shops, boutiques and galleries are a tourists’ heaven, and you find yourself uncontrollably photographing almost everything in sight. On occasions you may also come across one or two artists capturing some aspect of the town on his canvas using rich oils or subtle water colours.

   

As we walked passed the Atelier Galerie D’Art I found myself drawn by a spectacular life-like oil painting of a couple of racing sailing yachts. Stepping into the gallery all the paintings facing me were absolutely breathtaking. The richness of the colours and subjects were wonderful. The artist, Michel Degav, was on hand to talk about his works and as much as I would have loved to have purchased the painting which had captured me, the 850€ price tag made me settle for a signed print* copy of the same, even though Michel had offered to sell me the painting for 150€ less. I told him I may consider it at some later date – perhaps when I manage to sell enough copies of my novels. His website is http://www.degav.com or should you ever visit Saint-Paul des Vence make sure to call into his gallery.

* The print is a limited edition # 9 of 25. I’ve had it framed [by In The Picture located in Hornsby, NSW – they always do a great job] and is now on the wall in the study.

From the gallery we carried on with our slow walk up to the summit of the town where the Mairie (Town Hall) was no more than a doll’s house of Lilliput proportions across the street from the church with its impressive bell tower. Inside, the church was dark despite the large stained glass windows behind and above the altar and one felt compelled to kneel at a pew and offer a small prayer.

 

On the south side of the town a small cemetery and the chapel of Saint Michel overlook some spectacular views over the countryside. From here we walked in a westerly direction around the perimeter of the town and at one point we could see the Bay of Angels in the distance; the glittering sea beckoning us to return home.

There’s not much more that can be said about this town as words cannot really do it justice; seeing it with one’s own eyes is the best way to appreciate this beautiful little ancient settlement.

RLB – Tomewriter

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Golfe-Juan – Côte d’Azur : Travel Log 8

Situated on the Côte d’Azur and tucked in between the towns of Juan-les-Pins and Cannes lies the small town of Golfe-Juan which is located 25 kilometres east of Nice airport. From the airport take the number 250 bus, which is an express service stopping only at Antibes and Juan-les-Pins before arriving at Golfe-Juan. The fare is a mere 8€.

You can also get to the town by train and of course by car either using the Auto-routes (A6, A7 and A8) or the National routes 6007 and 6098 (previously the 7 and 98) depending from which direction you are arriving from.

Accommodation varies from rental apartments to hotels depending on your preference; there are several available in Golfe-Juan and in nearby Vallauris. Please see the following website link for assistance: http://www.vallauris-golfe-juan.fr/-Hebergement-.html

Golfe-Juan started life as a small fishing village and only came of note on Wednesday 1st March 1815 when, having escaped the island of Elba in a flotilla of seven ships loaded with around 100 horses, arms and a few cannon, Napoleon Bonaparte together with some 1,100 loyal soldiers, landed at this insignificant piece of French soil. Once on the shore he gave a solemn speech to his followers and local fishermen. From here began his march to Paris, which although had been wrought with difficulties and setbacks, due to the loyalty of his officers and his exceptional strategies, these were overcome resulting in his successful re-entry into the capital on 20th March 1815.

 

A re-enactment of the Napoleon landing in full period costume takes place annually on the 5th March at the old port at Golfe-Juan. From there ‘Napoleon’ on horseback followed by his soldiers march along the ‘Route Napoleon’ all the way to the town of Grasse. The latter is re-known today for the creation of essences for the perfume industry.

Only after Napoleon’s landing did Golfe-Juan begin to flourish. In 1862 the first train arrived at the railway station at Golfe-Juan linking it to Cannes and the rest of France. Small industries started to become attracted into the area mostly pottery and ceramics.

In 1896 saw the construction of a port, which is known today as Quai Saint Pierre. Almost one hundred years later, in 1989, the Port Camille Rayon was constructed together with the creation of the Plage Du Midi, and in between the two is an open air theatre, the Théâtre de la Mer.

  New Port

Today Golfe-Juan is a thriving port and holiday destination to foreigners and French alike.

At the Port Camille Rayon and all along the Avenue des Frères Roustand is dotted with numerous cafés and restaurants catering for all tastes – including traditional French, Vietnamese, Italian, and Lebanese. I can personally recommend La Stella di Gigi and La Fourmigue;both have exceptional cuisine, great service and are reasonably priced. And for entertainment why not join some of the British ex-pats for quiz night from 7pm on Wednesdays at the Rio’s Banana Café and at the same time enjoy a cool refreshing drink.

La Stella  La Fournigue

During the first week of July is La fête de la Saint-Pierre, who is the patron saint of fishermen and of Golfe-Juan. At this time the local fishermen offer to all residents of the town a banquet of grilled sardines and wine. Tables are placed along the entire quay and music is provided by local musicians.

For me Golfe-Juan is a home from home as my mother and elder sister reside here so, when I can (usually every two years) I journey from Sydney to spend some time with them, and to catch up with the many friends I have made at the Rio’s Banana Café and the Hôtel le Provence.

Rio Banana Cafe & Bar  Hotel La Provence

RLB – Tomewriter

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Cannes – Côte d’Azur : Travel Log 6

From Golfe Juan take the number 200 bus at the Square Nabonnand; it will cost one Euro for the trip into Cannes. Ensure you get off at the top of Rue Meynadier just as the bus enters it from the Place du 18 Juin.

If you are travelling in on a Sunday note the buses run 30 minutes apart on the hour and half hour. Also most shops in Cannes are closed and only a few gift shops, cafés and restaurants are open. However, on Saturday’s and Sunday’s there is a craft market at the Allées de la Liberté which runs from early morning to early afternoon.

Cannes Market

During the week most shops are open and for shop-a-holics the Rue D’Antibes is a ‘must’ as is a healthy bank balance and credit card.

Caveau 30 is a restaurant located at 45 Rue Félix Fauré, and their menu and service is excellent. Their Menu à 25.50 € is exceptional and comprehensive with a vast choice of Entrée, main course, and dessert. You can also opt out to have a 2 course menu of either entrée and main, or main and dessert for 17.50 €. Note this offer is not available on Sundays and bank holidays.

Cannes is a town re-known for its prestigious hotels such as the Carlton, Martinez, and the Grand all of which have their own private beaches. Also for its apartment blocks, superb restaurants, excellent beaches and numerous year-long festivals, congress meetings and musical performances. Visit the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès de Cannes website for up to date details of events:   http://en.palaisdesfestivals.com

For the sightseers, a visit to the Suquet historical district is a worthwhile trip. It is quite a steep climb up the Rue du Mont Chevalier beginning from the Place Bernard Cornut Gentille near the police station. At the summit visit the Musée de la Castre and the church of Notre-Dame de L’Esperance. The view from here is spectacular. Nearby is a memorial to the heroics of the resistance fighters during World War II.

Cannes - view from Suquet  Memorial to Resistence

Descending from the Suquet using the back streets you come out at the Boulevard Jean Herbert and the Plages du Midi. The Italian Caffé has a cozy ambiance and a traditional Italian menu. I can highly recommend the Salade du Chef.

Nearby there are ferries available to take you to the islands of Saint-Honorat and Sainte-Marguerite. The latter was made famous by the legend of the man in the iron mask being held at the fort – now a museum.

Gamblers will be delighted to know there are three casinos in the town. The Casino Croisette is located at the old port (Vieux Port) next door to the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès. The second one is to be found on the eastern end of the town at Palm Beach close to the yacht club. The third, Le Prince, is located at the hotel Raddison at the Croisette.

RLB – Tomewriter

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