Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Shoulder operation

So it's a week now since I turned up at the Princess Royal Hospital in south-east London for day surgery. With recurrent dislocations of my right shoulder - four stretching back to November 2009 - and the last being particularly painful (they're all painful, but the last was even more so) & difficult to reduce (put back in) I decided to have the elective surgery that was offered after various hospital visits (X-Rays, MRI & specialist consultations). The main reason for doing so was the unpredictability of the dislocations - while they are to some degree manageable, they are a lot less so when one is out far away from medical help. Such occasions aren't completely out of the question with my love of mountain-biking, skiing, hiking, travelling and exploring in general. In my mind, a few months out of action while I'm settling in to life back in the UK is a price worth paying.

I've been back up in London staying with Trish (Mum's cousin) for the week post-op as I needed someone to look after me, particularly for the first twenty-four hours. Trish had screws removed from her ankle six weeks ago, so we make quite the pair as I'm armless & she hobbles around. Consequently, it was Jan (Trish's sister who kindly came up for two nights) who drove me to & from day surgery. The first couple of hours waiting were spent answering an awful lot of questions from nurses & the surgical team and having my shoulder marked up - I was pleased to confirm many times that it was my right shoulder. One of the surgeons explained the anthroscopic (keyhole surgery) shoulder stabilisation as using an anchor (that will degrade over time) to attach the capsule (tendons & so on that hold the ball in the socket) back to the bone where it had torn away. It made a bit more sense then, if you like seeing inside shoulders there are a few videos online - here is one.

Just after noon, I was first up of the four patients in for the afternoon's surgery. I wandered in to the anaesthetic room beside my bed, lay on my left side on the bed, had the cannula inserted in to my hand, got a little bit of pain relief, held and oxygen mask & then nothing. Next I knew it was about two o'clock and I was being wheeled back down the corridor. Over the next two hours I drank a bit of tea, had two bouts of nausea during which I became reacquainted with my tea, ate some ridiculously dry biscuits (the dryness perhaps had more to do with a sore throat after being intubated than any fault on McVities' part). The dressing on my shoulder oozed a bit, so the nurse just kept packing more & more gauze & tape on it - eventually I had what could have passed for a pillow strapped to my shoulder. After fun & games trying to get into trackpants and a sweater, I was released with my arm in some sort of a sling. This sling has proven to be really comfortable & I have none of the usual back & neck ache from having my arm hanging in a normal sling.

I didn't sleep a whole heap the first night getting used to sleeping in a sling again, but since then it's been OK and I've had plenty of good sleeps overnight & naps during the day. The swelling has gradually subsided & I've had very little pain - usually just a slight ache when I wake in the morning. It was a couple of days before my throat was back to normal. The huge dressing was changed on Friday, I was somewhat disappointed to find that, while I had stitches plural, I only had two stitches - one on the front & one on the back. I'm due to have those removed this afternoon before I go back home & hopefully back to work tomorrow to sit at my desk & type rather slowly.

It's been a very pleasant week convalescing here with Trish looking after me superbly. We've been out for a couple of meals, watched a couple of series of Spooks & numerous interesting BBC documentaries & I've of course been reading a bit too. Saturday I popped in to London to visit (school friend) Levi & his girlfriend, catch up on their news, look for some slip-on shoes for work (no laces - it's demeaning having people tie your laces, probably not so great for them either), & meet other Kiwis for the start of St Patrick's Day drinks in some pub. Later, after half an hour in an extremely loud Picadilly club, I used my recent surgery as a reasonable excuse to leave & save my eardrums. Oh - I booked flights home for a two week visit over August and September. Five more weeks of being in a sling, not driving & waiting to start physio so life can get back to normal...

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Whitchurch Off Road Trail

Trying to beat off the general lethargy that has set in as I wait for my shoulder operation on Tuesday, I set off north an hour on Saturday for this ride around Whitchurch. I'm not sure why the recommended start point & therefore parking spot is a turnout on the side of a road - I'd be inclined to leave my car in one of the smaller villages on the ride. As I set off in the fair weather, my ride was very nearly thwarted early on as the bridge over the railway into Whitchurch is out for construction - eventually I found the temporary footbridge just to the east.

Out of the village I was soon on bridleways heading north & then over the A34 - quite a bit of this ride is too close to this busy road for my liking. There's the odd route marker, but intelligent guessing while referring to the map has one picking the correct route around the edges of fields & through farmyards. The views started to open up a bit & early on there are a couple of cute little villages to roll through. I was becoming apparent that I was well over-dressed as the sky began to clear - but it's a little too much hassle to remove leggings mid-ride & I only had the stifling winter gloves with me.

I shared this ride with the usual array of rabbits, squirrels, pheasants, hawks & various livestock. Shortly after I got on to Wayfarer's Walk & found this strange building in the woods. It appears to be someone's house now, with no clue as to why it was built. It's on the Highclere Estate - if I had have been later in the year I could have popped down to Highclere Castle, the setting for Downton Abbey apparently. There was a nice, relatively, long downhill back down to the A34.

With a little detour to find the underpass, I was soon climbing back up on to the top of the downs over a big rabbit warren. This was hardly surprising as I made a small detour to go & look out over Watership Down - the setting of that delightful little book of the same name (Richard Adams still lives in Whitchurch).

I was lucky not to ride into a bunny living room, as I was reminded of man's ability to generate electricity

Watership Down - it was much more exciting in the book
The short descent off Watership Down back to the loop I was supposed to be riding was the best bit of singletrack all day - which isn't saying a lot, but it was good fun. I was soon on Caesar's Way - which was predictable straight, before going through the last village, Litchfield, & back to the car. Litchfield disappointingly didn't have a pub - I thought every village had a pub in this country - so it was some time before I got lunch. But that was mostly my fault as I enjoyed a pleasant drive home down little country lanes avoiding highways & motorways.  A nice day out exploring in the sun bringing temperatures in the mid to high teens.

Today my bike was cleaned & put into hibernation, before I headed out in more sun to the New Forest Wildlife Park.  This was mostly so I could get some some idea of what my housemate, Gary, is talking about when he comes home from work - he's a keeper there.  And partly because they have a lot of otters there & after Yellowstone, I quite like otters (although Giant Otters, it turns out, make quite the obnoxious sound).  Amongst other things they have some Scottish Wildcat (slightly bigger than a domestic cat, which seems to think it's a tiger), lynx (very hard to spot), a lot of owls (including a Morepork), some big wild boar (with rather cute boarlets) & five wolves.

Boarlets - like striped furry piglets, reminded me somewhat of baby warthogs (warthoglets?)

Monday, March 5, 2012

New Forest tiki-tour

The forecast for the weekend's weather was all around pretty pants, so with a new book arriving on my Kindle I read that for a while & then it started to clear. If I had have known it was going to such a stunning day, I would have gone for a ride. Alas, I headed in to Lyndhurst eventually to wander around at leisure - having only ridden my bike through multiple times previously.

Last week, I finished a rather long historical novel centred on the New Forest for the last millenium - so my historical interest was piqued. The New Forest museum was well worth an hour to add a little bit to my appreciation of the past of the area. It was pretty pleasant wandering around the small town in the sun & it wasn't as busy as it gets in summer. About the only thing I've noticed on previous rides through, is that there is a disproportionately large Ferrari & Maserati dealership at the bottom of the main street - I still can't really figure that out, it's not really central & while there is a bit of money around the Forest, I didn't think it was that much. Still, the cars were nice to look at for a few minutes.

After an exquisite salmon lunch, I was off up tiny little lanes north, through Minstead & across the busy A31 to go & see the Rufus Stone. It's supposed to commemorate the spot where William II was killed by an, apparently, stray arrow while hunting in 1100. However, it is now thought that he felled close to the coast down near Beaulieu.

More windy little lanes took me away from the main roads & I continued past home to Calshot - which sits only a few miles from where I live on a spit at the west of the entrance to Southampton Water.

Over to the Isle of Wight, ignore the gravelly beach

Those curious things - I'm still intrigued that you have to shelter from the weather so much, that it's worth building a hut

Across the bay, Fawley Power Station on the left, Fawley Refinery centre background - not that I expect anyone else finds that noteworthy
On the spit, there's another castle that Henry VIII built in his chain of coastal defences.  This one is a little smaller than Hurst Castle, where I went not so long ago.  The area was perfect for setting up a Naval Air Station just before WWI for sea boats.  There are still a couple of the hangars, Sopwith & Sunderland (which is now home to a dry-ski slope, climbing wall, velodrome & other such indoor sports facilities).  My enjoyable wanderings continued as there was little traffic on the rather circuitous route I took home.  A nice day to be out before the summer rush arrives.

Not wanting to spend the entire rainy Sunday inside reading another good Ian Rankin, I popped out to have a look around the couple of villages further up the west side of Southampton Water - mostly because I had the time to finally check out the Eling Tide Mill, which I'd been seeing signs for since I moved in.  In Marchwood there's a big military port (where the Mulberry harbour were made), a big waste incinerator & a shiny new CCGT (combined cycle gas turbine power station).

But really I wanted to see the restored tidal mill - only one of two still operating in the country. It's not overly big, but then there wasn't much need for it to be big when a mill was first built here to harness the tides a thousand years ago.  The incoming tide floods the mill pond & when the outgoing tide is low enough the undershot Poncelot wheel starts to turn the various gears and eventually the millstone.  Only one of the two systems is restored - this is good because the working one is guarded, but you can still see all the details on the stationary one. With all the old gears, control systems (I use the term loosely), transport mechanisms, hoppers & so on I was well pleased to see the flour being made as it has been for centuries. I'll stop boring everyone but Dr Hodge/Beavis now.