Not an Anus Horribilis
Like wines, some vintages are better than others. 2021 wasn’t the most fun, but it was interesting. It’s not just the royal family who have anni horribiles (yes that’s the plural of annus horribilis.) We all have them from time to time. Mind you, Adrian got it wrong for a couple of years when he missed out an “n” and had an anus horribilis, and a camera up the bum on two consecutive birthdays. That’s an entirely different experience. It’s amazing how much discomfort an extra “n” can cause. (There’s no photo here, although we have one.) Last year reminded us that life isn’t always fun, and that we need to take every opportunity to enjoy ourselves and create good memories. Don’t worry, there was good stuff as well. And as Sue’s mum taught us, some of the bad stuff can also be good stuff.
So what caused such profound thinking? We missed the opportunity to have Christmas with Sue’s mum. We were only allowed to bring her for the day and no-one wanted Adrian to go and fetch her from Pickering on Christmas Day and then take her back, especially in the wake of a recent stroke. That would be 10 hours travelling. Only Adrian was up for that and even he recognised that taking her home against her protests when she visited us instead of letting her catch the bus is one thing: fetching her against her will is another thing entirely. It’s called kidnapping. So he decided to abide by people’s wishes. A shame really, but sensible nonetheless, and legal.
We wanted to visit her after Christmas but she didn’t want us to come until we had our covid vaccine. We waited. She developed a bad cough and made quite a few hospital visits for various reasons and of course she had to catch the bus into Pickering because walking was getting more difficult. Some people just have little or no immunity even when vaccinated because of other medical conditions. It’s a stark reminder of why we must wear our masks, get vaccinated and continue to be vigilant. You really are saving lives, and giving some people longer to live before something catches up with them. We went from leukemia being identified, choice of treatments, to no treatments suitable and an emergency hospital dash in the space of weeks and a funeral in April.
Sue and Julie went straight into selling the house and disposing of the contents. We never appreciated how difficult it was to give things away! The thought of selling everything yourself, especially when you are not local, is daunting. At least Adrian’s woodworking and metalworking skills were useful yet again and Claire enjoyed the experience of chopping up more beds and mattresses. Charities only want new spotless stuff.
The house sold remarkably quickly, far too quickly. We had to leave some things behind so the new owners could move in. We don’t know how they managed to get everything done so quickly, they must have inside contacts! We were just getting a reputation at the new Bangladeshi restaurant in Pickering, with Adrian chatting to them and wearing a bright powder blue jacket with souvenirs of every visit on his sleeve or lapel. Even that is sad. As Adrian pointed to the remains of various meals on his shirt in Menorca, Janice would always get her wounds and scars out from her various holidays to trump Adrian’s messy eating. There is a reminder everywhere of the people we lose, isn’t there?
Sued for telling the truth
Whilst all this is going on Adrian decided to let local people know about some misgivings and poor practise at the council. A local councillor claimed to be upset and threatened to sue for defamation of character because they thought they could be identified. Of course they might not have a leg to stand on in court and everything said was documented but it’s still unsettling. I think we’ll save this story for the press and the machinery of parliament.
Whilst it had been cancelled a few times, first through a fire and then through covid, Adrian’s Cousin Alison’s daughter (second cousin once removed I believe) got married. The marriage of Charlotte and Lee was a bright spot in the year. It is nice to see the next generation starting their adult lives and it didn’t seem a moment since that was us. It was an opportunity to meet up with family we haven’t seen for ages too. It was just like we had never been apart and we all had a tremendous time, reminiscent of parties in the past.
Another great event was planned for us all to meet up for Cousin Martin’s 60th Birthday. In fact we planned our holiday around it. Except we got the date wrong. So we missed the boat trip down the Trent and were in Menorca instead. We had to make do with stories of the event. It would have been better to be there though.
Emergency, what emergency?
In China it is the year of the Ox: in Nottingham it is the year of the QMC. While Sue, Claire and Julie were in Pickering looking after Janice, Adrian was in hospital yet again. This time they did find out what was wrong. His stomach was in the wrong place and it was cutting off the blood supply to the stomach and the brain too we suspect. The doctor in A&E wanted immediate emergency surgery because it was “life threatening” but they were busy. So the solution was to send him home with strong painkillers. God bless the NHS. Adrian was not too sorry about this. He had only phoned the doctor on the insistence of Sue. He was supposed to have phoned in January about chest pains. He finally gave in and called his GP who told him to “put the phone down immediately, dial 999, and tell them about the conversation we just had.” Well, we have some experience of the ambulance and A&E, so Adrian packed his bag, food, water, put his phone on charge, made a cup of tea, had something to eat, went to the toilet and called an ambulance. They get here in four minutes. Then it takes them seven minutes to get on the drive. Sure enough, he was off to A&E again. That is the very thing he had been trying to avoid. Who wants to sit in the middle of a pile of ill people in the middle of a pandemic? When they came to discharge him, after 10 hours, he was not there. He could see them looking for him, but he was getting IV pain relief. He was sent for a scan, which revealed a strangulated hiatus hernia. So Sue was dealing with two emergencies. During the night, the operation was on and off about three times. Since he survived the waiting, and since it had improved previously on its own, the surgeons decided at 4am not to operate. He phoned Sue to fetch him home.
The follow up appointment put him on the emergency list for an operation. “Do you do private work?” “No. But don’t worry, you won’t be on a waiting list, it’s an emergency.” Adrian had his pre-operation check in April, and waited, and waited, and waited. The doctor was right, he wasn’t on any waiting list. After three months he called and got an appointment. It was an emergency and he should have been seen but they didn’t appear to know about it. The system appears to be in chaos. A date was set in September. Adrian had to call the ambulance again because he kept falling over, like last year. The operation was cancelled because he was too ill. “Try again in six weeks.”
Northern and Southern Tours
We had been planning a Northern Tour and a Southern Tour to visit people a few years ago. We managed a shortened version of each. Craig wanted to walk the West Highland Way and thought it was a good idea to have help close at hand in case he got hurt doing 96 miles in 2 days. A great excuse to visit our Scottish “family” and friends too. We also went to visit friends in Wells, an interesting pub experience in Glastonbury, and to watch Notts County play Weymouth. There were more people at the fish festival than at the football match! Adrian started a queue to get in at 1 p.m. No-one else joined in but they eventually relented and opened the gates. It was a really friendly little club. One of the nicer things about non-league clubs.
Menorca Part I
Finally, cheesed off, we thought we might get away to Menorca since the surgery was cancelled in September. We spent several anniversaries there. Sue looked at a few deals. “Shall we go?” Sue asked. Adrian took her by the hand and led her into the bedroom. He pointed to the bed. On the bed was a suitcase, fully packed. “How soon?” Fortunately we booked it for the following week. Normally it would have been the next morning. Fortunately, because it took four days to negotiate our way through the covid rules and regulations. Well, for Sue to negotiate the rules and regulations. Adrian had done his part. He packed his suitcase a week in advance instead of an hour before. And to be fair, the decision was the hardest part of it. The hoops you have to get through are also pretty tough for the first time and impossible without internet access and a modern phone or tablet abroad. Or a friendly local to do it all for you.
Once there, we didn’t realise how many friends we had to visit. There were no cars available this year because manufacturers couldn’t produce them because of covid. There was a shortage of chips from, you’ve guessed it, China. And everywhere else too. And you need chips to make cars these days. For goodness sakes America, don’t fall out with China, or we’ll be back using the horse and cart. So the first magic trick was to summon up a car. People on the plane told us there were no cars to rent. “You’ll not get one.” Adrian ignored that, of course. In fact, that is just a fun challenge. So the first day we went for lunch in our usual restaurant. We had last seen many of the waiters in the hospital with Sue’s mum, so that was a bit of a tweak on the heartstrings. Then we walked down to the far end of the resort where we were met with instant recognition and a very warm greeting from the owner of the car hire company that had cancelled the car hire of the people on the plane. I haven’t got anything she says and I can’t do the same prices as last time. She made a phone call to her partner. We had a choice of a bigger car or one which had been in an accident and was due for a small bodywork repair. We took the damaged car. The roads can be narrow in some places we go on Menorca. Local knowledge and good contacts is one advantage of going to the same place. Mind you, she nearly sold us her house too! We were tempted to stay.
We met up with the receptionist on her day off and had an incredible conversation over wine (she is French) about the Second World War, the Communist Party, and Napoleon! Doesn’t sound much for 5 hours of drinking. But it was fascinating to hear her view. She had a degree in the Second World War and her grandfather was in the French Resistance and Communist Party. He told her about what they got up to in the war and expressed his regret in later life for supporting the Communist Party when he realised what Stalin had done. We’re still not sure why the British and French are not best of friends, since we are essentially the same people. Certainly, we know Adrian is part French. The two countries shared Kings and nobles and people. It’s as daft as trying to claim Scottish people are different to the English. Maybe in the extreme north and islands that may be the case, but anywhere below the Highlands, the people are intermarried and inter bred. And there are so many Scottish people in England, and it seems Adrian is one of them. In fact, the Woods family is French, Glaswegian, a little African, and English. Adrian thought he was 100% English miner going back centuries. He is a miner, blacksmith, engineer, carpenter, musician, farmer, grocer, baker, and publican! Not a single economist, statistician or mathematician among them, so where did that come from? Education uncovers loads of hidden talents and interests doesn’t it?
Slosh the Posh
We visited the restaurants and places Adrian had visited on his own when Sue took her mum home on the private jet. We completely ran out of time to walk the Cami de Cavall: the horse track you can walk on all around the island. But we ate plenty, drank plenty and talked plenty.
We were caught in a massive rainstorm so we dashed into an estate agent and looked for properties. Then into the nearest restaurant. It was posh, really posh. We wonder if they knew our feet were soaking wet after dashing through a stream of water. We hope not but we think the slosh, sloshing as the waiter escorted us to our table might have given it away. Or the footprints on the tiled floor leading to our table. Well, we console ourselves with the knowledge that even the posh get soaked in a storm. See, God doesn’t discriminate. He (or she) treats us all the same.
When we got back to England we couldn’t get home. Roads were blocked everywhere. There were people committing suicide off bridges, and massive queues for petrol. We made a quick decision to turn around and go back to Menorca. Unfortunately we had to wait a few days for a negative covid test result before we could book our return.
Menorca Part II
By now it’s October and we decided it is the perfect weather to walk the Cami to get fit and ensure Adrian is fit for his operation. The first day we walked into Ciutadella and back. That was about 10 hours altogether, covering 20 km. Google says it should have taken 2 hours and was just 10 km, but clearly we know the scenic route and stopped in a few establishments to cool down with drink, and to refuel with food.
The next day we were up early and feeling okay so we decided we would start walking the path. We had to catch a bus from our apartment into the city (or do Google’s quick 1 hour walk) and then another bus to where we needed to continue our walk around the coast. Just as we got to the gates of the apartment complex a bus arrived. Sue started to run, and tripped over a metal bar used to secure the gates to the complex. She hurt her ankle but decided to carry on. It was the wrong bus: that was just a service bus for the workers. Our bus arrived at the time on the schedule. We got to the start of the walk and had breakfast. We don’t like to rush things. About 10 km into the walk, and with 10 km to go, Sue’s ankle started to hurt. These are remote places. We only saw 6 other people on the walk all day. The sea was on one side and a forest on the other. There was no-one here and no-one to call. You couldn’t get a rescue mission in there, except perhaps by horse! Sue had no option but to “walk.” We fashioned a walking stick for her from the debris in the forest. Adrian had to throw the first one away since it contained a man eating ants’ nest and the ants were burrowing under his skin. They are strong, and hard to pull off when they have a hold. So Sue had to limp, shuffle, hop, for about 10 km. It was slow going. A four hour walk turned into six and a half hours. Finally by 4:30 pm we made it. Sue wouldn’t take a taxi but insisted on getting the bus back to the city. Adrian left her at the bus stop and went to get a taxi for the next “leg” of the journey. In his best Spanish (haha), he managed to give the Spanish speaking taxi driver instructions to get to Sue, and tell him where we wanted to go. Miracles do happen! Thank you Duolingo, the free language learning app.
Sue got to the restaurant in the complex we were staying in. We were too early for dinner, it was only just past six p.m. So we had a few Pomada (gin and lemonade.) Well, Adrian did, before he was despatched to the Pharmacy for pain killers and advice. A strange thing, the pharmacist recognised Adrian instantly because on our last visit to this place in Menorca the Pharmacist was enormously helpful when Sue’s mum broke her hip. This time he dispensed advice, various special painkillers, and he even lent us a set of crutches instead of selling them to us. He must have felt sorry for these accident prone English people. The waiter brought us a plastic bag of ice cubes from the bar (he recognised us too) and we had dinner.
Next day, we had to hire a car again! No problem. This time, bless them, I explained the situation and they came 8 miles to bring us a car. They are a small outfit and don’t do that. We chatted for ages. So we were now mobile again and we continued our holiday. It was a different holiday to the one we planned, but just like Sue’s mum had taught us two years previously, the holiday must go on. And it did. We went to the Zoo, and walked (hobbled) through the Kangaroo enclosure where they formed a train and bounced in front of us as we were walking , then came around again and again. Behind us, in front of us but never stopping. They were close, and very powerful. We’re glad they didn’t crash into us, especially Sue on her crutches. Then we peered over the crocodile enclosure where two men were mowing the grass right up to the crocodile, which was about 8m long and looked like it had already swallowed 5 men. Along with the rest of the crowd, drawn to impending horror and disaster, we all peered in to see what would happen. The crocodile never moved. Oh well.
We visited the lighthouse where there was a storm so strong that Sue couldn’t even put the crutches down where she wanted because they were blown away by the tremendous wind. Sue really enjoyed that! It really was quite wild with waves crashing perhaps 100 feet into the air off the rocks. Adrian could barely walk straight and was amazed Sue stayed on her feet. There’s something about that family.
We went to a bar in the rocks built into the cliff, and had champagne. That was nice, but expensive. There were no drunks down there. But then Sue had to walk up a lot of steps, yes, a lot of steps to get back up the cliff. Maybe not one of our best ideas, but we did it.
We visited a “bodega,” a local vineyard where we sampled and bought some wine to be shipped home. Thanks to Brexit we then got a bill for £80 tax from HMRC a few weeks after we had returned. We consoled ourself with a bottle of the Vermuth.
On the last day Adrian was feeling unwell but decided our trip to Menorca Cats in Need was near the hospital anyway, so we went ahead. Just outside the infamous hospital, the car in front came to a very rapid halt at the crossing. Adrian pulled up, slightly faster than usual but not exactly an emergency stop, but the works van behind didn’t stop. He was busy looking for his sunglasses. He hit us with a bump. At least we were next to the hospital. The jolt must have forced Adrian’s stomach back out of his chest as he appeared to improve after that! The sad thing was having to tell our car hire friends that there was a little damage to the car they had so kindly brought to us. It was a little Fiat. It was incredibly sturdy and just seemed to sustain a bumper scuff! Amazing. They must build them for continental drivers in sunny climes.
We’ve heard rumours that some people go on holiday and lay down by the pool in the sun, drink beer or wine, and read. It’s starting to gather some appeal.
Whilst on holiday Adrian got a call from the hospital asking him to come in for his operation. Unfortunately, he couldn’t self-isolate for 7 days since we had to travel home so he missed that appointment. The day after we got home a friend came to stay. He developed a bad chest on his way here and it got worse. Adrian caught it and he had to cancel the operation date that was planned as he couldn’t get any antibiotics in time (really NHS, get your act together.) The operation was cancelled again, all this time we were both in isolation. The operation finally came on 4th November but the virus must have still been around. Adrian said he didn’t feel well enough to leave hospital after the operation, but hey, it’s the NHS and although the doctor said he didn’t have to go, the nurse in charge of the ward was having none of that. It’s a sad person who wants to stay in hospital when he’s fit to go home. He was readmitted the next day. By now too ill to go on a ward he spent 10 hours in A&E before being taken to a critical triage unit with four IV’s for several antibiotics, antifungals, painkillers and saline solution. Probably other things as well. At one time four cannulas wasn’t enough. He managed to get to the bathroom but had to pull the emergency cord for help because he had tied himself in knots with the five pipes he was attached to. Top tip: get them to remove as many of the pipes as possible before you go to the bathroom! After five days of such treatment, countless scans to see if the operation had gone wrong, or if there were other issues, Adrian was released with a collapsed lung and pneumonia, but the infection was gone. He was advised to walk it off! Even the toilet may as well have been in a distant galaxy; walking was such a challenge. Finally he did get home for a week or so before chest pains began again and Sue called the ambulance, much against Adrian’s wishes. He’d had enough of people poking about inside him and sticking needles in him. And guess what. The ambulance did their tests and took him in yet again. The ambulance service apologised for the long wait of two hours for a suspected heart attack. This time there were people queuing outside in the rain for three or four hours just to get in the A&E building. Another hour inside the building before they could register on the system. The ambulance drivers sat Adrian down and they had to wait one and a half hours to register him on the system themselves. No-wonder there is a two hour wait for ambulances; they are all queuing in A&E to register their patients. More tests and 14 hours after calling them Adrian saw a doctor who then expedited some tests. They thought it may be a blood clot on the lung (pulmonary embolism) but they weren’t sure. The tests were inconclusive so he had to have a scan. Then suddenly he didn’t need a scan, presumably because A&E was full and there was a wait for the scanner. He was discharged and given a prescription for the pharmacy. Except he couldn’t get there so a nurse took him up there in a chair. He went to the counter where the pharmacist thought he was too ill to be wandering around and insisted he went back to A&E. “No, no, no. Not again. I’ve just been released!” They refused to give him the controlled medicines because he didn’t have his passport. Hands up if you have ever taken your passport to A&E in this country. Suspecting they might have a bigger issue on their hands if Adrian stayed there, they finally relented and gave him an ample supply of opiates without ID. And you’d think it ends there…..On the Monday Sue insisted Adrian send a message to his doctor as he had been advised in A&E. He was now wandering around at home, a collapsed lung, pneumonia, and they had not managed to rule out a blood clot on the lung. He had been discharged with a note to ask his doctor to monitor him. He messaged the doctor expecting an appointment in a week or two. To his surprise he was on the emergency list and how fast could he get there. He had a bath (we know the routine), then to the doctors who promptly had him readmitted for the scan he should have had on the previous Thursday. That’s another day in hospital. But not in A&E! There was no waiting in the Acute Medical Receiving Unit. But no food either. Adrian got his scan, which confirmed no blood clot. He is still out of breath after a few hundred metres of walking but that’s okay. At least he isn’t in hospital.
Marie Antoinette Treatment
As well as getting disconnected from pipes when you need the bathroom, you might also consider taking your own food. As someone who can’t eat gluten, you find the only food in A&E you can eat is cake. True, you get Madeira Cake, or fruitcake. You can even have crisps (not advisable on a soft food diet.) With waiting times approaching days it is a good idea to take your own food.
Homeless For Christmas
We are both taking it easy in December as we both need time to recover. That is as long as Adrian’s Dad is not served notice at his Care Home. He just won’t stop shouting and they can’t cope any longer. Anyone want to earn a few quid extra looking after a lovely old man. It would help if you are deaf. Perhaps come February life will be back on track.
Apologies for not visiting people. Besides being rather busy, we didn’t think it wise to visit right now, and we probably wouldn’t be welcome anyway.
Last year we tried to arrange a visit to a friend in Wells, but he said he was on holiday so couldn’t see us. Never one to be put off, we asked where. “St Ives.” “Well we can see you there because that is exactly where we’re headed.” What a coincidence. Low probability we’d say.
But what if it happened again? This year when we went to Scotland for Craig’s West Highland Way adventure we decided to call in on friends, because they weren’t answering their phone. Unfortunately they were in Fort William. So we called their mobile and arranged to meet up because that’s exactly where we were headed. We had already booked in. Now two years in a row? That is highly improbable. This is in the realms of the infinite improbability drive in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”
But what if it happens next year? I’m already suspicious we might be secretly stalking people but if you are a victim of our stalking next year, you’ll know that it’s more than coincidence! Not malicious, but it’ll be a bit weird. Book your holiday and wait for our call. We go abroad too.
Of course there were other good things about 2021. Sue finally got another cat and we have spent the year training each other. We put in his own door and he still thinks we are the doormen in a luxury hotel, as well as 24 hour waiters. But there isn’t a bit of aggression in him, although the rats and mice around here might tell a different story. I guess that’s the impact of 18 months looking after himself. We don’t do raw, live food in this establishment. There are limits.
Whilst this year might have been a bit of an annus horribilis, we are hoping for an “annus mirabilis” next year, but have serious doubts. For those of you who don’t speak latin, and that definitely includes us, that means a wonderful year apparently. Happy New Year.