Sunday, June 30, 2013

Bacteria - the world's first inhabitants!

In the late 1960s, US Surgeon General William H. Stewart is alleged to have made the now infamous declaration that “[it] is time to close the book on infectious diseases and declare the war against pestilence won”. Well time has certainly proved that comment to be totally false! Bacteria and other microbial organisms are past masters at adapt and change techniques and leave we human Johnny come latelies eating their dust when it comes to facing such challenges. Here are a few facts that help put the whole “war on pestilence” into some perspective:

Microbes have been around for 3.5 billion years and have adapted to most environments on the planet: which has allowed them to survive freezing, boiling, to living without oxygen or sunlight and in conditions of extreme salinity. They can survive pressure at the bottom of oceans that would crush just about any man made submersible and thrive on the poisonous gas Hydrogen Sulphide.

These Microbes are also ubiquitous and represent 60% of the Bio-mass on earth and that figure rises to 90% if you remove cellulose from the equation, and yet we’re talking about individual organism that can often only be viewed through high powered microscopes. In fact, as noted in a previous program on the Human Micro-Biome, there are about 6 times as many bacteria living on or in we humans than we have human cells.

Then there is the fact that a bacteria has the ability to replicate in as short a time as 20 to 30 minutes as compared with humans who take two to three weeks to replace our skin and about 20 to 30 years to completely replace all our bodily cells! So not only do they out number us by a factor of 10 to the power 22, they’ve existed for a 1000 times longer and can reproduce half a million generations in the time it takes us to live one generation!

The genetics of bacteria are primed to deal with challenges, and the addition of human generated antibiotics in the last 80 years must surely rate as just a tiny hiccough in their ability to populate the globe and all that lives upon it: and therein lies our challenge.

When Albert Florey and Alexander Flemming first introduced the penicillin antibiotic the results were astounding: susceptible bacteria were destroyed and infections previously seen as a death sentence were completely cured, which led to enormous activity in research to find other effective antibiotics to treat a whole spectrum of infectious diseases. And that was perhaps when the folly of man led to over-confidence in the use of such chemicals against seemingly defenseless germs!

Such overconfidence created an environment whereby antibiotics were prescribed freely and in many cases for probably the wrong reasons - especially against viruses where they have absolutely no place to play at all. But of even more concern has been the worldwide use of antibiotics in farming and for treating domestic animals too. In 1999 in the UK alone, 1,225 metric tonnes of antibiotics were used and 63% of that total was used on farm and domestic animals. When you consider how many hundreds of thousands of tonnes of antibiotics are now being used worldwide in our food chain and in our homes, then it is not perhaps surprising that we face a perfect storm of bacterial resistance.

However, it’s not just the overuse of antibiotics that we should be concerned about, there is also the issue that there has not be a new class of antibiotics released onto the market for many many years and according to reports, there are virtually non in the pipeline of the pharmaceutical companies either. There are a number of reasons for this, and one of those is the paradoxical past success of antibiotics.

Most antibiotics are given in 5 to 7 day courses and then the infection is fixed. Such a short course of medications doesn’t offer the Pharmaceutical Industry much incentive to produce new treatments. For them, chronic diseases offer a far greater reward for their hard earned research: diseases such as HIV where the anti-retrovirals are needed lifelong: cholesterol lowering medications, cancer treatments, blood pressure medications are all well funded as they need long term medication and provide the opportunity of long term profits too.

But before we seriously criticize Big Pharma too much, it should also be noted that they don’t receive too much Governmental incentive to go out on a limb and research new drugs, which can often take 10 years or so to bring to market and cost multi-millions of dollars in the process. Until Governments worldwide realize that the costs of dealing with rampant, multi-drug resistant bacterial infections is far more than targeted research, then we could be returning to a  pre-antibiotic era.

But one of the things that we humans have is wit and insight, and we are learning to exchange information with each other almost as seamlessly as our bacterial co-habitors! All of us are a part of the equation when it comes to solving this problem. Awareness of the magnitude of the problem is the first step and then each of us committing to good personal hygiene in order to reduce the transmission of some of these infectious diseases. Routine vaccination programs have led to dramatic decreases in childhood deaths from entirely preventible diseases and we need to keep up the rates to those already proven programs.
Should a trip to the Doctor result in the need for an antibiotic, then we should ask whether it really is appropriate and if so then we should complete the full course - as shortened courses can raise the risk of bacterial resistance. We should never use someone else’s antibiotic for our illnesses - because in effect that means that they will end up with a shortened course of treatment, and you may be taking a completely inappropriate antibiotic too! Always seek medical advice for any treatment that might be necessary.

Finally, one of the theories that might account for some of the current antibiotic resistance is that we take medications by mouth and they enter our gut tube which is home to a vast array of symbiotic bacteria who do us no harm at all. By disturbing their balance through the introduction of such chemicals, their pooled genetic history can allow them to swap information and quickly work out how to survive such a challenge. If this information is then passed onto the infecting organism, then antibiotic resistance is established. One recent researcher has noted that when antibiotics are given by injection, antibiotic resistance is much slower to develop.
It’s through such simple observations and imaginative thinking that we might be able to face down the impending storm: or to use the words of Dr Joshua Lederberg the Nobel Prize winner, “The future of humanity and microbes will likely evolve as… episodes of our wits versus their genes”

The Podcast of this Blog will shortly be on iTunes along with others recorded for Puggle FM the family friendly site.

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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Mens Health - my take on it!


One of the many paradoxes of the male of the species is that just about every little boy wants to be like his Dad, but when they get to their teenage years, probably the last person any adolescent wants to be like,   is to be like their Dad. But eventually, when the boy becomes a parent himself he will develop  a degree of respect for his Dad and the circle of life is complete.

Being a bloke is not always easy, and sometimes we are given a really hard time when perhaps we don’t always deserve it. But it has to be admitted, that on many occasions we are our own worst enemy and I suspect that most of us could do a whole lot better.

Firstly, we must remember as a Dad, even when they’re not actually in the room with you, children DO know what’s going on: they do listen in on conversations, and they DO notice things like whats on the computer screen and what you were drinking the night before and they DO copy many of the things that they see you doing! So we have to get it into our heads that first and foremost, if you’ve got a young family, then you are the Defacto first teacher of those children - and these little people learn remarkably quickly!

By the age of five, eating habits have become ingrained and before the age of 10, in children who are overweight and eat fat-rich diets, fatty streaks are already detectable within their arteries - and these fatty streaks are the ones that can lead to future heart disease and strokes. So if Dad’s can lead by example and eat great food - food rich in vegetables, salads, nuts, fruits, chicken, fish and low in saturated fats - then it is very likely that their children will do what they do and that will give them some great eating habits and a much healthier start to life.

The same thing goes for smoking - if children grow up in homes where smoking happens, not only do they suffer from more chest infections and asthma, they miss more days from school and worse of all, they too may experiment with addictive cigarettes when they reach those chaotic years also known as the teenage years! And the male of the species has a huge role to play here: because when they are respecting their own bodies and caring for their own health, they are also showing their children how to care for their own health too and establish habits that will allow them to reach their fullest potential in life.

Children of parents who are physically active, will also tend to take part in physical activities themselves - another lifestyle that is linked with lower heart disease, lower rates of certain cancers and lower incidences of depression and mood disorders: and what a great gift that is to give to your children!

When we talk of Mens Health, it’s often done in isolation, but we are all someones child and we bring with us both burdens and benefits from those self same parents. The challenge for we men is to make sure that whilst we are working on our health, we show example to our own children so that they don’t repeat the mistakes of our past, but learn from the good things that we do. The other consideration for both male and female parents is to acknowledge that often we set double standards in our own homes. We expect our children to be honest, be respectful, and do all the good things good children are expected to do. However we know that perfection is impossible: and that bad things do happen to good people - but it’s how we respond to that bad luck, or what we do when we ourselves misbehave or do something bad, which marks out who we really are.

The ability to apologize to your children when you get it wrong is a great example for them. Admitting fault or error is a real sign of maturity and allows people to move on with dignity - something that often appears lacking in our modern society. And when bad things happen to good people, it’s not a matter of the victim carrying the burden of the perpetrator, but of focusing on regaining your equilibrium and even releasing the guilty party by the simple act of forgiveness. Some of the most dignified people I have ever met are those to whom terrible tragedies have occurred and who bare no malice to the person or persons who inflicted the suffering: these have been the truly great people of my time.

But for we men to operate at our maximum, it is very important that we take time out to reflect on what we need to do, why we are doing it and how best to achieve those goals. Being physically healthy is a basic part of this process and relies on simple daily routines: never smoke: eat a Mediterranean styled diet: if you drink alcohol, then drink in moderation and have a couple of days off alcohol during the week: be physically active 4 or 5 times a week doing something you like - and if you are married or in a long term relationship, then see that relationship as a part of YOUR healthy lifestyle and aim to keep it as vital and alive as you can: have date nights and take time out to do things that you enjoy doing together. Not only will you both benefit from such special times but your children will benefit too as a result of you making your marriage something special.

Mens health week comes around every year, just as all the other Health weeks come and go: but I believe that every week is mens health week and like all good health practices I also believe that we should review what we are doing from time to time just to see whether what I am doing is having positive results, or if there is anything else that I could do which would suit me better, or any way that I could make myself a  better people - not only for me, but for my partner and perhaps most critical of all, for the next generation. Because if I can  avoid repeating the mistakes of my past, and teach that to my children, then they too will take that habit forward with them allowing them to constantly refine their lives, and pass positive habits onto their children, so that slowly but certainly we will make the world a better place.

A Podcast of this article can be found at Puggle FM
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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Memoirs of France II


I'm of the generation who believes in early to bed early to rise, more because after 20 hours of international jet travel, I innocently hope that my aches and pains will be better in the morning. But a hefty dose of jet-lag means that by 5.00am that same body is telling me its time to get up! But in winter in Bailly, it’s very dark for the next 3 hours and this morning it was seriously cold with a frost on all the roofs and cars. However, as long term parents, three hours to ourselves is always  a blessing and one which which cherished with shared delight today. Yet again I danced into the kitchen, and even after just a few days I think that my voice is improving! “lets go to Chartres I announced”. “Done” came the answer and so by 9.00am we headed off into the limp wintery sunlight through the frost touched countryside towards Chartres Cathedral, a place that only ever figured in my dreams and imaginations.
We trusted ourselves to “Madam Lash” our GPS device and she didn’t let us down, sadistically giving us directions which she knew we couldn’t follow, but she relented in the end and the spires appeared out of a pale blue winters morning sky.
Trying to describe Chartres, which others better skilled with words than I have failed to capture, is partly due to the deep emotion of this place. It’s not a building but a hymn to the gift of faith and a belief that there is a transcendent realm. It’s also a book retelling ancient truths mixed with human weakness and distilled with love and hope. It is also a story of Love. To see the ancient cobalt blues in glass created a thousand years ago by souls like us is to stand between times and hear a distant music that somehow, we all know.
Malcolm Miller has been sharing this story for 50 years and is still learning new stanzas of the aged saga that is Chartres Cathedral. He is an elegant scholar who shares his wisdom with witty insights and deep empathy to his beloved building. It was a privilege to share an hour with him: I hope we can spend some more time over the next 6 months.
On leaving the Cathedral, we were FROZEN! The temperature was below zero, but the gentle breeze ripped into our layered clothing and found all the easy ways in to the soft skin beneath. Thankfully we found a Boulangerie that sold fresh HOT mini pizzas which were delicious, and warm to hold too. We were regenerated and stepping back into our car, Madam L was in a benign mood and we sailed home in and easterly direction to the peace and warmth of our wonderful home.

I wish I had words to capture the sun in the lightly fogged fields, or its cold gleam in the bare branches of the forest, but it’s something that has to be experienced and I don’t have the words to bring that experience to life.
Tonight, our new neighbours have invited us for “aperitifs”: how gorgeously civilized!
The wonderful thing about going next door for an aperitif is that you don’t have to worry about driving! But when your neighbours barely know you and you don’t even speak each others language, then the potential for a strained few hours is high. But our guardian angel must have been on full-time duty as  we could not have met a nicer family, we could not have been offered more hospitality and we could not have be in a warmer, kinder environment. The family of Isabella and Alexis is a wonderful fusion of smiles, love and welcome! Their two sons, one 21 and the other 15 are in the Scouts, and at 8.00pm on a Saturday evening they came home from a scout meeting and greeted us like one of the family, having never set eyes on us before! And their daughters are not only young beauties, but charming, engaging, interesting and interested. We were offered “sweetmeats” of varying shapes, flavours and delights - even a special Epiphany cake with its hidden “favour”. We can all learn so much from the wonderful example of their politeness and  hospitality.
Our French stuttered along and their english flowed more easily, but neither side was too worried by any syntax errors as the evening wore on. It was a wonderful time and we will always have happy memories of it.

Today was Sunday and in our house that means Mass time. It was a frosty cold start and the walk to Mass best described as bracing. M was preoccupied with pain on the walk, but during the ceremony where they stand for prolonged periods here, she was in serious pain! The poor love was in a bad way for about an hour, but on returning home and lying down, the pain went and she bounced back. After lunch I went for a jog and M followed on the bike - gloriously pain free  - through the Foret de Marley, where in times gone past Louis XIV went hunting! We saw wild deer and pheasant and it was a total delight: then it was with childish delight that I ran down the last hill and came home, followed by a happy lady on her bicycle. This evening has been gentle bliss and we are so happy.


I just love these mornings: long, dark, lingering, making time seem more reasonable than it has for decades. Breakfast was prepared and eaten and then we headed for the supermarket to stock up for the invasion of tomorrow - daughter and young family arrive after the adrenaline rush of sliding down slippery snowed slopes in Austria. The French have the wonderful tradition of not working on Mondays if they can get away with it, and it’s to be recommended!   There are a smattering of grey haired folk to be seen wandering around a tad confused, but otherwise the gallic world continues to spin contentedly on its quirky axis.
The sun shone symbolically, although the icy breeze was the dominant partner in the weather department, but we decided to take the bikes to Versailles to visit La Trianon - the home of Marie Antoinette. It was wonderful, but we’d forgotten that on Monday, the French don’t like to work and so the place was shut! Poor us, we’ll just have to go back on another day!
This evening has been gentle and warm with M struggling a bit with her recovery. It is difficult to watch but although her body is doing it tough, her spirit is alive with the energy that she’s getting from this french visit. Rest and heal, rest and heal.


Minus four degrees and a brisk start to the day, but we went to the shops early and I bought a book in French which should be a good challenge: it’s by the man who wrote Shadow of the Wind, and it was written for children so it will be right up my street.

There is evidence to suggest
that those people who are
bilingual have a reduced risk
of developing Alzheimer’s
dementia. Other suggested aids
are staying fit, keeping up social
contact and eating a Mediterranean
styled diet.

Because it was clear and sunny and rain forecast for later in the week, we decided to go for a jog/cycle in the forest again. In the shade is was seriously cold and jogging felt harder than the other day: perhaps it was just that my muscles were frozen? But I  was coping well until a delightful man, 20 years younger than I drew level with me and asked whether I was running around the whole park. I would have thought that the purple colour of my face would have suggested otherwise. But it was nice of him to ask. I do find it hard to let people who have run past me - which is most people - actually get out of sight, so the last 2 kms was “faster” than I intended - which again was probably
good too.

Physical activity is not only good for helping reduce risks
of dementia but is also a key
lifestyle habit that has been shown
to help with managing Cardiovacular
Disease, Moods disorders such as Anxiety
and Depression, and reducing the risk
of suffering from certain cancers.

Later on the young family arrived and we had a delightful reunion and the kids were fantastic. We walked to the Boulangerie and bought fresh baguettes which son-in-law devoured with glee as we walked back up the street, much to the delight of the children. A lovely evening meal was prepared and eaten, and we all settled down for an early night. Tomorrow they leave early for Euro Disney, a place that M and I will happily decline: we have a fresh market, with vegetables, fresh meat, fowl and fish, to attend and which will be far more interesting than Micky Mouse and Co.

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Sunday, June 9, 2013

Memoirs of France

I've been editing my French Journal which I kept during our stay there early last year and thought I'd share some of it with you. If you enjoy, then let me know and maybe I'll carry on and finish the job!


My dear old Dad used to call it “Sods law” because sometimes things don’t exactly work our as you planned. We had organized a 6 month house swap with a young family near Versailles, France and we foresaw ourselves heading happily for the airport with suitcases packed and ready for off, but that’s when the “toast landed on the floor marmalade-side down” and immediately it didn’t look like we were going to go at all! Out of the blue MJ slipped a disc in her lower back and was flattened by a monstrous pain. Even the tiniest personal “things” led to excruciating pain and I was in the invidious position of being both spouse, Medical Doc and expectant international traveller which made it hard to decide what was the best thing to do! One of the many blessings in our family is that one of our offspring had chosen to follow in the medical profession and is a graduate Doc: it’s just that he lives 2,500kms away in Sydney.

However, thanks to the wonders of modern communication and the help of the local pharmacist he saved the day by organizing appropriate, strong painkillers and steroids which had an almost miraculous effect, allowing us a couple of days later to take wing to Paris, speeded along with the good wishes and prayers of many good folk.

It was, what I could only describe as a smooth flight - not particularly comfortable, and not good at all for sleeping, but because of our apprehensive build up, nothing going wrong was everything going right for us. There were some hiccoughs, one being the sheer size and distances to walk at Dubai, which produced an escalation in pain and accompanying anxiety, but we learned from this and made sure we were prepared for pain in the future. It’s amazing how useless analgesics are when packed in a suitcase that you can’t access: so “message to self” - always carry enough medications to cover you for any long journey, and carry an extra one for good measure!

 Traveling in economy class is always going to be a struggle for tall people, even though the Airlines do their best to maximize comfort, unfortuantely one size does NOT fit all! So for those with known low back pain, take a lumbo-sacral roll with you: they are fairly easy to source from any good Pharmacy, and they’re lightweight and easy to carry.
When you sit in your seat place the roll across the lower part of your back: now the correct position is at the upper part of your pelvis - NOT the lower part of your spine! This is a subtle point, but can make a big difference to your comfort. You locate the correct point (best done before you get on the flight!) by locating the two dimples at the lower part of your “back” where
the spine joins the pelvis

General back care is also vitally important when travelling:
Do NOT carry one huge bag with everything in it. You still have to lift it on and off conveyor belts, tolleys etc and this is a sure way to turn a dream holiday holiday into a nightmare!  Pack you clothes into 2 or 3  smaller, user-friendly cases that are easy to manoeuver.
Keep up exercises to maintian strength in your “core stabilizers”. If you don’t know where to find them, then ask a Physio who does!

Then suddenly we were in Paris! CDG airport cannot be described as one of the more efficient airports in the world. When we arrived it seemed that they must be unloading the luggage piece by piece from the aircraft and then walking with each one from the aircraft to the conveyor belt: and it also seemed that there must have only been a couple of people performing this glacial task. However, others have told me that they thought that CDG operated on “oiled wheels” - so perhaps we just arrived at a bad time! Despite the snail-like progress of the luggage arrival we were amazingly serene about the whole wait: again, if you’re not in pain or watching someone in pain, then life is good.
We were met by a tall Frenchman holding a card with our name emblazoned on it in front of his chest, but he wasn’t looking at us. He was (rightly) distracted by his young female companion who I suspect may have been more than just his navigator
: it was such a “French” moment! They were a lovely couple and delivered us through freeways, tollways and tunnels to our new home in Bailly - pronounced Bi-eeeee). A word on French tunnels: entering into them is like being posted into a letter box. You are warned about the vertical challenge that they represent by a series of suspended balls across the road, which for the newly arrived, causes you to duck as you pass under them as they seemed so low. Then the long shallow slit of a tunnel sucks you in and makes you cower under its lowering roof: definitely not an experience for one of a jet-lagged, claustrophobic nature. But like all things, with time you adjust and eventually we stopped even noticing them.
Our new home was a little gem of a place. We immediately felt very much at home and were amazed at the similarity of tastes that our hosts share: the obvious difference being one of age: their house is relatively new and has all the wonderful features that one would like in such a house and put together with taste and style. The other feature is size. Our down under home is large on a large block and was wonderful for our  .. large family. But now we are two, our french home seems so much more “us”. The bed we slept in can only be described as delicious: and we made the most of catching up on lost sleep until the early hours of Monday morning.

 Flying from East to West is easier on the body clock, but even so, it does take some days to fully adjust. Make sure you try to adapt to the local time ASAP which includes re-setting watches and elctronic gizmos. Try to exercise daily and avoid long naps during the day. Avoid caffeine drinks and alcohol in the evening as they will keep you more awake than ever!

Monday was a day of delicious contrasts: the joy of a lazy breakfast - scrambled eggs with local ham on a freshly bought baguette can only be described as sublime! But then we took a step too far and thought we could navigate French roads, in a foreign language whilst driving on the other side of the road! A feeling of abject panic set in  as, whilst attempting to drive to the local train station we were once again sucked inexorably into the post box tunnel and taken “where you would rather not go” as it says in the Good Book, and ended up in the southern suburbs of Paris! This produced a mixture of claustrophobia not experienced for years and almost tearful frustration for being powerless with no way out. But like most things, this too passed and we returned by another route to our delightful village and comfortable home.

 Message to self:
Always study the maps prior to setting out for the first time in a foreign country - and don’t trust Sat Navs unless you know that they’re up to date too!

“Our” village was wonderful, and the joy we experience as we walk down the street of this scenic village with its aged houses and welcoming inhabitants was balm to a jet lagged soul. Our neighbours introduced themselves - extraordinary, gentle and generous people who made us feel even more at home.
And yet I had a strange dream about my father that night: why I do not know. He was caught up in celebrations and was pushed and fell down several steps and I watched helpless from afar. My brother appeared and as we walked along I burst into tears: “why are you crying” he said? I was unsure at first and then I realized that I wanted to be there for my father in his final suffering and be a gentle presence to him: and I grieved for not being able to do that.*** he was to die suddenly, despite his great age on September 1st 20012.
Why I dreamed that I have no idea, but it stayed with me during the day.
And what a day it’s was. We grasped our courage and took to the car again and headed to a shopping centre 12kms away, although to us it seemed almost like going to another country! But it was not all smooth sailing. In our travels we had to ask a policeman for directions - the GPS having “confused” us - and as we turned to leave, M tripped on a rough surface and almost fell flat on her face. Unfortunately it stirred up her back and her pain troubled her greatly all day although, like most women who have reared 5 children, she did not give in to it.
Talking of ladies in pain, whilst we were at the Pharmacy getting some paracetamol, an elderly lady with porcelain skin around tired eyes was leaving in a staggering sort of way and so I helped her home. She was from Nice originally and we shared stories as we walked down the street. She was young once and knew Nice in the “early” days. Now she is old and falls frequently and lives alone since her husband died. Time can be cruel.

 Staying on your feet.
The aging process is fraught with challenges and one of the biggest is not falling over. At the extremes of life our environment becomes a physical challenge. So stay fit and work on your balance - try standing on one leg whilst brushing your teeth: or walk sideways into the hosue from your car. Do regular
Quads exercises to keep your legs strong and practice “falling” forward from a kneeling position onto a carpeted floor to strengthen the forearms and shoulders should you actually have a fall.

Yet again, the peace and quiet of this house and the real feeling of being at home made for a relaxed and healing evening. Hopping half way around the world meant that we were now eligible to join the “bed by 9 sect” even though we deceived ourselves by saying that we go there to read - within 20 minutes, eyes sting and the call of sleep becomes irresistible. But by midnight I have had 3 hours of deep sleep and I wake for the first time. By 4am I have been in bed for 7 hours and my body tells me to get up, but it is so so dark and I resist for another 90 minutes before I can’t lie there any more. But despite an interrupted nights sleep,  I found myself actually singing when I got up because I was so happy.
But we want to get into our normal morning routine as quickly as possible so it’s cut up oranges and a nice cuppa tea, then check the news on the iPad. Feeling frisky we decide to get up at 6.30 and go for a walk - which proved to be not the greatest idea I ever had as MJs leg gave her a great deal of pain and we limped home for another lie down.
But pain was not going to hold the young lady back and as we had talked of cycling to Versailles,  I prepared the bicycles and the genius of 2 wheels was that M did not have any pain whilst cycling. The relief and happiness that this engendered is hard to describe - tears might lubricate their telling. But we cycled for 2 hours and had the most amazing experience. Even 12 hours later it still seemed unreal that we actually cycled around the “canal” at Versailles with white swans gliding over the cold, grey surface, and the Palace of Versailles in the misty background benignly watching over us.
Back down the forest track and home for lunch followed by a walk to the shops - another less than inspired choice by yours truly as the pain in M’s leg returned with an awful vengeance to remind us that it is only 9 days since she was flattened by a prolapsed disc in her spine. But then it’s amazing what a positive attitude and a beautiful hot bath can do to restore ones spirits, and over tea we talked about living life in the moment and how each of our lives had been modulated by unexpected health issues. Yet again, tears lubricated the moment but they were even more enriching than that hot bath!

Thursday 12th Jan. I have to put in a date every now and then otherwise I lose all sense of time. Each day is different and littered with new experiences and it seems belittling to label it as 08.01.12, but for the purposes of recalling events at a later date, I need all the help I can get.
Today was the second day that I got up and started singing - I even did a quiet pirouette out of sight of M, just in case I came a cropper - and I cannot remember when/if I have ever done that before. Today though was another chance to meet the challenge of French roads! To the untrained, and un-french eye, you get very little warning before an intersection comes up. That, plus the fact that street names appear on maps and Google earth, they don’t seem to appear on the actual street. Major road signs, D3, N4 appear perched atop poles like pigeons but are of a smaller stature, all on roads where speed and narrowness make it imperative to maintain your focus on what is happening in front of you. This can make for extreme anxiety to the novice: especially the elderly novice! But the french motorist is conservative when it comes to the use of the horn. In the past 4 days I have only heard it 3 times - and all of them from an elderly lady who was following me. The amusing thing is that the French klaxon is a bit of a let down. I expected a car horn with a throaty Gaulois sound and yet what you hear is a rather apologetic pre-pubescent peep.
We set ourselves the target of finding the closest station that will take us to Paris and in this we succeeded. The second objective was to find the shopping centre at Versailles and this we did - a great food hall downstairs with those meticulously crafted, mouth-watering patisseries and breads, and for one who is not a meat eater one can only marvel at the displays of our slaughtered bovine friends in the butchers shops.
But M had pain that continues to teach us new things about ourselves. Life is about change, life is about suffering and coping with it. We promote this idea that suffering can be stamped out if we do this or if we do that, and whilst that does give us hope and it does help us recover from one challenge quicker in order to prepare for the next ordeal, suffering is the thing that makes we humans great. M is a fantastic example of that.
The sun came out in the afternoon and we eventually found the Biblioteque open and the charming lady who mobilizes the literature duly sent us off with several books on the history of Bailly - in french of course!
Today was also the first day for a jog in France: M is comfortable on the “velo” and so followed me as I did 2 circuits of the block. It felt good to be back on the road again and it’ll be even better when the two of us can explore new areas together.
With the short days and long nights being distilled with our habit of waking early - around 5.00am in Perth - means that by the time it gets light here we have already been awake for almost 4 hours and it feels more like time for a zizzz than the time of the hunter gatherer! But we enjoy these lovely long lazy starts to the day: why do we make ourselves so busy and then spend all of our lives trying to keep up with our own hectic agendas?
Today - Friday 13th - was a day for a drive to Plaisir again: and yet again, we found our way there perfectly and yet again we came back via a completely different route! Our return was courtesy of Madam Lash - the GPS device - who “came up trumps” this time and delivered us to where we actually wanted to be. We had decided earlier that once a week we’d have lunch out and we booked a table at the local restaurant in Bailly -the Pavillion. This turned out to be an inspired choice! Warm and friendly staff complement the warm and friendly ambience. The menu was varied and our choices provided us with a superb meal topped by the chocolate pudding desert which was, I can only describe as, ball achingly excellent!
It was an amazing lunch and yet again, time seeped soothingly slowly along, perhaps aided by a nice bottle of wine from Gascony. It did however completely blitz the afternoon as our siesta didn’t start until 3.00pm and we awoke to a ringing phone at 4pm. A quick stock up on supplies ie baguette and milk, then home again on the bike as M finds this form of transport the least aggravating for her back/leg.
Tomorrow offers the chance of more adventures and more discoveries, but just the first five days have been a revelation and we are very happy.

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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Test Driving a Podcast

This is an experiment to see if my recent Podcast for Puggle FM - a family friendly radio site - can work from my  Blog: fingers crossed

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