Tuesday 29 November 2016


I've been getting more acquainted than I would like with Bournemouth hospitals. First there was the laser treatment to avoid horrible things happening in my eyes. Then there was a visit to a skin cancer clinic to check out an odd thing on my shoulder that I'd woken up with one morning on Erin Mae. At first it had felt like an insect bite, but it didn't go away and grew into a blister. The specialist thought it wasn't a cancer, but didn't know what it was, and six weeks later it's still in evidence. Next was a gastroscopy to check why I was getting too much acid reflux. That was a horrible procedure! It showed an inflamed area where the oesophagus enters the stomach so, among other things, for the next two months I'm off coffee, chocolate and the small glass of red wine that has usually accompanied my evening meal. Grrr!

Finally, following a routine annual blood test, the GP rang me (yes, the GP rang me!), asked me to come round to the surgery, and told me I needed to be admitted immediately! I spent two nights there, on a drip and being investigated for liver problems. This went some way to explaining the unusual fatigue I'd been feeling for a week. After an arm-full of further blood tests they discharged me with instructions to keep drinking lots and to come back in two days later for more examination.

It was after I got home that the jaundice really turned my skin yellow and scratchy, but the tests so far haven't identified the cause. Being boaters, we'd wondered about leptospirosis, which they got Porton Down to test for, but that was negative, as were the tests for various forms of hepatitis virus and Lyme Disease. So at the moment we still in the dark.

On the positive side, this has excited lots of caring emotions in my best beloved, so I'm getting lots of top-notch attention! And, over the last few days, I've actually been feeling less tired. We've gone for some walks along the sea-front and the cliff-top, and today we drove up to Erin Mae to put her to bed for the winter. This meteorological high sitting over the UK means she would shortly freeze up at night if we didn't, but it made for the most wonderful, bright day as we travelled up to Great Haywood.

Friday 4 November 2016


The compatibility of Erin Mae and bikes has never been entirely clear to us. On the one hand there was the occasional desirability of being able to cycle to a shop too far for walking, and the possibility of an alternative exercise mode (particularly for the sedentary steerer). On the other, this was offset by the problems around storage, vulnerability, towpath conditions and the question: would we really use them?

I still have a Raleigh Pioneer bought 20 to 25 years ago, though I haven't ridden it for about 10 of those. My best beloved's went to a worthy cause a while back, but she's been hankering after another, even if it never gets to see a towpath. The New Forest authority has been developing and promoting more cycle trails, and the attraction of those couples powerfully with the perceived benefits of extra exercise. But would she still be able to manage a bike? Her bionic knee doesn't flex as far as the original.

We have an excellent local bike shop in Ringwood, and went to see what they could recommend. First attempts were not encouraging. On a typical hybrid bike, with the saddle high enough to allow the knee to pedal, her feet were not sufficiently near the ground for safety and confidence. James suggested we might consider an Electra. Their USP is a re-think of basic bike geometry, to give a comfortable riding position in which the rider can both pedal easily and get the feet flat on the ground when necessary. We agreed and the shop got one in from the European supplier for us to try. After final trials today we dolled out the dosh. Excitement!

We're very much looking forward to putting it through its paces in the Forest, when the constant drizzle of today has relented. Whether this machine and Erin Mae will be introduced to each other any time soon, or at all, remains to be seen.

Thursday 3 November 2016


We were up betimes this morning to be at the hospital for 9 a.m., so I could be punctured. The general idea is that my eye-balls, being a slightly odd shape, make me (and other long-sighted people) a bit more susceptible to acute glaucoma, which is definitely not something you want on your medical history. This happens, apparently, when the fluid in the front part of the eye can't drain out because of its normal pathway becoming blocked. So they drill an extra hole between the front and the back, through the iris, just in case. And to drill the hole they use a laser.

Up to a point it was a bit like going to the optician. You put your chin on the chinny thing, and rest your forehead against a bar to hold everything steady while gazing close-up at a complicated piece of optical equipment. But that was where the likeness stopped. The surgeon had already already put some drops in my eyes to shrink-stretch the iris, on the same principle as a balloon being easier to pop when it's blown up and tight. By the time I got into the darkened room this was causing quite an eye-ache. Then he put another drop of something in to anaesthetise the front of the eye. The problem with anaesthetics, of course, is to do with insertion before they numb the respective part (as every dentist knows). He kept issuing more and more tissues from his box, while I reminded myself that I am a man, and have faced many worse things on a hockey pitch. Then it was time for what the explanatory leaflet had called a "special contact lens". This turned out to be a large plastic object, lubricated with a layer of some gooey stuff, to be attached to the eye and tucked in top and bottom. After that came the laser.

I had thought, in my innocence, that he would aim the gun, fire, and that would be that. The leaflet said nothing about target practice. 28 shots it took in my left eye. With the right, which he did first, I hadn't known I would want to count them. His comment, when I asked, suggested that he had created a hole and now needed to enlarge it. Meanwhile I was feeling each one and seeing stars and fireworks in the red colour that shows up on the shirt of an assassin's target just before the deed is done. I was riddled!

Ah well, all good things come to an end. He issued me with a third type of eye-drop, to be used 4 times a day for a week. That makes one drop for each time he pulled the trigger. They're corticosteroids, and therefore almost certainly on WADA's list of banned substances. Just as well I'm not in training for something for which I would have to submit to doping tests.

I had three thoughts about this. First, whoever analysed the aetiology of acute glaucoma was a genius. Second, whoever dreamed up a procedure for shooting you with a laser to pre-empt the condition was (or is) a mega-genius. Third, I am truly grateful for the NHS, which makes the process of getting from optician's general check-up to being laser-riddled today as complication-free as it has been.

Tuesday 1 November 2016


Such excitement! A trip up to Erin Mae to clear up, clean out, winterise and fit the new tachometer! Until…

My fears about the wiring of the adaptor harness proved well-founded. The old 8-pin plug into the existing tachometer was pretty much as expected.

However, when I removed it and inserted it into the adaptor, the wires clearly did not match up correctly. In particular, the green sensor wire on the new tacho had nothing connecting to it at all. Where that wire is situated (bottom left), there is no corresponding wire from the alternator on the other side.

I emailed the tacho techie guy with a photo, and rang him again. He spent quite a long time being puzzled, and saying rude things about whoever had put it together – we agreed it had probably been after a hard night out. Until he spotted the item code on the harness in my photo, alongside the telltale initials "JCB", and realised that it was the wrong harness. The one I needed was item X11392, and they'd sold me an X11394. I know nothing about part numbers, but it was precisely something like this that I had suggested at the start, both to him and to the supplier. Ah well…

So it was another phone call to the supplier. The very nice bloke in sales expressed puzzlement – he didn't even know there was an alternative harness. He said he would ring the tacho techie guy and get back to me about "availability and pricing". As of a quarter to five I'm still waiting for the phone call. Perhaps he wrote the number down wrong – it's all too easy to mix up a digit.

We would wait for it to be sorted out, but unfortunately we have to go back south tomorrow – Thursday is the day when issues with my trebacular meshwork are to be addressed, courtesy of the NHS. So it looks as though winterisation will have to wait until the end of November, by which time I hope they will have found me an X11392 (or good instructions for modifying an X11394). I spent the day cleaning all the silicone sealant from where the control panel sits on its column (you know what that stuff is like!).

It seems such a pity that, when this job is finally completed, I shall have to put some more on to keep it snug and dry.