A Yew Bowl With Attitude
“That’s an interesting piece of Yew….”
Sometimes you can see that a piece of wood is going to be trouble. This yew bowl was made from a larger log and what attracted me to it (apart from Yew’s inherent beauty) was the fact that two branches has grown together and fused, That would mean, hopefully, that the yew bowl would have interesting markings. The downside was that the smaller branch may not be as fully fused to the main stem as it appeared. Large bits of wood flying off the blank as it whizzes round on the lathe at several hundred revolutions a minute can be dangerous. It reminded me that Health and Safety is not to be ignored. Such a reminder is always valuable.
Health and Safety
It is so easy to forget about taking precautions when doing anything. We all tend to become blasé about things we do often. It is usually a mistake. When I started wood turning Roni made a point of labouing the H&S aspects of wood turning, much to my impatience, you can read about what she told me here.
When I set up my Workshop I took on board what Roni told me an I have a notice up on the wall that is in front of me while I turn wood. It Says “SAFER”
- S Speed
- A Aside
- F Fixed
- E Eyes
- R Rotate
The notice reminds me of the basic health and safety rules.
Speed, make sure that the lathe is set to the correct speed. If the piece is large and unbalanced, for example, the lathe needs to be set to a slower speed so that the lather does not vibrate or even bounce!
Aside, when something comes off a turning blank it comes straight off, generally. So, when the larthe is first turned on stand aide, out of the line of fire.
Fixed, are you really sure that the blank is securely fixed to the faceplate and so the chuck? Ensure that the screws are fully screwed in, that there are enought of them and that they are secure. Do not screw into soft wood.
Eyes, wear goggles or a face shield!
Rotate, before turning the lathe on turn the bank by hand. Make sure that the blank turns feeely and is not going to hit anything as it turns.
When a Blank Fights Back!
The nightmare scenario is not really when the blank falls off the lathe. Generally, it is so heavy that it just sort of falls to the floor, at speed, true, but it does not come towards your face.
Bits flying off the blank are different, and far more dangerous. They come off at speed and fly. Depending on the blank the lathe could be turning at up tp 3,500 revs a minute! There is no telling at what height they will come off, or where they will go. They are like shrapnell, hitting and potentially damaging anything in their way. They even ricochet off so have two goes at hitting you! (Seems unfair). While turning this bowl, the branch did not come off but 4 pieces of wood, up to an inch and a half each did. By standing to the side I minimsed tthe risk of being hit. By wearing a face shield I ensured if I was hit in the face I would not lose and eye.
Health and Safety is not boring!
Well, perhaps it is, but it is necessary. Taking a razor sharp tool and putting it into a fast turning piece of work is dangerous. However, there are no marks for making it more dangerous than it has to be. I would encourage anyone to try wood turning, as long as they pay attention to H&S. I have eight fingers and two thumbs, I would like to keep it that way.
An Odd Sort of Blank for Wood Turning.
When she visited recently Roni brought some blanks for wood turning with her. Among lots of blanks for plates and natural edge bowls were some Maple blanks. I had turned a beautiful (if I say so myself) bowl when I was down at hers last. So she knew that I liked the wood and so I was delighted to accept these wood turning banks.
The blank I chose for turning today was about 9″ by 4″ (my lathe will only take blanks up to 10″ across). Wood turning blanks often have the outer edge painted (in this case a tasteful pink) to stop the wood drying out too soon and cracking.
There was one problem with this blank;
The problem with wood is that it does not grow symetrically. This wood turning blank was unbalanced because there was almost one half missing due to the way the tree grew. The issue for wood turning is that with the blank revolving at several hundred revs per minute the lathe, and everything else, vibrates and bounces. Add to that razor sharp cutting tools and there is a recipe for disaster!
Top Tip; Always count your fingers before you start wood turning and when you finish. You should have the same number both times!
Wood Turning this Blank, The Options
I seem to like making straight sided bowls, there is something that appeals to me in them. If I aimed for that with this bowl there would be a huge hole on one side of the bowl. Not that there is anything wrong with that and it can look wonderful and interesting. However I decided to go for something different. A sort of inside to out curve.
The Outside Finished
I applied the first coat of oil before taking the bowl off the lathe to turn it round to form the inside. With the bowl reversed, held on the lathe by the spigot, you can see see the finished curve, the trick will be to mirror the curve on the inside.
Wood Turning the Inside
Wood turning the inside of a bowl is more difficuylt that the outside. The main reason is that the bowl wall should be of an even thickness so finesse is the order of the day. Finesse is not one of my stregnths. In other words the curve on the outside has to be matched by the curve on the inside. Add to that the need to have the wall of the bowl flow, without any obvious transition, into a flat bottom. In my experience forming the inside is more painstaking that the outside. Obviously, you can make the inside a lot easier to turn by your choice of outside curve. I will take that to heart one day……..
Off The Lathe
Once finished on the inside and sanded the bowl is oiled and taken off the lathe. Ready for the oil to dry completely and for polishing. In spite of not being polished I think that I can be pleased with the result.
The finished bowl is just under 9″ by 3 1/2″
More explanation and an example of wood turning here.
My Stroke Now
In this post I want to explore how I feel now about my stroke, how it affects my life and what the future holds.
There are 5 main areas that have been affected by my stroke.
I have double vision because my stroke weakened the muscles to one eye. That is corrected by having a prism in one lens of my glasses. The vision is blurred because of the nature of the temporary prism. Day to day I have normal, if blurred sight. The trouble is without them I still have double vision, so showering is difficult, waking up I cannot see the clock clearly and activities like swimming are difficult.
The prognosis? Originally, I was told that I could have an operation that would tighten the muscles of my right eye. To be honest, I really did not fancy being awake while the surgeon operated on my eye. Over time, the limitations of having a prism in my glasses became obvious. I came to feel that an operation was the way forward. It now seems that my eye muscles have become stronger and that the operation may not be an option anymore. My double vision may be something that I have to live with.
The other big effect that my stroke has had had on my vision is loss of depth perception. That means that although that can see that I am walking up to a curb I have no idea whether the curb is 4 inches high or 1. I tend to stumble, a lot.
Still an issue, and probably always will be.
I could only walk with a stick after my stroke. I really did not want that to be the case. Supported and encouraged by Lauren from the Occupational Health team I practiced walking, with the stick. Together we walked miles through the corridors of the hospital, and I began to get pretty cocky, it would not be long until I ditched the stick. Lauren kept reminding me that the corridors in hospital are flat, no curbs, no uneven pavements, no potholes. I should have listened more.
Leaving hospital, I decided that I would walk a few miles each day in order to be able to ditch the stick. The first few times I walked into town, which I did every day, were difficult. Yes, there were curbs, uneven pavements, and potholes. Each day was a new challenge.
However, 10 days after my stroke I ditched the stick!
Leg and Knee Problems
Immediately after my stroke I had sensory problems down my right side, you can read about them in my previous post.
The issues resolved themselves relatively quickly for my upper body, but my leg and foot have taken longer and the problems persist to a lesser extent. I still have nerves firing when I put on socks and shoes, but at least now it is not painful. My foot sometimes tells me that it is hot, but it no longer feels like it is on fire.
One aspect that came to the fore a couple of months ago was the loss of strength in my right leg. I began to have pains in my knee. They were not related to my stroke; most likely it is arthritic in origin. The upshot is that I have begun to exercise to build up the knee muscles and reduce the pain. (Which is going very well, thanks for asking). What has been revealed to me is that my right leg is way less strong than my left, as a result of my stroke. I would not have known this or that I was favouring my right leg unless I had started to exercise. The benefit is that future leg and hip problems may well be avoided
After my stroke I had speech problems. One side of my face did not work so explosive sounds like “b” or “p” were almost impossible. I rang my boss at work from the hospital to say that I was still alive and to say that I had some bananas in my desk drawer and that he had better move them before the went off and smelled. You can imagine how difficult that conversation was, if only I had to tell him that I had something else, like chocolate or sweets in my drawer!
One odd thing, or not, was that I could never hear that my speech was affected. To me, I sounded normal. As the left side of my face decided to work again my speech started to be clearer. There were issues, for example, about a month after my stroke I rang the doctor’s office to ask for a repeat prescription. The woman on the end of the phone was very curt and impatient. She said that she could not understand me to which my reply was “I am not bloody surprised; I have just had a bloody stroke!” Her attitude changed.
Even now I have some issues when speaking but no where as bad as they were.
A partial success!
Mind , Memory, and Depression after My Stroke
The problem with mind and memory issues is that they are internal and not obvious to others. When I “ditched the stick” it was obvious to everyone and Jane and friends all complimented me and said how well I was doing. With mind and memory issues it is so difficult to gauge progress, if any.
One result of my stoke, as for many who suffer a stroke, was I descended into depression, again. I had only just come off the medication and I was pleased that I was recovering. Over night I was in that dark place, again. I have written about depression here. Since my stroke I feel that I have been recovering and quietly stopped the medication a couple of weeks ago. I have not told anybody. Why not? Because when I stopped before I paid too much attention to how I felt. I was concerned that others would confuse a bad mood with slipping back. This time round I am putting the depression out of my thoughts and no one has commented on any bad moods. It seems to be working.
My memory is not what it was. My stroke is the probable cause. I always felt quite quick witted, able to recall events and ideas. Now there is a veil of grey mist that I must make my way through to reach the right words. Recently I took cuttings from a Perpetual Sweet Pea for Roni. The trouble is that whenever I think about Perpetual Sweet Peas the words that come into my mind are Perpetual Sweet Potatoes. Even writing the words is difficult. It’s like riding a cycle and seeing a pothole. No matter how hard I try to avoid the hole I seem to steer towards it.
Similarly, I know that my mind is not as sharp as it was. I doubt if I could hold my own in a sharp discussion about politics, my mind is not up to speed. Is it improving? I have no idea. I work at sudoku’s, obsessively sometimes, hoping that my mind is not descending into dementia.
Work to be done.
My Stroke -Conclusion
Overall, I think that I am recovering well from my stroke. They tell you that the improvement after a stroke stops after 3 or 4 months. That is not true, the pace of improvement slows, that’s all. The gains become smaller, but they are there. As time passes it becomes progressively more difficult to remember what it was like on 14th June 2018. Where I am now is my new normal.
Do I still wake up feeling lucky to have dodged the bullet, confident that everything is improving? Not every day, but often.
If you want to know more about strokes, the effects, treatment and recovery or want support please follow this link. They are good people.
A self-indulgent post? Well, yes but one I needed to write.
Was My Stroke Really a Year Ago?
On this day last year (13th June) I suffered my stroke which started as I drove to work. You can read about it here, here, here, and here. Looks like I am beginning to become a stroke bore when the truth is that I rarely think about my stroke during normal life. However, I wanted to be able to spend some time reviewing where I am, where I think will go next, and how I view the past year.
This photo was taken, I think, 3 days after my stroke. Not a pretty sight with one half of my face sliding down and declaring UDI from my brain. It was the left side of my face that slipped, in case you can not tell….
My Stroke was Unusual
My stroke was of a variety called Lateral medullary syndrome. who knew that there were different types of stroke? I thought that a stoke was a stroke. If you want to you can read about Lateral medullary syndrome here.
Here is a bit from that article;
“This syndrome is characterized by sensory deficits that affect the trunk and extremities contralaterally (opposite to the lesion), and sensory deficits of the face and cranial nerves ipsilaterally (same side as the lesion). Specifically a loss of pain and temperature sensation if the lateral spinothalamic tract is involved. The cross body finding is the chief symptom from which a diagnosis can be made.
“Patients often have difficulty walking or maintaining balance (ataxia), or difference in temperature of an object based on which side of the body the object of varying temperature is touching. Some patients may walk with a slant or suffer from skew deviation and illusions of room tilt. The nystagmus is commonly associated with vertigo spells. These vertigo spells can result in falling, caused from the involvement of the region of Deiters’ nucleus.”
What did that mean?
Well, one very odd effect was that although it was the left side of my face that fell it was the right side of my body that was affected. For me it meant that although I could feel pressure if someone poke my right side it would feel the same if they stuck a needle into me, i.e. I felt no pain. To me hot felt cold on my right side. Imagine how that felt when I showered. My left side felt the water as hot, my right felt as if I was having a cold shower!
Later, my right side felt as if all the nerve endings all fired whenever my right leg and foot touched anything. For example putting my sock on my right foot was painful because all the nerves fired at once. putting a shoe on was a slow and painful experience and so on. A couple of moths later I went on holiday and fell over when I walked into the sea because I could not cope with all the sensations from my right leg and foot!
The next post will cover the 5 main areas where I have been affected. Not all stoke sufferers are affected the same way, as I now appreciate. Shame that it took me having my stroke to open my eyes!
For more information about strokes visit http://stroke.org.uk
In my last post about the Tory Leadership race I called Boris Johnson (real name Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson) a pratt and a serial lier. I thought that it might be a good idea to justify my accusation that his grasp on reality is frail – as well as being self serving. Originally it was going to be just 1 post, however Boris Johnson has told so many lies……
The lies, in no particular order.
- 1. ‘once we have settled our accounts, we will take back control of roughly £350m per week. It would be a fine thing as many of us have pointed out if a lot of that money went on the NHS, provided we use that cash injection to modernise and make the most of new technology.’
This claim has been thoroughly shown to be false. Either Boris was stupid and believed his own lie, or he was wilfully lieing. He also lied about refering to the £350m at all, until shown TV footage of him talking about it – Oops!
Boris Johnson is being taken to court over this lie. Marcus Ball has raised over £200,000 from public donations to prosecute Boris over this lie.
- 2. ‘I look at so many young people with the 12 stars lipsticked to their faces, and I am troubled with the thought that people are beginning to have genuinely split allegiances. And when people say that they feel they have more in common with others in Europe than with people who voted leave I want to say, but that is part of the reason why people voted leave.’
OK, so not a lie, but is he really calling 16m people unpatriotic because they disagree with him???
- 3. People from the EU are responsible for the housing shortage. ‘And I can think of obvious ways in which Brexit can help us tackle the housing crisis – perhaps the single biggest challenge for the younger generation.’
Where to begin with this one? He really was scraping the bottom of his barrel of lies when he pulled out this plum! It is not investors from the EU that has caused the housing crisis. It is the chronic underfunding of housing by this and previous governments that is the root cause of the problem. Changing the cause and blaming those damned foreigners is such a cheap lie.
- 4 It is “absolutely crazy” that the EU was setting rules on the shape of bananas.
Can you believe that Alexander, sorry Boris Johnson, ever said this? Yes, at the Brexit campaign launch he made this tired, and worn old claim. It was a lie when it started doing the rounds in the 1990s it was a lie when he said it in 2016, and again in 2017.
- 5 Three lies for the price of one, Boris really is the gift that keeps on giving! Boris said “I am very pro-Turkish, but what I certainly can’t imagine is a situation in which 77 million [his estimate] of my fellow Turks and those of Turkish origin can come here without any checks at all. That is really mad” – Daily Express, 18 April 2016 Then he went on to say; “It’s government policy to accelerate Turkish accession” – BBC EU referendum debate, 21 June 2016
The allegation that Turkey is anywhere near joining the EU is as wrong today as it was when Boris started peddling this lie. The third lie? That he ever mentioned Turkey during the Brexit campaign! Boris Johnson has wrongly claimed that he “didn’t make any remarks about Turkey, mate” during the EU referendum campaign, in comments that overshadowed a speech in Staffordshire intended to burnish his leadership credentials.
Consistancy is fundemental, Boris is consistant, he lies like the rest of us change our socks…..
Theresa Goes, eventually.
May is leaving us with a whimper, and so is Theresa. Yesterday she told the grieving/jubilant nation (depends on whether you are Theresa or Boris) that she had failed. Give her her due, it has only taken 3 rejections by the House of Commons to realise what we all knew 2 years ago. Her “Brexit means Brexit” strategy should have been called “Brexit means exit, stage left”. Now the Tory Leadership race begins for real.
Theresay May has done what had seemed impossible, she made Gordon Brown look like an effective PM. The people that I feel real sorry for are the political hacks who will have to write new pieces rather than rehashing the same “TM to be kicked out this week” stories that have dominated the Sunday papers week after week for months. Prepare for weeks of articles peppered with leaks about the Tory Leadership hopefulls from un-named sources. The knives will be out, and how. Politics as a blood sport.
The runners and Riders
Reading the Tory blogs and you seem to have a field for the Tory Leadership that would be almost as big as that for the Grand National, with the prospect of even m ore fallers! The listy so far;
- Boris Johnson (Well known prat and serial lier)
- Esther McVey (Ex- Children’s BBC presenter and briefly “in charge” of Works and pensions)
- Jeremey Hunt (Re-named, appropriately by James Naughty. Also read about his disgraceful Hilsborough comments here!)
- Rory Stewart (Who? I mean, really, WHO?)
- Matt Hancock (Secretary of State for Health, the one that promoted a private company’s health app, while being the Health Minister. He really is dedicated to the NHS, honest)
Who else is saddling up to Join the Tory Leadership race?
- Dominic Raab (Secretary of State for Exiting the EU for about 3 months before it all became too much for the poor dear. Quit and run away rather than fight for what you believe in. At least May tried.)
- David Lidington (De-facto May’s number 2. Most interesting part of his political career? That he thought that it was OK to claim expenses for, amongst other things, dry cleaning, toothpaste, shower gel, body spray and vitamens. At least we paid to made him healthy and smell nice. I believe that his apology was something like “I accept that many people would see them as over-generous.” Such a fulsome apology)
- Michael Gove (Yes, the Govemeister is going to try again! Let’s hope that he has been forgiven for stabbing Boris in the back last time, and that he can do it again!)
- Penny Mordaunt (Always in the top 10 of MPs, at least for expenses in 2015. Beaten by 9 MPs who claimed for travel, like Penny, but then most of them were travelling to and from Scotland, she was travelling to and from Portsmouth North.)
- Andrea Leadsom (Another making another run at the top job. You will remember that last time she said that she would be a better PM because, unlike May, she had children. Oh yes, a fully paid up member of the supportive sister-hood. On the other hand she was an investment banker in a previous life, Say no more!
There are others, lots of them. But I am losing the will to live thinking about these shady chancers.
One Name is missing from the Tory Leadership Listings
What about Amber Rudd? I hear you ask. Well, she resigned from the cabinet this week and a couple of days later May steps down. Historically, those that cause the Tory PM of the day to fall on their sword are thanked by their colleauges but not supported in the resulting ballot. Did she really cause May to go or not? I can not see how, I think that it had much more to do with May’s misjudgement over her “new, improved” offer.
On the other hand she might be scared that people will remember her past record. Such as;
- Her part in the unlawful detention and deportation of asylum seekers.
- Overseeing a rise in violent crime (slash police numbers and crime goes up, who’d have thought?)
- Lieing to the House of Comons about knowing about targets for deprting members of the Windrush Generation.
One Dark Horse for the hustings?
Sir Graham Brady has resigned as chairman of the 1922 comittee. It would seem that he is readying a bid for the Tory Leadership. As he has been the chairman since 2010 he will know where all the skeletons are buried. This could get interesting!
Tory Leadership Odds
I think that these odds came from Bet365. I may be a cynic but perhaps their clientelle should do some research before they put any money on Farage and Corbyn……….
Boris Johnson 6/4
Dominic Raab 6/1
David Lidington 9/1
Jeremy Hunt 12/1
Andrea Leadsom 12/1
Michael Gove 14/1
Penny Mordaunt 20/1
Rory Stewart 22/1
Sajid Javid 22/1
Nigel Farage 25/1
Jeremy Corbyn 33/1
Amber Rudd 80/1
Jacob Rees- Mogg 80/1
Theresa May’s Record as Home Secretary
Before Theresa May became Home Secretary in 2010 there had been five others in six years. That she lasted 6 years goes to show that she is a survivor. What has sunk others was a stepping stone for her to the top job. The media was broadly supportive, and the general public seemed to think that she did well, or well enough.
Police numbers and Theresa May
When Home Secretary she cut police numbers by 20,000. She was vilified by the Police Federation. She said that they were “crying wolf” over the cuts. However, while she cut the police numbers crime fell. Obviously, TM was right. Except, the crime reduction was in line with a drop in recorded crime internationally. Also, the spread of CCTV and more secure vehicles would have helped.
The recent meteoric rise in knife crime has not persuaded her that she was wrong to push the cuts through. Only within the last couple of weeks she said There was “no direct correlation between certain crimes and police numbers”, and. “What matters is how we ensure that police are responding to these criminal acts when they take place, that people are brought to justice.” This obviously true (as someone said cutting the number of police on the street would have no effect on financial fraud), but it does have a direct impact on street crime.
The present Home Secretary disagreed with her, he said that the police must be given the resources to tackle violence.
It is not just the bobbies on the beat that have been sacked. Out of about 7,000 armed officers in 2010 almost 1,500 had gone by 2016. As most of the remaining armed officers are in metropolitan areas there were real fears that those of us outside of London would have no protection in case of terrorism. She promised to employ another 1,500 in 2015, so that is alright then. It would have been so much better if they had not been sacked in the first place!
Talking about terrorism, what was the point of the Tpims (Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures)? No body uses them. That should make us all feel safe in our beds. Also, she had a huge row with Michael Gove when he was Education Secretary. He wanted the “drain the swamp” of Islamic extremists, her approach was more conciliatory (which I agreed with). Later she reneged on that position saying that there had been “too much tolerance of extremism”. So, she was saying that she was wrong and Gove was right!!
Immigration and Theresa May
Theresa May’s approach to immigration and refugees was to talk tough and when the going got tough to hide. One of her Immigration Acts was supposed to “create a hostile environment” for illegal migrants. It included landlords checking on tenants’ status, among other things. Remember the Go Home vans touring “immigrant” areas? The whole expensive, repugnant exercise resulted in just 11 people leaving the country.
As for dodging the brickbats. When the immigration figures came out and the government’s targets were missed, did she front up? Of course not, she sent poor James Brokenshire to face the press and Commons. When she failed to tackle rising immigration effectively it was not her fault, she blamed the rest of the government. When they wanted her to remove the overseas students from the target I (a classic Thatcher tactic to make employment figures look better) Theresa May refused! On the other hand she did keep deporting people who did not earn enough, which split up an estimated 33,000 families. She also refused to limit the time anyone was held in detention centres.
Crime and May
There was a time when Theresa May could be seen as a “liberal” remember her speech at the Conservative Party’s conference warning them about becoming the “nasty party”? That was obviously a blip. Referring to Ken Clarke when he was Justice Secretary she said “I lock them up, He lets them out.”
She pushed through elected police and crime commissioners. That worked so well, catching the imagination of the whole nation. Can you remember who your commissioner is, and di you vote in the election?
Oh yes, the last thing that she did as Home Secretary was to ensure that any inquiry into the Battle of Orgreave would not take place for years and years. Somebody has to protect Thatcher’s memory, too many skeletons in that cupboard, obviously.
But to answer my question in the title, what is she good for? Absolutely nothing (to quote Frankie)…..
Next time I plan to talk about Theresa and the European debacle. As a taster here is CNN’s report of her record defeat on Brexit. Poor old Theresa things go from bad to worse…
Using Copper Pipe
I have been playing with copper pipe for a few weeks. I thought that using copper pipe was an unique and interesting idea. Turns out that while it is interesting it is hardly unique. The reason I started with copper pipe is that I ran out of interesting and useable wood for turning.
My first attempts produced a few candle sticks. They were quite successful and were well received by friends. I enjoyed making them, they were fine and it was good to use a different medium.
Yes, I know, the colour of the candles are wrong for copper pipe but they were all that I had……..
Copper Tom is a figure I made. He is siting, thinking. I like to think that Copper Tom is a thoughtful sort of chap. He also skiis (although I do not have any photos ) I plan to have him fishing but have not gotten round to it just yet.
Here’s Copper Tom chilling out to some sounds. I am surprised that he is not smoking a Gitane and drinking black coffee. (Sun Ra, I ask you, Copper Tom is such a poseur….)
Today I used copper pipe to make a lamp. Although you can not tell from the picture it has an Edison type old fashioned bulb and stands about 18″ tall. I think that it is quite neat but the bext one willbe better!
Photos of these and future copper items will appear in the “Here are some things that I made earlier” page which is found under the main Woodturning page.
The Gambia is somewhere special,
as I have just found out. The people are amazingly friendly, obviously, some want to show you something or take you somewhere for money. However it is not intrusive hassle and never threatening. The country is beautiful verdant and rich in wildlife.
Gambia Maybe Time
This was my first ( but not last) visit. One thing that a new traveller has to understand is the concept of GMT, Gambia Maybe Time. When someone says that your meal will be ready in 10 minutes what they actually mean is slightly different. They mean “it will probably be more like half an hour, perhaps a bit, or a lot, longer”. As long as you accept that as a tourist then all is well and Gambia seeps into your bones and you feel at home.
The reference to GMT is not meant as a criticism not patronising. It is fact of life in Gambia that the Gambians laugh about, their point of view is why are Europeans so up tight? Why worry about something as unimportant as how long does it take to prepare a meal? If breakfast is supposed to start in your hotel at 7.00 is it really the end of the world if it starts at 8.30? 7.00 is an aspiration, not a promise. Understand that and you are well along to understaning life in The Gambia.
What about accomodation? Well, there are places in The Gambia that I would avoid, for example Kololi. But that has more to do with the Blackpool-esq nature of the area rather than anything else. (We lasted about 3 hours there before we had to escape!) On the other hand, people flocking to the beach and hotels of Kololi means fewer go to Paradise Beach near Sanyang.
There are things to understand about accomodation options in The Gambia. If you want a thoroughly nice couple of weeks in an eco friendly lodge with lots of courses and trips then you can do no better than check out Footsteps Eco Lodge. The cost is high, the food is lovely, the staff very proud to be working there. I visited and can see the attraction (if for no other reason that they have hot water! A topic of much debate among holiday makers that we met. The problem for me with Footsteps as that the visitors tend to be middle aged middle class and “worthy”. There were some residents that were younger, but they did look as if they knitted their own yoghurt…
So, where did we go? The first few days were spent at Aba’s Creek Lodge. Located in the magroves off the Gambia river it is an oasis. Idyllic is a word invented for thisplace. There are various trips that can be taken but the only 2 that we took were fishing among the mangroves and visiting a local familly to help cook lunch, after going to the market. It would be easy to dismiss the experience as a tourist sanitised outing but I don’t think that it was. The familly made us welcome, we talked and laughed and were made very welcome. Marvellous.
The last 10 days were spent at Jungle Beach Resort, although “resort” is overstaking it. No hot water, an elastic approach to cooking and meal times, but a beautiful beach and amazing people made this place a joy!
The Gambia Surprise?
The electricity might fail, there might only be cold showers, but the good food and the people are wonderful and it is impossible to even think about not returning in the future. Gambia is like a drug, you can not get enough! I expected winter sun, I did not expext to fall in love with a country!
It is 6 months, to the day (13 June 2018) since my stroke.
There are a couple of niggling outcomes from my stroke, like not being able to drink a cup of coffee without there being a small drip down the side of the cup. (My mouth does not form a complete seal). On the other hand the day after my stroke I could not even swallow coffee without choking, so it is all relative. Of more concern are my eyesight and the feeling in my right leg and foot.
My Eye Sight.
My stroke left me with double vision. As everything else improved after my stroke I hoped that my eyesight would as well. There has been some improvement but I still have double vision that is corrected by a special, temporary, prism that is added to one of the lenses in my glasses. For day to day life this is fine but whenever I take my glasses off the double vision returns. Swimming on holiday was difficult, so is getting out of bed in the morning before I find my glasses!
There may a resolution to the double vision problem. I am due to see the consultant on 14th December. I hope that he will agree that an operation is possible. The operation involves tightening muscles at the back of my left eye to correct the vision. I talked to a doctor about it a couple of months ago. He said that the good thing was that they can ask you if the vision is fixed and if not tighten or loosen the muscle as required.
When I asked what he meant he said, ”well, obviously, you will be awake while they do the operation”. WHAT!? As if having a stroke was not bad enough, they are going to be fiddling with my eye, with scalpels and things, while I watch? Bloody Hell!
My Right Foot and Leg
A couple of days after my stroke the doctor took me to a wash basin and put my left hand under the running cold tap.
“What does that feel like?”
Then my right hand under the same cold water.
“What does that feel like?”
That was not all, while I could feel pressure in the whole of my right side from the neck down I could not feel pain. I could stick a pin in my shoulder or pinch myself, and all I could feel was a vague feeling. I would know that something was pushing against my skin but that is all. Over the next few weeks the numbness retreated until it was only my right leg and foot that was numb although the difference in heat perception remained. Imagine being under a shower and half of you feeling scolding hot and half of you icy. It does make showering interesting, especially if you test the temperature of the shower with the wrong hand, the cold hand. You step into a shower that is hot enough to take your skin off!
THis effect is typical of a lateral medullary stroke. It seemed to please the doctors no end as they kept bringing their friends to stick pins in me and put my hand into cold water. Apparently this type of stroke is quite rare and they all wanted a go at pin sticking!
Numb but still painful!
The numbness has gone but it has been replaced by overactive nerve endings in my foot and ankle. This means that whenever I put socks on or shoes all the nerve endings in my foot all start shouting at the same time. Not exactly painful but nearly. Stepping on uneven ground in thin soled shoes is like some form of non marking torture!
As for going on to the sea on holiday! I went on holiday a month or so after my stroke. Going into the water was very difficult. The hot sand was refreshingly cool (if I hopped on my right foot). The water was nicely warm, for one leg. Then all the nerve ends in my right foot and leg decided to announce that they were surrounded in water, all at the same time and continuously. The first time it happened I fell over!
I have no idea what the other people on the beach thought. I was wearing an eye patch and falling over in the water while trying to hop on the sand. No wonder I was given some odd looks!
I am pleased with how things have gone after my stroke, It could have been so much worse, and is for most people who have a stroke. I am not belittling the issues and problems that some people experience after a stroke. They can be life affecting and limiting.
I realise just how lucky I have been. I am only marginally incompasitated and still feel that glad to be alive feeling every morning.