Day 96

I wake feeling pretty positive, though the night was not a good one for me. The usual stuff of waking early and not being able to get back to sleep. I guess it could be because I am sleeping for a couple of hours during rest periods throughout the day. Maybe these are being subtracted from the night, especially with the fact that my activity levels are still quite low.

Today I am going to have another go at walking to the farm outside my village.  I am feeling stronger and more capable than when I attempted the walk two weeks ago. I am hoping this time it can help build a little stamina.

Lesley comes with me and we set out at a reasonable, but not fast, pace. The day is overcast and breezy and cool enough to make me wish I’d worn a long sleeve shirt. But I warn up as I move along. The outgoing up hill does not appear to cause me too much trouble and we stroll along the curvrs to the viewing point. There is nowhere to sit and rest so we soon set off back.

We return home and I slump in the chair. Although it hasn’t felt like it this has drained more of my energy than expected. This is a little worrying.

Six weeks since the operation and maybe I’ve pushed it too far again.

Day 95

Hurrah.  Some plastic model wagon kits arrived from the Powsides model company. These were expensive but feature the old style 10 ton Tredegar wagons which were still being used right to the end in some cases. They arrive already looking a little battered and worn and feature the distinctive early curved Tredegar lettering. These will be a terrific addition to the layout as there are many pictures of trains being made up of a variety of wagons of differing ages.

They took a while to arrive (6 weeks), but I was warned about that on ordering and despite their relatively high cost I will still need to buy wheels and couplings separately.  This is no real problem in that I will get to choose the most authentic items.

In any case I am thinking of dumping the standard tension lock couplings, as they still give a toy train feel to the models. I am thinking of trying one of the 3-link systems that are around to give the thing a more realistic feel. That does mean I will need to couple and uncouple trains by hand, but, hey, that is what happened in reality!

I am thinking that as I haven’t built any model kits in a while it will be a good idea to build a couple of readily available cheaper ones first. I can always paint the ubiquitous black and paint a big white cross on the sides to indicate internal use only.

Day 94

I went for a walk along the shorter route today through the park gates.  I was aiming to go a little faster. To my delight I found that almost normal walking pace was possible and walked around in no time with no feeling of being stressed. On that basis, the walk to the farmhouse is on for Sunday. But as a much longer walk, stamina will be as important as anything.

On the flip side was working on my railway.  I decided that as I needed to wait for parts I would get on with the structure and finally fix up the legs which I was unable to complete before the operation.  I get my stuff together and started to fit the last hinge on the leg for mounting on the underside of the baseboard. After 15 minutes and the hinge only half complete I was forced to lie down.  What wiped me out was not the physical exertion of lifting wood or tightening screws but bending.  After a short while of bending in different directions both my abdominal and back muscles were shouting ‘enough’! I decided to not overdo things but go for a lie down. Just shows how much time its going to take to rebuild core strength.

Day 93

A red letter day.  I mowed the lawns – or at least most of them. Lesley lifted the mower out of the shed for me and I wheeled it around to our small front lawn which was easy as the grass was already short.  The back lawn was a little trickier and much larger. I mowed about two-thirds of the lawn before giving up on a large patch where the grass was longer and rougher.  Still, I did it and can finish off the other part in a few days.

I have received the point control equipment for my model railway and decided to use spade connectors to make replacement easier, when necessary.  But with my new found soldering skills I decide to solder each wire to the connector for added robustness and reliability. Disaster! For some reason the soldering iron tip looks black and covered in something. When I try to tin it the solder is repell3ed from the iron. There is nothing I can do. So instead of creating four connectors I end up making just one with a great deal of effort.

I ponder what has happened to  my soldering iron and suddenly remember that I caught one of the plastic sleepers. If so it is incredible the effect on tiny bit of plastic has had. I order a tip cleaner, some spare tips and fresh solder from the supplier. Hopefully that will be it and a new iron will not be needed.

Day 92

I am aware the contents of this blog is far more prosaic after the big operation than before.  In some senses it could be viewed as more boring with fewer insights.  But I guess it reflects a brutal reality of human life.  If you are struggling to get back on top of the basic tasks in your life then there is little time for reflection. It is like those who sometimes fail to understand that democracy is a pointless idea to those people who are struggling to merely survive!

I guess its all part of Maslow’s theory of the hierarchy of human needs. Hang on here is a bit of abstract reflection in the blog!! So as a balance, here is a bit of need……

3:35pm Rugby St Cross Hospital, Stoma Care Clinic. I am there so the nursing Sister can measure the size of my now almost mature stoma. But she is willing to chat about the wider problems I have been experiencing.

In a gently reassuring way she does not consider any of the issues major. She reminds me that it is only 5 weeks since the operation and that my body may behave strangely for months yet. She is the first person to suggest that some things may take up to a year to return to normal, something I have been intuitively feeling for a while, now. I am glad she said it!

I test my soldering on my model railway pointwork for faults. They all checked out. Hurrah! Put my soldering techniques into the ‘ugly yet somehow effective’ category. As Lao Tzu would say, if we decide some things are ugly, then other things must be beautiful. So I have validated all the beautiful solderers in the world!!

Day 91

Today is a nice steady day of achievement. After a slow start I get out for a walk, an approximately 500 yds circuit of some nearby village streets. I try to keep the pace up and I return this time not only with a raised heart rate but breathing a little more heavily. Things are improving.  I am cautiously thinking about having another go at the walk to the farmhouse which so knocked me out 2 weeks ago. Now I reckon I might be OK with it. See how the next few days go.

I complete the soldering of the pointwork for my model railway. Only 3 done but I’ve completed them and the wires have stayed attached! Now is the time for ordering the switching mechanisms which I do using the gift tokens my work colleagues sent to me. Over the next few days I’ll check the electrical integrity of what I have done so far. No sense in installing it all just to have to take it all up again!

Lesley is out at a meeting this evening so I will get dinner for myself for the first time in weeks.  I make it easy on myself by simply heating a Ginster’s pasty and frying some chips. So, yes, simple, unsophisticated and unhealthy it may be, but I achieved it and it tasted all the better for it!! Small steps but a gathering pace. But, no. Mr Tzu, I am not getting ahead of myself as I know there may well be more bumps and setbacks ahead!

Day 90

At present in my world, today is a busy day of sorts. First the Ringtons Tea man arrives. We had been out of stock for more than a week and the possibility of tea using one of Rington’s loose leaf blends is almost impossible to bear! Don’t believe the hype about Yorkshire tea, it is very ordinary compared to Northumberland Tea. Up in the far north live the boys and girls who know how to blend the sacred leaf!

Next arrives the aerial repair man.  The aerial has been dodgy since before my operation but 2 weeks ago it collapsed completely. Since we have not had the TV on at all it was left up to a neighbour to inform us!

The whole system is so old he replaces everything, including the pole and cable. We discover he also helps his wife sell biodegradable objects such as coffee cups from rice! Now this starts me thinking about presentations and link ups with the Green Party.

I get on with some more soldering on my railway. My technique is still very rickety and some of my work will need testing! Afterwards I feel sore and realise that sitting bolt upright has put a load on my core muscles which have started to ache.  I will need to build these back up.  I go for a lie down to rest them.

In the evening the fatigue is not quite so bad so I make myself a small beer/ginger beer shandy. Hmm, nice.

Day 89

I have spent enough time in this blog outlining the depressing catalogue of stoma bag leaks that it is simply repetitive. It happened twice again this morning. Instead, I am going to simply note what I have learned. Firstly my previous solutions have revolved around technique rather than approach. However I now realise my approach was wrong.

In my naiveté I simply changed the bag, admittedly getting better as I went along, assuming that the new bag was automatically OK. But I need to be far more critical and if I am not happy with a bag I must immediately change it and throw the other away. Secondly I need to check the bag occasionally and if I deem the seal starting to decay I need to schedule in a change. In other words I need to manage the bags, not simply be the maintenance guy.

By doing this I am in control and not simply a victim of apparently random events, or assume that I must always be at fault. So each time I change a bag from now on I will check it out as objectively as possible, checking for weaknesses.

This was a good start but I soon realised something even more encouraging. Apart from 2 instances which I can account for all the bag leaks have occurred lying down or just getting up from lying down.  But you rarely lie down in a business or public arena. So the chances of a public embarrassment are hugely reduced.

By the way, five weeks now since the operation.

Day 88

I lie in bed longer than intended this morning listening to CD review on the radio.  The music of choice is Ralph Vaughan Williams On Wenlock Edge, of which I have a couple of versions.  This music which features a male tenor voice has become more important to me in recent years.  This followed the discovery that my grandfather, Richard, sang tenor, normally with the local male voice choir and occasionally as soloist.  My grandfather died many years before I was born and my dad did not speak much about him to us. I wondered if the pain of his loss at a young age was still keen with my dad to the end (he had lost his mum when he was very young). The discovery did answer one question.  My dad was never much into music, but if a tenor came on the radio he would instantly identify the vocalist from the voice, much as I many do with a saxophone player.  So I wonder what my grandad made of On Wenlock Edge, if anything!

I go for a walk to Bailey’s Lane a round trip of about 250 yards. Again my heart rate is slightly elevated but I have enjoyed the exercise.  Perhaps I’ll think about a little circuit of part of the village next. There are loads of routes to choose from.

Once again Premier Sports have let me down and are not showing the Newport Dragons gave until 9:45pm. So I watch live on the welsh language channel S4C instead. I don’t understand much of the commentary being an anglophone Welshman, and it is about the only regret of my life that I did not take the opportunity to learn this lovely language when young.

My stoma bag lasts another 48 hours and I get to change it at my leisure.

Day 87

Today was supposed to be a busy day with an aerial repair man coming at about the same time as a long awaited visit from Andrew and Sharon.

Firstly the aerial man calls to say the wind is still very high and can we reschedule for Monday. The wind is actually still high but we request he arrives in the morning in case there is an issue and we need to get someone else.

Andrew and Sharon arrive a little late after a problem with an errant burglar alarm at their home. Also, they stopped off at Great Tew to bring cakes, so that was fine! They stay for about 3 hours and I am far less fatigued than I thought I would be – the time simply raced by.  Before leaving we agree to meet up in just a few weeks, if possible at a favourite café of ours in the Cotswold village of Moreton-in-the-Marsh. This will be a target for me to get back into public venues. The visit was a huge boost and I felt better for the rest of the day. Even the black acute fatigue seemed just a little less black and a little less acute.  Was it my imagination or is it finally starting to ease?

Another victory.  Lesley changes the dressing on my drain wound and for the first time there is no discharge and it looks like a healthy scab has sealed the scar. Things are moving in the right direction and I can look forward to feeling better.