Romancing the English Patient (Sal was born in England)

Valentine’s day is imminent.  And Sal and I have been together for 50 years.  I really should be traditionally romantic at least ONCE in my life, don’t you think?  But there’s a problem with that…I am generally a very romantic fella and I ‘lay it on kinda thick’ most of the time.  Every day, actually.  I am a romantic.  Like an Italian – obnoxiously so.

To be honest, I am kinda sickening about it if viewed from a bird’s eye (read: normal person’s) perspective – but I don’t view it from up there (laws of physics and aging limit my air-time these days).  Sal sometimes rolls her eyes.  And she has groaned.  I know it is all a BIT much at times, but a romantic has to do what a romantic has to do.  And I call her the ‘ol’ Puddin’, too (but that is mainly because I think ‘ol’ Puddin’ is really stupid-funny and I have been saying that for years for my own amusement.  I started calling her that when she was just 17.  OK, I have an odd sense of humour….. 

‘Sweetie-pie’ and such is not just an endearment, it has become Sally’s daily-use name.  ‘Course, ‘Sweetie-pie’ is interchangeable as to the sexes and Sal uses that for me, too.  Worse, we use ‘Sweetie-pie’ for my son and daughter quite a bit as well.  Daughter is OK with it but my son (especially when he was in high school) admonished me for using the term too loosely around his friends.  So, I compromised.  He became the much more masculine, ‘Sweetie’.  NO pie.

But, like most compromises, no one was very happy about it (except his friends).  I went back to Sweetie-pie.  He is now 37.  I am gonna hafta change.  Fortunately, I have grandchildren on whom I will burden such a cursed moniker.  It will help toughen them up.

But back to Val’s day……one cannot get too romantic with a women whose leg just went through major surgery so I am gonna have to get creative.  Hmmmm….we DO have a lot of pain-killers at the moment……

The easiest route to Sally’s heart, of course, is Roger’s Chocolates.  I have mended many wounds and bruised hearts over the past five decades with chocolate and Roger’s is by far the best over-the-counter remedy.  Flowers work but, you know how it is….we live in the forest and nature’s beauty is omnipresent for us.  Still, they can’t hurt.

But I need to stretch, think outside the usual charm offensive (charm: which I understand is now a smidge offensive to anyone belonging to the Me Too movement).  Dinner out is out.  Sal’s leg won’t allow for that quite yet.  A handful of diamonds is out….perhaps it shouldn’t be but it is at least out of reach right now.

We could just settle for bubbly, flowers and chocolate and some minor billing and cooing but, somehow, methinks that is NOT going to be sufficient to get her in the right mood.  And, what would we do if it did change her mood to something worse (repercussions of the Me Too)?  There is nothing quite as romantically off-putting as a tangly-haired woman grimacing in pain and telling me what to do – ‘get me a pillow and, damn it, do it quickly!’

That is NOT the kind of pillow-talk I am aiming for.

Hmmmm…..they say that absence makes the heart grow fonder…….


A day in the life of an invalid

I am NOT talking about Sal.  That gal is charging along!  She ain’t sprinting yet but she gets up, looks at her walker as if to dismiss it…and I have to say, “Use the walker, Sweetie.  You are only at day 5 and you are practically moving well enough for Cirque du Soleil tryouts already.  Please do not push it.”  “I won’t”, she says.  And then she walks the five feet to get her walker.

This is day five after the operation but only day three of being on J&J’s  front lawn.  The entry to the moho is over 100 feet from the entry to the bathroom.  She has been down that path many times already.  I am guessing that she has walked close to 1000 feet from having been discharged.  To me, that is amazingly fast recovery time.  Admittedly, her endurance is limited.  After each trek, she kinda collapses but only for ten or 15 minutes.  C’mon!  That’s pretty damn good.

I can’t really say that I AM the invalid……because, I am not.  But I am a bit constrained by my space.  I am a 2XL in a 1XL space, if you get my meaning.  The kitchen has precisely 2 square feet of counter space and so my culinary efforts are very, very limited.  Take Out Chinese last night.  Friend’s Thai curry ‘take-out’ the night before.  But I can make her coffee and a bowl of cereal so, in that sense, I am a great husband.

Well, good enough, it seems.  She’s still smiling and in very good spirits.

Unless the scheduled physio (starting next week) knocks her down, I am thinking she will be quicker than the 6 weeks they estimated.  I am gonna dissuade accelerating the healing process but, to be frank, she is already accelerating it naturally.

“So, Sal…..maybe we should talk about the ravine and the plumbing pick-up?”

“Ok, Ok….I’ll slow down.  I will.  I promise.” 

Our routine is pretty sad, really.  We wake up late (9:00).  Say nice morning things to each other.  Then I make her coffee and me, tea.  We look at emails (very important to email us as it is the only real entertainment we have) and then we trek to the bathrooms for ablutions.  By the time we have done that, the clock does not seem to have moved….it’s like we are caught in a ‘rip or tear’ in the time-space-front lawn continuum. The day ssslllllooowwwwwsssssss.  But Sal has to do exercises a few times a day and I get to be the ‘personal trainer.’  “Push, Sal.  Push.  That’s right.  Lift Sal.  C’mon, try harder.  Lift!  Now stretch, Sal, stretch.  Can you wash those dishes now?”

Oh, I am only kidding, you guys.  I wash the dishes.  Of course I wash the dishes!  That should NOT have to be said out loud but I tend to paint myself as a dickhead and that is what a dickhead would do.  I may NOT be a total dickhead but I certainly know how it is doneAnd I COULD relapse into dick-headism at any moment.

And THAT is why I said ‘a day in the life of a dic…..ooops……invalid’.

We are here…

….in a motorhome.  By the shores of the Campbell river.  Leaning a bit heavily on our friend’s kindness.  We are in recovery (both of us. I do not handle damages to family members well…unless it is me).

But Sal walked today…about 200 feet (100 feet OUT – 100 feet back)!  And she was very happy about it until the 175 foot mark.  “Sheesh, that was a good walk but the last few feet getting back is a bit tough but….I’ll be fine….”  Then she mounted the stairs and got back in to bed.

And that is likely to be our routine for awhile.  Which is good, really.  Firstly, she walked very well.  She walked with confidence.  AND she kinda walked a bit more quickly than I thought she could.  Plus, after her first day’s 300 foot marathon, the doc said, ‘don’t push it.  Keep doing it but not that much.’  So she just did 2/3 of a marathon.  All and all that is very good progress.

And, as a bonus, two ravens showed up this morning!  Sat in the closest tree.  Squawked like hell for a couple of minutes and then left.  It was very much like home….a bit weird but also strangely comforting.

This a 30 foot class A motorhome.  All the modcons.  And this kinda rig used to be the aspiration…kinda….I would have loved to have had a 30 foot stealth camper, a converted bread-van with a sign on the side that said, “Western Plumbing and Sewage”.  Maybe “Western Plumbing and Irrigation.” You know….?  A mobile home we can live in, reside comfortably and that didn’t draw any attention.  I planned on parking in golf course parking lots.  We’d look like we belonged there.  They are quiet at night.  It was an idea….and I kind of kept that idea percolating….

….but the moho is just not as fun as it used to be.  Of course, I know that the present situation is colouring my view (and the day with the flat tire) but, well…I know what my enthusiasm feels like and I know when it is absent.  My enthusiasm for a moho has left the parking lot.  Must be an age-thing, eh?  Could be a Trump-thing…..I suppose….

It may come back next November…..we’ll see.

As you will well understand, I am sure, there is NOT that much news to share in convalescence….it is a state of being that is marked primarily by boredom interrupted occasionally by pain and/or frustration.  Bowel movements become news.  But it might be worse for Sal.  People like her need to move around.  It is who she is.  We all call her the Energizer Bunny.  She has ravines to attend to, quilts to quilt and outboard engines to fix.  There will not be much of any of that for awhile.  But I can see the squares of cloth, the ravens, her little boat trips, the stream and ravine looming in her not-so-distant future.  I think we are past the worst of the operation stage and now we are fully into the rehab segment.

I am not 100% sure about much but one thing I know: there WILL BE QUILTS!



But…….(the continuance from the last cliffhanger blog)

The hospital is new and bright and clean and confidence-inspiring.  Which is good as I have very little confidence in ‘the system’ as it is.  Fortunately, our surgeon feels a smidge the same way.  We found out because all the nurses on the ward extol his work habits, his discipline, his skill and his attention to detail.  He’s a nice guy as well.  But it became pretty clear that he didn’t trust everyone in the ‘system’ (including the staff) to do what he wanted so he came in every day and did it himself.  ON THE WEEKEND!  Even to getting bags of ice and other ‘duties’ atypical of surgeons.

Sadly, his fears were somewhat confirmed.  The first night the ‘kitchen’ forgot Sal and her roommate.  They had nothing but the brownies I brought them and the nurses tried to make up for it with week-old, cellophane sandwiches.  Sal didn’t mind.  Neither did I, really.  No one goes to the hospital for the food.

After her operation, she was pretty cocky.  Swinging her leg like a Rockette, smiling as she hobbled along to the bathroom, telling me, “No pain.  This is good!”.  We were both encouraged but I was stunned.  I had reconstructive surgery 40 years ago and the Tortures of the Inquisition pale compared to that deal!  Only the Salem witches had it worse.

But Sal was ready for more……..

So her physio marched her like the Marines march Grunts.  Less than 30 hours after the re and re, she was led on a 300 foot trek around the ward.  Sal’s roommate and her physio went 25 feet and she came back in a wheelchair.  Sal was a bit ticked after The Long March and she is simply NOT the type to get annoyed or complain.  And the long first trip had also exhausted her.  But she became downright angry about it when she awoke to a swollen, stiff, extremely painful knee the next day.  A few words were exchanged.  The next day the physio took her only 25 feet and then into a chair.  But she still had to go up and down stairs (three) a couple of times before she was released.  I was there  – watching without breathing.  I asked if they had oxygen for me.

They were good.  Kinda.  Mostly.  My view is somewhat biased from the get-go.  I HATE hospitals with a passion (mostly because I associate them with sadness, pain and often grief…my bad).  Should you ‘press the button for the nurse’ the chances of them coming were about 50/50.  If they came and then went off to get meds or painkillers or something, the odds were better…maybe 3 out of 4.  And, of course, different shifts of staff seemed to be operating without any knowledge of the previous shift’s work.

“I don’t work here usually.  I am in Cardio as a rule.  Ha!  What do I know about changing a dressing?”  

The second night I brought them sushi and tempura.  Sal was ecstatic.  Even the food delivery people said, “Wow!  That’s way better than this stuff!”   Sal’s roommate was very appreciative.  THAT kinda tells what you already know: hospital food sucks!

Overall rating?  GREAT!  Why?  Because they ‘gave her back’ pretty much intact.  The knee will heal. That is NOT always the case with hospitals.  We lucked out this time.  And we came away with a REAL appreciation for the surgeon, not only because he did a good job, but just as much because he cared enough to do all the post-op follow up.  Dr. Tung is good.


A challenging few days

Sal was scheduled for a complete knee replacement.  Post op, she has to rehab with physios for awhile (as long as six weeks) and commuting from OTG was out of the question.  So, a good friend loaned us his motorhome.  The idea was that we would reside in Campbell River while she healed.

She was scheduled in for the 7th.  On the fifth, we went to Vancouver.  Slept over in the moho and returned on the sixth.  In theory, a day to spare.

And…the best laid plans of mice and Murphy….  

Halfway home the moho started to shimmy and shake and make noises.  I pulled over, examined everything and carried on (it was NOT coming from the engine or the transmission).  But it got worse.  We were on the upper levels of the Island Highway.  It was getting on to dusk.  Sal was following in our ‘ol faithful Pathfinder.  “Hey, Sal,” I said over the walkie talkies we had brought with us, “pull up alongside and see if you can see anything.”  She did.  Reported nothing seen. I carried on.  The noise got worse.  “Hey, Sal?  You there?”

“No”, she replied.  The Pathfinder is crapping out.  “I can only go five miles per hour!”  I pulled over and waited.  She limped up.  It was raining.  It was cold.

I tried driving it and it worked fine.  I gave it back to her and said, “Let’s go.”

And so we went.  The noise got worse.  “Hey, Sal.  Better look again.  It’s getting ugly.”  “Can’t.  The  car is doing it again.”  I pulled over.  It was getting dark.  We were at a higher elevation.  The rain was starting to look like snow.  She limped up…….

We went through that exercise another time but, at a certain point, the moho was really acting up.  Shimmying.  Making a racket.  I could not proceed.  Sal was suffering more Pathfinder failure and took a few minutes to crawl up again.  While I was waiting, I looked really carefully….and then I saw it!

Big mohos (30’) have ‘dualies’ at the back.  Four wheels and tires on the rear axle.  The inside tire on the drivers side had split.  Very weird.  It split in half like a person would cut a bagel in half.  I had two halves of a tire on the inside.  The remaining tire was carrying the weight and it looked a bit taxed in so doing.  “What are we going to do?”

“Can’t fix this kinda thing myself.  Let’s phone the nearest tire store.  The nearest tire store was answered by a young ditz who said, “Well, we close in half an hour.  If you can get here, we can maybe look at it tomorrow……..?”

The second tire store was Fountain Tire in Comox.  Run by a guy called Craig.  “I’ll get a service truck out there as fast as I can.  Hobble to the rest area (one km up the highway) and it will make doing the job easier.”  So, we did.  “Hey, Craig.  If you sell batteries, please bring one.  I have a support vehicle that is also dying and I have diagnosed that it is acting like a dead battery.”

Corey came with the service trick and set to work replacing the inner tire.  I took the battery and swapped it in.  The car then ran like a racehorse.  Odd problem, tho.  I guessed that the alternator simply wasn’t charging.  That killed the battery and Sal was running without much spark…..OK, it was a lucky guess.  I admit it.

Corey was a tire genius.  He removed the bad tire and put on the new tire (and they are large, heavy tires) like it was child’s play.  Pretty neat.  By then it was snowing lightly.  It was dark.  It was cold.  We hadn’t eaten since breakfast (we left early – didn’t stop and don’t usually eat ferry food).  Things were looking bleak.

We all went back to Comox to settle up.

“Where y’all going and can you stay over while we fix the electrical problem?”

“Can’t.  Wife is scheduled for an operation at Campbell River Hospital tomorrow early.  Gotta get her there.”

“OK.  Take our courtesy car.  Leave the Pathfinder.  We’ll get on it right away.”

“No rush.  Once I get her to the hospital, all the time pressure is off.”

“Well, let me take some of the pressure off.  No charge for the service.  No charge for the tire (2nd hand) and no charge for the courtesy car.  Now get her on to the hospital!”

“Craig!  You can’t do that.  You have costs!”

“I can do that.  And I am.  Now go!”

We went.  Got to our parking spot at my friend’s place in CR and rolled into bed.  It was 10:00.  And bloody cold.  But we crashed into bed, got up, went to the hospital.  She was supposed to check in at 8:00 am.  She did.  She was ‘admitted’ at precisely 8:00 am.

Murphy is a bastard.  But angels can thwart him.  A big, hairy, tire shop guy had wings on his shoulders. Remember that: Fountain Tire in Courtenay/Comox.  And yes – Sal will put that on Facebook later, too.

Tomorrow – the operation went very well but…………………


Why is anyone Off the Grid?

An Aussie friend of Elon Musk got a Power Wall (battery) and some solar panels a couple years ago.  Had ’em pumping out juice for well over a year.  Pleased.  Very.  Seems he saved $6,000.00 in electricity bills last year and he runs a larger 4 bedroom home complete with all the modcons and copious air conditioners.  In the featured article he said, “I expected this to pay for itself in 20 years.  At this rate, it will pay for itself in five years!”

That is not news.  We know that every panel gives more power, every battery stores the power longer.  Put more succinctly: Getting a solar array and storage is an obvious no-brainer, a totally can’t-lose proposition.  Especially if you are capable of a grid-tie arrangement with BC Hydro.  Grid-tie is even more dollar efficient ’cause the power company acts as your battery.  Elon’s friend is now a convert……..but why did he do it in the first place if he had doubts?

What used to be dismissed as hippy tech or ‘unnecessary’ or too expensive is today proving to be a good idea.  Think about that.  He did.

If any of you decide to think about it and want advice, just ask.  Free.

There is a yoga-gal and her husband who you-tube regularly about their OTG life-in-the-making.  Nicole and Jake are building and living in a yurt and in an area not far from us (judging by the views and such).  They have 172,000 subscribers.  Admittedly, the ‘eye-catching’ shots of Nicole’s bare top (but she’s always facing backwards) or some other sultry come-on selfie-pose creates a larger audience than just those interested in yurts and trees but still….172K subscribers is HUGE!

When we wrote our first book and posted it to Amazon, the OTG category did not exist.  We went under the general heading of ‘Wilderness Adventures’ or something.  Today, on there are over twenty pages with Off Grid in the title.  There are several categories now.  The point?  Living (and/or prepping for) OTG is a growing phenomena.

Why?  Why would 172K subscribe to Jake and Nicole doing very common and basic chores on the smallest of scales?  Why would successful rich people who are on the grid start adjusting to being off the grid?

Why, actually, did Dave and Sally go OTG?

What is going on?  Are they all feeling what I feel?  Are they just ‘playing at it’?  And what, exactly, am I feeling?  Do they know something I do not?  What has happened over the past say, twenty years to make people think this way?

It (the feeling) is much older than just 20 years, of course, 70’s back-to-the-landers were motivated to do the same but…if I might venture a guess….they were responding to the industrial conformity, materialism, pollution and unhealthy processed food that was modern life back then (still is for many, of course). The BIG threat, TEOTWAWKI or the coming Zombie Apocalypse was less of an issue.

Today?  I do not know but I suspect that all the media and government fear-mongering is showing up as more idiots buying 30+ guns and ammo and storing dried food in buckets as they show on the Netflix series ‘Doomsday Preppers’.  I think fear is the new motivation.

But…fear of what?  More to the point: how does building a yurt and carrying buckets of water answer the fear?  For that matter, how many guns can one man shoot at a time? 

Look at the real threats…..climate change, pandemics, war, economic collapse and yes, maybe even revolution-in-the-streets (somewhere) but how is a yurt an answer to that?

There is an emerging answer to that growing-but-still-amorphous fear and it seems to be ‘community’.  People helping each other.  And we OTG’ers do that pretty regularly.  I see it all the time.  And ‘help’ OTG – style does not take the form of money or donations to the Red Cross.  ‘Help’ out here is real-time.  Real-work.  We rescue disabled boaters, freely give required labour, provide materials, feed people and share what we have.  Community plays a much larger role out here.

Perhaps, if urban people had a stronger REAL community, fear might play a lesser role in their life.  That seems to be true for those ‘groups’ (urban or otherwise) that identify closely with one another like Jews or Amish or Muslims or even First Nations.  Birds of a feather flock together and, in numbers there is strength…..that kinda thing.  The point again?  People are more afraid these days.  Fear is somewhat unifying but NOT for everyone – only amongst those who look and act like you. The stranger is being seen as a danger again.

Fear makes for divisiveness more than unity.

Community is an answer to that fear but is it the answer to the actual danger we face?  What good is singing Kumbaya together if the actual threat is a Tsunami or pandemic?

The bible warns of the 4 horsemen, chaos, pestilence, famine and war.  Coronavirus fits.  And get this new threat of pestilence in biblical proportions….: locusts!  The horn of Africa and the Middle East are being swarmed by gazillions of locusts again.  And then there is the anti-Christ….(In Christian eschatology, the Antichrist or anti-Christ is someone recognized as fulfilling the biblical prophecies about one who will oppose Christ and substitute himself in Christ’s place before the Second Coming).

Isn’t Trump trying to do that?

Regardless of the madding thoughts this all generates, I can deduce only two things.  There are more people moving OTG and their motivation is more fear than a desire for Walden Pond.  Me…?  I started out at Walden and I am moving somewhat towards Zombie Apocalypse but I have no REAL perspective on it.

I could be a nut.



Princess Pussy

As previously confessed, I am more and more a pussy….. and, NOT having showers is simply unacceptable to me.  I pout and whine.  Worse than a pea under the mattress, it is.  And so it was with uncharacteristic focus and hard work I went at this shortcoming in my life and, tho it took days, if not weeks, we are now able to get hot, wet, wonderful showers again.

There is a God!

Nothing is easy, tho.  New pump, altering pipe lengths, replacing parts, finding new fasteners….the task is not a simple re and re.  It is a re and re and re and take a tea break.  Then go re and re some more the next day.  Sheesh.

But, well, a broken system is an opportunity to improve it and so we did a bit.  (Note-to-self: we still need a new project.  I will build a water shed and insulate the hell out out it – in better weather, of course).

But Sal got the current extra-dirty work as her assignment.  As I replaced the pump (and re-set the pressure switch which is different than every other pressure switch on the planet!), Sal cleaned the smaller tank.  That was an unpleasant chore.  First, we pumped out most of the water that was still at the bottom (and all sludgy).  Then Sal climbed inside.  Once inside, she began to scrub the bottom so that the sump pump, as it continued to suck out the contents, would catch the sludge and get it out, too.  Amazingly, this technique worked and our smaller tank is now clean.

Imagery: Peter Pumpkineater and his wife.

Sal, on the other hand, took the immediate first shower after.  And the second.

Despite mewling like a kitten/pussy, I stayed dirty and finished up with a few things before taking shower #3, 4 and 5.  And hour later, I was contemplating #6 and #7….just for the sheer pleasure of it.

For the record and those who are curious, the system broke because the heat tape failed.  I had the entire length of ‘system’ heat-taped, from the cistern to the house, over 100 feet and several different separate tapes.  All was left still intact except for the pump on which I had two separate heat tapes.  And yet, the pump had clearly split from ice expansion.

I cursed the pump and all the people associated with it.  But, as it turns out, it was not entirely the pump’s fault.  When I got everything apart I wanted to know what happened and so I put the heat tapes in the freezer and turned them on.  They WON’T actually go on unless the built-in thermo-switch recognizes freezing temperature (thus the odd use of the freezer).  Lo and behold, my tapes went stupid and recognized nothing.  Twenty minutes left in the freezer did NOT turn them on.  That means that they were NOT working when the pump froze.  Plugged in, lights indicating ‘on’ and yet….NOT on.

$450 and a helluva lot of work.  Well, mystery solved anyway.  AND me, Sal and the smaller tank are now extra clean!

Now….to find that damn pea!