Nashville Skyline and Hatch Prints. Chapter 11 Book of the Lion

If I wanted to write a country song, for sure I’d have oodles of material for it. Being in the home of Country Music did not inspire me however, for we were too hung up on being safe and feeling well. The trip out with our transatlantic relations, albeit through marriage, however did much to raise the spirits. We learned that our American Superhero worked in the superhero styled AT&T building which has featured in all of the batman films. It stands erect against the Nashville skyline with its two masts and sculptured architecture creating the appearance of the Batman mask. In the dark it glows, effusing a neon aura between its masts drawing you into a mysterious pathway of superhero actions. You half expect the riddler to suddenly beam across the sky and the bat-mobile to hurtle toward him from the landing strip. It is a fascinating building, if only for the hours of endless imaginings on what might occur if you stare at it long enough.

Downtown Nashville was murky and threadbare, reminiscent of days gone by when vinyl ruled and Johnny Cash or Hank Williams wandered drunkenly between the numerous bars and hostelries on the street. There are a few shops selling cowboy boots or hats but not much else for shopping divas. To be honest this is a city where Music dominates the landscape and if its shopping you’re looking for I’d recommend you go somewhere else. However Hatch Prints, over 100years in business, who make the legendary screen printed posters that heralded the appearance of our jakey friends at either the Grande Ole Opry or Legends in the 1950’s and 60’s, remained largely unchanged by time or artists and offered a music lovers paradise.

Cats roam freely within the store, but I had little awareness of this on my first visit. It was dark on the inside, with an inky aroma floating in the air, much of which had settled on the large pane glass windows making it difficult to look in or see out. It was a massive store, barren of interior furnishings aside from several large screen printing machines, bottles of ink and little wooden pigeon holes. These held a host of posters in a variety of sizes and shapes, rolled up and luring you enticingly to unravel the contents. Easy pigeon hole listed the contents alphabetically to ease finding something that might appeal to the music loving buyer.

Some of the most popular prints adorned the brick faced walls but these did not guarantee your purchase and a rotation system meant that when it’s gone it’s not likely to make a reappearance until some uncertain and undisclosed date in the future. Some of the material was completed with a single colour, while others merged a combination of two screen print paints creating a vibrant contrast between the pictures and words. After a leisurely period of unadulterated browsing, I noticed the cats and had to make a swift exit, leaving the Lion to show me a range of purchasing possibilities through the ink-laden windows. I settled on a Patsy Cline, my heroine and Hank Williams, a favourite of the Lion, was chosen in the absence of availability of Johnny Cash.

We spent a memorable evening in the Wild Horse Saloon with the Miss Teenage America entrants, all of whom could line dance in organised and practised fashion. Country Music in the UK was still stuck in the 1950’s it had not yet appealed to a younger generation and most had never heard of the Dixie Chicks, Kelsey Ballerina or Carry Underwood. They don’t know what they were missing and certainly would have been shocked at the level of engagement by young people with this dreaded genre of music if we had tried to introduced it! The Wild Horse Saloon lived up to its reputation, loud music, modern country and even a rendition of Rod Stewart’s Baby Jane by the resident band to the delight of the pageant girls. It was a colourful spectacular with all of the pageant girls more glorious and beautiful than the last, their skinny frames enveloped by broad ribbons proudly announcing the state they were representing. We know a pageant girl, or I should say a few of them now, and wonder if any of them represented their state in their teenage years and we bumped into them, literally.

Eating in Nashville, and probably in the rest of the USA, was a functional rather than culinary delight in 2003. Most of the eateries were chain, fast food establishments selling hamburgers, fries and salad. Over the years this has changed significantly but back when we first visited the food and choices were limited and mostly awful. So it was a great delight to have the opportunity to dine with the superhero and his family in a restaurant they highly favoured, just a little out of town. Our American Superhero provided us with the transport once more, and we were joined by his family travelling in a separate vehicle, at one of their favourite restaurants. Their children were a mixture of cute and handsome. Their two all American boys, with short neat haircuts, matching casual open necked shirts and chinos were polite and mannerly. They were obviously accustomed to eating out, but not meeting many strange people from Scotland, despite their Gran, Grandpa and Aunty living there. Their baby sister, now a divinely beautiful young woman, was just as beautiful and cute back then. She was dressed in a simple but expensive white cotton dress that showed just a hint of matching drawers. I judged this choice had been easily impacted by the fact her mother had been dressing boys for the past 7 years.

The restaurant was busy, although only 6pm families were comfortably seated, surrounding our party seated conspicuously at a central table, ignorant to the fact we had not met before but bound together in this meal by rather unconventional circumstances. The waiters poured us water and handed around the menus. I was salivating as I opened it and pursued the contents containing what was only the upmarket range of fast food hamburgers, fries and salad………..

From Lion to Hyena. Chapter 6 Book of the lion

Grey’s Anatomy is not a show I have ever seen before, despite my previous albeit fleeting  reference to it. All the same here we were in a hospital in America, living the medical dream. The Lion was still sedated no longer in pain and unaware of the drama unfolding.  The hospital room we were allocated was small,  a range of wires attached to the lion were tied near his shoulder  to monitor his vitals. There was a large wing-backed chair that doubled as my bed, for despite being offered to stay in the Sheraton Suites, I couldn’t leave the Lion alone, without support in a strange country. Our cases, come wardrobes, sat side by side at the end of his bed, a stark reminder of how devastating this episode had been,  leaving just enough room for the nurses to edge past and take his blood pressure.

He lay motionless on the bed, breathing of course, but still and for a time, peaceful. They brought him in a tray laden with food three times a day, but his current comatose state prohibited any enjoyment. When no one was looking I devoured it, starving I was not the recipient of any meals during our stay. Although this was in 2003, the mobile phone was not widely used or owned equipment by me or the Lion. I had travelled to America with no phone, only cash and the iPad had not yet been invented.  I was keen to speak to someone at home to let them know what we were facing. During one of the monitoring visits I asked the nurse how I might be able to use the phone in the room and learned I had to purchase a credit from the store and use that to make international calls. Never take the convenience of the mobile for granted, its a godsend in these situations.

Realising that I wasn’t exactly overflowing with visitors, the nurse also contacted the hospital chaplain to attend and comfort me. He was a welcome intervention but really there was nothing anyone could do while the Lion was incapacitated. I had been thinking however, and wondered if perhaps  we could rent a house here in Atlanta for the two weeks,  that might allow the Lion time to recuperate and prevent any flight re-arrangements. BA had been so good they’d think I was at it surely, if I called back and said the same passenger needed to go home now two days after we had arrived.

I made calls to the kids, who, although young, were supportive and helpful. I spoke with my sister-in-law who’s brother, rather conveniently,  lives in Nashville. Perhaps there was something they might be able to do she suggested and made some contact. Meanwhile  I tried to see whether RCI, which we had points for, could provide us something in Nashville.  (Anyone with RCI will have fallen off their seats laughing by now since they never have anything anywhere, still worth a shot). Nothing seemed to be working in our favour, and an alternative to the trip we should have been on just wasn’t forthcoming.

In the darkness of the room at night, I tried to find a comfortable place to rest. The night nurses were at their station nearby and I overheard them talking about the Scottish Man who was in with back pain, ‘he’s so handsome’ one declared. I glanced across to the bed and had to agree he was handsome and peaceful but he was my Lion. In that moment I was overwhelmed, we had so looked forward to this trip and now this you could not have predicted this was how it might end.  At 0400hrs that morning, the staff nurse came into the room suggesting they were going to wake him up and, pending a confident circuit of the ward,  might discharge him. I did feel slightly elated, but our experience of this kind of episode usually meant there was a slow progress toward improvement and I was nervous that he might not manage it. Nevertheless at the stated witching hour, she woke him up and by 6am, he was sitting up eating his breakfast.

Nothing for me to eat that day, then. He was feeling much better, seemingly relaxed and reasonably pain free, given the drugs they had given him but it was evident that he was struggling to stand up straight. Much of his gait was tentative, protecting his back,  twisting and contorting the muscles to conceal his discomfort as he tried to manage the circuit, determined to be released. They appeared pleased and confirmed we could re-join our tour two days after they had departed. It was the easiest solution to be honest,  and so the wheels (pardon the pun) were set in motion for us to join the tour as it was about to depart Chattanooga. I collected his prescription and retuned to the ward where it was clear the Lion had shrivelled in size and was nothing more than a hyena in stature now. He looked to have lost weight, his pallor was grey and clammy, all the hallmarks of a junkie. So it was that we opted to re-join the tour by taking the greyhound bus. It was something I had wanted to try and the $350 taxi journey did not appeal to me so we headed off to the bus station, me trying to manage hand luggage, two wardrobes/cases and my Lion, little did we know what would take place next……………………………………..

grayscale photography of hyena
Photo by Frans Van Heerden on Pexels.com

 

 

 

Getting away from it all. Chapter 4 book of the family

It’s been a while, and I am making a poor excuse, but Christmas is always so busy. Haven’t you been busy?? And now here we are mid January and not a jot has been written, it’s frankly a disgrace! Just when I might have reached the dizzy heights of 3k views I go and get lost in a virtual outer space, flitting between family dramas and falling out of favour with my followers for failing to report on them. I have committed the most incredible sin; I have omitted to provide insight, social commentary and details of the ongoing, albeit somewhat dreary, dramas that drift in and out of my life.

January is always such an awful month; moneyless, dark, wintery, dark, everyone on a diet and off the drink, oh and dark. Of course we are now 26 weeks into my injury and I am making considerable progress so I suddenly want to do things, be places, see people, have fun and party. Problem is no-one else does. A bargain weekend was available and no-one wanted to go. I was cheesed off. I was hoping that would help ease my humongous gas bill, since it’s been on full blast all the while I have been house bound, but nope no-one wanted to go out or away. So there was only one thing for it, let’s go away ourselves for the weekend to………………our own house!

Turns out this was actually a fab idea and I seriously urge you to try it. We do have a lovely home, it is our pride and joy. It was built in 1750 and was previously 5 farm cottages knocked into one. We have put our heart and soul into this house, on every level we have invested love, care and attention to very corner, every room. So often when we go away I will catch myself remarking that we have just as good at home. Hence the mad idea of spicing up our January by pretending we were visitors in our own home.

Off I went on the Friday morning for a meeting with the feeling that today was going to be different. It was the excitement and anticipation combined that you get when you have a planned weekend away, albeit this was not away, but it was creating the feeling of being away, if you follow my drift. The lion was tasked with changing the bed and cleaning the house ready for the arrival of the guests, us. He even mentioned later he tipped them for a job well done. We laughed at that.

We were not allowed access until three so when I returned from work at 1pm, we went off shopping to buy what we needed for the weekend and of course that included shopping at a different supermarket and trying different brands. Then, as it was still a tad early to get the keys, we went to the cinema to watch Stan and Ollie. It was now nearly four so we made our way to our home for the weekend, pretending we had never been there, making hilarious comments like ” wonder what it is like inside” the pretence just added reality to the event.

When we opened the door, although it was with a sense of deja vu, we nevertheless continued with the drama, gasping at the size of the kitchen and delighted there was a wood burning stove, cleaned and set ready for ignition. We couldn’t wait to check out our bedroom for the weekend and later, after our first night we were so happy the bed was just as comfy as our own. Every action was designed to value what we had here, to look at it through a different lens. We took it all in, surveying what had become routine and making it mean so much more. I even posted pictures on FB # weekend away LOL.

On Saturday morning I set the table for breakfast using every piece of Denby I owned, including the toast holder that I bought three years ago but had never used. It gave me a simple but satisfying pleasure, I cannot explain, but the thrill of feeling that it was all new. I was making the most of what we had been taking so much for granted. The lion went off to play golf ( he had been taxiing me about all week to hospital appointments) while I stayed in our “holiday home” and made a goulash with yoghurt dumplings and even baked bread. I felt so invigorated.

We went to church to try out the local religious arrangements, then came back, lit the fire had a glass of wine before we enjoyed a romantic winter supper surrounded by candles and music. I cannot tell you how satisfying this weekend away in our own abode was. We made the most of what we had, and I’ve rarely been more satisfied.

Over the past 26 weeks I’ve come to realise how precious my health is. It made me want to live my life again as soon as I could. A simple slip took so much away from me, standing up, walking, dancing, cycling, catching up with friends, shopping, eating, visiting family, it had all been affected by my inability to move.

We also look after our parents and over the same period a lot was happening for them both and we lost some of our closest family members. All of that provided us with a mirror on our own mortality. I don’t know when I might get any clearer an insight to my future than I have these last few months, but I do know that what I have decided to do is make the most of it, however big or small that most is.

Marvel in the minutest things, love, laugh, dance, smile and be thankful for everything you have because you have no idea how long it will last or how important it has become.

Performing Seal. Chapter 23

This was a big week; depending on my performance, the home physio and GP had my holiday in the palm of their hands. Although I had made many mistakes when it came to holiday planning, this time it was in someone else’s hands. I was keeping everything crossed as the departure date was imminent.

First up-the physio, they had called ahead to ask if I was happy with a student attending. This was quite an interesting prospect after all there were more than a few learning opportunities for medical staff on my journey so having the chance to influence someone fresh out of the wrapper was mouthwatering.

It’s crazy how much I was looking forward to this appointment, I felt like a kid on Christmas Eve. They arrived on time and the student asked permission to lead the session. We identified the priorities; “I cannot sit, I’m hoping to go on holiday and struggling to walk”. This young man, was confident, listened attentively to my explanation and reassured me with several nods of understanding that felt so genuine, which was something I had seen so infrequently from some medical professionals. So far so good.

He advised that the pool on holiday would be ideal for exercising my leg, walking but no swimming that was too vigorous. My heart skipped a beat – did he just say that! my eyes popped as a result of the heart skipping. I digested this statement and quickly flicked my gaze to the senior physio who had accompanied him. She didn’t appear fazed nor was she forcing these words back in to his mouth, instead she was looking at him intently assessing his guidance and advice without a flinch. It must be ok to go, could that be right?

“Let’s get you sitting” and within minutes he had me standing on my good leg, curling the bad leg behind me. I had to do 30 a day, no more no less. I felt like a performing seal, my tongue protruding from my mouth and gasping loudly with each repetition. (Did I just make that noise?) Such was the level of concentration I’d lost touch with reality. Fair play to him, his good manners ensured that he contained his laughter at this performance. “Next let’s introduce some weight bearing on the bad leg”. He encouraged me to stand on one leg, both hands steadying me on the settee against another fall. A performing seal now a flaming flamingo, nevertheless I was so elated at being able to achieve this.

After a few travails up and down the red carpet he had me ready for the catwalk with an improved technique for using the crutches. I was really working it now. “Take a hot water bottle on the plane they can fill it for you, get some mobility assistance and you’ll be fine”. I asked about DVT’s and they gave me some simple exercises to repeat on the flight. That pretty much concluded their visit with a follow-up appointment after the holiday. I actually want to jump for joy ( don’t worry I won’t yet).

The blood test results revealed a slight improvement in my blood levels, certainly enough to allow me to get away. Again some advice from the GP about DVT’s and I was good to go. Finally I could pack the case. However I had one last test to pass, and it was significant.

The final test was an indulgence I had been denied since before the accident. It was a social occasion; a dinner invitation to sample some Tuscan fare with our friends. I could hardly contain my joy but I how would I cope? I had not enjoyed any wine for over 12 weeks. I put on some make-up, looked out a figure hugging outfit ( you have to make the most of this weight loss it wasn’t likely to last) and off we set. Conversation, music, wine, Prosecco, debate, music, company, fabulous food, oh how I had missed that.

I can confirm I passed that test with flying colours, yes normal service has been resumed and it’s true!! At last I am OFF to the Caribbean……………….

Lightening never strikes twice? Chapter 22

Now you can fully appreciate why unreasonable levels of high anxiety are generated when it comes to me and holidays. Our Florida experience, you would think, should pretty much rule out the chance of any future aggravation. (Lesson’s learned and all that). Except, it seems, I was at it again. The Caribbean holiday, as a matter of record is currently under threat because of me. I get that it was an accident but only I could end up with the kind of limiting injury that might threaten a holiday!

It’s a big week because the home physio and the GP need to support me with a positive assessment to enable us to go, but even if we do get there it’s bound to be a very diluted experience. So what happened to compound this drama with the Florida files and another holiday we had planned for Australia? Life and its little dramas!

It was momentary sympathy, I have no doubt, that crushed my husband’s steely resolve to finally agree that we might go to Australia. I was ‘dumfoonert’ by the lowering of his resistance. This was a pretty big wish that had been falling on deaf ears for the past 6 years. So I didn’t lose any time sending for the brochure.

I noticed an availability sheet was considerately included in my brochure pack. On reflection this was a great marketing tool, because it had SOLD OUT across most of the available dates. This, as I’m sure it was designed to, created sufficient panic to initiate action. I didn’t seem to notice the availability sheet was for 2018/19. Instantly I discovered that our preferred date November 2019 was sold out ( our anniversary). I recall thinking it must be very popular to sell out a year in advance! Wow we were booking something amazing here!

The next available date was February the following year. This appears to be the point where we were in different time zones. In my book the year after 2019 was 2020 (a big birthday for me). Our discussion focused on the relevance of this year which reinforced my belief that we were talking about 2020. We elected for extra stays in Singapore and Bali and changed our flights. It all looked fantastic and I paid the necessary deposit. I was elated to have secured a booking to my dream destination and although it was some way off at least we had a year to save the cash to pay for it.

Lying on my sofa, as I have pretty much become accustomed to doing for the past 8 weeks, with my iPad on my lap, I flicked through my emails. Distant Journeys had sent me an email so I opened it and to my horror realised it contained an invoice for my trip – in February 2019.

How the hell could I make the same mistake twice? But I had. Again. I could feel the viscous liquid rise in my throat. I stared at the email, willing the date to magically morph into what I needed it to be. It’s got to be their mistake (never mine!). I reflected on my recollection of the conversation and it all seemed to point to it being their error (isn’t the brain a wonderful machine). Looking for more concrete evidence I checked their email confirmation and there it was in big, black, bold letters – February 2019.

With my tail very much concealed behind my sore leg, I called them and sheepishly pointed out my mistake. In all reality we could have travelled in February 2019, but I’m not sure how my mobility would be over a month of quite strenuous travelling. Even more ball breaking was how I was going to find the balance for this holiday? Due the same day we were hoping to leave for the Caribbean. Thank goodness for reputable companies who live up to their reviews. I was organised and rescheduled within minutes. Now you might appreciate why the Caribbean is still up in the air. All that remained for me to do was relate the latest debacle to my better half………………

Bastille Day. Chapter 19

It was becoming apparent I was a bit of a jinx where holidays were concerned.  While  it was bad enough wondering whether  I would make our Caribbean holiday,  another holiday was  also beginning to look a bit uncertain.  I’d booked a further two holidays while laid up, determined to make the most of my available  time.   The latest booking was to Australia, a bit of a  dream since my retirement in 2012, but it had always seemed a journey too far for my other half.  Until this accident.   In a moment of  weakness strengthened, I suspect,  by sympathy  he finally relented agreeing at last we could  go to Australia!

I didn’t need telling twice  and immediately sent for the brochure expecting  to make a hasty booking before he changed his mind. It was not unusual to be reserving another holiday before we left on the current one  and, although usually meticulous,  haste was a key factor in the uncertainty that was now unfolding.  Notwithstanding this, and before the jinx element of this story can be realised, there’s another holiday drama which plays directly  into  this story and the emerging uncertainty for our Australian trip.

It happened last year when we went to Florida  with our daughter and her family.  We had two weeks in a villa experiencing the most wonderful sights of Disney through the eyes of our grandchildren. Our daughter and son-in-law took full advantage of the on-hand  baby sitters having time to explore the adult aspects of the parks. After a full two week break we were due to fly home on Bastille Day;  the 14 July.

As we approached the last few days of our holiday we painstakingly planned our final schedule  to allow everyone the opportunity  to do exactly what they wanted and still  leave ample time to prepare for going home on Saturday. On the Friday, my daughter and her husband elected for a date day at Universal Studio while we remained  at the villa with the kids to make a start on the packing. I dropped them off glibly telling  them to take as long as they liked and enjoy their day.

I  arrived  back at the villa around noon. The kids wanted to get in the pool but papa had kept them waiting till I returned. This epitomises his cautious nature; he thrives on preparation and planning, nothing spontaneous, he does not do surprises.  Despite the delay and now the rain we all got in the pool where much fun and hilarity ensued. I made lunch about 1,  then put the youngest for a nap while the mermaid and her papa went back in for a swim.

A few texts back and forth between my daughter and I established that the kids were fine and that  they should relax, have a great time and stay out as long as they liked. I was truly an earth mother; equal measures of  satisfaction and magnanimity emanating from  my selfless actions  which had  ensured everyone was happy.    Saturated with smugness  I wanted my son to share in this rare display of earth motherliness and experience  this aura of happiness and calm I had created,  so I face-timed him and his wife whilst leisurely laying at the pool.

After this I quickly glanced at a  few Facebook posts, an almost automatic reaction before putting the phone down, only to immediately pull it back into my face when a reference to Bastille Day flickered across my screen. I’m smart enough to know that is on the 14 July and that realisation suddenly  caused a nauseaous bile, propelled by panic, to flood into my throat. I glanced at my husband and the mermaid  frolicking  in the pool and snuck unnoticed into the villa.

A quick look at my emails  identified a flashing red reminder from British Airways.  I clicked on the link fearing the worst and to my horror confirmed  I had  to check in immediately-my flight was leaving  in 2 hours. Trying to contain my  panic  I was also fast forwarding  the events about to unfold as I tentatively walked back  to the pool side to ‘surprise’  my better half  “You’re not going to like this………….”

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Photo by Eugene Dorosh on Pexels.com

The Pleasure Principle. Chapter 18

After the second failed physio, it was apparent  that my husband was grudgingly accepting us missing out on the Caribbean.  On our journey back home he was so quiet, although there is nothing new in this, he’s a man of few words usually, but I knew that resigned look. His horror  was obvious when I had been transferred out of the hospital on the makeshift bogie.  Then, as if  that was not enough, I was unable to get comfortable  in the car on the short drive home, and therefore highly unlikely to be able to travel on a plane.

When I got home I made sure I took the appropriate medication as it was clear that this was a defining factor in managing the pain. Lesson learned there, oh yes.  So it was that no two days were the same with this injury.  The day after physio failure I was more ambulatory, which was entirely due to taking the right amount of medication,  just as well as I had  two appointments I needed to attend.  I could tell that my husband , who was also my personal chauffeur, was more than a bit  flummoxed by the shifting fortunes of his hapless wife.

It was nothing short of uplifting the level of pleasure I derived from preparing for my meetings.  Putting on a bit of slap and smart clothing also made me feel better. After all I had been wearing PJ’s for nigh on 8 weeks. I still needed help to get my knickers on and my left sock but it was worth the hassle when I looked in the mirror.  And it was evident I had lost weight which was the only plus side of this particular drama. I positively waltzed down the stairs. (Ok lying about that, but I did feel 1000% better than the day before).  We set off for the first meeting and it  was pleasing, even a bit of an indulgence,  to be going somewhere other than a hospital.

After the meeting I felt so uplifted that  I had managed to get out, stay out and behave as close to  normal as possible.  “Let’s have lunch out”  I said, but my whimsical suggestion fell on deaf ears as  my ‘chauffeur’  headed back in the general direction of The Danders.  Ever the pragmatist he was denying  me any further gratification because I had  a second appointment in 2 hours.  I knew he was right. It had just been so exhilarating doing normal things, being normal for that hour, but resting, as he reminded me, would ensure I was able to make the next appointment. My husband’s reiteration of the  consultant’s advice to rest was paying dividends.  I was feeling mentally strong, albeit the physical side was still a work in progress.

Pleasure, guilty or otherwise hadn’t been too  achievable these past 8 weeks. Our social calendar had been decimated;  concert tickets had been resold, dinners had been cancelled, we missed days out at the races and a wedding.  It was punishing for me and worse even simple pleasures were  hard to achieve.  For example, prior to my injury I have never watched a single episode of Strictly Come Dancing, but Saturday nights had become  so dull. This essentially  masochistic decision forced me  to watch all those fabulous female dancers. They were  strutting about in fantastic costumes revealing those long, lean,  flawless legs,  seemingly without a care for where they trod or placed their feet.  Watching them caused me to burst into inconsolable  tears as they left me wondering whether I might ever dance again.

So as pleasures were clearly few and far between, despite my husband’s misgivings,  I was determined this holiday was going to go ahead.  I made contact with the airline and booked mobility assistance, contacted the travel insurance and advised them about the injury and contacted the hotel to get  accommodation suitable for my condition. It was  almost sorted, with some physical improvement  there was  now a good chance we would be able to go………….

woman in pink dress doing jump shot while extending arms under white clouds
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