Normally we would expect to have published quite a bit of canal or boating related activities in a year before we get to mid-April, but the start of 2016 has seen us do little more than visit the boats occasionally to check that all is OK. We did manage to stay aboard "Flamingo" on her home mooring a few weeks ago, but any trip out has until now eluded us.
I have been awaiting cataract surgery for many many months. At the start of 2015 I had a major scare with what proved to be a detached retina in my right eye, and although Oxford's John Radcliffe Hospital seems to have done an excellent job on what was a pretty close run thing, I think, it is not unusual for a rapidly developing cataract to follow retinal surgery. I was initially scheduled to have a cataract operation last May, but the JR decided that my retina still had fluid behind it, and that the cataracts could not be dealt with for 6 months at least. This has had a fairly dramatic effect on both our lives, because although I was told I could continue to drive based solely on the vision in my other eye, I quickly decided that night time driving was not safe, and imposed a self ban on doing so - if you are used to driving at any time, it is hard to explain just how restrictive it is! Fortunately driving in good lighting conditions has remained fine throughout.
After losing my first operation date to the junior doctors strike, (which, I stress, I fully support), I finally got dealt with in early February, and was given a clean bill of health in early March, but still needed to wait at least a further 6 weeks before I could be tested to get glasses that actually match the fixed focus eyes I now have. I now have the test completed, but am awaiting the specs!
In the meantime I am waiting for an operation on the shoulder I managed to damage severely when I fell into the cut shortly after the original eyesight problem, but before getting the diagnosis of the detached retina. The shoulder causes me considerable grief, often interrupting sleep, and the operation has been so long in being scheduled that the original pre-operative assessment I had already had done has been declared invalid, and has just had to be repeated. (Polite suggestion to NHS, if your resources are stretched - don't schedule a pre-op assessment until a date for the operation has been allocated!).
However my health became a secondary concern back at the start of March. We were on the boats for the visit already referred to, when we were made aware that the Police were attempting to locate Cath. Shortly afterwards they did get hold of us, and we received the shock news that Cath's mother Ann had been discovered dead in her home by neighbours concerned that the curtains had remained drawn during the day. The Police had no further details, but we knew that Cath's mum had both a dog and a cat, and we must get over to her house to find out what the situation was. It took us some time to be able to leave the boats, (I was busy working on "Sickle"), and the trip from hell then ensued, as we encountered closed roads on a route not familiar to us, only to be sent on a long diversion by the sat nav that eventually bought us back to exactly the same closed roads. It was getting very late by the time we finally arrived.
I can't over-stress how wonderful Cath's mum's neighbours have been, both at the time, and subsequently. Yes, they realised something was up, because the curtains were still drawn, and having possesion of keys, had made their way in, and found Ann in the kitchen, obviously deceased for some time, but with nothing disturbed whatsover. The coronor had attended, and her body removed. Obviously we would need to take her dog "Max" away, but were not well placed to take the cat. However a neighbour was happy to feed the cat on a regular basis, whilst we tried to re-home it. We finally made it home, well frayed, whilst Cath started trying to work out how to let family an friends know.
A sudden death at home always requires an autopsy, and we soon learned that Ann had suffered a "bilateral pulmonary embolism". At least this appears to generally be something so immediate and dramatic that the victim will have known very little about it - something we have been able to take at least some comfort from. What has been so shocking is that we had seen her two weeks previously, and she had seemed generally in better health and more upbeat than for a while. Cath's brother has actually visited the day immediately before her sudden death, and felt the same - we had planned to be there a week later for Mother's day. We have had several family deaths in recent times, including Cath's father a year or so back, and Cath's step mother late last year, but I don't think any have had anything like the impact we are feeling from this one.
March inevitably was lost largely to organising the funeral, and to start to think about how we deal with a house and contents that is not particularly local to either us or to Cath's only UK based brother.
Finally into April but with me with an impending operation, we can at last start to think about spending some time on boats and boating, although we still have much to do elsewhere.
"Max" the dog has lived with us for a while previously when Cath's mum broke a wrist in a fall, so we knew roughly what to expect. He and "Odin" get on very well, although "Max" has arrived with us with enough excess weight on that he finds it very hard to keep up with "Odin" - he is now on a strictly controlled diet to lose weight, but not too fast. We are deeply impressed that he can remember house rules from last time, (no attempts to climb on furniture this time!), and just how hard he is trying to fit in. He really is doing superbly.
However, never having been boating, how would "Max" adapt to that? Well that has been a prime purpose of our visit to the boat, now we have finally made it back here. Of which more in the next post.