Posts Tagged ‘health’

Barang on a motorcycle, day III


It had been raining in the afternoons in Phnom Penh and rained the afternoon  travelling to Kratie so the thought was that an early start would get the travel out of the way by the time the rains came. Unfortunately breakfast took longer than intended as a result of slow service, getting cash etc it was well into the morning before the leaving of Kratie happened. I was not far out of it either when the rains started. Lightly at first, then the heavens opened and, despite taking shelter in a petrol station, I was soaked. I carried on and got to the morning’s destination.

The first thing I saw was the pictures of the dolphins on the sign in the big picture then the gateway in the smaller picture at the bottom. So I stopped and paid for my boat and a drizzle started almost immediately. Then it stopped then we headed into the rain you could see in the picture (top right) and I was wet through again. I even put on the life-jacket to have something for the rain to hit upon.

After about twenty minutes the rain, it stopped (Bottom top right) and then the boat stopped and things went very quiet. The driver indicated something but I could see nothing, then a fin, then the Mekong Dolphins in all their glory.

Everything I had hoped for, to see these rare, threatened, majestic creatures. On the way back we passed islands which were inhabited and being cultivated. People whose existence is said to be threatened, just like the dolphins, by proposals for dams on the river.


Back on the road and it was pretty much as it had been the day before. On the left-hand side properties heading down to the river and on the right ones in the forest or heading out into paddies and cultivated fields. A paved road so danger was less. It was never possible to get up much speed as all the time you were keeping your eyes peeled for animals or children running into the road, slowing down when there was a dog or a chicken, or a child who insisted in remaining in the road. The biggest offenders in staying in the road and staring at you were cows.


As you can see from the map above after a while I moved away from the riverside and traveled through a more rural route which had fewer homesteads alongside the road but more cows in the road. As also seen from the map, at Sangkum I joined National Highway 7 and the quality of the road improved significantly. Most houses were further back and when you went through built up areas people and animals were more aware of the traffic. If they weren’t the lorries screaming through would soon have made sure everyone else didn’t forget. The lorries added to the fun when a hilly stretch came and then they were to be overtaken,  then they would want to pass when heading downhill, and repeat. Then the rain came back.

I dived into the first place I found by the side of the road. Where the above film was taken from. The people running the shop must have been used to giving shelter from the storm to people, I bought some things from them then was offered some food. It was now into the afternoon and I had had nothing since breakfast so the noodles with salad and an omelet was most welcome. You can see how wet I was.



The redcoats are coming! Once the rain stopped most of the journey was uneventful, apart from trying to start in neutral after asking the way in O’Pong Muon and being laughed at  by the local people. Closing in on Stung Treng it started to rain again so I opened the throttle and tried to get there as quickly as possible, finishing up in a pharmacists on the outskirts of town. My thumb on my left, inside just below the knuckle, had got blisters each day from the grip for the handlebars and using the clutch. I had bought the see-through plasters but they had fallen off in the rain and made things worse so I was looking for industrial strength elastoplast type (other plaster types are available) plasters which they had and I was able to put on. Whilst there I rang the guesthouse for directions and, after conversations with a few people, they said someone would come to collect me. Typical of the friendliness I found whilst travelling, the pharmacist brought out a chair for me to sit on whilst waiting and sheltering from the rain.

When the person from the guesthouse arrived the rain had diminished and I followed them to it only to find, coincidence or irony of the day, that there was no water. So, I got moved to their other one which was a result as it was in the centre of town and I could walk to restaurants etc from it. After a shower and change of clothes I walked down to Ponika’s Place, recommended in the guide, for a very nice meal. I was willlingly sold some carry-outs as the owner and partner wanted to get to a birthday party and went back to my room for a read, drink and then sleep.

A testing day


A tram journey starting at 7:18 still gave time to drop in at an ancient boulangerie for some baked goods before arriving at the Centre De Sante De Strasbourg. The receptionist was a little ray of sunshine emanating charm and good humour whilst she compiled the paperwork to start our dossier before we were sent into the waiting room to the right of reception. It had yellow walls and an easy-clean, brown lino type floor with black metal chairs connected to each other around the walls and in rows interspersed with some low tables with magazines on them. At a low volume Muzak was playing and a smile crossed my face when I heard Golden Brown by the Stranglers. In the corridor between reception and the waiting are in a little recessed area were two desks with a screen, the same width as the desk, from floor to ceiling next to them. After a wait people were called over to see one of two people behind each desk. It seemed to follow the order in which we had arrived. In turn I was called over and asked questions to check the information in the dossier, to confirm that I had not eaten and I was given a pot and sent to the 4th floor to piss in it.

Into the lift and up to the top of the building on the fourth floor and out  into a room with a wood lined wall with a lino floor. On the right was a waiting area followed by male and female toilets, on the left it was divided into cubicles where blood was taken. In the corner on the left opposite the lift was an office space come reception. I walked into the toilet where there was a notice saying to start peeing then stop and at this point do so into the little jar. I did as instructed then washed my hands and went, with my little jar, and sat down in the waiting area. It became clear that people were also coming into the area to just get a blood test and it seemed there were three, of the about eight cubicle like rooms, being used for testing people having health check and the one by reception for the walk-up tests. Whilst waiting two chaps who had come for the walk-up test, who were also waiting, started talking Elsässisch. It was interesting to listen to them as I had not heard it spoken much in public places apart from my local patisserie. I was called into room and shown to deposit my bag and coat on a chair in the corner and then get into the large chair, sort of like an a sea-green arm-chair except it had raised maneuverable arm rests allowing you to rest you arms, upturned, whilst the blood was taken. The information in my dossier was  checked then asked questions about blood, whether I’ve ever had any surgical operations, blood transfusions etc. There was one question I did not understand and JTO had to be called in from the next room. I had not understood the different pronunciation of hepatitis in French and once I understood was able to answer that I did not want to be tested for it or HIV. A number of small capsules with either cream green or purple lids were got out from a lot that were clearly as they had come from the manufacturer, on a tray with plastic wrapping round them which had been torn to get at the capsules. They were put into a metal holder whilst the device for puncturing my arm was readied and then inserted. In turn each capsule was filled up and each capsule had a couple of things stuck to it which came from a sheet in the dossier. I collected my things up, was handed the dossier back and then went back down in the lift to the first waiting room to be told at 8:55 we could eat.

When JTO was called I noticed that off the waiting area there small rooms with red lights above them. The man who had following me was called into one of the rooms before me grrrr and the young woman who had followed him then overtook me double grrrr added to which I then was experiencing  a sugar rush from my baked goods.

The dossiers had been put in a rack on the wall to the left  of where I was sitting. A woman in a white-coat came out and took a dossier out which was standing up, whereas the others were lying down. At that moment a man in a white-coat  came out with another patient  and the two people in white coats swapped dossiers and  the woman went off with the patient and the man took the dossier before coming back and calling my name and took me off into one of the rooms. I was told to put my stuff in a room off to the right and sit across the desk from him. He said someone would be in for another part of the test. He started with the eye test, using a machine like the one pictured, but had only got onto the second row when his boss appeared and they swapped places. We finished that test then I had to put on headphones and I had to press a button when I heard something. Next I had to go back into the small room and remove my clothes apart from underwear and socks and then come back in. Before going to lie on a medical couch covered with a tissue my height and weight were measured. A tissue was wet and then touched at various places on my legs, arms and chest. It was cold and the first time it happened I started. To these places little suction cups were attached. Not what I was expecting at all, more like what you see in films and TV programmes where metal sensors are attached and then taped on. I was told to close my eyes and relax which I did and then the sensors were taken off and I could dry myself with the towel before going back into the room and clothing myself. In the room I took the picture you see of the mark left on my arm by the suction cup. When I came back in I had to sit back down and was offered a device to blow into. First taking a couple of normal breaths before taking a massive breath and blowing out as hard as I could for as long as I could, This one I found difficult as I hesitated between breathing in and the long hard breath out. I was shown that it meant the result on the computer was worse than it should be but on the third go I got it right.

I collected up my things and went back out into the waiting room. After a short while I was called back to the desks to make an appointment to talk to the doctor about the results. So, we will not know if I am dying, or what other outcome there, is until next Thursday. I left and at 10:15 headed home to buy tickets to see Leonard Cohen in Dublin in September.

Finding things that weren’t lost


I mentioned before that I have a health examination tomorrow. I don’t think I mentioned it was at 7:45 in the morning and it is in a place some distance across Strasbourg from home. One of the first things which will happen is a blood test so I’m not allowed to eat anything during the 12 hours beforehand but have to buy breakfast to eat after the blood test and dental check-up. This will undoubtedly involve something of the baked goods variety – especially as there is a boulangerie between the tram-stop and the health centre which has been going since 1279 and I know sells wonderful baked goods.

In my time here I have had a several medical tests, blood tests and x-rays particularly. As they need you to go without food beforehand I normally go somewhere nearer.

As well as the completed four page questionnaire which I have to take I must bring any results I have from earlier tests. It’s not like the UK, where a blood test or an x-ray is prescribed and in the larger surgeries you have it done by the nurse and they keep your records or you have to go to the hospital and they keep your records. Here in France the Doctor usually prescribes a blood test or x-ray and it is then your responsibility to find a laboratory to carry it out. After you have done it they send a copy to the doctor and a copy to me. I think it is better this way, I feel I am playing more of a part in, and I am more responsible for, my own health-care. At times like this when I have to see a third-party and they want to see the records I have, they tell me to bring them, I fish them out and take them with me. I will then be able to talk about my medical history explaining why I have each item.

I have had a two draw filling cabinet similar to the one pictured for a number of years. Some time ago I lost the keys to the bottom draw which was not good as it was locked. However, stuff like bank statements etc were in the top and it was more personal things in the bottom so I haven’t been worried about not seeing them. I did wonder about vaccinations and other medical records. For the first time in over ten years I was able to manoeuvre the draws so that I could get at the items stored in the bottom draw. But, in doing so I remembered that vaccinations and similar items were all in the front of the top draw anyway. A quick search revealed vaccination records going back to 1965 and hospital appointments of the same vintage. I don’t think they’ll be much use  but I’ll take them anyway, What will be useful is the record of vaccinations I had in November 2002 before a trip to Southern Africa which probably details the inoculations I have had that are still current.

Having the draw open anyway I spent sometime looking through the contents. Mostly it was nothing exceptional, cuttings and leaflets from a politically active past; records from a public inquiry I took part in and gave evidence at and then the big surprise. There were many letters. In the 80’s and 90’s I was a keen letter writer. The letters I received when I was a student unfortunately seemed to disappear from my parents house where they were stored. I was surprised to find letters form a German school student I took part in an exchange with in 1979 and 1980. I was pleased to find letters from my brother from the time he left the UK to go travelling and then after he had left to make his home in Australia.

I also found letters from female friends from the 1990’s and the tone and content surprised me. If asked now I would have said our relationships was not as the letters state. I would say that some of the things stated in the letters didn’t happen, subjects being talked about casually that, if quizzed before seeing them, I would be sure were never explicitly talked about. It is possible that the more subtle, the more nuanced parts were not picked up and I am very good at not noticing things said subtly. But this is not that. This is not remembering how things were. If this is remembered wrong, what else is too? How much of what I believe my story to be is just totally wrong? I found something this afternoon. I didn’t know it was lost.

Puffing away


I have thought about giving up smoking this afternoon. It’s not that I smoke. I haven’t done so for more than a decade. Thanks to the insurance firm of the employers of JTO I am having a half-day health check-up on Thursday at the Centre d’Examens de Sante. There is a questionnaire to complete before Thursday morning and one part of it asks if I smoke, or if not if I ever have and in which case how long is it since I stopped. In my case I do not smoke but did until the end of February 1998.

I had a weekend away and it had been a drink fueled weekend where I picked up a cold and felt so awful that I didn’t smoke all day and the next day I thought I would try to not smoke again, and just kept repeating this. At the time I had thought about stopping smoking because I had realised that out of my then thirty-five years of life I had smoked for twenty-one years. I had smoked for much more of my life than I had not smoked. And I wanted not to.

Most people connect drinking and smoking and if they stop smoking then they find having a drink difficult. For me it was the opposite. It was like being in mourning and I spent the first three months after stopping smoking eating and drinking everything I could, three course meals for lunch and evening meal and plenty to drink with it. I did smoke three times but each one was at a particular time and in response to events but it tasted awful and I didn’t have another one after. Now I can complete the form saying that I smoked for twenty-one years but have not done so for fourteen years.

Back in black


I don’t usually post pictures of myself here as I do not want to frighten away the few readers there are, however today I will.  Normally I wear a head of blonde hair.  For my age I am pleased still to have so much of it and it being so thick.  I have been red, in fact I was married with red hair.  For a while I had it combed forward until a kind friend pointed out the resemblance to Coronation Street character Ivy Tilsley resulted in a rapid change.  But most of the time my hair has been blonde and combed back.

As you will see from the picture, that changed yesterday.  For the first time in my life I have black hair.  I wondered when younger what I would look like with black hair, there were times when I actively wanted it – having lovely blonde curly hair I should have been happy with my lot but we always want something other than what we have.  Why the change?  Its all for the sake of art.  Next weekend I appear in a play ‘Picasso at the Lapin Agile‘ at the Au Camionneur.(Some tickets left bu selling out quickly)  Afterwards it will be back to blonde.

At the Velhop


First came the Facebook page which I was informed of and liked about a month ago.  Then came notice that the Strasbourg stand at the Foire Europeanee (See yesterday) would feature the Velhop.  So, whilst there I hastened along to the stand and had myself pictured there in my rather fetching new jacket and shoes.  THEN came the appearance at the beginning of this week of properties around Strasbourg saying they would be Velhop shops and yesterday came the adverts on the trams saying the Velhop is coming.  As an awareness raising campaign it has been building impressively from social media through to on-street advertising.  I am looking forward to finding out the details of the new city-bike scheme for Strasbourg.  In 1996 when I had some influence over decisions on transport in a large town in the south of England I went to a European Car Free Cities conference in Copenhagen and saw in operation the city-bike scheme there and was intent on setting one up in the relevant town.  History intervened and I was not able to introduce the scheme.  I am surprised at the amount of time it has taken for the scheme to spread to other cities, probably the introduction of such a scheme in Paris by Bertrand Delanoe is what gave the idea momentum.  Strasbourg is the city in France with the highest level of cycling and has been designated the most cycle friendly.  Certainly being flat helps enormously as does the sheer number of on street and separate cycling facilities.  I will be watching interestedly to see how this scheme develops, though as someone with their own bike at home that they use regularly around the cycle-lanes of Strasbourg I don’t expect to be using them very soon.  I am also looking forward to colleagues mentioning the scheme as a judge of it hitting public awareness.

The title for this post is, of course, a corruption, a jokey play, on the title of the song by Danny and the Juniors, ‘At the Hop’ which can be seen below.  Aren’t the 1950’s suits and dance just great.

The song is sung  on the soundtrack of the film Woodstock by Sha-Na-Na(wiki) whose version of the song from the film of Woodstock is posted afterwards.  The two films really are very different, the clothes are very different and the dances are very different.

Hard shoulder


When younger there was a time when I found it difficult to differentiate between shoulder and soldier.  This could make it difficult when I was looking for something to dip into the yolk of my boiled egg. (British English joke there, bits of toast for dunking into egg yolk are called soldiers.)  Last year there was a time when I had a problem with my left arm such that I could not lift it above a certain height and was losing the use of it.  JTO reminded me of the Tommy Cooper joke:

Patient – Doctor, when I raise my arm above my shoulder it hurts.

Doctor – Don’t do it then. (4:15 in below but its worth watching it all)

However it was making washing my self difficult and was getting in the way of work.  So I visited the Doctor and some painkillers and anti-inflammatories later it was sorted.  At the end of last month I started getting pain in my shoulder putting my coat on which was getting worse, little by little.  When in Sarajevo it got so bad I couldn’t put my coat on at all by myself and by the end of the visit I couldn’t put my socks on either.  So on return back I went to the doctors.  Again painkillers and anti-inflamitories  and the problem went.  However, getting a similar problem twice suggests there is something of a more serious problem so I got referred by the doctor to a specialist.  First I had to get an X-ray and an Echograph.  Here you do not have to go to hospital for these.  There is a place, close to the next tram-stop on the ride into the city, where you buzz in to what looks like an ordinary residence, take the lift to the first floor and there is a waiting room.(Building with x-ray on the left, I wonder if there is any special shielding to protect the people above from the x-rays etc, the technician stands behind what looks like a lead shield whilst operating the machine.)  Both procedures were done and I took my results away with me, after I had paid of course.  Then this week, I visited the specialist on the first floor of another residential building just across the road from the x-ray doctors.  He looked at the x-ray, read the letter from the doctor and manipulated my shoulder and asked me to perform various tasks and decided there was a problem with a tendon for which I got a cortisone injection.  It is generally fine now apart from the odd twinge.

Two things come out of this tale regarding the difference between the French and British health systems.  The first is how much more of a role I play in the system.  I chose which Doctor to go to.  He prescribed drugs and an x-ray just as the equivalent probably would have d0ne in the UK, I went to the chemists and got the medicine and paid for it, again as in the UK.  However, for the X-ray I had to find which places perform x-rays, decide which to go to and then find a specialist and go to them.  After the Cortisone injection, rather than pay then for the drugs I got a prescription and had to go to the chemists to collect and pay for it before delivering it to the specialist to replace the one he had used on me.  Similarly when given an appointment to go to a dermatologist before, I was given a prescription for a visit to a dermatologist and it was up to me to find one and go to them.  For blood tests I have to find a laboratory and go to it for the test.  They then send the results to the doctor who prescribed it but also to me.  I have copies of every blood test and every x-ray I have had.   I know more about what is happening to me, about the state of my health and I play more of a role in taking decisions about who I see and they involve me more in decisions about my treatment.  It is so different from the UK system where the Doctor tells you what is wrong and makes an appointment with the appropriate specialist, the x-ray department of the local hospital send you an appointment telling you when it is suitable for them that you turn up, they send the x-ray to the specialist who writes to tell you when it is convenient for you to see him.  I feel I have played more of a part in my health and been treated more like an adult than in the UK where you are treated more like a child.

The second difference is paying.  Paying to see the doctor, for the prescription, to see the specialist, for the x-ray etc, in hard cash before leaving.  People with low incomes or on benefits get a card which means they do not have to pay.  I have an insurance which reimburses me most of the cost but I have to pay first and get the money later.  It’s hell for the cashflow when you get a bill for more than €300 in a month that was not budgeted for.  I much prefer being part of the decision making about my healthcare.  It seems appropriate the day after the final votes to introduce President Obama’s healthcare reforms to be thinking about different healthcare systems.

The drugs do work


A very bad night on Monday, slept very fitfully because of pains down my left arm.  I had no recall of doing anything to cause the pain.  This was followed by the pain growing whilst working during the day until it got so bad that when I got home I put an ankle support over my elbow providing support to where the worst pain had been during the afternoon, just below the elbow in the muscles.  It didn’t stop it being difficult to bend down to get something from the fridge even if I used my other arm, the bending put strain on the muscle.  A worse night followed, it was not possible to get comfortable at all and I slept fitfully again but, whatever rest my arm had been able to get was beneficial.  In the shower I found the main site of the pain was in the upper arm muscle and I couldn’t use it to do anything below my waist or above my shoulders.  It reminded me of the Tommy Cooper joke;

“Doctor I’m in pain when I try to lift my arm higher than my shoulder.”

“Don’t do it then.”

After work on Wednesday I was able to get a bit of rest before going to see the doctor, we are lucky enough to have them on the ground floor of the building I live in – although at the end of the week they are moving a couple of streets away.  She couldn’t find what could have caused the pain either but gave me some pain killers and something to tackle the inflammation of my upper arm muscle which seems to be the seat of the pain.  Well the pain killers stopped the pain and I slept well last night for the first time this week and the pain in my muscle has diminished to the extent I don’t feel it any more.  I’m sorry the Verve, the drugs do work.

Historical note.  The album featuring the above song together with Bitter Sweet Symphony came out at the beginning of the same week as the Labour Party conference of 1997.  The first one I went to when the party was the Government, the first one I went to working for a Member of Parliament.  What a time to be alive, the hope and joy after eighteen years of opposition.  The party conference that was a celebration of what had been achieved.  Together with a number of people from the Reading party we hired a house for the week and the bedroom I was in had a stereo next to the bed.  I went out and bought the CD first thing on the Monday of conference.  The album, but particularly Bitter Sweet Symphony, always brings back memories of waking to another beautiful blue sun-filled sky, as they all were in 1997, and pressing play and the intro of Bitter Sweet Symphony starting, looking up at the sunlit blue sky feeling happy at the day that to be, at the Labour Party conference in Brighton.  Party conference was never the same after that, especially as the next one was in Blackpool.

The Singing Detective


In the mid-1980’s I was a big fan of the Dennis Potter TV play ‘The singing detective“(Also here and here.). It was about a man suffering from the skin complaint psoriasis in hospital whilst having hallucinations about his youth and a detective story he is reading. The piece, like other Potter plays, features songs, including a hilarious version of ‘dry bones’ .(The second here above from wikipedia has a run down of all the songs in the show.)  The problems caused by severe psoriasis feature heavily in the show and are said to be heavily autobiographical, at times Dennis Potter had to have pens tied to his hands so he could write and this is something which happened to the main character.  One of the memorable parts of the story involved the main character having moisturiser applied to his body by one of the nurses.  The psoriasis affects his whole body so some sensitive parts have to be moisturised.  Much is made of the things Philip Marlow tries to think about in order not to be aroused.

This whole piece has been as a result of now having psoriasis myself.  Thankfully it is not as severe as that suffered by Philip Marlow in the story, I only need a special shampoo and a treatment applied morning and night.  It might be worth having it if  I was looked after by Nurse Mills……

I’ve got my vision on.

The title is from Jonathon Richmond’s hit Road Runner.  Vision On was also the name of an art programme on TV when I was young.  The host of the programme was Tony Hart.  I was saddened to hear of the death of Tony Hart.  I was one of generations of children interested in art by the way he made creating things so simple on the programme Vision On.  I never had an artistic bone in my body but he made things seem so simple that I tried to do more than I otherwise would.  Here is the second part of a Vision On programme from 1975.  I include this part because it contains the ‘gallery’ where they showed pictures sent in by the people who watched the show, early interactivity?

The music behind the gallery is something that has stayed with me from the programme.  It had been intended as a programme for the deaf and had extensive signing, something which made me more aware that there were others in the World different from me.  Here he is being interviewed, and made to make something artistic out of everyday household items, by Whitley’s finest:

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