1 April 2017

A Crazy Brit!

How do you sum up three weeks in a German rehabilitation clinic now that I am home again? It is now the 31st Day since the operation on my right knee. What they don't tell you till the last minute, is that you will be in great pain and unable to sleep well for sometime! 

I am grateful for the training I received in the British Army for it has stood me in good stead, through life, my circumnavigation and now in surviving the Rehab Clinic! What doesn't kill you makes you strong is true in this case, also.

As the bears have mentioned the clinic was full of patients that had received either a knee replacement or a hip replacement. The majority were women and a fair proportion of them were on the self pitying trip and seeking sympathy for their pain. They got none from me! And yet a sense of camaraderie did exist, for we were all in it together and experiencing similar pain problems. I just did not talk about mine.

Early on, because I was  Brit, I was marked out, mostly in a humorous manner, but also because I did my own thing, walked 3 kms per day through the town and park, and faster than anyone else. When the therapists heard I had hiked over the hills with my crutches, they were aghast and gave me to understand that I was crazy and should not do this!! Well I did as I was told for about a week before I was drawn again into the woods and hills for another adventurous hike.

This is how the knee looked two days after the Operation!

This is how it looks now!

We took ourselves off for another walk in the woods, which was up hill all the way.

We found a Chapel at the top.

And so we stopped to pray for good health and for all our friends around the World.

The views always compensated for the effort of getting there.

A Knee Group therapy session!

On another occasion we took ourselves off to walk up the river Üssbach  valley. The clinic is actually located on the banks of this river in Bad Bertrich.

We went as far as the "Entenburg" which though the stairway had four steps missing actually climbed to the top.

A selfie from the top of the tower where the views were great.

We had come from the area of the white building in the top left of the picture just below the horizon!

Our efforts were nearly always rewarded with an ice and an espresso!

Although I had twice mentioned to the clinic doctor that I wanted to be able to ride a bike before I left, I was never allocated therapy on a bike. In the last week I received a fair bit of one on one therapy and one nice young physiotherapist, acted much like an Army PTI and really made me sweat. Such sessions I enjoyed the most, for I always felt that the effort of working through the pain was worth it. Water gymnastics I also enjoyed a lot. At first with two women then with only one and lastly alone. All in all I left the clinic on Thursday 29th March fitter, five kilos lighter and able to run up and down the stairs like any normal person!

The Bears are happy to be home again as much as I am.

On the Friday after getting home I got up early to see the Orthopaedic Specialist to discuss future treatment. Then I went to my GP to touch base and to discuss and obtain pain therapy treatment. I take no pain killers during the day any more, but need them at night or else I would get no sleep at all!
I then had plenty of time to get a number plate made for my new bike carrier and so went and collected my new Trecking Ebike.

The weather was so fine, like a summers day, so once home I took the bike for a spin to the cemetery to show Hanna and to report that I was back again. It's about a 3 kms round trip, so I am well able to ride a bike again, though I must admit getting the right leg over the bike takes a bit of effort.

My cunning plan is now to do some fitness speed walking on crutches for some 3 kms and then stretching and strengthen exercises three times a week. I will get physio twice a week for awhile and twice a week I will hike in the woods with a light pack and my hiking poles, the first week 6 kms, the second 8 the third 10 and so on until I can hike 30 kms again. With my knew Ebike I will take myself off at weekends, just for fun as well! The crutches I will ditch using in two weeks time i.e. 6 weeks after the operation and not the 12 they kept telling me in the clinic!!

So life is good, I am glad I had the operation done and as you may be able to tell can't wait to get on with my new adventures.

18 March 2017


We have now been in the Median Clinic Haus Fortuna in Bad Bertrich for some eight days now. The routine has become part of our DNA! That is to say we get up around 06:45 hrs to either go promptly to Breakfast or to some therapeutic activity! Lunch is at 11:45 hrs and the evening meal at 17:30 hrs! Generally our program is quite full in the mornings, but in the afternoon we are  free.

Alan still feels out of place here and has begun to wonder if he made the right decision! Nothing is ever certain, but he is making progress, so lives in hope.

The staff here are all very competent and, what is important, friendly and helpful! They are fully able to cope with the various demands of the inmates. 

The majority of the inmates are female and all are either hip or knee patients! Some are quite elderly and exhibit signs of Alzheimer's while one dear soul is mentally challenged, has a body of a 39 year old but the mind of a toddler! 

The majority are also over weight and probably have other medical conditions to cope with such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

Alan was allocated a seat at a table for four, in the dining room, on arrival. At first it was an all male table but now they are three males and one female! Edgar is a man who arrived at the same time as Alan, sits next to him, is slightly hard of hearing and speaks with a strong dialect which Alan has trouble understanding! Fortunately he is not very talkative so, meals are often taken in silence. 

It seems that as you humans get older and less fit the brain atrophies as well, for other than passing the time of day, or talking about one's ailments the conversation is severely limited in scope! Consequently Alan keeps mum!

We were fortunate in having fine weather for the first week, so when free Alan took us for long walks through the little town to the park. Nearly always on the way back we were treated to an ice cream.

The best conversation Alan had so far was with Prince Wenzeslaus and his sister Konigunde von Sachsen!

           The entrance to the park.

The walk there and back is some 3 kms and after a week Alan felt it was time for more of an adventure so walked round the mountain on the north side of the Valley !

This involved walking up the hill some 247 meters to the top. We took it easy, as clearly the last thing we needed was for Alan to stumble or fall, but we were rewarded with fine views from the top.

Going down we were even more careful!

At the bottom looking back up to where we had been is the "Swan Lake" but there were no swans!

Alan had the staples removed during the week, which he said was a great relief!

The leg is healing nicely, though the knee is still quite painful!

The food is like any hospital OK. Alan finds that breakfast and the evening meal are more or less the same. The only way you can tell the difference is that there is never any coffee to be had in the evening! 

The liquid refreshment is little more than coloured water. The coffee is so bland that Alan would be thankful if they were served with American "mud". In the evenings they get peppermint tea or rooibus tea, served so weak that Alan would prefer water!

Every chair in the dining room has hooks on the back for the crutches! Some of the inmates use a rollator instead! The advantage of the rollator is that it can be used to carry the food from the buffet! 

Patients can be accompanied by a spouse or partner which may make the stay more bearable for the patient, but it must be quite boring for the partner, who just sits and waits while the other half is receiving therapy!

Now the weather has changed and it is wet and windy. Long walks in the woods are now clearly out, but Alan will feel trapped like a caged lion if the weather does not improve soon! Sunday is perhaps the most boring and tedious of days as there is no therapeutic activity but the meal times stay the same! So roll on Monday we say!

11 March 2017


It was clear to us last October, when we had to abandon our inner German border hike, that Alan would need something drastic done to his right knee if ever we were to walk another Camino.

Alan had some arthroscopy done in November which proved that there was no cartilage on the inside of the right knee, and so a date was fixed to have a partial knee replacement surgery done! On 1 March Alan had this done in the Städtischeskrankenhaus Nettetal by a Doctor Farag, who as luck would have it, is an Egyptian. 

Something similar to what you see here, but without the gold was consequently put in.

Alan has said that stapling must have been invented by a surgeon with poor needle and thread skills!

It was clear to us Bear's of little brain, that this whole procedure was painful.

But we were there in the hospital to administer TLC when needed.

To all our delight we were visited by many friends and realatives. Monika T, who kindly delivered us to and later collected us from hospital, was the first visitor followed a day later by George and his wife Petra. This was a wonderful surprise for we all know how much George hates hospitals, and with good reason. 

On the Saturday Petra brought Monica and Christopher and of course little Vincent. We all had a wonderful afternoon being chased round the garden by Petra.

Hardly had this fun group departed when we were surprised by Natalie and Heiner visiting. Heiner had just returned from Mexico and brought us Bears a nice little Sombrero which now adorns the head of Sandra's little bear that lives with us!
While Natalie brought some of our favourite chocolates!

Alex visited too and he was doubly welcome as he brought Alan a G+T and the Sun newspaper!

The last couple of visitors were then Alistair and Karin C on the Sunday. In such a manner the time in hospital flew by.

After only six days we were sent home and here too we were inundated with offers of help and visitors.

Alan had the opportunity of going out for a meal with Karin and Alistair C on one evening.

Vincent dragged Petra round to see us and had great fun reorganising everything he could lay his hands on.

Anja and Karoline came round too, just to have a chat.

Then on Friday 10 March we were collected by a minibus which already had two female cripples in it. We drove via Düren where we collected a third female and this made a two hour journey a four and a half hour one!

Alan was in some pain when we got here, but had to wait until late in the evening before he could see the duty doctor to get some painkillers!

Where the light is on the second floor is where our room is!

In the dining room Alan was allocated a place at a table with three other men. Two were coming to the end of their time here and are a talkative couple, Alan says more like old women for it's inconsequential rubbish that they say!

It's a considerable culture shock being here too. The majority are clearly OAPs, though there are some younger patients too, but they are all so old in the head! At least one poor soul is mentally challenged and two females and one male are Turkish Muslims! Many seem to have a poor attitude to the requirements to work hard in the Physiotherapy sessions too. 

After our first session this morning we went for a walk round town and after lunch we walked along a Camino path to an elves grotto!

When we returned from these outings we found Alan's plan for the week.

Early starts will mean early to bed but we are told it makes a man healthy wealthy and wise!

23 December 2016

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Advent 2016

An old Chinese curse says, “may you live in interesting times!” Well I rather feel what with BREXIT, Trump, the refugee crisis caused also by the wars in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, the situation over the Crimea and the Ukraine, and the political situation in Turkey  we have been given it in Spades! What worries me too, is the way the Press in Britain has played a part in the rise of hate, racism and what amounts to fascism. Their manner of reporting is at best scandalous and at worst amounts to a crime. The future looks gloomy and dire, yet I have faith in the good in most humans and pray that we will weather the storm that is sure to come from all this.

Do write and tell me how you feel about the USA and their choice of President and what Brexit means for you. I fear for America and the world, for they may have just, like Germany in the 1930s,  unleashed a monster which they cannot control. It was a big mistake of the Democrat Party not to choose Bernie Sanders as the guy to go against Trump. After a Black President they were not ready for a female and especially not Clinton! If racism has risen despite a Black President what will happen now with a fascist and sexist at the helm?

The future for the UK looks dire or not depending on whether you are a Brexiteer or a Remoaner, as they seem now to be called. I am the latter! In my view you cannot leave a club and expect still to have all the benefits of membership! The club will not countenance such a thing. So I hope that the UK government trigger article 50 soon and then realise how bad it really will be and put the whole negotiated  question back to the people.  Perhaps then the 12m odd people who did not bother to vote will also get off their bums and now do so. The moral of the tale is be careful what you wish for!

My knees add to this equation on a very personal level and have also caused me much pain and heartache! First having to give up on my border walk was hard, but then more or less just sitting around, getting fat in the process, and waiting for doctor’s appointments was frustrating to say the least. So much so that I feel Christmas has crept up on me a bit too soon!

My right knee has lost most if not all of the cartilage on the left inside part and, though the pain is bearable, I am not able to hike any great distance with it. All the time I have been hobbling I have strained the left knee which now is also not able to hike great distances. Even cycling is painful on the knees! All in all a miserable state of affairs for an infantryman!!!     

So mechanical failure in this ’46 Model   Rolls-can-‘ardly  has shocked me to my core for I have suddenly felt very, very old!! Hobbling up and down steps has done it for me. I can’t do all the things I want to and now have to make compromises. I have maintained that I have the heart of a 12 year old boy, out for adventure and excitement. One who wants to discover the world anew like Columbus, or travel into darkest Africa to photograph (not shoot) the wild life like Quartermain. To my further dismay I have the eyes and sexual appetite of a 25 year old, but fully realise that my broken down body is that of a 70 year old so all these things are unrealistic! My one consolation is that I am not alone, for I am sure nearly every other 70 year old feels as I do!

But I am ever optimistic and am hoping that a replacement knee OP in the first part of next year, will give me a new lease of life and that I can go on my adventures again. On the basis of one knee at a time, I hope the right knee will be done before Easter. Then it may well be wait and see. Perhaps the left will calm down and I can hike with it? If I have my way then I will attempt to hike the Camino Portuguese after Easter on new knees!

In July I also hope to sail in UK waters with my Army chums for a week or so; in August  I plan with my chum Jürgen, to continue our paddle down the Weser. (No knees needed) The first weekend in September I am organising the annual reunion of the Old Comrades of the Nienburg Crew, hopefully in the Cologne/Bonn area.

Let me finish by wishing you and your  family a very Merry Christmas and New Year filled with hope, good health and much laughter.

18 September 2016

Day 13. Bad Rodach to Einöd 12.13 kms

A grey day and with a later start as breakfast was not till 08:00hrs. 

Here it has rained on one side of the track and not on the other! Our route took us through a park out of town. This park had a couple of interesting things to play with to amuse us bears.

A sort of rocking horse seat on springs.

And a whole lot of percussion plates to make music with. We did too.

At the top of the hill was the thermal baths. This fountain had warm water in it.

Then it was across the fields to the forest. One last look back at the view.

Then it was into the forest and uphill all the way.

It got steep enough for steps too.

At the top was a tower, but we did not go up, Alan's knees thanked us we feel.

We passed places where humans had dug holes in the hill.

They are more than likely to be old ice houses, where people stored ice made in the winter months on the mountain.

For awhile we followed  a good road through the forest, but still saw no one. The forest was also strangely devoid of sound. No birds nothing!

This tree was called the "bratwurst tree", but there were no bratwurst to be had!

Then we passed an ancient Hun burial site.

This part of the official trail was wet ad muddy as well as steep.

For a time we were again following the Luther road, one that he would have walked. 

But now we were back on the border trail.

There were plenty of huts on the trail to rest and shelter in. Alan decided to take a more direct route to Einöd which saved us more than 15 kms over the official route. So we left the convoy route and navigated ourselves further through the forest. When it started to rain we were protected by the trees and were able to take shelter in a hut until the worst had subsided.  

Then we could not find the path that would lead directly to Einöd out of the forest. So we now broke new trail and took a direct route out to the edge of the forest where we found the path that led to where we wanted to go. It is this bit of the adventure that our BBF likes best.

We could now see Einöd in the valley below.

We played Pooh sticks on the bridge into the village, and you guessed it, we bears won!

We are housed on Western Ranch where there are plenty of horses, but also an ass or two.

Our room is above the barn, but comfortable enough.

It is raining now where we are and the animals appear not to mind getting a wet bottom. Alan says humans prefer a wet head to a wet bottom! Is this true? We bears don't like getting wet at all. Let's hope tomorrow is a better weather day.