Thursday, December 17, 2009

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Getting out and about

Last Friday I was out and about with Miriam and took the road to Buchillon. It was a bit nippy and my gloves weren’t exactly doing their job and my fingers got cold quickly. The colder they get, the more claw like they become and eventually flexing my fingers is impossible. I’ve already figured out how to hook my thumb around the control stick so that it doesn’t matter too much if my hand gets too cold.
As we came into Buchillon we found that Christmas decorations were being erected and Miriam decided that a photo opportunity was present. Miriam had me going from one side of the street to the other and turning this way and that. Then it was off down the steep hill to the lake to where I’m within an arms length of the water but with a set of steps in the way. That’s when I felt the cold and it wasn’t long before we were on our way to get some coffee.

08 12 2009
Took to the road after lunch today and having a bit of blue sky around meant it was warmer. Took the road through the forest, quiet, peaceful, tranquil, still. Words don’t do justice to the feeling as I ride through. I came out on the main road through Buchillon and instead of turning off to go to Migros for coffee, decided to see where the road led.
A short while later I could hear a tinkling in the distance, too soft to be a church and there was no actual tune, it was more, a whole lot of different peeling without any synchronisation.
I turned the next corner and there on the hill in front of me was a herd of cows. Each one had a cowbell hanging round its neck and as they walked and ate the grass, they played their own tune. First time in my life that I’ve seen and heard cowbells. Of course as luck would have it, I’d left my camera at home. Typical, Murphy’s law strikes again.

09 12 2009
Miriam loaded me up in her car and took me to Morges and I didn’t know where we were going until she stopped in a car park next to the lake.
Travelling along the lakeside is really great as I always get to see something different. There are bicycles galore, people running, dogs being taken for walks or people just taking a stroll. I have to say, some of the dogs are really nice, they bring their owners out in miniskirts and knee length boots.
As the sun was setting, an opportunity for more photos presented itself. We were at the right place at the right time…

Friday, December 4, 2009

To infinity and beyond

So, I’m taking this chair where it’s never been before. “To infinity and beyond”, as a certain space ranger would say.
I had a visit from social service the other day. It was a check on the power chair and what extras I needed and if I was happy and they needed to justify the cost. Apparently the cost was higher than they anticipated and they wanted to present alternative options. A different chair was presented and after a good look at it, it actually seemed a far better option for me and it was a good deal cheaper. Now all I have to do is wait for the demo model. I’ve been told that it isn’t as easy to pop a wheelie on this model… Watch this space. There’s also a Fifty at stake with Miriam and I’m not about to loose.
The last few days have been dull and grey but I’ve still managed to get out, even went passed the forest and found a track that looked inviting but Miriam chickened out. She said it looked a bit wet.
We did find a car park with what looked like a path down to the lake. There were a few signs proclaiming a public park with various times of opening and closing and a path with a gateway that was open.
I was through the gate in a flash and discovered that the pathway became a rock strewn track that descended at an alarming angle. I was past the point of no return, changed to low speed, tilted the chair back, so that I felt like an astronaut going in the wrong direction, and went for it.
At the bottom was another pathway leading off towards the lake but it was covered in wet leaves and was even steeper. I decided that it wasn’t worth the risk and spring/summer would be a better option when one could see the path clearly.
Going back up had it’s moments, slow speed is useless as there’s a distinct lack of power and with rocks and loose gravel the front wheels dig in and force you to stop. So, up the power, and suddenly there’s a bucking bronco hopping it’s way to the top, line up for the gate, and I’m back in the car park.
Still haven’t reached the lake though.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The crowing cockerel

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve had a two lunch dates with a difference. A while back Mme Gafner, one of the residents here, asked for an audience with me. Yup, not often that you here that term but when you actually sit and talk to Mme Gafner you realise that she is old school. I have no idea what her first name is and wouldn’t dream of using it if I did and that’s likewise for her with my first name. after listening to her, I have worked out that she is about double my age as she was at school in Italy before the first world war. Her children are way older than me… and I’ll leave the age thing right there.
The audience came about because for a few weeks we were table companions in the dining room until I moved to another dining area more suitable for my wheelchair. During that time I really enjoyed listening to her stories, her late husband was a member of the International Olympic Committee and she was able to meet many members of the various royal families and there were many funny tales. Mme Gafner was interested in my stories of life in South Africa and what I’d done in life and, when I changed dining areas the stories stopped.
So, at the audience we picked up where we left off and decided that we would have lunch every so often for a change of conversation.
At our first lunch Mme Gafner got to see my power chair and she was like a little girl with all the questions and she was clapping her hands and was so happy for me that I could get out and about. I even had to show her how fast I could go and I had to weave in and out of the tables and chairs.
A little while later we were chatting about the strange noises that one hears around the home, we have two concert pianists that have pianos in their rooms and we often have opposing music. Just down the passage from my room someone has a chiming clock that we all hear at 3 in the morning. I seriously want to find it and throw a brick at it; Miriam said she wanted to see me do that as she doesn't believe I have the necessary movement to actually throw a brick. Spoil sport, and so the clock is safe.
Then Mme Gafner told me about her new alarm clock. She said that she had received it as a gift and still has no idea how it works other than she had to put batteries in it to make it work. She's used to the Big Ben style wind up clocks. Batteries in, she set it up and left it on her night stand, then went to bed. At 3am she woke to the sound of a cockerel crowing. The night nurse came in to see if she had a bird in her room and together they looked but they couldn't find one. Then at 4am it happened again and again they were trying to find a bird in her room.
It was only at 5am did she realise that it was her new clock and by this time I was doubled over and ready to fall out of my chair, I was crying with laughter.
The clock has been turned off and the old one put back into service.
Life here's not always boring.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Rain, rain, rain.

So, not funny, someone or something over the last few days has nicked the sun and left us with mist and rain. My view of the mountains is non existent apart from the odd glimpse between tendrils of clouds towards the end of the day.
It’s one thing getting caught in the rain but for me to actually go out when it’s raining before I’m out the door is just not going to happen.

25 11 09
Blue skies were peering through the clouds this morning and then at about 9 the clouds drifted off. Sun shine danced near and far and the mountains came into sharp focus, the air was crisp and clear.
I was keen to get out and about but Miriam came up to me and reminded me that today was physio day. Hey! Have to pay for fun in this day and age.
So the morning was taken up with my routine on the Power-plate and passive manipulation of my arms and legs. Stretching the Hamstrings is the worst and can be quite painful.
After that, time was short as it was close to lunch time and so, I had to curb my enthusiastic escape plans yet again.
Mid afternoon came and I took flight out the front door and headed for the forest that I encountered on my first jaunt. I stuck to the tar road; I thought it might be prudent as with all the recent rain, I might just get stuck. Hey! I’ve a name to maintain in the home, playing in the mud, yes but being stuck in the mud, no way.

27 11 09
Gray skies are back and the roads are wet again. It’s a case of, put the feet up and dream and think of where I’m going to go next. There’s a new train that’s just been commissioned on the line that passes through Etoy and it’s wheelchair friendly. My area of wandering has just expanded, now to find someone to come with me for a ride.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

If you go down to the woods...

16 11 09
If you go down to the woods today, you'll be in for a surprise.... You might just find a power chair that thinks it's a scrambler. Another awesome ride, totally off the beaten track. Miriam brought her bicycle today so I didn't have to hold back the horses. There’s a road that my room looks out onto that neither of us have been down. It’s not a busy road but there is a question mark hanging over it, where does it go?
So, I followed Miriam’s lead and took off after her and this time I could genuinely feel the wind in my hair. Then, we reached the end of the road. There was a private road on the left and forest everywhere else. We took the private road and soon found ourselves in an enclave of houses, the road was hemmed with neatly cropped hedge which lent itself to a cozy atmosphere. Again, we reached the end of the road and there was just a small path leading into the forest.
Miriam pedaled off into the forest and I, without any hesitation followed. I turned the speed down a bit as I couldn’t see the path for all the autumn leaves and I knew that I’d get caught out by something hidden.
A little while later I came across some hidden tree roots. I felt them before I saw them. It was only a 10m patch and half way across it I came to stop. Couldn’t go forwards and couldn’t go backwards. I had managed to balance the motor on top of a root and my wheels had no purchase on the path. Thankfully Miriam was with me and with a push and a shove I made it over the worst.
Then it was on through the forest. There were quite a few people out having a walk and not one of them seemed to think it strange to see a power chair where they normally wouldn’t see one.
All of a sudden I burst out into the middle of Buchillon and back onto a smooth road. Well, at least smoother than a dirt path. Being back in Buchillon meant trying to find a way to the lake again. Yet again I get to within arms reach and a whiff.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

This chair goes anywhere.

05 11
Had to take a chance today and see how the power chair reacted to a rough ride. The pavement I was on suddenly ended with a huge drain encased in concrete. I really didn’t feel like ramping off a 15cm drop onto the road especially as it’s not my chair but a demo unit. So, either I turn around and go back 200m or cut through a very rough verge and hope I don’t get caught in a ditch. Of course Murphy’s law kicks in right there and then, a bus full of school children stops right next to me and so now I have an audience and either I sit there looking like a prune or make like I know what I’m doing and go bundu bashing.

Bundu bashing it was, just like a pro and after some really bumpy moments I was back on the road heading through the village of Buchillon.
A short while later I was back at my short cut to Migros. No hesitation here and I took the bank at full speed. It was only at the top that I realised that I was on the back wheels the whole way. What a rush, felt like I was 20 again and on a dirt bike.

12 11
Today was not a good day, nothing worked or came together. Using the power plate was an effort and the physiotherapy was painful although the end result was achieved and my arms and legs were a lot looser.
After all that, I decided that the wind in my hair was a necessary feeling and a refill of my tank with coffee was on the cards. So, the call to McDonald’s was in the offing and after lunch off I went.
I had my first hoot and wave from a passing car, starting to get known here. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not.
To top it all, I got caught in the rain again.
Starting to become a habit.

13 11
Took a meander through Buchillon again today, I know that there’s a way down to the lake, just have to find it. Miriam was with me, she keeps threatening to bring her bicycle, and by chance we came across Natalie one of the nurses at home. She pointed us in the right direction and warned us of a steep hill.
Steep hill, not too worried about that, until I had it in my sights. kind of thought twice and then committed myself. Actually the motor works as a good brake and when I had had enough of the go slow I let the boy in me take over and the bottom came rushing up.
So near, yet so far. Someone had put a set of steps right at the bottom. So, not funny. The lake was right there in front of me and I still couldn’t get to it. There is a way to get to it and I will find it.
Going back up to the top of the hill had its moments and every bump lifted the front wheels off the road and of course I pushed it a bit and there were a few comments from behind me.
I went to a new place for coffee and I don’t know if I’ll go there again, we’ll see.
On the way back home, I took another route and eventually found my self on a dirt track again. Strange how I seem to find these dirt tracks. Trouble was, it was a bone jarring ride and I had to get to smoother ground. There was a field on my left with row upon row of some crop and at first glance looked a better ride.
Ha, the grass covered a multitude of sins and it was just as bumpy but there was an added element. There was dirt everywhere and it was wet and now I was having fun in the mud.
Power chairs rock especially with muddy wheels that leave tracks around the home.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Over the last couple of weeks I have been out and about more than I was for the last two years. Nearly every day I’m out of the door hunting up some coffee getting used to my chair. I’m getting to know the different shops, the easiest routes to take and the peaceful roads.
Found a short cut to the local supermarket by chance. I was going through the village behind my home (the spelling eludes me) which is small and very quiet with almost no traffic. I suddenly found that I was at the back of Migros (supermarket) and I had an option, take a dirt track up a bank or follow the road like a normal person.
I guess I’m not normal. I managed to evoke memories of dirt bikes in the bush, may be not so fast or comfortable but the power chair did the job and I didn’t fall off or over.
I also found a store that’s so large one can get disorientated and getting lost wouldn’t be difficult. IKEA is huge and once you’re inside you kind of have to follow arrows on the floor. Every so often is an information table so that you can work out where you are. It can be quite confusing as there is no direct route to any certain point and you have to follow the arrows…Yeah right. A certain power chair pilot went against the flow… say no more.
Sunday 1st Nov. I had to leave my power chair behind as it wouldn’t fit in Deb’s car, so it was back to my uncomfortable manual chair. Just so not amusing, been spoilt not having to use my arms to propel the chair. So, Deb becomes the pilot for the day.
A short while later I was in the village of Begnins meeting up with friends and family.
I found myself at a table, with a glass of wine, chatting and greeting whilst we all waited for a hockey match to start. All to soon Deb came to get me as we had to move up the road. I’m not a fast drinker nor a large consumer of wine, I don’t need the frequent trips to the loo, and my glass was still half full, or empty, depending on your view. Deb now had to move me over rough ground and amid much laughter we managed not to spill a drop.
I watched my nephew Nathan play hockey, then it was lunch and after that, a short trip to Nyons to watch my nephew Joé play soccer.
I became so uncomfortable in my chair that I stood for half of the match. Standing is something I only do when I really have to. All the exercise and physio is paying off and I’m finding that I can do more and of course having freedom and independence is a big boost.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Freedom encore

This new found freedom is a total blast. The effort needed to get out and about is not such a mission and is minimal. That first jaunt down the road has set the tone and was a learning curve. The temperature here is dropping and my hands get cold and stiff very quickly so Friday I went across the road to a sports shop and found myself a pair of gloves. Of course the shop assistant forgot to remove the antitheft tape and all the bells and whistles let it be known that Kuster had been in the shop and, I was already in a get away vehicle.
New gloves on, it was time to go look for a lake and hunt up some coffee. Miriam was with me but she doesn’t actually know this part of Etoy. This is the first time that she’s going walk/jog about round here. Most of her patients are not up to a short walk let alone a couple of Kms.
I’m now going off the beaten track and there are no bicycle lanes and I have to remember to keep right which is totally wrong for me and keep an ear out for cars behind me.
I didn’t find the lake although I know it’s there, I did get some tantalising glimpses through the trees of a forest which is right on my doorstep but that’s as close as I got. The forest was cool and quiet with birdlife murmuring in the back ground. It was quiet enough to hear a tree make a sound as I glided through.
An hour and a half later I emerged onto a main road just down the road from home and I had to dodge moving traffic. At the end of the day, no lake and no coffee but tomorrow’s another day.

Yesterday, Saturday (17 Oct), Miriam came over in the afternoon and said that we would go further afield and promptly loaded me up with my power chair. Twenty minutes later we were at a place called Ouchy which is in Lausanne. Yes I chuckled at the name but it’s pronounced Oochy. The view of the mountains was stunning and they were capped with snow. We offloaded the chair and I was off along the lakeside. Everything is so wheelchair friendly and there are bicycle lanes everywhere.
It didn’t take long before a café called and soon we were sitting sipping hot coffee whilst gazing over the mountains. There was even a small square of 70% dark chocolate mixed with orange to nibble on.
We moved on shortly and then it began to rain. I wasn’t a good boy scout, I hadn’t come prepared. I haven’t been out in the rain in years and I enjoyed every second of it. Yes I could have found a roof to hide under, I passed quite a few but to be in control of whether I played in the rain or not was too good to pass up. It was just me who was getting wet and I probably attracted some strange looks from those under cover.
Then a pancake shop started to call and the taste buds responded. Normally I would have ignored the place especially in the manual chair. There were tables and chairs all over the place and a serious sill to get in the front door. What a breeze with the power chair. It turns on a sixpence and weaving through obstacles is child’s play and as for the door sill, a quick wheelie and I was in.
A savoury pancake ended a totally awesome day.

Saturday, October 31, 2009


I have been given the opportunity to regain my freedom and independence. Caroline an occupational therapist was sent round to see about how she could help me in overcoming obstacles in my way. Miriam, my physiotherapist, got in on the act and had her say. The long and the short of it was, I had a visitor last week and he, Jean-Francois, came to show me an electric wheelchair. We connected straight away as we both love motorbikes and speed.
So, Jean-Francois set up the chair for my use and before he could say “Do you want to know about…..?” I was off like a bullet. Forget about the slow setting for speed, I pushed it to max and went through the car park dodging parked cars.
We sat afterwards discussing changes that needed to be made and the question of colour came up. Straight away I said that it had to be red, I didn’t want a boring black. Jean-Francois agreed but added that it had to be a special red and so I get genuine Ferrari red with carbon black trim. Now I’m styling.
Now I’ve had a taste of freedom and going back to my manual chair is so not cool and it’s an effort to get up the driveway.
Two days later Jean-Francois arrives with a demo model chair and said that it was mine to use until my new chair was ready unless he needed it.
I’ve played with it for 2 days around the home, in and out of the lifts, up and down the passageways and chasing the odd nurse. Today I felt like going for coffee somewhere and Miriam agreed and said that I needed to get out and learn the different routes and get used to the bicycle lanes and the fact that everyone drives on the wrong side of the road.
Within a short while I found myself outside. I hit the road Jack and didn’t want to come back no more, no more. I pushed the speed setting to max and took off like a bullet. Hey, when you do something, do it properly or not at all. A certain physiotherapist doesn’t like me and speed together especially round the home but outside, the game is on. I really don’t think that everyone around here knows what a hooligan ex speed cop is like and they’re about to learn.
Freedom is a serious pleasure that I’ve forgotten about and now it’s right up there in my face and I’m enjoying every moment of it. I’ll swear my grin was frozen to my face and it wasn’t the cold wind blowing.
A kilometre down the road and I took a wrong turn and wound up going down a one way the wrong way and I drove on the left. I received some strange looks but a coffee cup was calling and right then, that was more important.
Today, I’ll go in the opposite direction, I know there’s a lake round here somewhere and where there’s a lake there’s a pavement café. Say no more.