August saw us traveling to Portugal for a cruise along the River Douro with our Australian friends. It is a beautiful journey with steep terraces on either side planted with vines used for the making of port wine. Navigation of the River has been helped by the building of deep locks to smooth out the rapids. Earlier transportation of the wine to the cellars of Oporto was previously a journey fraught by danger and many lost their lives. The ship we stayed on was comfortable and, very importantly, air conditioned as temperatures soared to 40 degrees!
It is nearly six years since I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and I wondered what I would find more difficult this time. In truth I think I managed quite well, although, like many sufferers, there is always the dread of falling and I am slower going up and down stairs. Life on board was sociable, lots of interesting people to meet. It is always good to have pockets in clothing for occasions when the left hand decides to have a noticeable tremor! I woke early as usual, not so easy to entertain yourself when away from home, but luckily I could listen to podcasts from the Desert Island Discs back number podcasts until it was a more acceptable time. I joined a stretching class in the mornings which was useful but decided I could make up my own programme probably just as well.
Morning exercise on board the ship.
River Douro at Oporto.
During the summer I have worn my Birkenstock sandals all the time as they seem to be the only foot ware that doesn’t aggravate the dystonia in my left foot. I am not sure that they will be any good in rain and snow so have begun a search to find something more suitable. I have found a neuro podiatrist so plan a trip to try and get some advice. Looking at Google I realise that finding comfortable (and reasonably smart) footwear is a big issue for many Parkinson’s people.
No more high heels for me!
Like much of England Sussex has had a prolonged period of very hot weather during June and July, the like of which we have not seen since 1976. I have found the heat quite exhausting and have not been walking or playing badminton, two of my favourite activities. Pilates has been fine as it mostly involves gentle stretching, no cardiovascular work. Excessive sweating is a common symptom of Parkinson’s and that has been more of a problem than usual. It has been a relief to have a cool few days over the weekend.
At the beginning of July I saw my consultant, the fourth one since I was diagnosed nearly six years ago. He concluded that not much had changed and offered me an appointment in twelve months rather than six. I felt rather pleased with that somehow as normally with an ongoing chronic condition appointments become more frequent!
Ballet classes in London and the local choir are having a summer break so there has been time to enjoy outdoor pastimes such as extended birthday lunches and suppers with friends. We spent a warm, balmy evening listening to Kathryn Jenkins singing in a local park; magical.
Handsome Henry is back in Australia and now crawls forwards. This enables him to explore the fireplace, try the cat food and dismantle all the draught excluder the aimiable husband had carefully fixed round the patio doors. The cat finds his hammock on the window a safe place to watch the chaos below!
Next month we are flying to Oporto in Portugal and travelling along the Duoro River with Australian friends; should be great fun!
April is Parkinson’s awareness month with world Parkinson’s Day on April 11th and World Dance for Parkinson’s on April 28th. We were home at the beginning of the month and I joined a group from my dance class at London’s Guys Hospital where we performed a demonstration of what happens in a typical Parkinson’s class with English National Ballet. Recent filming there has been made into a innovative film including input from Parkinson’s dancers and some from the company. You can view this at https://www.danceforparkinsons.online/work#/english-national-ballet/
Before we returned to Australia there was just time to catch up with activities at home including helping lead a walk in what must be surely one of the muddiest walks ever. Five miles of trying to find the best path through fields and woods required great care, I even used walking poles! Parkinson’s sufferers are known to be prone to falls and I didn’t want a broken leg a few days before travelling “Down Under”!
There have been lots of social occasions with friends before we left, from Ladies who Lunch to a memorable 70th birthday party. I know how important it is to be out and about although anxiety can make it sometimes harder to relax and enjoy yourself. I have had one shaky hand behind my back or in my pocket on numerous occasions!
I have noticed recently that I seem to bump into people more often which is a bit disconcerting. I don’t think that even stone cold sober I would manage a straight line!
We arrived back in Australia on April 15th and noticed lots of changes and development in our grandson. A dear little boy has emerged who is happy and smiley, I accept we are rather biased! We are here to help as our daughter has just returned to work, we will take care of Handsome Henry where necessary. He currently has a viral infection so we will be performing a childcare role like grandparents everywhere even though 10,000 miles apart makes regular help tricky! Melbourne is very much our second home now and there are favourite places we like to visit time and time again. One of my most favourite is the beautiful Botanical Gardens, the children’s garden there is so well thought out and the peaceful main section of it is a constant delight. The variety of trees showcase the variety in the Southern Hemisphere and Henry seems to love the leaves.
At Melbourne Botanical Gardens.
We return home mid May, stopping off at Singapore for 4 days while the lovely daughter attends a conference there. We will be on baby sitting duty, should be interesting!
I am the sort of person who doesn’t like going up for a raffle prize so quite what possessed me to walk into the offices of the local BBC Sussex radio station and within a few minutes find myself doing a brief interview I don’t really know. I was off to meet good friends for lunch in Brighton when I heard there was to be a phone in about Parkinson’s on the radio and I knew that I would be walking past the offices.
I had enjoyed a rare good night’s sleep and was feeling pretty good so maybe that would explain why I walked into the reception area to wish them luck and was suddenly transported into the studio being interviewed by Danny Pike. The questions he asked were not ones I was expecting but I hopefully gave coherent replies which erred on the side of the positive, all quite exciting. I had managed to phone a very surprised husband who listened to the broadcast after phoning a few friends. Afterwards when I walked into the restaurant I enjoyed a few minutes as a celebrity and we had a very lovely and loud lunch! Don’t forget, socialising is good for us Parkinson’s sufferers!
My second foray into publicity and Parkinson’s came when I went to my dance class this week. Graham Tilley was filming dance material inspired by English National Ballet’s “Voices of America” repertory at three of English National’s Dance for Parkinson’s hubs to create a short film for World Dance for Parkinson’s Day on April 29th. Everyone worked really hard and hopefully it will inspire others to try dance; we had a wonderful class filled with laughter and fun. I came out of the session feeling really energised with certainly no thoughts of having a chronic illness.
Recently I was on my way to the dance class in London when I realised I was rather early so I had a wander around St Mary’s Abbot’s church. I sat down for a few minutes and suddenly became aware of a presence. When I looked around I realised a little tabby cat had joined me and was purring loudly. He had a collar and bell so maybe he is a church cat? I have discovered a connection with St Getrude of Nivelles, the patron saint of cats and those who love them, I will return to find out more! As I moved away the cat made his way round all the pews perhaps giving comfort to those there. I love cats and am looking forward to looking after my son and daughter in law’s while they enjoy a well deserved holiday.
March has been a strange month. Snow and bitterly cold wind made staying in look quite attractive, I even managed to tidy out my spice cupboard and throw away all those way past their sell by dates.
We have at last sorted out our next trip to Melbourne to see the lovely daughter and Mr H, the Grandson. No doubt we will notice many changes, thank goodness for FaceTime
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