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We had snow and freezing temperatures from the 16th March thwarting my attempts to dig the vegetable allotment over. I occupied myself with cutting, stacking then burning the wood I had collected over the summer, the huge pile of picture framing wood purchased on eBay was beginning to run out and if this awful wintery weather didn’t end soon I would have to forage for more. On the 18th Sarah and Lee came over. Sarah to see Charlotte and Lee to accompany me on a clay pigeon shoot near Welford. The roads were treacherous, many of the side roads suffered from drifting snow and I have to admit I was hoping that our shooting party was going to be cancelled, but it was not to be. Apparently, nothing but lightning strikes halts a shoot!

The shoot took place at an Outdoor Adventure Park. As we arrived, sliding and bouncing along the rutted, muddy and snow covered country access road we saw that we were not the only ones mad enough to brave conditions that a polar bear would think twice about. Passing by a quarry we spied 4X4’s crawling along track ways that wouldn’t have looked out of place on the Somme,  shortly afterwards we cut across a cavalcade of mud splattered quad bikes that seemed to be having fun in the mud, but I knew better, fun was not possible at these temperatures, fingers and toes were certainly being sacrificed in the name  of camaraderie.


There was just Lee and I and a couple of guys (father and son) from London who had opted to stand in a windswept field and shoot a twelve bore at little clay discs. To test our manhood we had to wait for around an hour in an unheated portakabin while our instructor finished with his quadbike duties. It was bitterly cold, as was the half mile tramp through deep snow to the shooting field. After the safety talk and some advice on how to get a good ‘kill’, we took it in turns to shoot the clays flying around at various angles. Ironically, there was a couple of hares sat in the corner of the field, nonchalantly digging away the snow in order to munch the grass underneath.

Did I enjoy blasting little bits of clay to pieces? Yes, but I haven’t been so cold in a very long time so I won’t be doing it again unless Mr Putin send his troops over to test our nerves.

It soon became evident that despite the increase in medication and a fixed MRI date, Charlotte was not coping with the intense pain in her back. Something had to be done. After a family meeting, it was decided that the best course of action was for Charlotte to be in hospital where her pain could be better attended to and an increased likelihood of an earlier MRI to determine what exactly was the cause. Charlotte was reluctant at first, but eventually relented and late in the evening of the 21st Sarah took her into Kettering Hospital. It was the right course of action as the doctors could see that something serious was wrong and she was admitted onto the Acute Pain Ward. She got her MRI scan the following day and her medication was adjusted. The scan showed that disks L5 and S1 had slipped out and wouldn’t go back in, she was transferred to the Spinal Team for consideration. Options were a spinal injection to reduce the size of the discs and failing that, an operation would be needed. She moved wards to Barnwell and on the 28th she had her spinal injection under general anaesthetic.


While Charlotte has been in hospital, Sue and I have been supporting Suraj by taking and picking up the boys from school and covering elsewhere wherever we can, but none the less it has been a huge strain on Suraj. It has also affected the boys, both have been ill and indeed Ellis spent a spell in hospital himself with a temperature and pain in his knee. However, at present they both appear to be well, though on the day that Charlotte had her operation, I took Lucas to the area cross-country competition at Wicksteed Park and despite being always in the top three in past events, this time he was way down the field and obviously affected by his mother’s illness.


Charlotte was hoping to come out of hospital for Easter, but the physiotherapist quite rightly decided that until she could walk and cope with stairs she should stay where she is.

It has been very difficult time for all the family. To have Charlotte in such pain has been distressing for us all. Anguish and sleepless nights have been the norm these past few weeks and though we know there will be an end to it all, it doesn’t seem to be any time soon. Undoubtedly, Charlotte’s injury is life changing, making it unlikely that she will be able to continue with her gardening business and no doubt there will be other issues that will have to be addressed in the future. For the present, I would be most grateful if my eldest daughter was pain free and off the very strong and potentially addictive pain killers.


On the 29th we woke to a horrible day. Damp and miserable. Sue went to see Charlotte and then stayed with the boys while Suraj did some much needed shopping and then visited Charlotte. I spent the morning repairing the posts supporting my grape vines and strengthening the supports. When my electric screwdriver battery ran flat I took my bike to have a new chain, cartridge set and gears while the battery recharged. The winter mud and snow had worn most of the moving parts and they were slipping quite badly making it awkward and at times downright dangerous to cycle.  Returning in the afternoon to continue with the vines I received a phone call from Sue informing me that the hospital had gone into ‘meltdown’ with a Flu epidemic, with visitors to the wards only being allowed 15 minutes and could only see patients in the corridors.  I had planned to visit Charlotte at 3pm, but then decided against it, opting to finish my repairs. As if in protest, it began to first drizzle and then pour down. I stuck manfully to my task; soaked, cold and utterly fed-up I completed the job and then drove home to change into dry clothes and fire up the wood burner for some much needed warmth.

The rain did not abate all night, so it wasn’t surprising that when we woke the following morning the River Welland had overtopped its lower bank and flooded the field opposite. I had planned to plant some onions in the morning, but after the soaking of the previous day I wasn’t keen to venture out again so spent the time in my study watching the river slowly recede (despite frequent showers), and created a video of our recent trip to Cyprus.


After lunch I went to see Charlotte, but had to delay my visit for half an hour or so as a friend was already there. I amused myself window shopping and bought a packet of peanuts! The physiotherapist arrived while I was with Charlotte and she was taken to practise climbing a set of stairs. Charlotte found the activity exhausting and I could see that she was very unsteady, particularly on the way down. However, I was surprised to hear that the physio’ was happy to discharge her home. Returning to the ward, Charlotte was excited to be decreed OK to go home. A nurse arrived to arrange the special equipment necessary for the transfer home. Soon, three Zimmer frames, two commodes and a stable shower seat arrived, with various other bits of kit to be supplied later, such is the legacy of living in a three story house. While the medication was being sorted out I loaded up my car with the equipment and took them to Rothwell and a surprised Suraj.


It being Easter, there was the inevitable problem of the pharmacy filling the prescription, especially so when the Junior doctor on duty completed the prescription incorrectly. Poor Suraj had to make two trips to the chemist in Kettering, one to find out the prescription was wrong and then again with a rewritten one. He eventually got Charlotte home, with the correct medication.

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