1 June 2002

I’m far from convinced my knee is on the mend. It’s recovered from the arthroscopy, but I still can’t straighten it, and the cyst is as big as it’s ever been. I’ve compiled a detailed diary of my various examinations and treatments, so that I have something to refer to if my relationship with the surgeon and/or hospital goes pear-shaped.

All around is the Queen’s Jubilee. It means nothing to me, nothing at all. I’ve no problem with people finding an excuse to celebrate, but I see no reason to do so myself. The Prom at the Palace is probably under way by now - poor old queenie she must be wondering what she’s done to deserve having her lawn and shrubs subjected to the tramplings and pickings and litterings of 12,000 commoners. It will only get worse on Monday, when the prom turns into a party, and the tramplers, pickers and litterers, all too genteel tonight, will be youthful and wild.

I had my own celebrations last Sunday - my Golden Jubilee fiesta. I spent a fortune on drink and food and napkins and new (cheap) bowls and mugs and garden chairs; and I borrowed lots of crockery from the two Barbaras. Barbara made a lentil salad, my mother made quiches, a tomato salad, and a green bean salad; I made a potato salad and a green salad, and bought smoked trout and a large ham. Sarah brought bowls of trifle. All the food was delicious, there was just far too much of it - I’ve been eating ham and potato salad all week!

Because Julian and my mother thought Pimms would be a good idea, I bought six bottles of Pimms - only one and half were used. Fortunately, I’d bought them from Majestic (who also supplied free glasses on loan) and was able to return them (along with a case of beer) and receive a refund. The weather was atrocious, but, thanks to my neighbour Tom who, on Saturday evening, graciously offered to loan me his marquee, I had some cover over the terrace. This was useful especially for the smokers - and relieved pressure on the kitchen. But how much nicer it would have been had the sun shone, like it did on Saturday and on Monday!

I was up early on the Sunday morning with salads and breads to make. I’d probably left a little too much to do (what with my knee), and was quite tired by mid-morning. Barbara and Adam were busy tidying and cleaning, and doing various odds and ends. I wore my beige trousers and polo; Adam wore his Hawaiian-style shirt we bought on Zanzibar, and sprayed white dye on his hair. B was dressed in rustic colours, green and brown, which suit her so well. Julian and his family were the first to arrive, so I discussed with them where to put the drink and food. We moved one of the office desks out onto the porch, and Julian organised the drinks there. I decided the food was best kept in the kitchen - I’d cleared out one of cupboards so the excess could be hidden away. Soon after Mum arrived with all her bits and pieces (jugs and cutlery and serving spoons and so on). There was a short quiet spell when we were all able to sit down in the lounge and have a glass of champagne which B had bought. Les came then, and soon after Raoul arrived with Sophie.

Why did Raoul come so early - so very unlike him? Because he had to leave early. He was very stiff when he arrived, and looked rather uncomfortable having to make conversation with my family. I talked for a while to Sophie, who looks uncannily like her mother did 20 years ago - so much so in fact that for a split second when I saw her and Raoul together, I thought she was Caroline. Although, she’s in the same school year as Adam, at first glance there could be 10 years difference in their ages. I think Sophie is doing almost exactly the same GCSEs as Adam, although Adam may be doing one extra (Geography). She says her brother Jack is very confident about getting A*s for all his GCSEs since everyone does at his school. I don’t think I spoke to either her or Raoul again until they left. Raoul explained that he had to go home to cook supper for the rest of his children (this was around 4pm). And when I asked on the phone some days later, why Caroline hadn’t come, he said she had to stay at home to prep Charlie for his exams on Monday (because his school is threatening to throw him out).

I think Tom and Lesley turned up next. After being invited to BBQs at their house almost every year since I’ve been in Elstead, I was very happy to be able to give them a return invite. Sweetly, they bought me the Elstead history book. I talked to them for a while, until Rolf rang to say he was lost somewhere on Red House Lane. I had not been sure Rolf was coming at all so his arriving was a pleasant surprise. His young kids Claudia and Victor were asleep in the car, and they took a bit of extricating, but, soon enough they were all integrated into the fiesta. Cathy, who I barely remembered, took a while to relax, but by the end of the afternoon was quite at home. I spent a fair amount of time with Rolf. He’s working at a small architect’s firm in his home town, although sounds a bit frustrated. He took a number of photos on his digital camera (and he’s sent me copies). They stayed until quite late. I offered for them to sleep here, but they were all organised at Cathy’s brother’s house.

Judy and Rob and James were here most of the day (Sophie was working for her GCSEs). I didn’t discover until Tuesday, when I opened my presents and cards, that they’d given me £50 in book tokens! I was staggered. Genny came without David. I saw her talking to Theo for quite a long time. She brought me a bottle of champagne, and garden candles. Later in the week, I talked to her for a long time on the phone. She’s found a publisher for some small children’s books. Theo didn’t stay too long either, nor did he bring his girlfriend Tara. He had to pack because he was leaving for a holiday in the middle of the night (a holiday, he’d won as a result of a lucky draw connected with his entry in the London Marathon). He bought me a bottle of Speyside whisky which was very thoughtful.

Who else was there? Andrew and Susie, who bought me a bottle of champagne and a boule set. Susie is only a few weeks away from full term, and looks so big. But they were both on good form chatting to all and sundry. It was particularly nice to see Peter and Tony, who had driven up from Somerset. Tony gave me a small painting of a coffee pot and cup with ‘Paul 50’ painted on it. It’s rather simple, but will go nicely in the kitchen. I was very touched. Roger and Mary came from Salisbury with a ‘Congratulations’ rose - we talked a lot about my knee and doctors and treatments. Tim and Niema sat at the far end of the lounge, rather quietly. I was pleased they came, and I spent time talking to them about Kilburn and houses. They brought me a box of turkish delight. Luke and Siobhan and Sid brought me a candle. Luke was looking well and was dressed in a bright orange check shirt. Sid played with Adam and James.

My family was splendid. They were all on good form - even the kids seemed to behave themselves and have a good time (except for one moment when two of them were found on the garage roof, Adam having encouraged them to climb up there via the stepped brick work on the corner, unable to get down). Melanie, in particular, was unusually cheerful and friendly. Raoul suggested, before he left, that I had been remiss in keeping her hidden all these years. Julian, Sarah, my mother and Barbara all did masses of work in the kitchen - which was really sweet of them.

I seem to have sailed through the day without my consciousness - I should have paid more attention to the food, rather than letting Mum and Barbara do it, and I should have introduced people more. But there it is, the sum total of my life - in terms of family and friends. I really do feel it was a kind of ending - I’m not sure what kind - I hope, somehow, somewhere, there will be a new beginning, but I can’t see it, I can’t see it.

7 June 2002

Eurostar was on time last night. I slept for the last section, the play I was listening to on headphones doing very little to keep me awake. I haven’t brought the portable the last few trips because I haven’t wanted to add to the weight of my bag. I’m walking much more slowly and methodically now than I am before the operation. My knee does continue to preoccupy me. It is becoming clearer and clearer to me that I have a long way to go, and, even if I do get it back to normal, it will never be the same again. The accident has already changed my life, in the sense that I will never feel confident to play volleyball again, and that I will have to remain much less spontaneous about any physical activity, whether joining in a game of football on the rec with my son or scrambling over rocks at the beach.

The facts are that I am still not able to straighten my knee. In other words, the arthroscopy has not succeeded in resolving whatever problem was/is causing the locking. The physiotherapist has been treating me on the belief that the locking can be removed by exercise. But, now that the wound of the arthroscopy has healed, there is no give, when I force my leg straight, it reaches a point at which there is no further place it can go. The cyst is complicating matters, not only for me, but crucially for Alison the physiotherapist. She believes I should struggle on against it; but the cyst only gets bigger whenever I start forcing my knee to do stuff. Also, it is now considerably bigger than it was before the arthroscopy. But this morning, lying in bed, I’ve suddenly realised that Alison may have worsened the situation by giving the cyst a deep thumb massage about two weeks ago. If the cyst is where fluid is pushing out of the knee joint lining, a kind of weakness, then with her deep pressing and rubbing of the cyst she may have weakened a wider area of that lining. So now, when my knee fills up with fluid because it doesn’t like the forcing exercises, it pushes the cyst out across a wider area making the straightening even more difficult.

Whatever the situation, whatever the reality, I cannot see what can happen from here to repair the situation - and whatever approach the surgeon decides to take now (an MRI scan, referral to another doctor, an operation) it is going to take many many months - of limping, worrying, trips to the hospital, almost certainly another operation with all that entails. . . I am back in distress mode this morning.

The World Cup, though, lightens my life a little. However much one resents the US for being so good at most sports, one still cannot help feeling a little sorry for them when it comes to Association Football. It was, therefore, a delight to see them play such exciting football yesterday and beat the No 5 seed Portugal by 3 goals to 2. It was also exhilarating to see Ireland play so well against Germany, and, with justification, score a last second goal to equalise. Senegal’s win over France, in the first game of the World Cup, was not a very interesting match, but the result was a gift to Japan and South Korea, the hosts, from god. Is there anyone, outside of France, who didn’t thrill to see the little African nation beat the No 1 seed and World Cup holder. England, by contrast, bored the socks of the world with its pedestrian display against Sweden. I doubt we will beat either Argentina or Nigeria - and our boys will be on the plane home with the papers screaming for Sven’s resignation. Interesting facts: no host nation has ever lost an opening match. If this record was ever to be broken, it was surely to be in either Japan or Korea. But no, Japan scored a creditable draw, as did South Korea. Brazil is the only country ever to have won the world cup outside its own continent! More than half the world cup finals have involved the host nation; more than a third of the world cup championships have been won by the host nation.

7 June 2002

I shaved off my beard for the party, but I’m fed up with shaving already. Here in Brussels I can tune in to Radio 5, Radio 4 and the World Service. Radio 5 though is my favourite at the moment as it appears to be giving live coverage of every World Cup match. I’m sitting here on Friday morning waiting for the Sweden-Nigeria match to start - although I must leave in an hour to catch Eurostar. The England-Argentina match starts at 12:30, and with luck I could be home a bit before half time. Radio 5 has such a buzz about it, really stoking up everyone’s interest in the football. One female presenter just said: ‘If you’re just getting up, hurry up, there’s only five hours to go before the England match’. I’m not sure she was joking.

I have to go to the physiotherapist this afternoon, and, as with all my other appointments with her and with the doctor, I keep rehearsing what I’m going to say. On the one hand, I fear these people will think I’m exaggerating some symptom or other; and, on the other, I fear they will not take what I say seriously enough. Bizarre. With Alison, I am concerned about how I am going to approach the subject of the cyst - it is hard to escape the conclusion that my treatment has made it worse, but should I mention this? What if she tries to massage it again with her thumb? I am fairly clear that I really should see a doctor again now - but I don’t have much confidence left in Mr Paremain. Mentally, I’m becoming very weak. I keep thinking I must start up a sequence of yoga exercises to combat this, but I don’t seem to be able to summon the decision-making power - I’m on a kind of mental roller coaster with the peaks being the visits to the doctor and physiotherapist and the troughs being the bits in between when it begins to show that the latest treatment or instructions aren’t working.

I am considering whether to place an advert for EC Inform in ‘European Voice’ in the next couple of weeks. On my wind-down plan, I earmarked June for such an ad. But I am wondering if I’m not being a bit precipitous, and whether I shouldn’t wait until the autumn. I don’t think I will, because I’m impatient to see if anyone is interested in my little company, but I can’t fully justify why. I don’t expect any interest at all, but I need to have a look at least.

(Swedish and Nigerian national anthems have just played. I must go.)

15 June

So much excitement. England have not only qualified in their World Cup group (by beating Argentina and drawing with Sweden and Nigeria in dull games), but have now thrashed Denmark 3-0 in the second round knock-out match - and Denmark won their group after beating France (hee-hee and knocking them out in the process) and Uruguay! After the first three dull matches, England proved today they’ve got some spunk with goals from Ferdinand, Owen and Heskey. You can bet 10-1 now in favour of Svensational headlines in tomorrow’s paper. Other fabulous headlines from Japan/Korea: against all odds, both the host nations have won their groups and qualified for the second round (thus preserving the record that every host nation has always qualified for the second round); Argentina, like France, are OUT, OUT, OUT; Brazil are playing like heroes, and, if they beat Belgium on Monday, England will have to face the likes of Ronaldo, Rivadinho and Ronaldinho.

My knee - I should mention that, finally, I might be making some progress, although I feel it’s early days. The trigger was seeing the surgeon again - four weeks earlier than I was supposed to see him. I expressed serious concerns to the physiotherapist Alison about not making any progress with straightening my leg, and about the cyst coming up all the time. She seemed at a loss to know what to do, and rang the fracture clinic for an appointment. I thought it would take two weeks to arrange (as both my previous appointments had) but in fact I was given one on the following day. I chatted to both the registrar and Mr Paremain at some length, but the net result of these chats was that there was nothing to be done. Mr Paremain said, at one point, he hoped he wasn’t ‘missing a trick’, but was fairly convinced the only thing to do at this point was to persevere. I had thought this would be the case, but I really think I needed to hear it from the surgeon himself. So, having talked it through at some length with him, and been reassured that there was nothing to be done, I decided I had to take things seriously into my own hands. Thus, I have decided to cycle a bit more every day (cycling is much much easier than walking), to do yoga exercises EVERY day without fail, to start swimming next week, and to keep stretching my leg at every available opportunity (mostly when I’m watching TV). Within three days, fingers crossed, I’ve made noticeable progress - more progress than I’d made in the month since the arthroscopy I think. I’m still far from convinced, though, that I can get my knee back to normal - only time will tell.

I did not do my energy and transport newsletters well this week. I was preoccupied with my knee, with the football, and I had no stamina for the proof-reading. I did a poor report on the Energy Council, for example, and just managed to scrape together a preview of the Transport Council - only FIVE more issues of each to do before the END.

I say that, but I’ve had a bit of a scare this week. The stock market has plummeted again, and I would be very unwise to redeem any of my share investments in the next year or two (because they will surely take that long at least to pick up a decent amount) - and yet I am now banking the very last of the subscriptions checks, my only income. This means that for six months I will have business expenses and no income, and, from about now, I will have no income to cover my general living expenses. With only 25 grand in the bank (and a good part of this owed to the tax man), I’m going to need to wade into my investments within six months or less!!!

Although I was going to advertise EC Inform for sale this week in the Voice, I pulled the ad at the last minute. I need to think about it a bit more.

Genny invited me over for dinner last night with some friends of hers. I talked with Edwin most of the evening about transport policy, and the Environmental Skeptic book. Adam and I are going to see Mum tomorrow - she’s promised to cook roulards.

19 June

The World Cup has remained fascinating - I’ve watched nearly every televised match, although I doubt I could remember any detail from the first round matches. In the second round, the first of the knock-out matches, there were both thrilling and boring games. England did best of all, by beating Denmark 3-0, which was a surprise after their dull performances in the first round. Germany won a lifeless game against Paraguay, and Turkey just managed to stifle the co-hosts Japan to get through, for the first time, to the quarter-finals. Spain only just contained Ireland to a draw, and then won on penalties - but Ireland go home with their heads held high. The US deservedly beat Mexico who tried to win by breaking the legs of the US players. Brazil beat Belgium 2-0, although I thought the scoreline flattered Brazil; and fantastically Senegal beat Sweden, deservedly, with a golden goal 2-1. But best of all, and thrillingly, South Korea beat Italy. South Korea were awarded an early penalty which they missed, then Italy scored. For the rest of the match, Italy defended, and South Korea tried every trick in the book, but appeared to get nowhere. Unlike Japan, who also rained attacks on Turkey but never looked like scoring, I always felt South Korea might crack through the Italian defence. And so they did with only a minute or so of the match left. The stadium, packed to the gills with red costumes, erupted. They had been so loud, so vocal, so utterly loyal and supportive of the team for 90 minutes, this was, without doubt, what they deserved. And better, in extra time, South Korea scored a golden goal - and sent the dirty, boring, pompous Italians packing. Good riddance.

Today there was no football. Tomorrow, there is no football. I am at a loss, not knowing what to do all morning. But Friday morning, England play Brazil. I think they will win. Later on in the day, I hope the US beat Germany. Then on Saturday, I fully expect Senegal to beat Turkey, and for South Korea to beat Spain. On Tuesday, I expect South Korea to beat the US, and on Wednesday, England will beat Senegal. On Sunday 30 June, South Korea will beat England, and will become the most unexpected winners in the history of the competition. There will be the slight matter of the US and England playing for third place. England will win.

My knee, if it is recovering, about which I remain very skeptical, is doing so slower than a glacier moves. I went swimming on Monday, which was OK, and may go again tomorrow before seeing the physio again.

I finish ‘The Skeptical Environmentalist’ by Bjon Lomborg, after dipping into it for six months or so. I find his arguments utterly compelling - and so much in line with my own general belief about much environmental propaganda. He provides the cogent arguments and statistical/factual backgrounds to support the view, in almost every area of environmental concern, that the general public have been misled by environmentalists who have exaggerated and deliberately misused statistics to scare the public. He argues, with excellent and simple writing, that, without a proper assessment of the environmental risks, we can’t take careful decisions on how best to spend public money in the most efficient way.

Friday 28 June 2002

I have just a few minutes before I leave for Gare du Midi to catch my train back to Waterloo. The back of my knee really swelled up again yesterday, and again I was wondering how this can go on. This flat is very noisy. It’s not too bad with the window closed, although the grinding rattle of the trams that come by at 1am punches into my sleep sometimes, and I can always hear the muffled screeching of the garage doors below being opened and closed. When I have the window open, though, it’s as though I’m living in the middle of a busy street. During the afternoons and evenings, there is often a lively cackle from a crowd of students milling around on the pavement waiting for a lecture or an exam.

I think about when to give in my notice for the flat. My three year contract runs out about now, and I have a three month deposit. So, if I gave my notice in now, I’d have it until the end of September. This would mean five or six trips staying in a hotel. Without the flat, of course, I won’t be able to renew my press card for 2003 - and I worry about that - but then what on earth will I need a press card for - I don’t intend to be running in and out of the Commission, Council and Parliament any more. And, if by any chance I get a job where I need to, then I’ll have to deal with getting a press card through whatever job that is. Nevertheless, it will be a wrench: letting go of my last links with the real world - from January I’m going to be isolated in Elstead - life just couldn’t get any better.

Last time I went to catch the train back home, I found that I’d brought the invoice slip for my ticket, which is the same shape and size as the tickets, and left behind my return ticket. What a palaver to get a new one. Since the seats are reserved in particular names, and I had the other half of the ticket, I couldn’t see a problem - but I had to leave the Eurostar terminal and go to the main Gare du Midi ticket office. There, the ticket seller had to leave his booth and engage the services of someone else (his supervisor), who disappeared for 10 minutes. And then I had to pay £10 or so for the replacement ticket!

30 June 2002

I am at a college, but for some reason I haven’t done half the courses (this seems to be an echo of something real, something previously experienced) and somehow I need to at least find out what is on the syllabus, what might be in the exams. So I go to the library to try and find this information. A librarian tries to make me fill out a form. I wonder if the library is not yet open. Then I find myself standing at a bar (in the library?) with three of the Brazilian World Cup football team (not Rivaldo or Ronaldo though), and I try and show off my Portuguese. Then, the college buildings seem to be full to bursting with students about to watch the final. I have found a portable computer which seems to belong to the library but which seems to have been lost. I take charge of it, but someone tries to steal it.

July 2002

Paul K Lyons


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