On writing… not as much as I’d like, but certainly having a “Writing Buddy” helps and I’m way more organised. Watch out 2018…

On Unpacking… getting nowhere but oh well, there’s always next year…

On Daisy… we’re doing great! Today was ride number four and not only have I done nearly a hundred kilometers already, but many of them have been uphill (a few times with only me pedalling I might add… to see if I can).

We had our first fall today, a slow one where we took off and immediately toppled right over (into a parked car which was thankfully so bashed and scratched it’s hard to tell if we damaged it). Many people have questioned why I have my harness and today reminded us why as it earned its keep forever. Without it I’d have been sprawled across the road (at best), but instead, apart from some scratches and bruises, I stayed firmly in my seat.

The other fall came at the end of the ride. It’s hard to explain my difficulty with walking yet ability to ride, but in Daisy my seat is tilted right back and my feet are raised. I can turn the pedals without putting weight on any of my joints. At the end of a ride it’s so easy to forget I can’t walk. But worse, my joints have moved into “riding position” which for me is not the same as “walking position” and I can’t get up off the bike and certainly can’t walk till my joints resettle. Today I forgot. Yes, I gingerly climbed off (no chance of getting off any faster), waited a few seconds, took one step towards the curb, and just like that both my legs folded under me and completely collapsed.

Thankfully I was unhurt, but it was a little embarrassing fully slumped in the gutter at my front door. There was no way I could get up again for a while either… hence no photos other than once I was on my feet again.

The scenery in Malta never ceases to amaze me, even though there’s rarely anything close to flat or smooth. Apparently this is good training for me!

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Meet Daisy!

Today we took Daisy for her a maiden journey! Yes, she’s been around the block a couple of times, once when I collected her from Tom, and last night after dark once we’d put her back together again.

But today we really put her through her paces and she was everything we’d dreamt of and more! She loves the Malta roads and countryside and I’m confident this’ll strengthen my muscles and give me some level stability back.

Here I’m getting used to setting up Strava on my phone. This will be a big part of keeping track of what I’m doing. As fun as this all is, it’s my rehab, and will become the most vital part of my strength and health rebuilding.

My captain and champion! On every level, I couldn’t do this without him. I have to fully trust him in every ride, in every way. my job is to pedal … and trust.

The countryside around our small town is just beautiful!

We’ve swapped hippo signs for hedgehog signs!

Watch this space, as it’s only a matter of time before someone has an accident staring at us. Talk about making ourselves stand out!

If you’d like to receive the first chapter of My Africa My Home – The Fault in the Family Memoirs Book 1 (for free, in your mailbox), then sign on for my “big news only” (I promise I won’t spam you! I only send them when something important is happening) then click HERE.

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JPS Author Signature 02


Truly, deeply, thank you!!!! -to Natalie, EDS-UK Danny, Linda, Roger, Tom, Nige, Michelle, Phoenix, Cat, Sue, Steve, Anne, Majka, Roger, Ashleigh & Lauren ….for putting up with this sore-sorry-for-herself-sad-sack the last 16 days!

I’ve had an almost endless supply of hot water bottles, cups of (hot-of-course) tea, warm beds, wonderful chats, warm meals, the odd snack, two AMAZING roast dinners, and most everyone has done all the thinking for me through the brain fog!

I hope I haven’t come across as too unappreciative! Because I truly truly am so very thankful! You’ve all, one way or another filled my love tank, gently pushed me on to the next step… and now, just a little way to go and Daisy and I will be home in Malta!

Thank you all!!

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Five Pillow Day!

Two of his pet hates are cushions and pillows.

Two of my favourite things are cushions and pillows.

I always thought of them as somewhat decorative but mostly functional. He thinks they’re just stupid.

Along with the first vague understandings of my health issues came the realisation that pillows and cushions do more than provide comfort for me. They prop me up and support me.

Then over the next couple of years I worked out that I only need one or two (in each place I sit) but on really bad days, I need up to five.

Today is one such day. One on the left, another on my right, two behind me, and one between my knees. Nothing is able to hold itself in position and even my left hand rests in a pillow as I alternately type and drink tea with my right. The tea cup is placed in exactly the right position so there’s no twisting. For refills I need to ask for help.

Yesterday we had a huge chat as we discussed the ins and outs of the unpacking processes and how much better it’s been made by having a slow, staggered help and this little flat to crash at through the process. The old me would’ve sent him off to ride or paddle or work… it’s “easier” to do it on my own. But I’m physically in worse shape than I’ve ever been, and we have no choice. We feel like a pair of naughty children sent to our room, not able to come out without the cooperation of the other.

Three hours a day (and three hours only), we drive the two minutes down the road to the apartment, park Molly in her garage underground, and together we attack a handful of boxes.

I can’t do it without him. I can unpack boxes he brings to my chair, and I can direct what goes where and which box to unpack. But he can’t do it without me either. He’s never done it before, it’s completely overwhelming for him and his anxiety skyrockets. And when his anxiety levels are high he doesn’t listen too well. So I have to be patient and kind and gentle and ask (not tell).

We’re both super happy with the progress and with ourselves and each other. We’re nailing this in more ways than one.

But as each day moves into the next, I’m becoming more and more exhausted. There was a time that I could unpack a hundred boxes on my own, move the piano into place, and get rid of all the rubbish by the time he got home from work… five days in a row.

But not any more. Now the three hours are all I can do, and it’s three painfully slow and frustrating hours at that. I can ride a recumbent bicycle for three hours straight, but sitting in a camping chair giving orders and bending over open boxes and opening packages within those boxes is a whole different ball game and the pain sets in quickly, …. followed right behind by the brain fog. Then I can’t string more than a few words together.

It’s difficult explain. I say door instead of window, left instead of right, clothes instead chair… and more often than not I can’t find the word at all…

It’s frustrating for both of us. We might need a day off tomorrow? Or maybe even two days?

Today is day five of the unpack. The kitchen arrived just as we were leaving…

I’m assuming it’ll be installed over the next few days. If I can’t string more than a few words together and my pain levels are through the roof, then it’s a five pillow day… and time for a rest.

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The Pino Outcome:

I love this photo!! I look so normal! But here’s what it doesn’t show:

  • That I couldn’t walk at all! We’d ridden for over an hour. My leg muscles are amazingly strong considering how little work they get to do in real life. But it was lunch time so we stopped for a break, he helped me get off, and that was it… In the photo I’m sitting on the side of the bike because I couldn’t go any further. Yet I was able to get back on again (with help) and ride another hour!
  • The photo also hides my sore face. I smashed my face a few days ago and have a fat lip etc.
  • This is ALL I did yesterday. He let me sleep in as long as possible and got ready for the day without me. He woke me late morning in time to eat then we drove to the Pino, we rode, then I barely made it back to camp again for a shower and bed. I was in bed again by 4pm and didn’t even have the energy to read.

So…. don’t confuse my ability to ride with my ability to walk, and don’t forget this took all a day’s energy to do and there was nothing left.

Now we’re in the process of trying to buy one. This is a game changer for me and in a completely different way, a game changer for him. It’s my only option for keeping strong right now. It could take months to get one, but we’re praying hard for another Pino Miracle and that we’ll have one well before the end of the year! So watch this space!

(In the mean time, it’s back to a few short metres of heavy crutch walking a day and that’s it… it’s very difficult to be given such freedom then having it taken away!

Pino Pain!

This is going to be a long and interesting journey! It’s the bike for us for sure, and we love it. But it’s also a bit of a relationship tester. It’s like putting everything under the microscope and baring it all!

The littlest frustrations, the things that make us feel safe (or not), the communications, the listening, the understanding, the patience, the “assuming” or jumping to conclusions.

Let’s just say we stopped and spent a while sitting by the beach redefining the rules somewhat, ….and that Uber may or may not have been mentioned (or threatened) as alternative ways to get home. Other stuff may or may not have been said too.

Thankfully we’re grown ups and we were ultimately able to get our stuff together enough to have a great ride home. As always, when we’re in synch we rock! I’ll leave it at that…

On another note, I managed to get a couple of photos before we set our, of me actually sitting in the stoker seat of the Pino and a few other things:

I need to get some decent shoes and my own helmet and so on, but thankfully I don’t need those Lycra pants with a mattress sewn in the crotch! My seat, thankfully, isn’t anything like your average bicycle seat. I would not be able to manage a bike seat with Bertha at all!

I took all these this morning with the same Paola lemon 😊 (his bike seat at left and mine at right).

We rode nearly thirty km in four hours (less than two of them actually riding), climbed nearly 250m and went as fast as 42kmph !! (Not all of us were entirely happy with that speed on day two of my riding career… but now we’re home again to Molly for home made paella thanks to Lorna’s recipe, and what a success it was.

PS: Thanks so much to those who’ve offered to support and keep asking where and how! I’ll keep these links at the bottom of my posts for the next month 🙂 They’re the easy, no-spam emails I’ll send out no more than weekly (and believe me, I miss sending half of those) till the book launches and you can get your free copy!

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Pino Miracles

We’re looking for a bike we can both ride, called a Pino, which we saw at the alpaca place in Dec 2016 when we started planning our second half (more on that another day). They’re REALLY hard to find and it’s been a frustrating battle. Not helped by language barriers. It’s difficult to explain how frustrating this has been and how many dead ends we’ve come to.

I eventually joined a Pino Facebook group but many on there are Americans & Brits. So I asked on the two nights ago if anyone knows where we can hire one in the south of France. I didn’t like my chances. There’re only 140 people in the worldwide group, so it wasn’t looking good. They answered by morning, were wonderful and friendly but we’d already tried the offered sites. In hindsight, I think we’re looking to late in the “season”, somewhere we’ve never quite gotten our heads around coming from the Southern Hemisphere where such seasons don’t really exist.

I felt frustrated, I can barely walk at all right now and I feel so strongly this could be my only opportunity at getting my muscles strong again. But, as I said before, we’ve hit dead end after dead end.

The further we got from western France, the harder it’s been getting and we feel pushed to give up finding the bike on this trip. We could just order one online, but they’re awfully expensive and if I find I can’t use it then it’s a huge waste. So we really need to hire one for a few days and not for an arm and a leg either.

On a totally different topic, we struggled to find a place to stay yesterday. The weather is terrible & the campsite we planned on was so creepy we barely slowed to a stop before driving onwards in the hope of finding something else. I was sore and tired.

With no Pino’s available there’s no point in going to the places we’d hoped to ride it and we were beginning to feel like we’re starting to meander around France somewhat aimlessly. Frustration is well and truly setting in.

We eventually found a mostly deserted but gorgeous campground. We settled down by the river and I realised I need to stay a few days to regroup. I’m feeling fragile. I asked if we could stay here in this random little town for a while till we find our bearings again. He felt the same and agreed quickly. We’re both fragile right now, in different ways.

But I also wanted to give finding the Pino one more shot. He responded in exasperation: Well, I’ve tried everything so unless God pulls out a miracle we aren’t going to try the Pino this trip, so we’ll have to make some new plans.

I checked the Facebook Pino group again, and this time there was a comment on my post from a man named Claude. If you’re anywhere near me I’ll rent you mine for a few days... I assumed he’d also be forever away, but checked anyway. I looked up his town up on the map… and he’s less than 5km away!

There’s the miracle!!! It’s hard to explain how amazing this is, what went into us being right here, right now, how many, many little things have come together for this…

Claude and I had a great conversation, but when we arrived at his house this morning, we realised immediately he barely speaks a word of English. How crazy is it that we can speak on Facebook in our own languages and not even know that. I assumed his English was pretty good and boy was I wrong. The two men compared notes, bike-riding international jargon, and a mix of each of their handful of the other’s language and it was fun to watch faces of confusion so often turn to faces of recognition and laughter.

So today we went on our very first ride. Forty-five minutes along the coast to a small town where we had lunch, then rode forty-five minutes back again. The fastest we rode was thirty-seven km per hour whizzing downhill!! I won’t lie, it’s a little scary sitting on the front of a bike with nothing else in front of you and not much to hold on, no seat belt, and flying at thirty-seven km per hour down the road with the cars!

We rode all along that red line and back again!

I can’t do stairs, but it turns out I can ride a bike! I knew I could and I was so determined to find one. The vital pieces of information about the Pino are these:

Firstly, riding the Pino, I don’t put any weight at all on my legs. I can pedal (when and if I want to) but because my feet are straight out in front of me (and slightly raised), I can do all the movements of pedalling, without putting any weight on Bertha, Frank, or my bad knee. So I’m exercising again! (as well as very much contributing to the riding of the bike). You can see where the Captain (in yellow) sits, in a totally normal bike riding position. The stoker (me), in blue sits totally recumbent on the front of the bike. I even lean back, much like I do in my bean bag!!

The second thing is, because my body lies rather flat on the front of the bike, my blood and bodily fluids don’t build up in my legs. Much of my bed-time is about keeping my legs up high. This does that.

Thirdly, because I don’t sit upright, I’m not sitting on Bertha.

And last but by no means least, if I have nothing to give, I run out of puff, my legs won’t cooperate at any point in time, ….I can leave my feet in the pedales and do nothing but go along for the ride instead of staying stuck at home.

But I’m still just as hopeless at taking selfies!! (Though you can see how close our heads are together which means unlike “normal” tandems, we can communicate and chat and so on without any bother). (And I’ll need a decent helmet!)

I’ll try and get better photos tomorrow (I need someone else to take the pics of me).

PS: The book’s never going to happen if I don’t finish it! Or if I don’t have a support team So I’ll keep these links at the bottom of my posts for the next month 🙂 They’re the easy, no-spam emails I’ll send out no more than weekly (and believe me, I miss sending half of those) till the book launches and you can get your free copy!

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Team Tortoise:
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