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For a change, this isn’t about cruising🙂 This is about me wanting to reflect on my health and hopefully push me towards a better, healthier lifestyle.


Ever since I was a child I have suffered from Asthma and over the years I was unfortunate enough to suffer a number of extremely bad asthma attacks requiring hospitalisation. So, why, oh why did this twerp start smoking at the tender age of 14. Inevitably, more attacks ensued but many of these were quickly fixed by not smoking for a while but still I smoked. eventually however, towards the end of the last millennium I stopped.

How did I stop? I saw a news paper article about the Paris to Hayling Cycle Challenge (organised by the Association of Charitable Endeavours) along with a photo of two rather fetching young ladies. That clinched it for me. I’ll stop smoking, buy a bike and train for the challenge and cycle with those two young ladies. I signed up the very next day. Being back on a bike again gave me such freedom, which I find hard to describe. I do know however that whatever sort of day I’d had, I would go out on my bike, think through all the issues of the day, put things right in my mind while all the way setting small instant challenges such as sprint between two markers or climb a particular hill in the highest gear possible. I loved it. I loved my bike, I loved it so much I bought more: See here for the list of bikes I’ve had over the years. I never gain saw those two young ladies, boo.

Eventually, I became a committee member of the Association of Charitable Endeavours (ACE), then secretary and route planner as part of a splinter group (The Reccecrew) and would go out to plan training rides and seek alternate routes in France (see here for an idea of a recce in France). I had such great times. But then, one New Years Eve, I weakened and had a cigar. Then another and so I was back smoking again and did so for another three years and then gave up once more and returned to cycling.

I entered once again the Paris to Hayling Cycle Challenge but this time, I took a group of a dozen riders, we called ourselves Team-SIM and we sailed to Bilbao and cycled from there to Paris to meet up with the main ride. This was to be when everything changed for me.

On my first climb of the first day. my heart rate, according to my Garmin, hit 256. I had to stop. I rested for 10 minutes then started off again. This happened twice more before I gave in and finished that day in the support van. This happened two more time in France. I felt as though there was nothing in any of my joints. Clearly, something was wrong.

Returning home, I inevitably went to see the Doctor who obviously sent me to the Cardio department for a check out. The consultant after running a number of tests and getting me to wear heart monitor for a day told me he could find nothing wrong and that I should go home and ‘Die of Something Else’ (his words, not mine).

My next visit was to the Asthma Clinic for a periodic review (never had one of those before) and after various tests I was told that I had Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): Personally I prefer my own naming of Codgers Old Puffing Disease (COPD)🙂.This was not good news. It was irreversible and degenerative. It would over time get worse. The timescales would depend on my lifestyle. Cycling has to be my lifestyle.

At my last review with the COPD Nurse I was told that my obstructive lung effectiveness was sitting at just 47%.  In my book, that less than one lungs worth of air for each breath. I’m sure the maths isn’t quite that simple: There is for instance the factor of restrictive breathing exacerbated by weight causing pressure on the diaphragm. But whatever, when breathing it feels like one lung so I’m sticking with that.

Now, one of the consequences of COPD is that the heart has to work so much harder to move what little oxygenated blood it can around the body. But because of the limited supply, the heart becomes in itself erratic and causing to to go into Arrhythmia which can and does feel extremely uncomfortable and makes exercise difficult. The consequence of this is that my cycling lifestyle became challenged which meant I put on weight which aggravated the restrictive breathing even more. I’m sure you get the picture.

So, my last review, 47% put me at stage 2 possibly moving to stage 3. My last proper review was three years ago. How do I feel today?  I thought I felt bad, I felt as though I was entering, what I call, the valley of despair. But then I read about somebody with COPD completing the London Marathon.

I’ll tell more in my next COPD update.

Poor Podge

 

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Having conquered Pisa, using Livorno as base camp, the next target was Genoa. Genoa was to be the end of the current cruise and over 1000 fellow passengers would be disembarking for their flight home.Podge & Tubbs however was having none of it: They were staying on.

Having spoken with Tubbs’s youngest boy (Master Nicholas) who had been a ships photographer for a year including four months doing the Mediterranean cruises, Podge & Tubbs decided that as Genoa itself probably wasn’t going to be to their taste they decided to opt for an excursion called Castles & Wine (it was the wine that drew their attention).

Podge & Tubbs had no friends

Unfortunately, the day before their arrival they received a cancellation letter to the effect that the tour had been cancelled as they (Podge & Tubbs) were the only ones looking to go. It seemed that nobody wanted to play with them. They had no friends.

Poor Podge & Tubbs.

Being as they were, without friends, Podge & Tubbs decided that they would stay on board all day. This gave Podge the rest he so badly needed, particularly as the next day was to be an epic 8-hour excursion to Florence. This also gave them the chance to smugly watch all those passengers leaving the ship and enjoy the peace and tranquility before the new batch embarked.

Podge, got up early enough to watch the boat glide into port and park. He sat on the balcony for a couple hours watching dawn break and the town of Genoa slowly waking up. Before too long, the seemingly quiet roads became jam-packed with commuters making their way to work. Podge felt smug. All to soon however it was time to awaken The Duchess with her morning cup of Earl Grey. Podge was by now proficient at waking her slowly and gently so that she started the day in a good mood. This always meant that the day would be a good day.

Very soon after, Tubbs joined Podge on the balcony and they sat there drinking their brew’s while watching Genoa going about its daily business content in the knowledge that although this was the end of this cruise, it was also the start of their next cruise: They were doing two cruises, back to back.

Lucky Podge & Tubbs.

The time was by now, 10:30 and they both agreed that it was time to go for a quiet breakfast, especially quiet as most of the passengers would by now have disembarked.

Oh how wrong they were.

The system was different to all previous systems they had encountered. This time, the passengers disembarked over a period up to 16:30 and even worse, the new passengers were already embarking. There were glum looking passengers with their hand luggage, huddled around in groups in the restaurant, waiting to disembark: There were confused pale faced passengers with their hand luggage waiting for their cabins to be available, huddled in groups in the restaurant wondering what was where and where was what.

It was just too much to bear.

Podge and Tubbs turned into His Podgeness and The Duchess, found a free table, just, sat down and had brunch, and left as quickly as possible. They wanted peace and quiet not to sit around with glum faced, pale faced passengers (in need of some sunshine) scattered all over the place. Quickly they made their way to the nearest bar and sourced a handful of Bud’s, tonic for the Gin, wine (just in case they ran out of gin) and some elderflower drinks (whatever they are) and retired to their cabin and there they sat, like two sad recluses, on their balcony drinking G&T and soaking up the sun, until the sun moved away then, they went inside and watched Spectre. The timing was perfect. Come the end of the film, it was time for fivesies so off they went to the Champagne Bar for some light refreshment before their evening meal after which they returned to the Champagne Bar for a last couple of drinks before retiring to bed.

In a way, it all worked out rather well, as Podge got the rest he needed (he did have a bit of a headache as well) and shall be good for the next days epic adventure to Florence. We shall see how Podge is when they get to Florence.

Poor Podge.

 

 

Cannes, land of luvvies and beautiful people and, for today only, His Podgeness and The Duchess. Their presence however would not be until after they had breakfasted and planned both today and the next day. For Podge was still struggling and the planned 10-hour trip around Florence & Pisa the next day was going to be too much. They had to re-plan their strategy. Fortunately however, Podge does dabble a little in the dark scary world of Contingency Planning and room for re-scoping had been built into their whole cruising schedule. Podge is wise & clever. Podge still can’t breath though. Poor Podge.

Visits to Florence and Pisa are from the boat park in Livorno (It’s about as near as the Oceana could get). Podge had spotted that as they were doing two back-to-back cruises, they would visit Livorno, sail on to Genoa for cruise end, start new cruise, sail back to Livorno. ‘Bingo” remarked Podge, “We could do the Easy Pisa Tour tomorrow and Easy Florence on the next visit”. Podge really is so, very clever and having exerted all his thinking energy both Podge and Tubbs went for a rest then Breakfast to plan the day’s adventure in Cannes.

Getting to Cannes was going to be different from any of the previous towns. It wasn’t possible to walk into town, nor was is possible to get the bus. The Oceana was way to big to park alongside anything in Cannes so had to anchor offshore (that’s a nautical term not money laundering, I mean management) and as such it would be necessary to take a trip in one of the ships tenders (these are the lifeboats or survival craft) of about 15-minutes right into Cannes herself.

Podge hates tenders

Back in 2004, Boxing Day to be precise, Podge & Tubbs were basking on the shore of a little Caribbean Island called Mayreau having taken the tenor across from the Aurora anchored some 20-minutes away. They noticed that the waters were somewhat more boisterous than usual, so boisterous in fact that one lady was dragged down under the waves and was being dragged out to see before a number of people raced into drag her, literally, back ashore. “I’ve never seen the Caribbean like this before” said Podge. ‘Most unusual’ he thought. As the waters continued with their bad behaviour, Podge & Tubbs decided to get the tender back to the boat. What followed was 30-minutes of extreme discomfort and yes, even fear. The bouncing about on the waves is fine, tenders are designed to do this: it was when the tender tried to tie up next to the Aurora to let every body off and back onto the ship. The tender was going up then down, rolling left then right, and banging against the ship with such force that on one occasion, there was a loud thwack after which there was a definite crack on the upper wall of the tender, not dangerous but most disconcerting. Eventually, we pulled away from the ship and bobbed about for what seemed an eternity while the captain turned the ship to shelter us so that we could all board the Aurora and the safety of the cabin then the bar. Ever since then, Podge has hated tenders. 

The next day, on board the Aurora, the Captain broadcast the news of the Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami that had happened on Boxing day.  

Today’s tender trip was a good trip

Podge needn’t have worried about the crossing. Climbing aboard the tender was a breeze, the crossing was millpond like and getting off the other side even easier. Podge is such a Wimp. ‘Just man-up’ thinks Tubbs. She doesn’t actually say it but Podge is sure that what she’s thinking.

Once ashore, it was like entering a different world. There was, what Podge thought, some sort of premier film event event as there were security guards and limos all over the place and red carpet outside the theatre entrances. Given the total absence of paparazzi however they both concluded that it must be some of film expo / conference. There was certainly no shortage of luvvies however and there were plenty of nice young, and some not so young, ladies each wearing the equivalent, cost wise, to an average 3-bed semi in the UK. Podge and Tubbs just sat on a wall by the sea watching them all meander backwards and forwards remarking to each other how stylish they al looked. “just look at that Italian man on the bicycle” said Tubbs, ‘He looks so stylish even with his cloths on” continued Tubbs. ‘Cripes’ thought Podge, ‘What on earth is going through her head when she’s looking at all these men” he mused. Podge decided he didn’t want to know but couldn’t help asking what she meant. She said that she actually meant compared to being in Lycra. Podge dropped the thoughts.

Having spent more then enough time people watching, Podge & Tubbs, ok, let’s be honest, Tubbs decided that they should cross over the main street and view the shops. This is where The Duchess comes into her own and His Podgeness feels his heart start to race and bounce even more than it was already. The shops in Cannes aren’t the average Ted Baker, DryStuff, Clarks, etc. Oh noooo, these were Prada, Gucci, Rolex, And other names so unique to Italy that His Podgeness just knew that they couldn’t even afford to even look in the windows let along go in, although going in isn’t that easy: you have be spotted, approved and buzzed in through the locked security doors. Then she spotted diamonds. “Oooooh look” she says, ’sparkly things, these are nice’. “If you loved me” she said looking at His Podgeness who has by now gone quite blue, through a sudden reduction in oxygen and coming out in a cold sweat. Podge does love Tubbs: His Podgeness does love The Duchess but when he took a look at the earrings being pointed out, ‘F*%k Me” exclaimed Podge, ‘They cost more than a World Cruise”. This was a good ploy, Podge had played a blinder. All jewellery now equated to another cruise and cruises won every time, presumably because Tubbs reckons on getting more sparkly thinks on future cruises anyway. Eventually, she tired and hunger set in. So they started to look around for somewhere to eat, preferably somewhere close to a tourist shop so that they could get the obligatory fridge magnet.

Throughout the whole cruise, Podge had been craving an omelette and when he saw one rather swanky but not too swanky eatery full of luvvies but still with a couple of tables spare, he was in there. No questions, no debate, no why’s or wherefore’s. Podge was in. Tubbs followed, scanning the horizon for fridge magnet shops and maybe another restaurant. Her first quest was fruitful. A suitable shop straight opposite. Her second quest was pointless. Podge wasn’t moving. “There might be somewhere nicer down there” she said, pointing randomly. “There might be” said Podge, ‘There might not be” continued Podge. “But this is nice and I’m staying here. Tubbs knew when to stop and sat down and perused the menu. Guess what, she had omelette and chips as well. They also had a large carafe of Pinot for good measure and they sat, relaxed, ate, relaxed, drank, relaxed, drank, relaxed and then they drunk some more.

The Tender back to the ship

All too soon, it was time to return to the ship and so they made their way back to the tender point for the journey back. Unfortunately, just about every passenger on the ship seemed to have the same thoughts and the number of tenders seemed to have reduced though why was never identified. Each tender can take about 100 people. Podge reckoned they were in a queue of 800+. To load and unload a tender plus the journey time there and back was well over 30 minutes. With two tenders, this was going to take a long, long time. But the clever captan was also good at contingency planning and acted in the same way that Podge had already decided he should. The Captain organised one of the local large capacity sight seeing boats to collect as many of us as possible and bring them over to the ship. ‘Wow’ thought Podge. “We’ve been upgraded, we’re going in a big boat” said Podge to Tubbs. This pleased Podge as they were much nicer than a tender.

Once back on board, Podge and Tubbs deposited their purchases and made their way to the bar for well earned fivesies and for Podge to rest his weary limbs and lungs.

Poor Podge.

The next day Podge was so very, very poorly. His breathing was really, really difficult: Podge’s cold had been upgraded to man flu and this combined with COPD (upgraded from Asthma) did not make for a good mix: No part of Podge’s body had any energy, his lungs even less.

Podge felt sorry for himself.

At around 06:00 Podge dragged himself from his bed desperate not to disturb The Duchess from her slumber (disturbing her slumber was a bad thing) and made himself a coffee and went out onto the balcony to watch the ship arrive into Marseilles. Podge sat for an hour watching the world go by, watched the ship park, watched the men tie up the strings and set the gangplank, or should that be gangway, to allow the eager passengers to escape ashore or join their excursions.

Podge and Tubbs had no plans for the day.

As there was nothing planned, it was ‘planned’ they they would have a late breakfast / brunch then maybe they’ll take the shuttle bus into the town of Marseilles, it was after all a place they hadn’t yet visited. They had plenty of time as the boat wasn’t leaving until late anyway as it was to be just a short overnight hop to the next port of call, Cannes. This now leisurely morning ,including an extended ‘rest’ before breakfast pleased Podge greatly but even so, Podge never neglected his duties and so, at the allotted time of 09:00, he presented Tubbs with her Earl Grey Tea, awakening her slowly so as not to start her into one of her ‘moods’ – the sort of irrational, comes out of nowhere for no reason type mood that only women can have🙂. Luckily as she slowly awakened, a pleasing smile grew from her sleepy face and Podge knew that he had one a good job and succeeded, and so this day would be a good day. With that, Podge returned to the Balcony to enjoy his peace and solitude.

Eventually, The Duchess arose from her [beauty] sleep and joined His Podgeness on the Balcony (it does sound grand doesn’t it). It was all Podge could do to look up and say good morning such was his physical struggle this day. She gazed upon him and inwardly doubted that she was going to see Marseilles today; there was no way Podge could make the journey. For Podge’s part however, he knew that his Tubbs really wanted to go ashore, if only to get the obligatory fridge magnet and of course, Podge wanted to see if he could buy some more inhalers. And so, although the body was weak, the spirit was strong and he declared ‘ok, let have some breakfast, then make our way, slowly into town’. This pleased Tubbs for not only was she going into town after all, but she was absolutely starving and breakfast, by now it was actually an 11:00 brunch, was just what she needed.

The shuttle bus into town took 30 minutes as the bus took its eager passengers into the centre of town, everybody just looked out through the glass like goldfish in a bowl wondering, wondering when the town would be become a nice town for so far, a nice town it really didn’t look. It’s very difficult to work out how to describe Marseilles, no doubt on sunnier days it may look a lot different, and it being a Sunday may not have helped but the town came across as unkempt, rubbish was everywhere, maybe even unloved but that’s only the perception of an outsider, but the one thing that was for sure, Podge & Tubbs did not want to spend any longer in town than they could help. On arriving and disembarking the bus, they looked around, almost in trepidation. Everything seemed so dishevelled, walking had to be with care for fear of stepping on the wrong stuff, most places were shut and everybody seemed to be just standing around bemused. Is this really the drop off point? everybody wondered. Apparently, it was. Looking around once more Podge & Tubbs espied a department store which was very nice, just as many department stores are in the UK are but once outside again it was back in a cityscape of seemingly neglect and lacking in care. They did wonder down to the Old Port but nothing endeared them there, so they found a pharmacy, bought two more inhalers, €10 this time which is probably £4 each so they seemed to be getting dearer and then they went in search of fridge magnets.

Podge was struggling.

Although all they’d done was sit on a bus for half an hour and wondered around for another half an hour, it was enough to tire poor Podge. Poor Podge was struggling by now. He just wanted to get back on the bus and go back to the ship. But he knew this wouldn’t be possible, nor advisable until the fridge magnet had been sourced. As luck would have it however, the journey back the bus involved travelling through a small market (why do markets alway chirp up women, especially Tubbs?) selling exactly the same sort of stuff that every other market sells although obviously, some of the images differ, such as those on fridge magnets.

Before long both Podge and Tubbs were back on board the bus, Podge clutching his two more inhalers but struggling to draw breath, Tubbs clutching her new fridge magnet and both Podge & Tubbs eager to get out of town and back onto the ship.

Back on board

Once back to the safety and comfort of the Oceana, Podge & Tubbs dropped off their vast array of purchases, Podge took some [legal] drugs, for his breathing, then went along to Magnums for what is now known as fivesies or 5 o’clock drinks. The bar steward greeted them with his normal cheery self and announced that he had heard from a previous bar steward who they had met on their last cruise that Mr Podge liked Laphroaig Whiskey and so they had got some in especially for him. This cheered Podge greatly, he even started to feel a little better but nevertheless, with his body still weak and even though his spirit was now stronger, he still couldn’t run a marathon nor half a marathon, he couldn’t run for a bus, in fact he couldn’t run but at all, he was definitely better than the morning – must be the news about the Laphroaig.

At the end of the day, Podge mused and thought to himself, ‘what a weird day, thank god she didn’t wakeup in one of her moods’.

Poor Podge.

Click here for the same but with photos

Having enjoyed the little trip down the English Channel and across the Bay of Biscay plus taking a day out in Lisbon, Podge & Tubbs were now looking forward to the start of their Mediterranean part of cruise with the first stop being Gibraltar.

Podge was looking forward to Gibraltar as he knew he would be able to source a lens for his camera at a good price: Podge was not looking forward to Gibraltar is he knew that Tubbs would having similar thoughts about the jewellery shops. Podge really didn’t know how he felt about Gibraltar! Anyway, it was to be a 10-minute walk from the ship to the square so they opted for a shuttle bus which took 5-minutes but less effort🙂.

Once there the exploration started – ‘where are the camera shops’ thought Podge – ‘where are the jewellery shops’ thought Tubbs but then, Podge had a far right thought. He seemed to remember somebody telling him it was possible to buy Ventolin inhalers over the counter and so, at the first pharmacy he saw he went in and asked for 2 and got 2 for £5. This excited Podge unnaturally as he clutched his purchases with pride: ‘Who needs doctors?’ thought Podge and on their they way went. Camera shops came, jewellery shops came, camera shops went, jewellery shops went until at last Podge sees a shop he remembered (well, that’s what he told Tubbs anyway) and in he went. “Can I help you sir” asked the shop keeper. “Yes please” said Podge, “I would like a 70 – 200 telephoto for for my canon camera please”. The shop keeper looked at Podge’s camera and said “No you don’t, what you really want is a 100 – 600 telephoto: that will give the full range in one go”. “No I don’t’ said Podge, ‘I want a 70 – 200 lens”. ‘Hmm’, thinks the shopkeeper, ‘I think a 75 – 300 will be better”. ‘Look behind you on the top shelf” said Podge, ‘see that 70 – 200 lens, that’s what I want. The shop keeper gave in and handed over the lens. Now all that was required was for His Podgeness to pay. So it was out with his best credit card imaginable and popped it into the machine, checked his pin and entered it. [PIN INVALID]. He tried again [PIN INVALID]. ‘I know it’s the right pin” said Podge “look here, 7593” he said to Tubbs (it’s not really 7593 but I wonder if anybody reading this recognised their own pin and immediately thought of changing it🙂 ). The shop keeper politely warned His Podgeness that a third [PIN INVALID] would block his card. Podge was now in a quandary. Fortunately, Tubbs The Duchess recognised the signs and took out her own card and paid for it herself. Podge does so love Tubbs.

Leaving the camera shop, Podge sees another pharmacy and again became unnaturally excited at the prospect of buying Ventolin Inhalers over the counter and so without further ado in he went and bought 2 more but this time they cost him £7. ‘Hmm’ he thinks, ‘that makes them a whole pound dearer than the last shop’ but still, he clutched his purchases and continued his walk along the high street only now, he was looking for bars: Tubbs however still had one eye open for all the jewellery shops. But Tubbs is a gracious / caring woman and saw that Podge was starting to slow and thought that it would be a good idea to stop before Podge starting using up all his new inhalers and without further ado found a suitable bar and found a table. Podge, who had indeed started to tire suddenly realised where he was, perked up and order 1 large beer for himself and one large Pinot for The Duchess.

They sat, they drank, they talked, they drunk some more, they ordered the same again and they sat and they drank and they talked and they drunk some more. Eventually, truth be known, they became drunk.

This probably explains how Podge suddenly admitted to Tubbs that he now remembered his PIN, allegedly he was looking at the wrong card [honestly]. And with that Tubbs marched Podge to M&S, leading him by his cauliflower ear all the way to the new tops section: Tubbs is always at her happiest when purchasing new tops. She then lead him to the dress section: Tubbs is pretty happy when buying new dresses. She then leads Podge to the underwear section: Podge is now getting naturally excited, but wrongly so it turns out.The underwear was for him and he was made to choose which to buy. Tubbs then led Podge to the [PAY HERE] section and instructed him to settle up. Podge did as he was told. Podge always does as he’s told. Podge isn’t stupid.

Now, with Podge clutching his purchases, and Tubbs clutching her purchases they started to make their way back down the high street but Podge had to stop off at the bar again: Apparently, when one gets to a certain age, fluid retention become challenging.

On the way back to meet the shuttle, The Duchess, for this is how she becomes when nearing a jewellery shop, espied a shop which had a certain attraction to her and she just knew that she would do well in this shop. Podge couldn’t fight back, one because of his own ill gotten gains and two because he had no strength to do so. And so with the same inevitability of death and tax they crossed the threshold into said store. Once in there, Podge saw two rather fetching oriental ladies who were also from the Oceana but who also had a certain level of class and wealth. ‘Sugar’ thought Podge, or something like that, this shop aint going to be cheap. Podge had to sit down: it was all he could do as The Duchess, now in her element and she now browsed the whole shop. Podge’s heart raced, not because of the sight of the rather fetching oriental ladies but because of what The Duchess may do next. Eventually he heard her ask “which do you prefer, these or these?” It was at this point he knew he’d lost. Any answer would cost money but which answer would please The Duchess the most and which answer would cost the least. Faced with a similar challenge in the past, Podge did try to play her at her own game by saying I don’t mind, I like them both, so she bought them both. Podge doesn’t do that any more. So Podge was honest and chose the ones he honestly liked the best and with that The Duchess bought them, with her own card. Podge was ecstatic: this has never happened before.

And so now, Both His Podgeness and The Duchess made their way to the Shuttle for the short 10-minute ride back. They were joined by a party of inmates [seemingly] from ‘Waiting For God’ with half not knowing where they were, the other half worrying about where they they’d been and all worrying about where all were going to sit on the eight seater bus and there was only five of them. Eventually they sorted them selves out, everybody was aboard and off they went to rejoin the Ocean.

Another successful trip aboard.

PS – Podge is now living on edge. How did he get away with not paying up in the jewellers. What lies in store for hime ahead. Podge was indeed a worried man.

The underwear by the way, were twice his size.

Check back for further recants of Podge & Tubbs Go Cruising.