A quick weekend trip to Bruges and Saint Peter Port on the Aurora.

Podge and Tubbs had been to both Bruges, where it always seemed to rain on them, and Saint Peter Port but this cruise was a cruise with a different purpose.This cruise would elevate them to the top tier of P&Os loyalty scheme which would bring them extra perks. Such perks now included bigger discounts and, more importantly to The Duchess and His Podgeness, priority embarkation. And it started with this cruise. Oh how The Duchess enjoyed the privilege of being directed straight past all the waiting passengers and direct through to the ship for champagne and lunch.  Podge and Tubbs were well happy.

The Aurora

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It had been over 10 years since Podge and Tubbs had been on the Aurora and were looking forward to seeing her again, especially as they had been upgraded to a Mini-Suite. They weren’t sure however how she would be given her age: She had been in the service of P&O since 2000, so she was clearly built in the last Millennium.

Having boarded the ship, ahead of everybody else, eaten lunch and drunk copious amounts of champagne, The Duchess, closely followed (three paces behind) by His Podgeness made her way to their cabin, sorry, mini-suite, checking the emptiness of her ship on the way (this wouldn’t last). Oh how overjoyed was The Duchess as she surveyed her new empire. And what an empire it was with bedroom and separate sitting area, a lovely double sized balcony and a proper bathroom with his and her sinks. Better still, there was a bottle of champagne on ice waiting for them along with a nice box of chocolates. Pre-empting her command, Podge moved the chocolates into the fridge and opened the champagne and dutifully poured her a glass and of course a (slightly larger) glass for himself.

Irrespective of how many cruises one may have done, there is still the obligatory life boat drill that has to be conducted before every cruise, which must be attended by all passengers: This included His Podgeness and The Duchess. Neither of them enjoy the drill but they do at least recognise the importance and so with life vests in hand, they dutifully make their way to their allotted muster station and promptly fell asleep. Naughty Podge & Tubbs.Waking just in time to prove they knew how to don their life vests, Podge was informed that their next course of action was to return the vests to the cabin and explore the boat.

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Podge & Tubbs explored The Aurora, found the Crows Nest, a good place for G&T declared Tubbs, then moved on the The Anderson Bar, an excellent place for pre-dinner champagne declared Podge. The next find was the Gym – “This is not a good place” remarked Podge, “It looks painful, we should give this facility a miss” said Podge & Tubbs in unison. Although they are not pool people they still needed to know and appreciate the pool facilities: they were mightily impressed with the pools on The Aurora. Especially the one with the sliding roof (Crystal Pool) which guaranteed the right climate wherever in the world one might be. This was further enhanced by the provision of a fast food bar with all the sort of food that Podge loved and adored but which Tubbs forbids. Poor Podge.

Lastly, they found the Pennant Bar: This was the bar for the obligatory fivesies (Wine at 5, or 4, or 6, whatever time suited:-) ). They tried it out, the wine was good, the bar and surrounds were good. The temperature was cold. They ordered more wine and returned to their cabin where they relaxed and watched the world go by as they sailed out of Southampton, passing Calshot, Cowes & Ryde on the Starboard side with Lee-on-the-Solent, Gosport and Portsmouth on the Port Side. Podge always liked this bit. Podge was happy and if Podge was happy, then Tubbs was also happy: Podge & Tubbs were a happy and content couple.

Next Stop, Zeebrugge then Knokke.

Bruges was the official port of call, even though it isn’t actually a Port! Podge & Tubbs however have been to Bruges so many times now that they decided to give it a miss this time. One alternate option was a trip to Ghent but this had already been done as well. Very, very briefly, they considered the old folks option of a coach trip just to view the surrounding countryside and sample chocolate and beer. Much as the chocolate and beer had their attractions, the thought of being part of the Old Folk Brigade caused them to regain sense. Then they saw a trip to Knokke calling at Damme (formerly the port for Bruges in the 13th century) on the way. Damme was in fact quite a picturesque little port with coffee shops, museums and a fab church.

The visit coincided with an arts festival with numerous statues placed in and around the church grounds and two itself. After gazing a little too long at the statues of naked women Tubbs decided that it was time to take Podge to a little cafe for a coffee and biscuit, lest he got too excited. Begrudgingly, Podge followed on dragging his heels and sulking: he wanted to stay with the statues. Podge is a sad man.

Eventually, having sated their thirst, they slowly made their way back to the coach for the second half of their excursion to Knokke, billed as the playground for those with an above average standard of living.

The journey wasn’t too long and in no time at all they were making their way through the outskirts of town and ultimately onto the main drag close to the beach: Today however was not beach weather so shops & shopping was to be order of the day. The main objective was to get a birthday present for young Matthew. He wanted a watch, they knew that, but what watch. They needed inspiration so what better place to get inspiration for buying a watch than to visit shoe shop after shoe shop until eventually they found a shoe shop that had some shoes that met with the approval of The Duchess and matched the contents of the wallet of His Podgeness. Shoes purchased, inspiration must surely follow.

It was Podge who was most inspired and not just by the rather fetching young lady behind the counter of a watch shop (always a good place to look for watches) but by the fact that they sold Festina watches: Festina used to be the official timekeeper for the Tour de France so would, Podge assured Tubbs, be perfect for Matt ‘The Cyclist’. It also meant that Podge got to spend a little more ‘quality time’ with the young lady behind the counter (Podge is so naughty).

So, watch purchased, shoes purchased, fridge magnet purchased (of course), Podge and Tubbs returned to the Pink Fountain where they had been instructed to wait for the bus that was to take them back The Aurora.

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Pink Water Fountain – Just For The Duchess

Bet you can’t guess what Podge and Tubbs did when they got back to The Aurora. Yep, that’s right, they went for fivesies (fivesies are early evening drinks, normally but not always, wine that is often had at 5 pm, or 4 pm, or 6 pm – fivesies are flexible) and something to eat. And, despite the weather, Tubbs insisted they she wanted to eat, and drink of course, ‘Al Fresco’.

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I’m on a Cruise Ship, I will eat Al Fresco

This didn’t last long, Tubbs eventually admitted she was cold and they went back to their Cabin, sorry Suite,  to prepare for the evening festivities as The Aurora sailed to Saint Peter Port, a place Podge & Tubbs had no intention of visiting. Why? Because reaching Saint Peter Port would mean tendering and Podge hates tendering (see https://podgethepuffer.com/2014/04/06/bali-the-land-of-mystery/ for why).

The morning brought apparently calm seas and Podge & Tubbs were almost tempted to ‘give it a go’ and take the the tender to shore but the prospect of a late leisurely breakfast and the use of the ship almost exclusively while everybody was ashore was too great a draw to sway them. They were staying put. And, as it turned out, the decision was a good one. As His Podgeness sat upon the balcony watching the Tender boats (Survival Craft!) to’ing and fro’ing he noted that one of them had returned, engine faltering, to the mother ship Aurora. ‘That’s not good’ thought Podge. They were now one craft down so transfers would take longer. It also transpired later in the day that due to harbour traffic, there were further delays which meant that it was well past lunch before everybody had managed to get ashore. Podge & Tubbs would not have been happy. Podge and Tubbs were happy. They had elected to stay on board. How smug were Podge and Tubbs!

The remainder of the day went pretty much as planned, with Podge & Tubbs enjoying the relatively spacious and empty bars, etc. They even managed to enjoy three’sies, four’sies, five’sies and six’sies before finally packing (there wasn’t actually a lot to pack. Even by The Duchess’s standards, three cases for a three night weekend break was travelling light. Then, it was time for dinner and post dinner drinks before retiring back to their cabin, sorry, suite, knowing that they had an early start, to be sure that they were to disembark in good time so as to be sure they were back home before lunch. Podge however wiled away just one more hour on the balcony as the Aurora sailed for Southampton. He sat there listening to the sounds of the sea as the ship cut through the waves on her way home. He sat, sipping his secretly secured rather large Laphroaig and mused to himself with self contentment. They had done it. They had made Top Tier with P&O. Podge was a happy man and he knew Tubbs was also happy which meant that all was well in their world.  ‘Where next?’ he thought to himself. He knew the answer, it was to The Arctic Circle to see the Northern Lights, with luck. But that was many months away, surely there was time to fit in another adventure. Podge hoped so, else Tubbs wouldn’t stay too happy for long. Podge’s next challenge was set.

Poor Podge.

One year ago I saw my heart vet doctor (I know this because Facebook reminded me 🙂 ). It was a notable visit but not for the right reasons. Read on.

05/05/15
So, today I saw my heart vet. What a waste of time; what a waste of space. “So” he says, “What’s been happening to you?” he asked.
“I’ve had two cardio versions” I said: “That’s where they stop and start you heart” I clarify for him.
“How did it go?” he asks.
I was tempted to say ‘Well, I’m still alive’ but I resisted. Instead I asked “What does it say in your notes?” 
“I haven’t got any” he says.
“Well” I say, “They failed”.
“So what did they say?” he asks.
“What does it say in your notes?” I ask back.
“I haven’t got any” he says.
“I have” I say, “do you want to see them?” I ask. I gave him my notes and he looked through them.
“Oh, yes your right, they didn’t work.” “What tablets are you on?” he asks.
I give him the list: A copy of the same list I gave him on a previous visit.
“Well, you don’t need these ones, or those ones. You might as well stop them”.
I looked at the ones he was pointing at. One was my anti-coagulant (Dabigatran) – apparently this was to stop me having a stroke and, on the basis that I haven’t had a stroke, they were clearly doing their job. Joking aside however, I was not going to stop them.

“But they’re doing a better job than the cardio versions” I say.
“No he says, you don’t need them. Anyway, how have you been?” He asks.
“Well, I was ok but I’ve gone downhill over the past week.” 

“Hmm” says he, “Why do you think that is then?” he asks.
“Oh, I’ve probably got a bug or virus.” I say.
“Yes, that’ll be it” he says. He checks my pulse; I’m still living. He’s happy but, suggests that we do a 24hour trace and a heart scan then we’ll see what to do next.
I was then summarily despatched.
My verdict? I’m staying on my drugs and deal with it my way. And, if I get ill again, instead of asking him what might be the problem I’ll just cut out the middle man and ask myself.
If I never see him again, it’ll be too soon.

Anyway, back to the present.Over the last couple of weeks I’ve felt quite well buoyed on maybe by the articles I’d read of a COPD patient (stage 4) having completed the New York Marathon and, since reading about that, I’ve subsequently seen other positive stories.

So, I’ve made my mine up…

I’m going to stop feeling sorry for myself (there a are a lot of people far worse off than me) and ‘turn myself around’. To this end I’ve signed up for the Great South Run, preceded by the Great South 5K Run. My rational being that I’ll do the 5K run and I feel up to it, I’ll then do the main run. If I don’t feel up to it, at least I’ve done the 5K (both are on the sae day).

So, let’s look at my obstacles:

I’m fat – I weigh 99kg, I should weigh 76 Kg: I’d like to weigh 70Kg – (I want to be an Adonis, I never have been, I never will be but one has to have a dream) 🙂

I’m lazy – watching GoggleBox is more appealing than going for a walk (guess I’ll never be an Adonis then) 😦

I have COPD Stage 2 / stage 3 – The jury’s still out on which stage

My peak flow is around 320 (I don’t know what it should be but my guesstimate is around 500 – 550 – assuming good health)

I have arrhythmia / atrial fibrillation or, something similar but the ageing ticker seems to be behaving lately:

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Podge’s Heart Scales

I have a full time job: This is my normal work day:

  • Get up around 05:00 followed by normal getting up in the morning stuff.
  • Walk  1 km to the train station; catch train; switch train; switch train; switch train.
  • Arrive at work around 08:30
  • Work, work, work – desk based
  • Finish work 17:30 – 18:00
  • Reverse train route
  • Mrs Me picks me up at the station
  • Arrive home 20:00 – 20:30.
  • Try to go to be the same day I got up.

And in amongst all that, I need to try to work out how I’m going to prepare for my run. I do have thoughts on this.

So far, my walk to the station is going well: When I was holiday I could hardly walk to the end of the cruise ship. Today, I reckon I can walk a mile. By the end of May, I want to be able to walk 3-miles then, I’ll get on my bike again (if I can find it)

My next question is, do I revisit the [Milk: Good Food? Bad Food?] debate? I think I should.

I’m sixty two and a half and will be eligible for retirement in two and a half years. I want to be able to retire and enjoy retirement. If I do nothing else, I should stop being fat and in my mind, exercise is a major factor.

Oh and by the way. I’ve done the 24hr trace and had the scan but I haven’t been invited back to see him yet. I’m in no hurry.

This time, it’s not Poor Podge but:

Go Podge, Go

Wish me luck…

My next post will be about more exciting stuff, cruising. Yay.

I was recently sent to the COPD Nurse for what should be an annual review. I duly arrived at the surgery with plenty of time to spare and sat myself in a comfy chair and amused myself, whiling away a few ‘downtime minutes’ playing Candy Crush (I know, I need to get a life). Eventually, my name was called and into [the room] I went.

“Kevin, are you sure you’re OK” asked the nurse, ‘You’re breathing seems bad and your eyes are all red & puffy”. Thinking to myself ‘it’s probably not worthing asking for a date then’ I explained that me breathing has been bad for the last five weeks and that I had been eating steroids and antibiotics over the same period; “Otherwise, I’m fine” I say.

The nurse, having satisfied herself that I was ok to continue, then explained that she wanted to be breath into a tube connected to a breathing rate analyser (I don’t know what its really called). It looks a bit like those devices the Police use when they think you’ve been drinking and driving – I stress that I have no personal experiences of such things. Before ‘the breath test’ the nurse asked about my medication etc, after which she asked “Have you got COPD?”. “Yes” I replied, “That’s why I’m here” I continued, now a little confused. “Oh” she says’ “I don’t know too much about that I’m afraid but we should still do the tests and hopefully the GP will know what the results mean.

So, I breath into it, 3 times long and slow and 3 time as hard as I can as long as I can. As always, black dots appear in my eyes, everything goes fuzzy and I come close to, but not actually passing out. The nurse congratulated me. Apparently I did a lot better than she had expected. She printed off the results for the doctor to look at. I asked how I was looking as at my last test I was told my ‘score’ was 47%. She said she wasn’t sure but thought it was actually 53%. This confused me as I understood that COPD never improved. Hopefully it does!

My next appointment was with my GP. He looked at the results and was also confused. Given that I had spent the last 5-weeks on antibiotics and steroid without any apparent affect he hadn’t expected such results. He checked my heart as this had been bouncing around between 105 and 127 just sitting there: this was clearly inefficient. This was probably what was making my breathing so short though he did stress (pre-empting my next question) that this didn’t mean my COPD had gone away.

As I write this, I’m sitting on a train on my daily journey into London. During this time, according to my shiny new apple watch, my pals has been bouncing up and down between 67 and 129 and it does actually feel that way too.

The decision was to double the strength of my ACE Inhibitor and have another review in three weeks.

So, I am in a state of confusion and even despair. Do I have COPD or do I not have COPD? I think I do. Is my heart like it is because of COPD or is a problem in its own right? I have no idea. Will I ever again see somebody who knows about COPD. Confidence is low on that one.

I do know however that I need to fight my way out of the current situation. One way or another, I’m going to get back out on my bike and even start running: Both very slowly. But at least that will help me lose weight which must surely help my heart.

We shall see.

COPD – Creator Of Podge’s Despair

Poor Podge


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.