A difficult winter

Sunset over Stará Oleška 10th November 2022 © Ricky Yates

I have to start this post by once again apologising for the long time gap since the last one. I had been hoping to publish the final instalment of my ongoing saga with Barclays Bank plc. I’ve already written the first half of a draft post. But unfortunately, the matter is still not resolved so I will hold off posting until it is brought to a satisfactory conclusion.

The other reason for the lack of a new post is that I have had a rather rough winter, particularly with regard to my health. Now that I am finally feeling nearly 100%, here is what has been happening to me this winter.

Back on Thursday 13th October 2022, I paid my regular visit to my GP in Prague, for my International Normalised Ratio (INR) to be checked, to establish the exact amount of Warfarin that I have to take to thin my blood. I also asked about having a Covid booster vaccination and Dr Stonawski said it could be done there and then and passed me on to Dr Youngová, the boss of the practice. She vaccinated me and suggested that I really ought to also have a flu jab, something I’ve never previously had. So I agreed. Therefore I had a needle in my finger for INR, one in my left arm for Covid, and one in my right arm for flu 🙁

Eleven days later, I visited my friend, Adrian Blank, down in Nepomuk for the changeover to winter tyres on my car. He also accompanied me to the testing station in nearby Horažd’ovice, where the car successfully passed STK, (the Czech equivalent of the UK MOT test), meaning it is safe and legal to drive for the next two years.

With all of that done, I felt that both my body and my car were ready to face the coming winter. But whilst the car has continued to function perfectly, now nearly two years on from when I bought it, the same cannot be said for my body 🙁

Unfortunately, soon after receiving my jabs in October, I developed a most annoying cough. Particularly during the night, I would wake up, start coughing and then not be able to go back to sleep. It also considerably affected my ability to sing.

The Embassy Singers & part of the congregation on Sunday 4th December 2022 at the Frauenkirche, Dresden © Ricky Yates

It was an absolute delight on the evening of Sunday 4th December, to be able to hold a service of Nine Lessons and Carols in the Frauenkirche, Dresden, for the first time since December 2019. As in previous pre-Covid years, the Embassy Singers from Berlin under their director Andrew Sims, provided a number of choir items as well as supporting the singing of the congregational carols. But as I tried to sing, I regularly ended up coughing 🙁

Introducing Nine Lessons and Carols at the Frauenkirche, Dresden, Sunday 4th December 2022 © Ricky Yates

The following Friday, I set out to travel to the UK, driving across Germany and the Netherlands to take the overnight ferry from Hoek van Holland to Harwich. I then spent the weekend, staying with my Czech friend Rev’d Dagmar Wilkinson, who has previously featured in this blog here and here. Dagmar is now the Rector of St John the Evangelist, Friern Barnet in North London. It was a privilege to be the preacher at a Sung Eucharist on Sunday morning.

With Rev’d Dagmar Wilkinson at St John the Evangelist, Friern Barnett, London © Ricky Yates

Here we both are in front of the high altar, following the service. Fortunately, my voice was OK for preaching but I once more ended up coughing when trying to sing the hymns.

Golf Carly dva under snow © Ricky Yates

That Sunday evening, London had the fairly rare experience of a heavy snowfall. Here is my car parked outside Dagmar’s Rectory on the Monday morning. I had to clear that lot off it before I could drive up to Nottingham.

Phillip John Yates, MBA © Lisa Yates

The centrepiece of my December UK visit was to attend my son Phillip’s graduation ceremony at Nottingham Trent University. He was awarded his Masters in Business Administration (MBA), with commendation, a tremendous achievement for someone with a full-time job, a young family, and coping with the Covid pandemic through most of the time of his studies.

Father & son © Lisa Yates

However, I did feel I had the right to stand in front of the board saying ‘Congratulations’ as I proofread, spell checked and grammar checked each of his assignments before he submitted them. As Phillip famously wrote to me after he received his final assessment, we got a commendation, Dad 🙂

I also spent two nights staying near Daventry in order to visit my daughter Christa, son-in-law Ian, and my two grandsons.

With my grandson, Arlo © Ricky Yates

Here are my first attempt at taking a selfie with each of my grandsons.

With my grandson, Finley © Ricky Yates

This selfie with Finley was taken at the CBS Arena in Coventry on Saturday 17th December where we watched my football club, Coventry City FC, playing Swansea City FC. Taking Finley to the match was his Christmas present from me as well as a Christmas present to myself 😉

My return journey started the following day when I drove to Harwich for the ferry back across the North Sea to Hoek van Holland. By this time the cough had become some form of respiratory infection. I was coughing up large amounts of phlegm, had a runny, but blocked nose, problems with my hearing and feeling increasingly weak. Normally I do not mind the long drive across the Netherlands and Germany, in order get home. But I have to say that I struggled to keep driving on Monday 19th December, not helped by the very limited hours of daylight.

I arrived home late that evening to find snow lying in my garden and a sheet of ice on the driveway and path to the front door. There is a gentle slope from the road up to my front gates but it took three attempts before I managed to drive the car up that slope and into the carport. And the house was absolutely freezing!

During that week before Christmas, I received an email from my GP surgery, setting out dates and times their surgery would be open during the Christmas period. But it also acknowledged that there were a lot of respiratory viruses circulating and offered some helpful advice on how to treat their symptoms, including details of over-the-counter drugs that are available without prescription. I decided that I would try not to trouble the surgery but instead, follow their advice.

Andrew & Gethin’s Christmas Tree © Ricky Yates

On Christmas Eve evening, I was invited to the home of my friends Andrew and Gethin in Obercunnersdorf, about fifty minutes drive north from Stará Oleška, in Freistaat Sachen. A wonderful supper was followed by a candlelit Carol Service in the village Lutheran Church. Unfortunately, because of my respiratory problems, I could hardly hear or sing.

Knowing that I had my next GP appointment for INR already arranged for Tuesday 3rd January, I spent the days after Christmas and into the New Year, taking things easy and my health slowly started to improve. When I saw Dr Stonawski, he checked me thoroughly all over and declared that I had been suffering with bronchitis as he could hear that there were still problems in my chest. However, all he could suggest was that should continue to take it easy and my condition should slowly improve. It took until the end of January before I finally lost the last vestiges of my cough.

However, at the beginning of February, I began to get an itchy rash on my back, which soon spread around the sides of my chest, to my arms and to my right leg. Again, as I had my next INR appointment booked for Tuesday 14th February, I decided to hang on until then before seeking medical advice. When Dr Stonawski took one look at my back he immediately wrote a report asking the dermatology department of Vojenské nemocnice, the Military Hospital in Prague, to see me that day as an emergency. There, the dermatologist that I saw, diagnosed it as some form of eczema. I was given a cortisone injection in my rear and prescribed various pills and creams.

Prescribed drugs © Ricky Yates

The photo above shows all the prescribed drugs I took away from the pharmacy that afternoon. I should stress that it does include repeat prescriptions for the medication I regularly take for the problems with my blood and heart. But I have been rattling with pills in the morning for the last two weeks. Fortunately, I am please to report that my skin is responding to treatment and whilst it is still discoloured, I’ve all but lost the itch. I’ve already had one follow-up appointment and another is due next week.

Logs delivered on Wednesday 15th February 2023 © Ricky Yates

The day after my trip to Prague for INR and my emergency visit to the dermatologist, I had my second delivery of logs for this winter, deposited in my back garden. So despite still not feeling well, I had to transport all of them into my woodshed and stack them there, before they got rained or snowed on. I’m quite proud of myself that I managed to achieve this in the space of a week.

Logs stacked in the woodshed 22/02/2023 © Ricky Yates

Here they all are, stacked in the woodshed.

I’m very glad I did as, on the morning of Sunday 26th February, my seventy-first birthday, this was the view from my front door…

My birthday morning view © Ricky Yates

My birthday morning view © Ricky Yates

.and from my back door.

As far as I can remember, it was the first ‘White Birthday’ I’ve had since 1963. Yes, I was singing, ‘I’m dreaming of a White Birthday’, numerous times that day 🙂

8 comments to A difficult winter

  • Pauleen Bang

    Dear Ricky
    What a terrible winter you have had! You are, of course, entirely forgiven for not writing any blog posts. So glad to hear that you are finally recovered from all your woes. Long may it last!
    However, it is lovely to get your news even though it is tough. I am amazed at what you have achieved during this period despite your various woes.
    Let’s hope that the next few months are easier and healthier than the last few. Take care of yourself and stay healthy.
    Love and prayers from Copenhagen

    • Ricky

      Dear Pauleen,
      Thank you so much for visiting & commenting here once again, especially as you were one of a number of people wondering when the next post would appear. Thank you too, for your understanding & kind words.
      I also hope that the next months will be easier than the last few. One thing I’m very much appreciating are the ever increasing hours of daylight. I’m not a fan of short, dark, winter days. Thank you for your love & prayers which are much appreciated.

  • Pauleen Bang

    Dear Ricky
    Amazingly enough I got a notification this time that there was a new comment on your blog post. I don’t know what you did, but it worked.
    Thanks for that.
    Love Pauleen

    • Ricky

      Pauleen – I’ve actually done nothing! However, I’m very pleased to know that things are working as they should be once again. My comments plug-in was recently updated so maybe that is what did it.

  • Happy belated birthday, my friend! Glad to hear from you at last! Sorry you’ve had such a difficult winter health-wise but at least you’ve turned the corner. The photos are beautiful. Congratulations on your commendation with your son. ?

    I’m now the priest in charge of Good Shepherd parish (Episcopal Church) in midtown Manhattan. Remember us in your prayers.

    • Ricky

      Stephen – Thank you for your birthday wishes, commiserations, and congratulations, and for visiting and commenting here once again. All very much appreciated!

      And congratulations from me to you on your new appointment. You’re now the second Episcopal priest I know in New York, though the other one is about to move elsewhere. A prayer has just been offered.

  • Sean Mccann

    Hi Ricky,
    I think the title of this piece is an understatement. You have had a bloody awful winter! I hope you have fully recovered from all the afflictions by now and are enjoying the ‘grand stretch in the evenings’ and the promise of spring renewing the face of the earth. I sympathise with the sentiment expressed in the photo of your medication ‘stash’ – I’m well acquainted with a few of the products.

    Hoping you are fully recovered and enjoying life,
    Take care,

    • Ricky

      Thank you, Sean, for your kind words. Basically, I am fully recovered though I’m still taking a reduced amount of cortisone to ensure my eczema doesn’t return. Unfortunately, two days ago, my GP & I discovered an unwanted side effect of me doing so. My INR, (the level of thinness of my blood), which should be between 2 & 3, was 4.8, leaving me with the risk that if I cut myself badly, I could bleed to death! My GP is fairly sure that it is an interaction between the cortisone and the warfarin I take. Prescribed action has been no warfarin the past two days and then in a reduced amount until I have my INR checked again a week today.

      Thank you once again, for both visiting and commenting, and for your earlier email.