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2.7.12

Well the last couple of months can only be described as 'interesting'! When I last wrote, I was hoping to avoid surgery but by the beginning of June, I was practically begging for an op. Having gone through life with an underlying feeling that I'm a bit of a weakling where pain is concerned, I now wonder whether I coped with the pain a little too well. The worst day was 1st May - Vappu - when I was completely incapacitated and in agony. We considered a trip to the Finnish equivalent of A&E but I couldn't sit at all and Vappu is the busiest day of the year at A&E. The thought of having to wait hours to be seen was worse than staying at home in bed. By the time we eventually did get to hospital, the painkillers were working and the pain levels were just about bearable. I should have lied and said it was still too much!

Skip several weeks... I eventually saw a specialist on 6th June, who was sufficiently worried that she wouldn't let me go home but transferred me for surgery to remove the prolapsed disc. The op went well, the disc was removed and the nerve is now free but I still have little feeling in my left leg. At the moment, I have no idea whether it will recover or not. I feel like I should be deeply distressed by this, but to be honest, it's just nice not being in pain and knowing that I'll be back at work in August.

I'm doing my bit to recover well from the surgery. I have physio exercises to do 5 times per day. It got a bit boring after the first week and I wondered whether I would have sufficient motivation to keep it up. Then I got creative and set them to music and now I quite enjoy them. The playlist is below - sorry, I'm quite a saddo! I wish I had the Beatles version of 'Help' and the 3-legged pig is beginning to wear a little thin, but it keeps me moving. I can't wait until tomorrow when I see the physio again and get promoted to the next level of exercises!

Physio music

11.5.12

Laying the deckingI'm going to intersperse this one with pictures of Neil and Josh laying the decking. They have done an amazing job in quite difficult circumstances and it is now looking really good!

Laying the deckingI have been off work and off my feet for the last couple of weeks. It seems I've done something to my back without realising it, got a prolapsed disc, trapped the sciatic nerve and now have an unco-operative left leg. Initially I was in a lot of pain but now I'm filled up with painkillers, I'm just dopey and my leg feels rather odd. I'm signed off work and getting frustrated with not being able to do much but otherwise, I'm okay. I guess the hardest thing has been getting to see good doctors that speak English. We are grateful for every person who can speak English and of course we continue to learn Finnish but when it comes to health issues, it can be very scary and a bit risky trying to communicate in part languages.Laying the decking Thankfully, my own doctor speaks excellent English and appears to understand that my aim is to get better quickly and get back to work. I'm seeing her again next week to assess whether anything is getting any better. If not, I might have to have an operation but I'm hoping not.

Laying the deckingSo as you can see, Neil and Josh have been doing the decking. Neil was supposed to be heading back to Lapland to work on his project there but at the moment, I'm too immobile to be left, so he's cancelled all trips for a few weeks. The upside of this is that he has time, between other bits of work, to do some jobs here. I desperately want to help but I've been relegated to supervisor (from a chair) and chief photographer. I also have the highly important job of making encouraging noises to keep Neil motivated and happy. Given that he's currently cooking, it seems prudent to keep him happy. Being mathematically minded, I see the following set of unsimultaneous equations:

deck laying + encouraging noises = happy hubby = curry & rice
sick wife + extra work - encouraging noises = grumpy hubby = chicken nuggets + chips

Laying the decking Laying the decking

15.4.12

Boarding the loftOn Monday, a whole load of strong chaps came and got the wood into the loft very quickly. That gave us the rest of the day to start laying the floor. We got as far as we could before running out of beams. When Neil gets back from Lapland (again!!!) he'll go and get some more beams and we can continue and hopefully finish the job. It was a good day though. Josh was a huge help! He did a lot of work, wrenching up beams and repositioning them and then helping to move and lay the floorboards. For Andy, he got his first ever expedition into the loft! So exciting!

Boarding the loftYesterday the weather was pretty foul! It snowed, sleeted and rained heavily all day. We normally try to get out a little at the weekends, but it was definite indoor weather. We tried to think of somewhere indoors where we could go and get some exercise and a change of scenery but we couldn't agree on anything and the indoor tennis courts were fully booked. Then Andy suggested Pelibunkkeri. It's an indoor glow-in-the-dark mini golf place with other games too. They do a pelibuffet, which costs 10€ and you can play all the games for free for as long as you want. So we went there. Playing air hockeyWe played a couple of rounds of golf, several games of air hockey and pool. We played darts on an electronic board. It's just as well it wasn't a real one because I seem to have a decreasing amount of control over my arm muscles and I'm sure lives would have been lost if they'd given me real, dangerous darts. It's a bit depressing really - I used to be really good at darts. Now all I'm good at is making the boys laugh. My putting skills are still pretty okay though and it was a great place to spend a wet afternoon. The only downside is that the parking outside is only for two hours, so we parked at school (about 15 min walk) and afterwards we had to wade through a combination of snow, slush and deep puddles. Yuk!

8.4.12

I always feel a little cheated at this time of year. All my teacher-friends in England have their lovely two week holidays and I only get a long weekend! I know we get a couple of days off for May Day and a day off for Ascension Day and then a very long summer holiday, but Easter... Hmmm!

We decided to spend some time working on the house this weekend. Friday was good - we burnt some of the excess wood that is still lying around, semi-buried under snow. Then we tried to clear some of the drive. The drain is between ours and next door's drives. It has been free but somehow the water had made a channel that went all over the place. We tried to widen the channel to let more water through and make a more straight forward route. At least we don't have the floods like we had at the other house.

Yesterday, we went and bought floor boards for the loft. We've got to clear out the shed and Neil's office so that the floor and pipes can be relaid. It's one of those jobs that could be delayed forever, so I thought we should get on. We had a nice surprise at Bauhaus. They lend trailers for free (50€ deposit) for 3 hours. So we borrowed one and bought the boards and got them home. The only problem was that Neil must have lifted one of them badly and has hurt his back. So now we can't get them into the loft. Fortunately, we have some good friends and tomorrow, two or three strong chaps will come and help us move them into the loft.

Can't go without talking about the weather. We've had a relatively chilly week - mostly sub-zero with some really cold nights. This, of course, suits me just fine. The snow is melting gradually by day but not so much that it is causing flooding. The paths and roads are clear now and easy to walk/cycle on. There is still a lot of snow in fields and forest, which looks pretty. The stuff at the side of the roads though, is black and yucky! Thankfully, the ski tracks are still okay. I did a lap and a half of the Metsokangas track one day last week. It was really nice. I might go again today. It surely can't be long until they close.

11.3.12

We have just had the best short break ever! After the skiing holiday at Ruka, I was quite upset and wondered whether my winter holidays were over for good but with a bit of careful planning, I can still enjoy the snow. On Wednesday, we drove up to Äkäslompolo in Lapland. Neil is working on a project there, so we went with him for a few days. There had been much discussion about who would do what, for how long and when. In the end, it worked like this...

Thursday morning, we checked the websites and discovered that most of the lifts on our side of the fell were closed. I think it might have been to do with the weather or avalanche risk. So, I drove Josh, Andy and Yuriko (our Japanese student) round to the Ylläs side and helped them get lift passes sorted out. Then I went off on my own and drove to Levi. In Levi, there are many free lifts on the smaller slopes. I had no idea whether I would be able to ski or for how long, so it didn't seem worth buying a lift pass. It was well worth the drive! I started in the morning at Children's World, where the slopes are tiny. It was a bit boring and I would have loved to have been up on the fell but at least I could ski without pain. Then I had lunch - sausages cooked over a fire. In the afternoon, I drove round to Family World. The slopes there are better and the lift is longer. I skied there for a couple of hours and had a great time. When I started to get back and leg ache, I stopped and drove back to meet the others. The hardest thing was stopping when I started to ache. I was having so much fun! However, I knew if I didn't, Friday might not happen.

KahvikeidasOn Friday, we drove round to the Ylläs side again. Josh and Yuriko went off up the fell, snowboarding/skiing. Andy and I took our cross-country gear and tried one of the marked trails. We have both skied before but we've never done anything more exciting than the circuits in Oulu. It felt like a bit of an adventure, actually going somewhere. We found the trail easily. There were loads of other people doing the same one. Unfortunately, there was quite a steep descent at the beginning of the route and I've never been taught how to do hills. Andy gave me some tips but I panicked a bit and fell over. I was expecting to be stuck for ages and then not be able to ski, but I'd fallen into very, very soft snow and I even managed to get up without taking my skis off. Then I tried applying some downhill techniques and snowploughed slowly down the big hill. Once we got onto the main track it was easier. On the way there, we went quite slowly. Although it was a flatish trail, there were many lumps and bumps, so we were going up and down a lot. Andy taught me how to go up and down in the grooves properly and eventually, I got the hang of it. By the time we reached Kahvikeidas (our destination), I was really enjoying it.

We've walked to Kahvikeidas many times in the summer. There's a good fire site there and although we have always gone prepared with matches and paper, there has always been a fire already lit. So this time, we didn't take matches or paper. Sod's law - no fire! Well, we sat for a while and rested, watched the Ptarmigans, which the trail is named after, and then set off back. The journey back was much quicker! I'd got the hang of the hills and even went down quite a big hill without too much difficulty. It was such good fun! When we got back to the fell, we headed for the fire site and had lunch. Then we all drove back to Äkäslompolo.

KesänkijärviAfter a short break and some salmon sandwiches, we left Josh at home, studying and Andy, Yuriko and I set off to Kesänkijärvi. It's a lovely lake with a fell behind it. In the summer, there are walking trails with duckboards around it. In the winter, many of the walking trails are used for skiing but there is one trail, the cloudberry trail, which can still be walked. We set off into the wilderness, walking in single file because the snow was too soft unless you walked right in the middle of the path. It's funny, normally we all chat as we walk but something about the place made us all walk in silence. It was so peaceful and beautiful! We stopped a couple of times on the way to show Yuriko things that we thought she would find interesting. When we reached the far end of the lake, we stopped for sausages (over another fire). We stayed there for quite a while, only setting off back when it started to get dark and the snow started again. The journey back was very quiet. We didn't meet or pass any other people and when we got back to the carpark, ours was the only car.

Lake and fellYesterday, we drove back to Oulu, stopping off at Ikea on the way to buy a new coffee table. Josh built it when we got home. It is quiet a long drive, especially when the sun is in your face and the snow is wet and slushy. By the time we arrived home, I was exhausted but it was well worth it and this holiday, I feel like I've really rested and I feel refreshed and ready to go back to work.

6.3.12

Frozen streamI am so, so, so glad that the ski break is finally here! We've had a couple of quite relaxing days, just catching up with daily life stuff. Today we went to Hai Long, our favourite lunchery. Lunch was on our friend who, fortunately for us, is a Tottenham fan. Neil supports Arsenal and when the two teams met recently, Arsenal scored us lunch. It was really nice to just sit and chat and not have to think about work or anything.

Last week, we had a few days where the temperature went positive briefly and some of the snow began to melt. Although there is still about 60cm+ of snow on the ground, the paths have melted and refrozen, so everywhere is really icy and slippery now. They do try to help by laying grit but the effect is limited. I hope it snows a bit more before the big melt happens. Spring treeIn the countryside and the ski resorts, it's still completely white but in the city, it's quite spring-like. I think it will be a good few weeks before our street is clear of snow. In a way, the mini-melt has helped because it had got to the point where we wondered where they could possibly put any more snow! I know that Neil and the boys are really looking forward to summer and some warmth but for me, I wish it was winter all year round.