Wednesday, December 27, 2006


Well, it's been real. Almost. When I ate a piece of Christmas cake for breakfast on Boxing Day I knew it was all over. It started promisingly on Friday the 22nd, when I motored down to the whale capital, Hermanus, to join my daughter and her brood in a timeshare chalet with a magnificent sea view. Now the best description for Hermanus is that it is a resort in denial. In fact it recoils in horror from the word resort. The locals treat the pillaging hordes with a distant contempt. The roads are terrible, signage sparse, the shops eccentric and lame. Even the supermarkets are useless. The restaurants are plentiful but unimaginative and service can be somnolent. After an hour waiting en famille (eight of us) for lunch one day, I accosted the waitress, who explained in a reasonable tone that they were busy at this time of year. No shit? They wouldn't last five minutes in Cape Town. Parking is a joke without a punchline. The harbour is a sad agglomeration of concrete and down-at-heel shipping. No waterfront precinct here, thank you.
And there were no whales.
Notable prezzies: I gave Thomas the present I wanted: an amazing robot dinosaur that seems almost alive. Zara had a bevy of Barbies. My sister is a collector of the doyenne of dollies in all her manifestations, but I bet she doesn't have the ballerina Barbie that actually dances (battery-powered Barbie must be a first). The Barbies were christened: Princess Glitter, Maribel and Ginger. But Zara sooo wants a robot dinosaur. Thomas also got a very large remote-controlled motorbike which he raced up and down the road, bringing furious stiffs out of their holiday snooze to remonstrate. Well it was midnight. How come I had to wait till my dotage for the kind of Christmas present I dreamed of as a kid? There's a blog to be written on the convergence of adult and childish pleasures in our brave new battery-operated, microprocessed, digitised, virtual world. The food, the food ... Christmas Eve was spent in the only restaurant that could seat eight on a late booking. It has apparently been an eaterie since 1822, and some of the deeply marinated, glowering guests could well have been sitting there since then. They stared with loathing at the small children as they made as much noise as possible to enliven the funereal proceedings. The highlight of the set menu was venison rolled in bacon. My 14-year-old granddaughter refused to eat hers because it looked like a bobbited penis. Christmas dinner, in sizzling heat, was al fresco with the inlaws. I was very impressed to learn that my son-in-law's stepmother had cooked the turkey, tongue, lamb and other items three weeks earlier and stored it in the deep freeze. The fun parts are in the photos. A prosperous posting year to all my bloggy pals. I am just off to join the kids bomb-dropping into the pool.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Re: crunching the stone

It's been a while. Not surprisingly, no one's come calling in a while either. I've just returned home from hospital after an operation my urologist calls "a scrape". I always thought that was a term for an abortion, and indeed, the same body area is involved. Chaps, brace yourselves. The procedure is as follows. They thread a kind of loop down the hampton, into the prostate, and proceed to whittle it down to a more reasonable size. As awful as it sounds, I was ready for anything after a few months spending most of the night standing groaning in the loo to little effect. Still with me?

So I checked in on Friday, thinking, no worries, it's a minor procedure and the only hassle is the four-day hospital stay till the bleeding dissipates.
They wheel me into the theatre waiting area, alongside an elderly woman with yellow hair. We nod and smile ruefully. C'est la guerre.

Along comes the anaesthetist to check up how far he can go without offing you. This is a guy with a small head, exceedingly wizened face and huge, muscle-knotted forearms like a superannuated Arnold Schwarzenegger. He has an intense, jiving style.
Usual list of questions re health. Then: "Not necessary to do a general, we'll give you an epidural (yes, ladies!) and drift you away with a light sedative. OK?" And off he goes to the woman next door.
Anyway, to the theatre and he finally does his thing. "Where's the music, sister?" he asks the masked auntie-like figure patting me on the shoulder. "You bring any CDs, Mr F?" By now I'm numb as a crash test dummy, and they arrange my limbs for a full-frontal assault. I'm giving birth in reverse.

I drift off for a bit and come round just in time to hear the surgeon say, "Good heavens. There's a stone in your prostate. Well, I never." I check this out on the large plasma screen nearby. The stone appears to be the shape and colour, although not quite the size, of a mussel shell. (The picture doesn't get the colour right).
He commences thrashing it about with his loop, getting it stuck in various apertures. "It's no use. It's very large and I'm going to have to break it somehow," he explains.

Now at this point I lose track of the narrative, because, I suspect, Arnie the Anaesthesiologist gives me a merciful extra jolt of joyjuice.
The next thing I remember, the surgeon/urologist is leaning over me, saying: "It's all over. Interesting case!" he adds.

Much later, I'm lying in bed attached to the catheter and a lot of other stuff, and the urologist comes in, merrily shaking his head. It turns out the op took an hour and a half, not half-an-hour as scheduled, and I don't remember all that much. "Hell of a business," he says. "I finally found some (sounds like) duck tongs to break it and that did the trick. Otherwise I would have had to order the laser from the other hospital, and then it would have gone on a lot longer."
The good part is that he gives me this perspex container with fragments of stone. They are a malevolent black. They're on my mantelpiece as I write. Now you must excuse me, I have to ...