Friday, August 17, 2007


mum and son

I drink my morning coffee and watch Graciela watch her younger son complete an application form at the kitchen table. For Graciela this is a rare moment of relaxation. She is content to watch and love. Then, maternal, she points to an empty box on the form that requires a date.
I might be watching Bernadette and our eldest boy back home.
At what age do sons stop bringing home their application forms for Mum’s advice?
And do Mums ever have sufficient energy to stay awake during the showing of a DVD?
Bernadette and I have been together for nearly thirty years. I don't recall Bernadette ever staying awake through an entire film.
Graciela slept through three showings of The Last King Of Scotland earlier in the week. Last night she nodded off to Apocalypto.


pepe sculpting


I have chosen the limp. Pepe adds that I will sense the approach of rain in the joint. The plaster requires two full days to dry. Once dry, I can rest the heel on the ground, though not put weight on the foot. Balancing will be easier. Pepe says I can travel in less than four weeks, more than three weeks. By Monday I can go for drives, visit the country. He will get me a wheelchair.
I have occupied the spare bed in Graciela’s bedroom for ten days. A further three weeks is too great an imposition. Pepe and I speak English together. I tell him that I must find somewhere to stay.
He translates for Graciela.
Graciela says, "Why do you want to make my life more difficult? In my room, you are convenient for me."
I try to express my thanks.
Pepe squeezes my hand. "Simon, it is impolite to thank friends."
I find that I am weeping.
So much for the phlegmatic Brit…


Pepe arrives from his estancia to build a new cast, more of a boot with a wooden arch support and rubber heel. He drives me to the hospital in his truck and wheels me to the orthopaedic unit. Doctor Lopez is the Consultant. The two men examine the latest x-rays. A minute shift of the bone is evident. Lopez advocates screw and wire, a full cast for three months and a further month of rehab. Pepe argues that I am 74, that I don’t have four months. That keeping me immobile is a recipe for disaster.
The decision is mine.
I am not good at decisions.
My wife, Bernadette, is the other side of the world.
Graciela hasn’t come to the hospital. She knew there would be an argument. Both doctors are friends.
Pepe drops me back at the hotel. He will return in the afternoon.
Time for thought.
I suspect that Dr Lopez’ solution would be medically perfect.
Pepe is less interested in perfection. He lost his right leg from above the knee in a bike crash. He suffered a stroke and lost some of the feeling in his right hand and can no longer operate. He can run a large estancia, ride his Triumph 750 or a horse. He has rehabilitated himself and has a medical practice specialising in long term rehabilitation. He is closer to my age than Lopez, suffers from the same impatience with his own physical frailties and is an expert on living life to the full.
Take his route and I may limp a little. However I will complete this journey.
Chose the screw and wire and what do I risk? An old man’s shuffle instead of a limp and no book…
I talk with Graciela. She agrees.


javier - front right

vaguely inebriated
Javier, the oil driller, is barbecuing a few dozen chickens in the yard - party time at the Hotel Argentino. We are celebrating the arrival of two Spanish pedal bikers from Valencia. The bikers have ridden from Buenos Aires via Bariloche, Monson and Calfate, then across into Chile and back via Porvenir to Rio Grande. Tomorrow they will head for Ushuaia. One is a salesman, early forties, handsome, voluble, lots of charm. The forty-day bike ride makes a great tale for his customers and will boost sales. The second biker is younger by ten years, an odd job man in the modern sense: basic electrician, basic plumber, painter and decorator, simple carpentry. He is the more thoughtful of the two and talks little. The Spaniards complain of ruthless Argentine truck drivers, of being forced off the road. I prefer a different image: the kindly driver who held me in his arms and called me brother.
My neighbour at table eats two full chickens. I drink more than one glass of red wine.
The Spaniards party to 5 a.m. They are on the road at seven. Such men were the Conquistadors…

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


These are facts. I suffered back pain throughout the three months prior to leaving the UK and in my first weeks in the Argentine. I received four treatments from an excellent osteopath and two treatments from a sports therapist. The pain continued.
I get hit by three trucks and the pain ends. Eight days have passed since the crash. I feel confident in writing of a cure. I suspect this cure is a one-off and am reluctant to include this piece in my weekly column for 50connect.
50connect is a leading web site for mature citizens. Imagine hundreds of back-pain sufferers hobbling into the main highway in search of a curative truck.
Meanwhile Pepe has inspected the new x-rays. I have a date at the hospital tomorrow morning. Pepe will change the cast.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Graciela is not pleased that I went to the restaurant yesterday. She knows that I took a knock on the foot. She threatens to telephone Bernadette. Meanwhile she takes me to the hospital to have fresh x-rays taken. Going anywhere with Graciela is a kiss-fest. Half the town are friends. The other half long to be.
I sit in the x-ray table while Graciela explains that she cares for me to be rid of me. I am to be more careful. I agree and pay US$5.50 for the x-rays.
A lady doctor examines the picture and reports all well with the ankle. She is not an orthopaedic surgeon. Pepe will give his opinion on Thursday.


I may have remarked in a previous BLOG on the massive quantity of food Argentines eat, in particular, the vast amount of meat. I escaped at lunchtime. Not far, a mere hop to the corner restaurant. Fernando, Javier, Pepe and Carlos were my guests. Carlos and Javier ordered churasco: a plate-sized chunk of grilled meat surmounted by two fried eggs and piled with thick potato chips. Fernando preferred Milanese: the two slices of breaded meat required folding to fit the plate, two fried eggs and the potato mountain. Pepe and I had the midday special: spaghetti with meat sauce plus a hunk of stewed beef. Add an excellent bottle of red wine and the bill came to US$32.


I long for books. I have been lying in bed and thinking of the vile headlines in the British yellow press during the Falklands/Malvinas war. Much of the British Press is owned by foreigners of very dubious morality. Odd that successive Governments should permit such people to manipulate public opinion.
Murdoch terrified Blair.
Perhaps, Brown, a historian rather than a lawyer, and a child of the manse, will be more courageous. Meanwhile I am cared for with immense kindness by Graciela and her gang.