That’s … a bit of a thing.

These last fifteen days or so have been a bit of a roller coaster. You may, or may not, know – but I think you will know because I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned it – that I have an arthritic knee. Now I am on McOther’s health care but I’ve never thought to investigate it particularly thoroughly because … well I suppose because I had private health with one of my jobs and any problems with my left knee were actually excluded from the policy.

Every few years it flares up and when it recovers, never quite returns to previous levels. Living in a different county, I had a transplant to move some cartilage from a part of the knee where it wasn’t used much to an area where it was. That lasted a year or two, but I don’t think getting pregnant three weeks after the op (by mistake) did it much good.

The NHS will only give you one knee and they seem to have this slight of obsession with not giving it to you until you hit sixty. I suspect it’s because if people have to wait another 20 years there’s a good chance some of them will have died off before the operation has to go ahead. The official argument is that you won’t want to be in a wheelchair as an old person. My counter argument would be that actually, when you are 40 and have just had a little boy, or when you’re fifty and looking down the barrel of another eight years of bone on bone, that’s the time you want to be fit and able and … you know … pain free. Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow you may die, and all that.

With lock down came a change in the way I exercised, more walking, less cycling, no gym and with that change came a truly evil flare up. So evil that I looked at our health insurance policy and realised that yes, I was insured for treatment for an acute flare up even if the underlying condition is chronic. So I asked.

I was given a call back from their triage team that same day. I then had a call booked a few days later to speake to a member of their physio teem who referred me straight through to a consultant. Within the week I was zoom calling a knee surgeon who fixed a friend’s knee. Wasn’t sure about using the local guys because I’m pretty sure one of them was the NHS guy who told me, aged 40, that I’d be fast tracked if I was 20 years older and that I should just go and lose two stones – I went to the gym where I lost two dress sizes and put on a stone so … a partial success there I suppose.

A quick chat by zoom and the following Monday I was making an appointment for photos/MRI etc. They offered me Wednesday but that’s my day to visit Mum so I chose the Monday after that. A week later I was heading down to London to be filmed and meet the surgeon in person. He’s very calm and measured and has a dry humour and subtlety to the way he delivers his verdict about things which reminded me strongly of McOther. He also has the same calm confidence about his expertise, which is always reassuring. He told me, ‘this is rather worse than I was expecting from your story. There’s not any cartilage that I can see.’ Then went on to explain that the knee was actually, ‘completely trashed’ and that a full replacement was the only real option. I may be fifty two, he said, but my knee is every bit of seventy years old. I’m not surprise. I suspect it’s been bone on bone for the last three years, at least.

While he was showing me the MRI it was intriguing to see it zoom through all the meat bit by bit. I looked at it and thought, Hmm, there’s some nice marbling there, if I was a steak, I’d taste nice. Which even I thought was a slightly strange thing to think.

I’ll be having surgery at London Bridge Hospital. The white and brown building second to the left of the Shard. HMS Belfast is near there, too. It’s on the left, just out of shot.

There we are then. As of two days’ time, I am about to plunge into two week’s isolation before having a knee op. When I come out the side I will have a replacement knee … I hope.

In so far as such a concept is possible, I am quite looking forward to having surgery. Counter intuitive as this may seem, if it works, I will be able to do a lot of things I couldn’t. Like … I dunno … walk. I suspect that once I get up and running after the op, I’ll do a fair bit of walking, just for the sheer joy of being able to. I may even be able to run for the first time in about 15 years.

Like any operation, there is a chance it will go horribly wrong. I might die on the table, have a blood clot or end up as a unidexter. But I like to think positive and believe that things will go well and that, by six pm, two weeks on Monday, I will contain some titanium and a lot of painkillers.

Let’s face it, they are sawing the ends off two bones, I’m guessing it’s going to feel a bit like having a broken leg at first. Or to put it another way, I think it might be going to smart a tad. On the other hand, since my knee is bone on bone, I’m probably looking at a reasonably substantial uplift, once I’ve finished the recuperation process, on the day-to-day pain levels I currently … ‘enjoy’ – if that’s the right word. Also, of course, once I’m out the other side I can go to follow up appointments on the train again and stuff. Which will be dandy.

Going to London on Monday used every last one of my reserves but it was fabulous. I left a wet, cold and windy Suffolk and walked off the platform at Liverpool Street into a warm, sunny autumn day. Bit of a bonus there. I do love the feeling of the sun on my skin and all that light on the backs of my eyes.

There was hardly anyone around and so I walked to my appointment and then walked back to Liverpool Street, via London Bridge, to see the hospital in which they will operate on me.

In order to preserve knee spoons I took it very slowly and happened upon Monument and Pudding Lane, which was rather lovely. I enjoyed the sunshine, not to mention the fact I could stand in the middle of Threadneedle Street to take a photo without being bothered by traffic. And I think I might have started a small love affair with the Walkie Talkie.

The Walkie Talkie is slightly nuts, which may be why I like it. Apparently it can focus the sun on a parking spot on the road below and, on the wrong kind of day, set parked cars on fire. I haven’t been able to substantiate if this is really true.

However, for all the rumours of murder rays, it looks a great deal more benign. Indeed, to me it looks like some well meaning creature bumbling through the streets. The others are really cool but they are buildings. The Walkie Talkie looks … a bit cuddlier than that.

When you catch a glimpse of it, over the roofs of other buildings, it looks as if it’s popped up to orientate itself.

If it spoke, I reckon it would make well-meaning noises; a mash up of Dara O’Brien doing impressions of whale song combined with his take on the flowerpot men; as seen on on Mock the Week.

See pictures below.

Boing. Woieoooooow. Blobalobolob.


Can you tell me the way to the river? I need to wash my feet.

Too weird? Yeh. OK.

I lived in London for a little while, and I love it. I left pre Canary Wharf – well I think the big square tower was there but that was it, it hadn’t even reached the point where it looked like a three pin plug. But I think for the most part, they’ve made a really good stab at the modern buildings thing.What seems to have worked well is the juxtaposition of the old and new; the way you have the Gherkin, the Lloyds Building and a bunch of other stuff all hugga mugga with some ancient church (that’s the little sandy coloured blob, right in the middle, with the Gherkin growing out of its head). I like that if something modern is good, it looks perfectly alright next to a twelth century church or the neo classical splendour of The Bank of England. I liked that there was no traffic too. I suppose even Covid has to have an upside.

This street is very K’Barthan. Quite similar to Fuller’s Row for anyone who has read Nothing to See Here. Except there aren’t the same railings.

Then suddenly, you get a whole Victorian row in the middle of it all, shown above. A small miracle, in itself, when most of this area was flattened by the Luftwaffe trying to bomb Liverpool Street in World War II. This is very K’Barthan, and looks more like Bayswater than the city. Looking at it, people might actually even live in these houses.

Looking down Threadneedle Street, with the Bank of England about 200 yards up behind me.

I also love that I managed a couple of shots which I could, plausibly, use for book covers. I have some shots taken from McOther’s London office of the shiny building in the previous shot being constructed. The brown building reflected in the shiny glass is the building in which his office is situated.

And finally, the cover of the ‘Christmas’ story I’m working on would probably be this one. As usual, I’ll do a short version for the Christmas Lights anthology this year and the longer expanded version will be released next year, the way Nothing To See Here would have been if I hadn’t run out of money and had to hold off releasing it until the following February! Oh and … er hem … sorry, we’re talking about Arnold, The Prophet’s Birthday, clearly, rather than Christmas.

So yeh … that’s where I am this week. Slightly in shock and about to enter splendid isolation.



Talking of isolation … if you’re bored and looking for something to keep you amused, I’m still giving away that 12 hour audiobook?

Yes, word up. Right now I am looking into ways I can deliver audiobooks direct to users: they buy from me and they can listen to the book in an app or on their computer. If you’d like to give it a go, you’ll need to download the bookfunnel app or join bookfunnel. If you’re happy doing that feel free to help yourself – the link is below.

It’s in beta, yes you are testing. That’s why you get a 13 hour audiobook for free read by one of the most distinguished actors you’ve never heard of: Gareth Davies. The man who made Roy Hudd laugh … and laugh enough to be asked back to do it again.

Once you click on the link, below, you’ll end up on a download page for the book. When you click listen/play it will ask you to download the bookfunnel app and enter this code, which it gives you right there so remember to write it down.

When you’ve done all the installing malarkey and you click to play it’ll ask you for the code you jotted down. I don’t know if the code is case sensitive but I’d presume it is!

This is a brand new app and brand new audio player, and Bookfunnel appreciate any and all feedback. If you get into trouble, or can’t get anything to work, contact their help address – which is given on their site, help @ – with a header: ATTN: Julie.

Here’s the link:

If you decide to listen to the book. I hope you enjoy it. I leave you with this lovely picture of Marvin the paranoid android.


Filed under General Wittering

18 responses to “That’s … a bit of a thing.

  1. Sorry about the knee, although you’ll probably be great afterwards. Just do exactly what they tell you re walking on it. Not too much, not too little. Believe me, new knees are two a penny at the golf club and getting it right is the key to success. A ‘little walk’ does not mean to the shops and back, nor to the loo and back. Sort of… out to the front of the house and back. Post box if it’s in the same street by the end of the second week…
    Which I was having such action on my cataract. Must work out what’s gone awry…
    Good luck and enjoy your rest 🙂

    • Right I’ll remember that not to overdo it to start. I guess I can have more than one walk a day too, but just need to keep the walks suitably short. Kind of what I’m doing now.

    • I do hope they sort your cataract surgery soon. 🧡

      • It’s not a priority. Just glad they’re doing the more important things. Actually a friend of someone I was talking to said her friend had one done – since she needed both done she can now at least see.

      • That’s true my dad had his eyes done and my Mum too. The first one makes a huge difference. Still hope they get their finger out for you soon.

  2. Pat Allen

    Good luck with the knee op (and the isolation) – hope all goes well. What on earth is this Walkie Talkie thingy that you’ve fallen in love with??

    • That big building. It’s called the Walkie talkie because it looks like one. My fave is the gherkin or the Lloyds building but the Walkie talkie looks … vaguely sentient.

  3. The countdown to less pain has begun – YAY!

    I’m terminally curious, so – what’s the other knee doing during all this? Have you been overusing it?

    • Here’s hoping. Probably too much. It’s about seven years behind the duff one I reckon but may well rally. It’s got loads more cartilage.

      We shall see. 🙂



  4. Diana

    Great post! I loved the photos of London — I haven’t been there for decades, and had no idea that it had become so modern in spectacular ways (I don’t count the Wharf in that, I don’t think — but maybe it’s because all the photos I’ve seen of it have been aerial shots). You and your camera have a great eye.

    My brother-in-law had both knees replaced at the same time a few years ago. They had him up and walking on the same day as the surgery (once he’d recovered from the anaesthetic). And he was climbing a small local mountain (400+ steps up, I think he said — although there were also pathways up rather than the grand staircase, I think) every morning within a few months. The surgery changed his life dramatically.

    The one thing that made a HUGE difference in his recovery was an ice machine thing, that wrapped around his knees and circulated ice water. He used it often to help keep the swelling down. If the doctor hasn’t said anything about this, let me know — and I’ll ask my brother-in-law for more details.

    I have heard that the reason for the age-restriction on the knee replacements is due to the limitation on the number of knee replacements that a body can handle (or that current understanding of knee replacements considers reasonable?) That magic number appears to be 2. So if you end up needing new knees again in 10 years, and you have your first ones at age 40, you could get another set at 50 then be in a wheelchair at 60. (I have no idea how true that is, because I know no one who has had two sets of knees replaced — and my hope is that the 10-year estimate of knee durability is a very very low estimate and that your knees last a lot longer than that without signs of deterioration of any kind.

    I think you do more walking on your bone-on-bone knees than I do on my so-far good knees. Your supporting bones should be in great shape for this surgery.

    • The reason for the age restriction you have is right. But I would prefer to choose when I’m in a wheelchair. So is rather have been in a wheelchair at 60 than had to put up with the latest twelve years of pain.

      The other thing is that 96% last 15 years and 75% last over 20 years. So it’s a percentage game. And surely it’s better to spend your for and healthy years able to move. I’m now sure five years in a wheelchair works leave me in good shape to receive a new knee aged 60. And isn’t it my decision? A friend’s sister is 70 and was in a wheelchair. She had to throw a complete tantrum and bang her first on the table to get them to do her’s.

      • Diana

        and none of that is okay.
        If the numbers really are that good (and I have no reason at all to doubt them) those who perform and book the surgeries should be taking that into consideration in conjunction with the person’s circumstances and choices. The fact that people are having to fight for their opportunities to live pain free is a significant and needless problem.

      • Yep. I have no clue what the point of it is. 🤷 Seems a special kind of nuts.

  5. Had to look up ‘unidexter’. It wasn’t as … erm … exotic as I thought it might be! : D … congrats on your immanent new knee.

    That whole rubbish about only being able to get one knee fixed is mind-bogglingly stupid and fits perfectly with the insanity raging throughout the world.

    • Yeh it does seem a bit dim. I assume it’s to save money, like making jobs redundant but then spending twice as much as the wages would cost getting agency nurses in from bank. They’re just firefighting I think.

      As for unidexter … if you can find it, it’s worth looking up my source; a Pete and Dud sketch about Mr Spigot auditioning for the part of Tarzan. It’s very funny.

  6. Good luck with the surgery and the isolation, Mary! The wander through a virtually deserted City must have been great fun and so relaxing. I love the photos!

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