We tried to visit Harry and Liz last summer, but Liz developed cancer of the pancreas and very sadly died only a few months later. Harry has still been keen for us to visit and offered the use of their gite, an extension to the house which is designed to be wheelchair accessible. It seemed a perfect way to fill the time when we had no crew. So last Saturday we set off, and by hanging on to Kalessin's guardrails Sam somehow managed to walk as far as the wheelchair. It's only 350km (215 miles) to Abzac but although there's dual carriageway and then autoroute as far as Poitiers, it's then relatively slow D-roads, so it took us well over four hours with a couple of stops.
|View from the guest patio|
We were expecting to be enlivening Harry's solo existence, but in fact he has got together with a lady called Janet, his former next door neighbour and a good friend to both Harry and Liz. Harry says at his age he really doesn't want to waste time, so they expect to get married by the end of this year. Huzzah! Both of them were incredibly welcoming, especially given that Harry and Sam only really knew each other quite well for a couple of months in the area at the entrance of the Rhone in 2008.
|The abbey church at Saint-Savin is a Unesco world heritage site. Construction started about 1050|
In all the time we were in Abzac, Sam appeared to have reverted to the sort of state he was in six months after his stroke. He seemed completely unable to lift his weak (right) leg unless hanging on to a stout piece of furniture. Even transfers between the wheelchair and bed or loo were a bit fraught. It made me realise that most of the time I am lucky that Sam is able to do so much for himself. It's always more difficult in an unfamiliar environment, but even so he seemed to have lost not only confidence but also the ability to move his leg. It wasn't as simple as that though, because when lying on his back he could lift the right leg very well. All very baffling and discouraging, and I spent the last night before our return to the boat worrying about how the hell I was going to get him on board, or whether we should give up and return to the UK. It seemed pointless seeing a doctor because unless he sees someone who knows what he is normally capable of, they wouldn't notice anything untoward for a stroke survivor. I tried emailing our physio for advice, but sadly got no response.
The journey back north started warm and got hotter and hotter. By the time we reached Arzal and I went on board the boat, about 5pm, it was 35º down below. In spite of all that Sam seemed better, and we took the opportunity to use the very good disabled facilities on the Camoël side and give Sam a shower. Then it was time for the moment of truth. I had the spinnaker halyard rigged to lift him from the wheelchair to the side deck if required, but somehow he managed to walk part of the way down the finger pontoon with the stick, hang on to our neighbouring boat (occupied by a Frenchman & his mates who seem to use it as a boys' club) for the last few steps, get lifted into the cockpit by me using the main halyard and new harness without problems, and later get lifted below with no more problems than Sam snarling at me when his foot got in the wrong place. (His fault).
Phew. And today we are taking it easy, catching up on washing, tidying and updating the blog, enjoying slightly cooler weather, and planning for our trip down to Yeu next week.