Pigs, Guinea Pigs, Pork, Karoo Lamb and Cold Turkey

©2011 Edward C. Lunnon

Sunday 1 January 2012: 5 years 4 months on … Advantage ED

New Year’s Day – my 56th one!

I have not been very good at keeping my blogs up to date over the last few weeks. It’s not because I have been busy. On the contrary, life has been unusually quiet during this time.

It’s just that I haven’t felt well, haven’t been able to type, haven’t had the urge or inclination to write, and most of all, just haven’t been able to sit down for any periods of time. Try writing standing up!

Whoever would have thought that the CBD would have taken the act of sitting away from me too! All this time we have spoken about when time would come to sit in a wheelchair – now the very act of sitting would seem to preclude that from me, too!

My short-term memory is also becoming more problematic. However, for the record (which these blogs – “weB LOGS”) are supposed to be) let’s try and fill in the gaps of the last few weeks.

 The rugby test in Port Elizabeth in August this year set in motion a chain of events that resulted in my visiting Graaff-Reinet a number of times over the last few months.

There was the initial “hunting” weekend I spent with the Wrights when I came home with Charlie Jack Russell from the Harris’s. Life has changed dramatically in our household since then (… for better or for worse! …)

Then we went back for the Karoolus Fees. That resulted in me meeting Ed and Margie Parkes and being invited to speak at the Graaff-Reinet Cancer Society Christmas Dinner and the St James Anglican Church Men’s Breakfast Group. Then, I spent a number of days with Gordon, Rose, Graham and Helen and their families both in town and out on the farm. I was planning to stay longer, but had to return to Port Elizabeth for a public meeting at the University regarding the fracking (hydraulic fracturing) process that the oil companies have applied to government to initiate in many parts of our country – including our beautiful Karoo!

That very next weekend saw us return and spend the Saturday evening with the Harris’s (lovely braaied pork from their piggery for supper) before we attended Jean Margaret Watermeyer’s 80th Birthday Luncheon at The Aberdeen Club, and got to see the Ogilvies and the Watermeyer’s and many other people that I have met in the Camdeboo region over the last 26 years that I have been privileged to have been able to visit here in the Karoo. (The Karoo is traditionally sheep and goat country – and some farmers also run pigs (herds, litters, droves …?) that appear to help with the cash flow in tough economic times, such as are being experienced of late.)

A few months ago, I had also been invited by Howard Sheard to spend time at their farm Weltevreden just outside Nieu Bethesda (a hamlet just 30 minutes north of Graaff-Reinet). So when my niece Michelle and her husband Sebastian told me they were coming to visit for Christmas, I decided it was time to take Howard up on his offer and visit Nieu Bethesda.

In between all this travelling I had been experiencing increasing problems with the ongoing spasms down my left side. It has especially been making sitting down problematic and life quite uncomfortable.

So, desperate times called for desperate measures. I started seeing Dr Fanie Smit (and with the input of my neurologist) I started becoming a bit of a guinea pig! First we would try cortisone. I would also go for hydrotherapy (water exercises) with biokineticist Christelle Smit.

At one stage I was taking twenty five tablets a day (my daily Carbilev, Lyrica, cortisone (Prednisone), Norflex and Lexamil. I call my medication my Polyfilla – none of it will stop the progress of the CBD, slow it down, reverse it or stop it completely. It only helps to cover up the symptoms and so, like polyfilla, is just a cosmetic assistance to make things look good – “but you look so good” is what so many people say to me. Yes, I do look good – thanks to all the pills.

I program the pill times into my Blackberry so that I don’t miss a dose! Heaven knows what it is doing to my insides, and whilst I may look good, I certainly no longer feel all that well – and sometimes I wish I felt as good as I look!

We weaned me down from 8 cortisone tablets to one daily. But whilst the eight definitely made my life much better, the one tablet was not so successful. And Dr Smit says the side-effects of the cortisone vis-à-vis the relief it gives does not warrant taking such big dosages. So on the last visit to him, about three weeks a go, we stopped the prednisone. Next on the list would be quinine – just two a day for two weeks – let’s see what this does. (Whilst quinine is used to combat malaria, its use as an over-the-counter medicine has now been banned as a result of strange side-effects that it sometimes presents.)

At the same time Christelle (my biokineticist), together with André from Knights Orthotists, have been working on a device to assist with my errant left leg.

Let me explain: as my brain loses control over my muscles, they contract (like elastic bands that go from a stretched to an unstretched position) and hence my limbs fold up leaving me in the foetal position.

 So when I stand, my left leg bends at the knee and comes up like the leg of a flamingo, with my left foot at my right hip! Therefore, they have devised what I call my scaffolding – it’s a metal brace construction that prevents my knee from bending and at the same time gives me strength to put weight on that leg.

Besides a few teething problems and slight modifications, it works well (other than making my leg much weaker when it’s off as the leg becomes dependent on the support that the brace gives). I have been able to put away my walking stick for a while!


With all these various treatments at the same time, it is difficult to say what exactly is stopping the spasms and making it so much easier to sit. Is it the exercise, the brace, the medication …?

Anyway, it was the week before Christmas when we headed off to Nieu Bethesda, this time with Charlie who would visit his mother and siblings for the first time since moving from the Karoo to the coast. I had just started my dose of quinine.

Tuesday, we spent visiting some of the historical places of interest in Graaff-Reinet until a violent Karoo thunder storm put an end to our walk ‘round the town.

Then out to Tandjiesview, and our six, together with Graeme’s family, his parents and his cousin and his family of four, sixteen of us sat down to our first Christmas Dinner of the season!

Wednesday morning we moved on to The Valley of Desolation and a trip through the Camdeboo National Park. Later, we went onto Nieu Bethesda for lunch and then out to Weltevreden (meaning “well-satisfied/content”), some thirteen kilometres west of the hamlet. The rest of the day, as the travel brochures put it, “was for exploring at your own convenience”.

What a beautiful farm at the base of the tallest mountain peak in the Eastern Cape, the Kompasberg (the Compass Mountain). There we had Lisa and Miemie, farm domestic assistants to look after us, and in the absolute stillness of the evening, we sat down to our first braai of the week, and watch Miemie’s family of pigs stroll across the beautifully manicured front lawn!

However, day two of our trip was also day three of my quinine tablets, and they started doing strange things – upset tummy, nausea, ringing in my ears …

I have learned to push on … so Thursday was spent exploring the hamlet: art galleries, pottery shops, The Owl House, the local Brewery and Cheese producers, the cricket oval … and still so much more to see. A return visit is a must for the New Year!

Friday morning, all too soon, the Ridgeways headed back via Aberdeen and Beaufort West to the Western Cape, and we returned to Port Elizabeth. By then I was really feeling miserable and had also broken out in a red rash all over my arms and legs.

A visit to Dr Fanie brought to an end the quinine experiment, and so after a week, the quinine tablets were stopped, and with that, almost immediate relief from some of the side-effects. For the next week, this guinea pig will not be taking any additional medication, and so now I am in that period of cold turkey. Let’s see what happens and we will resume trials in the New Year!

Saturday was Christmas Eve, so some last minute shopping preceded our family-of-four Christmas Eve dinner, lamb and gammon! Sean returned from St Francis Bay, where he has been working at Cob’s Cove, and we spent a quiet evening together, and opened pressies on Christmas morning. It was the first time in many a year that we were not attending the Christmas Service in the Bowling Green Hall in St Francis Bay. I missed that! It seemed impossible that a year had passed since our last Christmas service there!

Anyway, we move on … through what Lance calls the Twilight Zone – the week between Christmas and New Year. I lose track of days at the best of time now. Add to that public holidays, and more public holidays (the government created an extra one this year on the day after Boxing Day … Tuesday, I think that was!), and I lose track of time completely. Sean returned to work in St Francis and Phillip headed off with friends to Bushman’s River.

Somewhere in this time, we went to see the Blues Broers and Centrestage’s Extravaganza. New Year’s Eve we spent with the Clarkes at Bluewater Bay and New Year’s evening was supper with the Stapletons. The Reelers are due for supper tonight. And then it’s back to normal – whatever that is!