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Quote of the day: If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it, and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.’ - Marcus Aurelius


A day of chatting and spending time with the much-loved-newly-arrived-in-France family who slept for a full 12 hours last night after their long journey the previous day. It feels normal and the day passes with smiles and happiness.

With normality returning, I take the reins, meaning Simon sinks in his buoyancy and joviality levels, retreating to the sofa. Weeks of doing so much fort holding have left him tired and fractious.

From having had a near to normal-person’s-amount-of-doing-stuff-day, I then begin struggling to load and unload the oven of roast chicken and roast potatoes. Reaching down low and outwards, carrying weight, is the very worst movement for me but I need to try at the very least. Where and what are my limits? I don’t yet know.

Supper is cooked and on the table but as I sit down to eat, I realise I have nothing left. Emotionally and physically.

It is as if someone has pulled out the plug; too tired to even communicate, I sit trying to understand this new and different feeling.

It is as if I am taking a step backwards, so I retreat to the day bed which is still in place in our living area.

It’s frustrating and irritating as I thought I was doing well. It was only cooking supper FFS!


I decide to ditch the back brace from now on. It’s a weird feeling and I notice that everything fits better without wearing, to all intents and purposes, a whalebone corset underneath it.

The feeling of insecurity is, however, slightly alarming.

Another day and another jaunt back along the motorway and into Bordeaux.

Clutching X-rays and associated bumph, Simon and I sit patiently in Dr Gangnet’s waiting area at the Bordeaux Sports Clinic compound. It’s all very slick and modern, with state of the art technology as befits one of the best clinics in France.

I’ve seen quite a bit of it, having started off in the rheumatology department first. There, Dr duPuy looked at various MRI’s and X-Rays, before prescribing a three month intensive course of physiotherapy. The physio course certainly didn’t put things right, it it was ever meant to. If anything, as the condition deteriorated, things got worse over time, resulting in my giving up work, having to stop Pilates and generally doing very little indeed. On the positive though, it did strengthen muscles which I relied on very heavily immediately post-op.

Moving then to the back surgery clinic area, where there are nine world class surgeons practising. You can choose any one of them as yours. I have no idea of what makes a good surgeon so went with Dr duPuy’s recommendation, Dr Nicolas Gangnet.

Dr Gangnet still seems frighteningly young as he ushers me in to his airy, minimalist consulting room. I guess it has only been seven weeks since I last saw him so he wouldn’t have aged much. Still looking very dapper in the way that all professional French men have about them. Their clothes have a kind of expensively distressed look about them.

He’s still fearfully/thankfully efficient and displays not one jot of emotion.

As each surgeon glides between their various consulting rooms, I notice that none of them are carrying an extra ounce of anything remotely considered to be fat on them.

We sit down. Upon inspection of the all important X-Rays, Gr Gangnet confirms my cautious optimism.

And breathe…

(Two days post-op)

(Four days post-op)

(Seven weeks post-op)

All is looking good; the screws and rods are still in place, as is the cage containing the bone powder mixture which seems to be starting to grow between the two vertebrae. Scar is looking good.

Dr Gangnet almost risks a smile.

Relief washes over me.

I thank whatever it is that listens to my wittering, that I have been so careful and all the people that have helped so enormously. There are no words to explain how happy I am that my mid-recovery angsts were all unfounded.

So many people have been so supportive and helpful. Even on Saturday, Lovely Friends Peter and Angie turned up with delicious supper offerings for us.

Something inside me lifts monumentally. A huge weight drops from my shoulders as he tells me I can now drive, walk as much as I like, cycle, swim, even try some very gentle and easy gardening. We are well on our way, just take it very easy and don’t do too much. No working flat out. Take lots of rest if I need it.

Leaving his office, I realise I am smiling from deep inside.

We collect the prescription for the three-times-a-week-for-ten-weeks physio and yet another X-Ray to be done to bring back for the next check up in six months time.

Being in Bordeaux, it makes sense to dive into Ikea at the same time. Plus we are both famished, so the meatballs and frites are consumed in double quick time.

Predictably, as in every shopping situation, Simon starts to sink again as we trundle around collecting a new waste bin and wine glasses before heading home, just in time to avoid the majority of the Rocade rush hour traffic.

There’s enough time for a cup of tea and a shower before we head off to Lovely Kelly and Gavin’s wedding party.

Simon visibly heaves a huge sigh of relief as I say I will drive. It’s hard to refrain from punching the air as I get behind the wheel again for the first time in seven weeks.

For the most part, the party is outside. Despite the bitter cold, the bride looks wonderful and everyone has a splendid time. What a fab evening. So good to be back out and about and seeing friends after what seems like an age.

A couple of hours in, as suddenly as yesterday evening, my legs turn to lead and I start to prickle with sweat. I’m struck with tiredness in exactly the same manner as I felt the day before, after wrestling with the oven. I speak to Simon anbout leaving and he says ‘Yes, of course,’ and carries on drinking.

He is half way through a pint and doesn’t seem to take the hint to leave quickly enough even though another fifteen minutes pass. Lovely Karen, in true smiley Karen style, says it exactly how it is with just the right amount of non-wifely female guile that would not be accepted from a wife’s tantamount-to-nagging-second-request-to-leave.

It was brilliant to see people again; just to be more normal. Doubtless there will be sore heads in Villeréal tomorrow from the merriment occurring as we say our heartfelt thanks and farewells.

Relieved to be sitting down in the car, we eventually pootle off home, me at the wheel, slightly recovered. Well, enough to drive home anyway.

It’s a while since the Ikea meatballs touched base so I make some toast and Marmite. Towards the tail end of the last piece, even though I’m sitting at the table, the same thing happens: I am overwhelmed, almost struck down with a crushing tiredness, struggling to even tell Simon what is going on in my head and body. Weakly, I find just enough energy to pathetically climb the stairs to bed.

Nevertheless, as I roll into bed, sleep eludes me and I spend much of the night tossing and turning as Simon snores rhythmically beside me.

The full moon is hugely bright and all that water I drank when we were out yesterday evening seems to have multiplied in volume, not reduced.

Exhausted but wide awake still at dawn, listening to the nightingale as it trills an endless chatter.

What on earth is going on? I finally fall into a deep sleep as the world starts to stir.



Hi, thanks for stopping by!

I’m Jill, a RHS gold medal winning English professional gardener, garden designer and landscaper living in South West France since 2012. This is a personal account of my gardening life, some of the jolly and occasionally not so jolly japes that ensued while working, that probably caused my subsequent back problems.

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