Up to Vercors

A second day of heading south took us to Vercors.  French motorways are really easy, they are fast, the traffic is sane so covering distance is no big deal though breaks were taken for coffee, food and rests.  Then it was up from St Marcellin to St Agnan En Vercors.  This is an amazing road.  Vercors is almost impossibly pretty and it was one hell of a way to test out and get used to the new bike on narrow mountain roads.  Great fun.

We stayed with friends, Jeff and Hennie, had a break from riding, more on that later.

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Like Birds

Like birds in September we are heading south.  The ride started cool and grey, and as we headed south it got progressively warmer and sunnier.  We got as far as Bar Sur Aube which all said is pretty good going.

As expected the Shuttle was hassle free and relatively expensive but it is so much faster than a ferry,   We met a few others on the road.  A load of guys on scooters heading to an event in ther Ardennes, and some Harley people off to an event in Normandy.

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Motorways in France are easy, and driving switches to the correct side of the road.  It really was odd being in the UK and being on the left – I’m no longer used to it.  Silly things like setting the mirrors before leaving Swindon and then realising I had a wider view of the curb than needed.

I’m not a fan of dayglow yellow.  Strictly speaking they do not need to be worn, they only must be worn by law if we get off the bike on a highway.  Reality is it’s easier to wear them and not worry about an official being officious.

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Tomorrow we head for the hills near Grenoble.

 

And So It Begins

Yesterday we picked up the bike, a blue Triumph Bonneville America. This was in Swindon, at Blade Triumph.  We really must say a special thanks to Steve who was excellent throughout the purchase and made sure everything needed for the trip to Greece was in place.  A +1 to Steve for excellent customer service.  We were given a good send off, some photos were taken, hopefully we will get copy in due course.

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The ride to London was not the greatest.  Come on England, it’s September not November, it was a chilly 15C at best and with fine drizzle.  It was the sort of drizzle that doesn’t make you wet but the continual forced evaporation adds greatly to the chill factor, so by the time we’d got to Dartford we were well chilled and not in the best sense of that word.

The bike handles really well.  It’s noticably lighter than the Softail so does get blown about a bit more.  It’s got quite long wheel base wise but this is fine.  I like the quick release wind shield, it does the job very well.  The ride position is low, I like that a lot.  The floorboards are fine, the controls all good, it feels and rides very good.  So yes, I’m happy.  It looks pretty good as well.

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We’ve been commuting into London by train, dealing with family matters.  Mostly stressful but now it is all done.  Dartford is good because hotels are inexpensive, the commute is easy and for tomorrow, it’s an easy road trip to Folkestone.  Everything else now done, including hi viz vests for France, a bit of retail therapy, and a bottle of very nice looking Bordeaux for when we get to St. Agnan en Vercors which will not be tomorrow. 

So in the morning we’ll grab a hotel breakfast, coffee and something light and then after packing the bike we hit the road.  Going to do the Shuttle because it is fast and convenient, so all going well we should be in Calais by 12.00 or so.  We shall see how far into France we get, south of Troyes is the plan – weather permitting and the weather looks good.

 

Road Trip

For those who may be interested pretty soon we are going to be starting a road trip.  We are going to blog about it most days, along with photographs, so there will be regular updates here and on facebook.

We will be picking up a Triumph Bonneville America in Swindon and riding it to Lesvos.  It’s going by way of London, we have a few things to attend to before hitting the road, but by 14th we should be well on our way.

There is of course a reason for this apart from the fun of it all.  We find ourselves living partly in Greece and partly in Turkey.  In Turkey there is a good public transport system, this is not the case on Lesvos, so it is in Greece that we need a vehicle.  The Harley is Turkish registered, trying to take it permanently to Greece would be a nightmare we do not even want to think about, so in time we’ll part with the Harley, and the UK registered Triumph will become Greek registered.  We intend to complete the registration process before March of next year, after then things might get more complex and we might as well take full advantage of EU membership while we can.

We will worry about the registration process when we get to Lesvos, there will be paperwork and expenses, but it does not look too hard.  Until then we get all the fun of the road and the delights of France and Italy.  More on this as it unfolds.

 

 

36 Hours and a Bionic Implant

I suppose it is time to talk about this.

Through last winter I (Ashley) was feeling very breathless, I put it down to the smoke and air pollution, used ventolin, it seemed to help a bit.  Then in late January when I was in the UK I started having chest pain.  I put it down to the severe cold and since the discomfort wasn’t particularly disabling and stopped if I rested I did not think too much of it.

Then once back in Selçuk I decided it was probably a good idea to go see my family doctor.  Things happened fast.  An ECG was done, she was worried about it so an ambulance was called to take me to the local hospital.  They did more tests and another ECG.  This resulted in another ambulance and then being blue-lighted to Medical Park, a big private hospital in Izmir.  They did some more tests, wired me up for monitoring, filled me up with some pills, and scheduled an angiogram and potential angioplasty for the following day.  I’m not sure what all the pills were but they made me drowsy so I don’t remember a great deal.  I Know Hilary was there, I know lots of forms were signed, I know some bits were explained to me, and there are some gaps.

Next day after more sedation I get taken in for the angiogram, during which they followed up with an angioplasty fitting one stent.  This was followed by a few hours in a Cardiac ICU before later that evening being moved back out to a more regular ward.  This was good, I did not like ICU, though to be honest I slept through some of it.  At least on the regular ward Hilary was able to be present so I had some company and the sedation had worn off.

The following morning I got to see the cardiologist again, was told that one artery was 90% blocked, that a medicated stent has been fitted, that there are some other arteries with a  bit of build up but nothing to worry about.  I was told to lose weight, watch diet, put on a regime of pills, clopidogrel, aspirin and a statin, and sent home.  They said to rest for 24 hours and then return to normal activity, and obviously if there were any problems to go straight back, and with planned follow up in one month.

I spent 36 hours in a modern and swish private hospital, with state of the art equipment and everything that could be expected in terms of care, a major physical intervention, and time in ICU.  The cost to me, zero, all picked up by the Turkish state health insurance I pay.  The care was generally fantastic, though to be honest these days it all runs through clinical pathways.  The doctors did what they needed to do and seemed extraordinarily competent.  The nurses do less than they do in the UK, here family or friends are expected to attend to basic stuff, what they did do they did efficiently and by the book.  It’s tick box nursing, but at least they followed the protocols and if there was reason to escalate they did so.   It was my first (and hopefully my last) major encounter with health care here in Turkey, all I can say is the standard of care was fantastic and as said all picked up by state health insurance.

I’ve lost weight since then, 5 kilos or so, something which needed to happen.  The cholesterol is down and where it needs to be.  Lifestyle changes have been made.  Clopidogrel is a pain in the proverbial, if I cut myself I bleed more, but I’ll be on it for a while.  I’m now on follow up every three months and the doctors are very happy with my progress.   So all good, onwards and upwards to new things in life.

Κλήδονα – a Traditional Greek Rite

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We heard that there was to be some sort of local celebration in the village square, we assumed it would be linked to one or more saints – these things often are, and given the date had a connection to John the Baptist.  We were told there would be live music and dancing and jumping over fires.  Jumping over fires we are familiar with, this happens in Turkey earlier in the year.  Anyway, we thought it would be fun to head up to the square, eat at the taverna, drink some beer, and watch the events unfold.

Fortunately a friend, Simon, had booked a table.  We’d have been squeezed in somewhere but this was nearer the front and not indoors.  So we settled down to chat and watch, chat for a while because nothing much was happening yet, and nothing much would happen until the sun went down.

What we witnessed was quite strange.  Two figures draped in cloth and clearly unable to see were led into the square by groups of women, some in traditional dress.  The figures were then seated and some sort of conversation or ritual took place between representatives.  This was all in Greek, it was clearly poetic, and had elements of humour.  One woman would say something, then there would be a retort, and this continued back and forth for some time.  We had no idea what the content was but it was fascinating to watch.  What was clear it that it was clearly female thing so probably not as linked to John the Baptist as we initially thought. After much applause the draped figures were led away.

Then there was traditional music and dancing.  The dancing is familiar to us, it is very similar in Turkey.  Same clothing, similar steps, but more mixing of male and female, so definitely not traditional Turkish where that would not happen.  The music was particularly good, and we learned that the musicians were considered to be some of the best on the island.

At the same time three fires were lit on the street and there was some sort of traditional fire jumping.  This was mostly children.  Some would just jump over one fire, others who were more brave ran down the street and jumped each in succession.  It was all watched carefully by adults and there were water extinguishers suitably placed just in case.  Nothing unfortunate or bad happened, the children seem to have lots of fun.

Afterwards the musicians continued and there was more dancing.  By this time we were very full of food, the taverna had kept up a supply to all the tables which must have taken some doing given how many tables there were many of which were piled up with plates for food.  Needless to say the beer, wine and ouzo were also flowing.

Towards the end we were given a rolled up sheet with more details on what the earlier rite was about and an apology because it was all in Greek.  More on this in a future post – Hilary translated it.

The evening ended rather abruptly when there was an orange glow in the sky from a field on fire and some ash being carried into the village.  This caused some concern but it appeared the local fire service dealt with it quickly and no great harm was done.

Moving Forward

What with various major life events involving unplanned trips to the UK and all manner of running around and life stress this blog and many other things got neglected.  Slowly we are getting our feet back on the ground even though we are back off to the UK fairly soon for amongst other things another bout of running around in what at times feels like a headless chicken.

Through all of this, and the moving back and forth between Selçuk and Παρακοιλα we have been crazy busy.  This now needs to stop, apart from anything else life in the Aegean through July and August is a time to slow down and relax.  Anything strenuous can wait until the heat of summer starts to subside.

In Παρακοιλα we now have the kitchen done, lovely custom hand made units, marble worktops, and German appliances.  We have also done all the essential repairs, got the electrics corrected (there was some crazy old wiring), the plumbing sorted, a garden that is ticking over nicely and external woodwork repaired as best as possible.   The rest can wait, apart from anything else the bank accounts need to recover.

In Selçuk we don’t need to do any of this stuff, it is all done, though we do need to have some inexpensive repairs done to the solar system.  Plus Ashley needs to go back to the cardiologist in İzmir for a follow up.  More on this and a bionic cardiac artery might be a subject for a future piece.

We have been asked on numerous occasions in both Selçuk and Παρακοιλα about our long term plans and to a lesser extent the why behind them.  So to set the record straight.
Are we planning to move permanently to Παρακοιλα? – No. We intend to spend time in both homes.  We might spend more of the summer months in Παρακοιλα and more of the winter in Selçuk but this is yet to be decided.  We envisage it will be a roughly 50/50 thing.
As to why, well there are a few forces in play.  The main one is our desire to protect and maintain our status as European citizens which is now largely (in so far as is possible) achieved.  The rest is as they say, “not my circus not my monkeys”.