Wednesday, August 31, 2005

La Rentrée and schools of fish

La Rentrée
Its always an important date in the French calendar and there are usually news items and lots of newspaper and magazine articles about the best ways of preparing your children and generally how to survive Rentrée fever [ which is my name for the mad buying of stationery and school essentials that always seems to be left to the last minute.]
Probably becuase i am Scottish and not French and adore pens and paper [apart from book buying , stationery is the only thing i like to shop for] , I am usually well prepared. So i tend to avoid stationers and book shops in the last weeks of August if i can help it.

Today there were lots of little kids on their way home from the shops with huge school bags [cartables ] on their backs -getting ready for starting school on Friday - La Rentrée.
A tremendous number had fish themed cartables - Nemo, Shark Tales and Aerial the mermaid half counts, I suppose. It inspired me to draw these fish on their way to school.

I got some photos back -and despite the lack of falsh , they weren't too bad. There are quite a few fish in this picture but its a bit like 'hunt the thimble' as they are well camouflaged.

I liked this photo - the grey blue and yellow stripes are quite visible for a change.

Here are some swimming off to the deep blue sea .

I managed to take a photo of a crab but since it was in a fairly dark place, i'd need to outline it in red to make it visible to anyone else.

The underwater landscape had canged dramatically since the huge waves have shifted the rocks around- some are huge boulders but they have slipped on to their sides or dropped down deeper into the sea. Some od the smaller rocks show new bare faces where they have been split when they fell. Its hard to imagine these huge rocks moving as they seem so permanently fixed- but i suppose it shows the force of the water.


Monday, August 29, 2005

Mystery Solved and Crabs

The mystery bug in the photo from July 25th [see above] has now been identified -its a Plume moth.
Many thanks to Cindy, who has a great blog called Bug Safari.

Today would have been a great day for crabbing - in fact there were quite a few folk with crab lines out on the rocks. However i wasn't wanting to catch them - i was looking for underwater reference photos and empty crab shells [also for reference].
However the undewater camera flash refused to fire at all -it seemed that the battery i'd carefully changed was either teh same one i'd picked up by mistake or it had somehow drained while in my bag on the way to the beach.

The sea was very rough and the fish were very agitated and not happy about people swimming near them but the crabs were out in force , i'm not sure why there were so many big crabs today. Little crabs were nowhere to be seen - mind you there were lots of small crab shells near the suspected octopus cavelets so thats maybe why.

I was thrown by a wave on top of some rocks [underwater] and landed on top of a big crab - i'm not sure who was more surprised -but the crab obviously decided i was a threat and he disappeared very quickly. I tried to take a photo as the light didn't seem too bad but i suspect it will be a blur of legs and sea weed.

I didn't get any empty crab shells either - it was much too difficult to dive down to pick them up with the big waves. That was a bit disapointing as i had intended to add some empty crab shells to the octopus painting as well as some other octopus foods.
Hopefully i'll try again tomorrow.

I did pick up a crab claw and i spent some time drawing it this evening -it wasn't in great condition so it wasn't the best piece of reference material i've ever used- but tomorrow might be better for collecting stuff.


Sunday, August 28, 2005

Illustration Friday - Hedgehog Dreams

This weeks Illustration Friday topic is Dreams.

I pondered on this for a while yesterday and was thinking of carreer goals and day dreaming but wasn't sure how to really bring these ideas to life.

I also thought about a pencil drawing of my daughter that i made 13 years ago, while she was sleeping and dreaming of milk. I gave up on redoing this too.

After a while i thought about hibernation and about what an animal might dream while they slept out the winter. I suspected their dreams would be about food mainly.

That lead me to the hedgehog. I am particularly fond of hedgehogs - I've loved them since i was a child and it was always a thrill when one visited the garden.

My grampa encouraged them, of course, becuase he was a fantastic gardener and they do a wonderful job of eating pests like slugs and caterpillars. One of my earliest memories is of creeping outdoors at night to see one eating. I expect it wasn't really very late , as Scotland has very short days in winter and when i was young there was a double summer time experiment which meant the clocks went back 2 hours, making a short day even shorter. We had reflective armbands to wear on the way home from school but I heard that a lot of children were run over by cars and the experiment was ended.

Hedgehogs tend to hibernate late in the year - often starting in December or January as Britain frequently has hard frosts and snows from January to March.
The hedgehogs curl up in a special nest and they must have stored as much fat as possible in order to survive hibernation.

Scientifically speaking hibernation is not much like sleep at all as the body metabolism slows down dramatically - heart rate and body temperature are a fraction of their normal levels.
They lose about a third of their bodyweight by the end of hibernation so then need to drink and eat as soon as they wake up.

This particular hedgehog is in a kind of zen dream state rather than hibernation.
Its a European Hedgehog in a nest of fallen oak leaves and his dream foods surround him: beetle , snail, earthworm and caterpillar. This particular caterpillar is the large white butterfly caterpillar


Friday, August 26, 2005

Some decent underwater photos

Yesterday was dissapointing camera-wise as my trusty old Nikon finally died. It had been giving me some errors over the last few months but I'd always been able to patch it up enough.

Even taking the camera to bits didn't help- the zoom lens mechanism was completely locked. Its well past the guarantee period by several years and repair is now about as much as a new camera. So ,it looks like a new camera is on the cards as an early birthday present but due to having plenty of other outgoings it will have to be a very reasonable [ie cheap] price .

I've seen one that looks pretty good and has good macro capabilities so hopefully that will be a good buy, I would love to have an all singing all dancing camera that works under water as well , but i will have to make do with this basic one for the time being.

I seem to be getting the hang of things anyway - staying steady in the water is still difficult , especially if there is any sort of wind as its very easy to get thrown against rocks . [I have the scratches and bruises to prove it.]

The Fuji 400 iso film is much better than the previous generic film and that helps a lot with the low light conditions under the water.

I've been having the film developed just on CD which means a day or so lag from finishing the spool - so thats not too bad or too expensicve.

The next couple of pictures are of Sarpa salpa [sand smelt] They seem to live in shoals of similar size/age fish and move together to feed. However each age grouping moves independently, I haven't seen any mixed size shoals.
Apparently these fish move from shore to deeper sea according to the time of day and are to be found near the sea shore until dusk.

The camera flash isn't good enough to pick up the yellow and blue stripey colouration, which is visible to the naked eye. They seem to like to distrub the sea weeds and find things to eat whilst creating a mini sandstorm.
The fish in the photo below were quite big- thpugh not as large as some i've seen in the last few weeks.

A view from above - they are quite well camouflaged.
The next two photos show different age groupings of the fish - there is a hint of disturbed sand in the first one.
This photo looks out towards the deeper water - you can just see the sun rays . The seaweeds range from a dark brown to a lilacy pink. Brown and khaki are probably the predominant colours.
If you look closely below you will see two Diplodus vulgaris [two banded sea bream]. They have black spots near their tails and a dark spot near the tips of their heads. There is an unidentified oval shaped fish and a Mullus barbatus [surmullet] called the rouget-barbet in french, which has the white cat-fish type whiskers in the foreground. Its a reddish brown speckled colour so it blends in well with the surroundings, although the white whiskers are very noticeable.

There are some more Diplodus vulgaris [two banded sea bream] swimming in deeper water past a rocky overhang.

The red patch of colour is red coral which seems to grow here and there. Its a very shocking reddish orange colour - it almost looks like spray paint until you look closer. More of the two banded sea bream are swimming in front of the rocks.

Here are some sand smelt leaving the rocks and heading out towards the deeper water [which is mainly sandy] - I hadn't realised they changed location according to time of day until i looked them up before writing this - and they were seemed to be leaving for deeper water around 6.30 pm.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Underwater camera

Just got the first underwater photos back - i need to play about with the camera to get better photos but at least all the photos came out, even if there were a lot without fish; fish have a tendency to swim out of frame.

Still, fish are just about recognisable . I think the later photos on the spool were better than the first since its difficult to get used to staying as motionless as possible while the sea is moving you away.

The fish in this picture are actually quite vividly coloured- , well when seen with the naked eye or photographed by someone more expert.

Nice rocks, no fish though.

Quite a few fish but they don't look very recognisable

I tried to finish this post before I went off to Juan Les Pins for a couple of days to stay with a friend -but i didn't have enough time.

In Juan Les Pins I took another lot of photos and i've put them in to be developed tonight and will get the CD back tomorrow morning.
I hope i have learned some lessons from spool number one and that i have some better photos.
It should at least be a better film than the first one , which was some generic brand that was pre-loaded in the camera.

As far as water proofness is concerned, the plastic housing works really well: no drips or leaks or condensation.


Sunday, August 21, 2005

Crocodile or Moorish gecko

Today was dull , rainy and threatening thunder all day. So we went to the English bookshop and met up with friends for coffee instead of doing anything active.

However, the other night i took some photos of a rare visitor - a Moorish or Crocodile Gecko Tarentola mauritanica . I had been going to take the bins downstrairs when i noticed him attached to the wall.

He sat very patiently while i took a multiude of photos at different settings to try and get a decent photo, since the automatic motion sensor light was activated by me being on the stairs.

These geckos are much bigger and more robust looking than the commoner geckos we normally see. This one is quite young but he looks nearly twice as heavy as one of the smoother geckos.

The skin in this case is really lumpy which give him the crocodile name as it really ressembles a crocodile's skin.

When we were living in Valbonne [inland from Antibes] we often saw a very large adult moorish gecko. He lived on an old olive tree that we passed nearly every day. My kids always loved to look out for him and he became quite used to us investigating him. My kids were just 2 and 4 at the time and i think they were convinvced he was actually a crocodile living up a tree. they used to say hello to Mr Gecko as they went passed and the gecko tolerated it stoically.

Geckos are very good at catching insects so they are good neighbours for humans. In fact, Geckos living in the house brings good luck -probably becuase they eat disease bearing insects.
A few years ago an old man told us that seeing the first gecko in January meant a lucky year - so they are obviously portentous creatures in superstition and folk magic.

Interestingly, these ideas about geckos and lizards being lucky seems to be worldwide- except for chameleons , who are seen as potentially evil, or at least potential givers of the evil eye.

If the gecko hadn't been so close to the ground i'd have tried to get a side on shot showing the skin. Maybe next time.

A friend of mine, Sherry Rogers has just finished illustrating a board book about geckos - i couldn't resist showing it along with these photos. [Book cover used with Sherry's permission]

I think these geckos are really cute.
You can see more of her artwork and printb out some gecko themed colouring pages here

On my way home from the beach the other day i walked past a couple of white flowers hanging over a fence and stopped in my tracks as i caught the scent - jasmine!
Even though most of the flowers are still buds, the scent was powerful enough to be noticeable.
Jasmine has an interesting smell - its scented oil is reputed to be anti depressant , confidence boosting and even an aphrodisiac

The flowers are like little white stars among the green leaves but they are packed with scent - or maybe it just seems like that now that many flowers are unscented.
Update on the bunch of grapes. Taken 10 days after the last photo which was posted on the 9th August. They are getting darker and will start to attract the attention of birds. The birds have been eating the grapes which are in sunnier parts of the garden and leaving seeds and sqashed grapes and plenty of their guano on the ground as evidence.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Illustration Friday - Reflection.

The Illustration Friday topic this week is Reflection. It seemed very similar to last weeks one of Wisdom, if taken as something involving careful consideration.

Anyway, i decided not to go for this meaning and I wasn't wanting to do a a straight mathematical or symmetrical image.

I was a bit stuck until i thought about the esoteric concept of "as above so below". That concept made me think of Nietzsche's famous quote "And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you"
I think this fits with the reflection theme as we often display the things we most fear, despite of best efforts becuase its the things we focus our attention on.

It reminds me of the quote by Ghandi that "We must be the change we wish to see in the world." this reminds us not to focus on our shortcomings or stare too long into the abyss but change ourselves for the better and eventually our changes will make a difference to the very abyss we feared. That's the theory anyway.

Bees and nudibranchs

I have ordered a cheap 35mm underwater camera from ebay - I can't wait till it arrives, though I wonder if it will be a waste of money. Its a small step up from the disposable underwater cameras and it has a flash and is loaded with 400 iso film so surely something will turn out ok.

I'd really love a waterproof housing for my current camera but its kind of old now, and although i think it takes excellent pictures , it was never envisaged as something to take into the sea.
There are some special waterproof camera bags which are supposed to fit any camera but the ones i've seen online can't cope with a zoom lens.

Anyway, when i get the camera i will be taking photos like a mad thing - hopefully some of the sea life that i've seen recently will make an appearance.

Today there were lots of snorkelers in the octopus lair area - apparently someone had reported seeing an octopus eating a crab today and this had lured other people into the area.

So no octopus for us today- though we did see some nudibranchs [sea slugs] - a translucent white one, a brown dingy one the colour of the weed on the rocks and a dirty lilac and burgundy one which resembled a very rotten cucumber. I was surprised to see them as i always thought they lived in deeper water - so i think i must snorkel with my eyes closed as i have obviously been missing loads of things right under my nose.

There were also more big fish - larger than the other day and seemingly unconcerned about folk snorkeling around.

I was beginning to wonder if they are feeding on the tourist but that was just part of the random JAWS thoughts.

On the way home i saw some bumble bees on a flowering tree. I have no idea of the name of the tree but i was pleased with the bee photos


Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Making up for lost time /Octopus day

I've been trying to make up for the last few years; where i haven't been well enough to go to the beach and actually swim with my kids. So luckily there are no appointments scheduled until just before school starts again, and we've been going to the beach every day.

I am not a great fan of beaches, in that i hate sitting in the sun and sand annoys me intensely. However, i do love snorkelling and swimming in the sea - swimming pools don't attract me that much , i like to be able to see wild life and excercise at the same time.

Yesterday and today have been pretty good as i've timed things well- we get to the beach about 6pm , spend an hour in the water non-stop and then head for home, exhausted.
Its still warm at that time and the sea is a comfortable temperature for swimming.

Yesterday didn't look like a great day for snorkelling since the sea looked very disturbed and dark. However it turned out to be excellent visibility further out and there were a huge number of fish shoals.

Its a lot of fun to swim through shaols of tiny fish though i have to say that occasionally teh theme from Jaws comes into my head and I'm very aware of being in the midst of a very interesting food source. Still , most of the time i can concerntate on watching the fish.

Yesterday's shoals had encouraged some really large fish -maybe 18inches long- to cluster around the various little fish shoals and while i was watching an octopus darted out of a rock cave and tried to catch one of the big fish.

I've never seen an octopus before while snorkelling. I've caught a tiny squid and a puffer fish in Scotland [these being the most exotic animals i've seen in the sea previously] but the octopous was a fantastic surpise.
They are generally nocturnal and usually are keen on crabs; but 18 inches of fish must have been too tempting.

The octopus was maybe 20 inches or so- it was difficult to work out the size as it was moving pretty quickly. It was longer than the fish anyway.

I could see that it had caught sight of me and it changed colour in the blink of an eye - from a sandy mustard colour to a brown-ish green colour which blended in with the rocks and weed.

They have very fascinating eyes - very well developed and it was clearly watching me to see what i was doing.
I tried to alert my kids to the octopus but by the time they reacted, it had gone.

This is somewhat inspired by the octopus i saw.

Sketchy swimming octopus

Of course today we spent ages looking for octopuses - we found some likely 'caves' that had empty crabshells lying outside but no octopuses showed themselves.

Today was the day of blue fish - tiny fish that were remarkably similar to the ones you see in fish tanks and some large fish with with big turquoise blue spots.

I also saw some of the black sea urchins that are common in the area and are eaten as a delicacy. There are several fishermen aroudn here who collect these every day and sell them from a barrow in the town. When my kids first saw them they were really excited at the thought of trying sea urchin.

The fisherman allowed my kids to have a taste and they were smitten. I ended up buying a dozen sea urchins and being told by my 5 and 3 year old [at that time] that i had to taste them or i couldn't say i didn't like them! Tables turned lol.

There were lots of very large crabs around today- with shells about the size of my hand and i spent some time watching one eat.


Monday, August 15, 2005

The Edge of the Sea

My son and I went down to the beach late this afternoon for a quick swim. When he had been out earlier in the day, there had been a flag flying and a 'beware of jelly fish' sign but that had been removed by about 5.30pm.

It seems that there havee been a lot of jellyfish this year. An article in the Sunday Times suggests that conditions have been favourable due to the drought southern Europe has been having this year, as this makes the sea saltier than usual.

We didn't see any when we were in the water and conditions were pretty good for snorkelling, though we only stayed in for about an hour. The Ponteil beach isn't as good for snorkelling as the Gravette beach since its all sandy rather than rocky so there aren't the variety or numbers of fish.
Still it was good fun.

I took some photos while i was there- I had been meaning to try and capture the frilly edge of a wave as it reaches the beach. It was a bit of a hit and miss afffair as a] its hard to predict where the wave will reach and b] small children like to investigate adults doing strange things so i had a few stray shadows i could have done without. Of course, the shadows appeared in the best shots. I am quite happy with this one though- you can jsut see that the grains of sand are moving under the action of the wave.

This shot hadn't work as i liked however , I did really like the clarity of the water washing over the sand , so i didn't delete this one.

I set my son the task of walking up and down the wet sand at the water's edge so that i could take some photos of footprints. He was very obliging though he was a bit concerned that people would think we were mad.

This is a shot of the footprints after a wave has washed over and swept back.

The sky was a fantastic colour so i took some shots of the sky against various trees - i liked how this one turned out with the sky against the palm branches

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Illustration Friday- Wisdom

This weeks topic- Wisdom , immediately made me think about skills that have been passed on from the dawn of time.
Fire and toolmaking have obviously been hugely important in the development of Mankind, however i think that one of the earliest types of wisdom handed down must have been midwifery.

After all, many animal species are known to deliberately help other females in childbirth. Bottlenose dolphins often have a midwife dolphin who helps the mother push the new baby to the surface for its first breath. The midwife dolphin also helps protect the new mother and her baby from sharks for several weeks after the birth.

Flying foxes, a type of large bat, have been observed helping a labouring mother when the labour was prolonged by demonstating the correct birthing position and directly assisting in the birth.

Male Spiny mice al Acomys cahirinus actively assist their mates during labour.
Its likely that there are other animals who assist during the birth but have not yet been observed in this behavour.

In humans, midwifery has probably been essential from early times, due to the large size of the baby's head in comparison to the female pelvis.
Of course there is not much evidence for the practise of midwifery in prehistory but it would make a great deal of sense as it increased the likelihood of survival for both mother and baby if things went somewhat wrong. eg tight cord round the baby's neck or helping to guide a breech birth.

Early midwives were probably women who had either helped at a number of births or who had successfully given birth to a number of children herself.
In fact many of the so called Venus figurines ressemble women who have given birth to many children and are not young and fertile , but show that they have successfully lived through many years and have the wisdom to go with it.

This statue is the famous Venus of Willendorf
I took the picture at a special exhibition of Early Goddess statues at the museum of prehistory in Nice called Terra Amata.
Its not a brillaint photo due to the glass case, background and odd lighting -so i have knocked out the background in photoshop which makes it a wee bit better.

I decided to use the Venus of willendorf as a Goddess of Midwifery and Female Wisdom in the following image.
I have painted a pregnant belly and added some body paint to prepresent protective charms that are likely to have been used to safeguard both mother and baby.

Late Addition: I just found out today that the artist and writer Monica Sjoo died the other day -8th August 2005 -afyer a long illness. Somehow it seems appropriate to add this news to this post and artwork as i admired much of her work and found it thought provoking and inspiring.
A retrospective exhibition of her work is online here
A brief obituary by Starhawk is here


Burryman Day

The second Friday in August is Burryman day in South Queensferry, a village close to Edinburgh, Scotland.

We weren't in Scotland this year to go and see the Burryman but i thought i'd post some pictures from a pervious event.
The Burryman is an ancient festival - its not known exactly how long it has been celebrated but it can be traced back to at least 1687 and it is suggested that it goes back further.

Some suggest it goes back to the landing of Queen Margaret in the 11th Century, as she inspired the village's name and others associate the Burryman with similar Green men or wildmen in festivals, art and legends across Europe.

He may be associated with fruits of the land and have a somewhat scapegoat origin -but bacsically his job is to go around the village removing bad luck and leaving good fortune behind him.

The Burryman is basically a man covered in burrs- the prickly seeds of the burdock plant. These seeds have very fine hooks which can attach easily to human skin , although the Burryman has the burrs attached to his flannel underwear -it must still be very difficult and irritating to wear.
Fallen burrs are supposed to be lucky for the finder.

The burrs are assembled on squares on pieces of cloth in advance so that they can be quickly placed on the Burryman on the morning of Burryman day. The Burryman has to avoid talking all day and has to spend 9 hours walking slowly, weighed down by the considerable and uncomfortable weight [and itch] of the burrs with his arms ourstretched.
The Burryman starts off around the village with two supporters who are needed to guide him as his vision and hearing are very restricted and also i expect he needs to lean on them at times.
Physical strength and stamina are a must for the Burrymen.

Burry man walking with his two supporters

Burrymen often stay in the job for a number of years before passing to a younger person, often a member of the same family.
The Burryman has a route which makes sure he covers all parts of the village and he is given whisky [which he has to drink through a straw] and sometimes money for good luck.

Here he is visiting one of the pubs. He needs to have a strong head for drink as he will be given whisky throughout the day and not be able to eat anything to help soak it up. Also, he is not able to go to the loo so its a real test of the body.

A bell is rung when the Burryman is about to appear and the hairs on the back of the neck stand up . There is something primeval about his appearance and Presence. He seems like something non-human , not just due to the suit of burrs but also because of the atmosphere that surrounds him.
If you are in Scotland at the right time of year, I recommend visiting on Burryman day - it doesn't attract the same number of outside visitors as the Castleton Garland Festival or other similar events but its a worthwhile visit nonetheless.

The Burryman having a short break with the Forth Rail bridge in the background


Thursday, August 11, 2005

Chameleon activities for kids

I finished a couple of kids activities today on the theme of chameleons. Chameleons are fascinating and very weird animals.

Click on the photo print out from the browser and save it and print from a photomanipulation or similar program.

These activities can be printed and used in a family setting - no alterations, publication, commercial distribution and other uses without permission


Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Rotator cuff and physiotherapy

I've noticed a lot of people stop here after searching for information about rotator cuff injuries. So i am going to post about the saga of my shoulder to give some idea of what people can expect when they get a diagnosis of torn rotator cuff.
If you don't have a rotator cuff problem, just skip this.

The first thing i noticed was a snapping sound and extreme pain - i thought I had managed to break my collar bone and i was worried that i had somehow managed to have severe osteoporosis without being aware of it.

I could feel and hear a crepitus noise [a sort of grating sound] when my arm moved and i thought this was the broken bones rubbing together.
It turned out that this was the badly positioned bones rubbing since the tendons are torn and not holding the bones in place properly.
My case was complicated by having pinched nerves in my neck and frozen muscles in my neck due to my enlarged thyroid as i hadn't been able to move my neck properly.

After seeing the Dr, I was x-rayed in many different poisitions - this was both difficult and painful as it was really hard to move my arm or shoulder and even walking jarred my shoulder tremendously.

After the x-rays my Dr gave me some cortisone injections as the whole shoulder was frozen due to the pain and inflammation. I had several injections in different places and these were repeated on the next two days.
The cortisone helped a lot - i wasn't expecting it to do much but after the second lot of injections i noticed it was slightly less painful.

I also had anti inflammatories to take and also some pain medicine, Additionally i had some dressings to wear on my shoulder which were a sort of slimy gel backed by felt like material [Flector Tissugel] -these contained an anti-inflammatory and they seemed to help a lot.

The Dr recommened i start physiotherapy 2 or three days after my last set of cortisone injections and gave me a presctirption for 12 sessions.

The physiotherapist examined the x-rays , took a case history and medical history and did a phsyical exam of my shoulder, neck and back.

I have fairly long hair - mid back length, and i found that putting it in a plait before the sessions made things easier for me and the physio.

The physiotherapy treatment on my shoulder and neck has consisted of massage, manipulation of the joints and light traction. Also supervised excersises and electrostimulation with antiinflammatory perfusion, ultrasound tretament, infra red treatment, and another kind of electrostimulation that i forgot the name of immediately.

The massage was mostly relaxing , the manipulation was at times painful - although i was told to tell the physio if he was causing pain and he would change the pressure/movement. Slight discomfort was ok but not pain.

The light traction felt strange but wasn't too bad- though it seemed to cause my joints to ache afterwards and be physically tiring - like doing a workout.

The electrostimulation -with and without the anti-inflammatory perfusion wasn't painful though it stung slightly in a rhythmic way. It was easy to ignore it and read for the 20 minutes that it lasted for.

The ultrasound treatment did not seem to be painful in itself -although having to press down on the inflammed shoulder was painful and it was awkward to do - however this only lasted about 5 minutes so it wasn't too bad.

The infra red treatment was quite relaxing - it felt like being lghtly toasted in a pleasantly warm toaster.

The excercises -

After a few sessions of physio , i was given the first excercise to do at home. This involved sitting on a stool, bending over and allowing the arm and shoulder to relax and swing freely - this was a bit more difficult tahn it sounds due to the pain and inflammation , but after about 10 days it felt relaxing and painless.

The next excercise was to allow the arm to drop down from the shoulder and lift the arm up as far as it would go with the palm facing upwards. This was difficult to do at first as the bones would click and cause pain. I had to adjust the angle slightly to make sure there were no clicks.
After about a week of doing this excercise at home , I was told to bring swimming clothes to do excercises in the pool.

The second excercise was continued in the pool and an additional movement using a small float was added. I had to grasp the float with my arm level with my shoulder [supported by the water] and bring the float down as quickly as possible and then allow the float's bouyancy to bring my arm back up.

I had to do both of these each session 10 in each set and 10 sets.
Around this time i was told i had to do as much as i could with the affected arm as long as it wasn't prolonged painful actions. Discomfort was ok.

I found being in the water relaxing and i started going swimming on non physio days though i found my shoulder movement was restricted so i tended to mainly use my legs. I continued with these excersises on non physio days too.

The last excercise involves holding a stick in both hands, behind the back and raising it as far as it will comfortably go - all the while allowing the arms to relax downwards to prevent the bones rubbing. This was also done in the water and added to the previous 2 excerccises.

I have now had 11 sessions and will be going back in 2 weeks for the final session. I may need further treatment on my neck but the physio expects my shoulder will be completely healed by then. Currently my shoulder is only pinful when the tendon is directly pressed or when i pull something sharply - eg tieing a knot or occasionally when pulling on a drawer.
This has been nearly 7 weeks since the start of the saga with the cortisone injections.
I hope this helps.


Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Plants, sun, sea and sand

Yesterday was a brilliant day for snorkeling and we were out at the beach for a few hours, despite the jellyfish warnings.
There were a few jellyfish but they were the pale purple-pink tiny ones which don't have much of a sting [much less painful than a nettle sting .]

We did see a few of these jellyfish but they were already dead and were just drifting with the wind and tide. There were a few stray filaments but they only left me with a couple of mozzie sized lumps -so nothing dramatic.

I have snorkelled through a huge shoal of these jellyfish without a single sting and it was one of the most amazing sights i've ever seen. It was like swimming in the sunset clouds - totally magical .

It also reminded me of the Jaques Cousteau documentatries that i used to watch as a child. I used to envy these folk when they went diving with turtles and sharks and millions of brightly coloured fish.
I've never managed to learn to dive but i love snorkeling and being in the silence of the sea watching fish dart around is one of my greatest pleasures in life.

Antibes is usually nice for snorkeling and yesterday the conditions were excellent - the water was beautifully clear , the sea was not too rough and there were huge numbers of fish around.
Shoals of all different species and lots of very big fish too.
I was following the fish with my 11 year old son and having a really great time. In fact we had decided to have another session today. However the sea conditions put a stop to that.

Today was too rough and the sea was full of sea weed fragments and sand - visibility was really limited so we just swam for a while instead and took advantage of the fairly big waves.

When i came home i had a look at the grapes - i took the green grapes photo 18 days ago , and i tried to take a photo of the same bunch today.
I managed to pick the same bunch but wasn't too accurate with the angle.

Eventually this bunch will turn completely purple-black - hopefully i will remember to photograph it.

Bougainvillea is named after Admiral Louis de Bougainville who was the first French person to circumnavigate the world. He didn't actually discover the plant, it was apparently discovered by a botanist on board his ship. Later it was brought to Europe from Brazil as a decorative plant.

Every year i have been meaning to photograph this stunning plant , but until now i had left it too late to get a decent photo.

The top photo shows the actual flowers of Bougainvillea - they are the little white daisy like flowers which are surrounded by the colourful paper-like bracts which give the plant its good looks.

In a mass , grown in the Mediterranean sunshine over a wall or fence, the flowers can make a fantastic display but somehow photos of the full plant don't quite work. The human eye seems to see them as more beautiful than they are in reality.
However, I did like this small section of the blooms looking up at the sky - I think this gives a better idea of the flowers than my other feeble attempts.