Saturday, 22 October 2016


To us, Chamonix seemed a strange town. It’s surprisingly un-French.

As you stroll along the streets we couldn’t help being aware of how much English was spoken around us. Tourists from around the world come here. For them English, if not their first language, it is their second language. Shopkeepers tend to automatically speak to you in English rather than French. It was quite a relief to have our days at Plateau d’Assy or Martigny & speak French once more.

These days tourism has to be the main business in the town. There are some very posh shops, Chanel for example. In my youth skiing was the sport of the wealthy &, to some extent, I think it still remains so. Chamonix is about skiing, along with mountaineering & paragliding. It is the mountaineering that tends to be epitomised in the town’s sculptures.

Pointing to Mont Blanc

On one of our trips into the town centre, our ears were attracted by the sound of an organ playing Bach & so we visited the church, the Église St Michel. The organist seemed to play most days we soon discovered.

Eglise St Michel

We also soon discovered that many of the attractions had closed for the season. Many of the ski lifts stopped working mid-September. I had contemplated going on the Montenvers Railway up to the Mer de Glace glacier. However, that was closed for maintenance & repairs. The Espace Mémoire Marcel Wibault, a small art gallery specialising in mountain paintings also closed by the time we’d got ourselves settled to explore the town. We tried the Musée de la Mémoire et de Patrimonie – closed again.

Chamonix was certainly the place to buy outdoor clothing suitable for hiking, skiing or mountaineering. Every other shop seemed to sell them.

For me, one of the great charms of Chamonix was the number of painted buildings. The trompe-d’œil effects were sometimes quite spectacular. They certainly gave a jollity to the place.

The back of the cinema

I also love the way the River Arve winds its way through the town. As a result there are numerous flower bedecked bridges. The water of the river is surprisingly soapy green in colour. It’s not that it’s polluted but rather as though there are some chemicals & silt being washed down from the surrounding mountains.

One of the many bridges over the River Arve

Many of the roads are named after famous mountaineers. The one in particular that struck me was the Rue Whymper which instantly recalled to my mind the film starring Michael Rennie in which he, as Whymper, conquered the Matterhorn. Many years ago I did some research on the many British mountaineers who have honed their skills in the Lake District Fells & who caused mountaineering these days to be regarded as a sport. The most famous must be Sir Chris Bonnington who has scaled Mount Everest.

Chamonix is an interesting place, especially if you are sports minded, be it skiing, mountaineering, paragliding, or simply hiking. However, I doubt we will be returning as there didn’t seem much to do for wheelchair users, though some of those sports did have facilities for disabled people.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

The op

Finally I’ve got chance to sit down & write.

On Monday we once more went off to the hospital, this time to meet the surgeon. He explained what he proposed to do, what was the expected outcome, how I was likely to feel after the op & what further treatment is likely to be needed after. I was also given the date for the op.

So next week I shall have to go along to the Lancaster hospital to be given an injection of radioactive dye. As a result, by the next day, I should have a bright blue breast. My skin generally should be a grey/blue colour. When I go to the loo, that too should be blue. He didn’t say how long I should be looking like a Smurf or a creature from the film “Avatar”. Hopefully it will only be a couple of days. I suspect, though, some child may have a shock seeing me if they try trick & treating us this Halloween. (Fortunately we don’t usually have such visitors. We put signs up to discourage them.)

The next day I will have to be up bright & early to go to Kendal hospital for 7.30am & the op. I’m not to have anything to eat from midnight. I can drink water until 6am along with my morning medication.

I have been offered an overnight stay as there may be extra problems for me as a wheelchair user after the op. There is likely to be some pain & stiffness in my left arm & the muscles to that breast.

My biggest worry is how I’m going to manage getting on & off the loo. Usually I have a frame around the loo which I use to support myself in the process. However, if I press down on just one side it is liable to tip over. I’ve not yet decided upon what I’m going to do yet. I am going to take an overnight bag just in case I am too sore to do much for myself immediately after the op. The surgeon did assure me that most people don’t find it much more uncomfortable than after the biopsies. I managed okay after those. However, I also note he is a man & so is unlikely to have experienced the discomfort/pain himself so is just going by hearsay.

A couple of weeks after the op I will be seeing the surgeon again. In the meantime the tumour & sentinel nodes that he’s removed will have been examined. Depending upon the results, what else needs to be done will be decided & I will be told at this meeting. From the tests that have already been done it looks probable I will have to have a course of radiotherapy, followed possibly by chemotherapy.

It seems never ending. I’m once more wondering about Christmas. We’re thinking of just staying home. That way we’re not paying for things I may not feel up to. If I do find this further therapy causes me to feel nausea, we can always have something simple & clean-tasting for the meal. The Fox will cook if necessary. I’m still hoping I might manage to roast the joint as usual but, at least, this way the options lie open longer. We can decide nearer the time.

Saturday, 15 October 2016


From our bedroom window

There was one even more breath-taking place we visited on our holiday. Outside our bedroom window in Chamonix ran the cable car up the Aiguille du Midi, one of the peaks of the Mont Blanc massif. When we finally had a clear day, with good visibility we decided to go up.

We went up to the first level. However, we couldn’t go off far there due to my wheelchair, so we went on up to the top, some 3842m/12605ft high.

Before we went we were warned that if you were elderly & had any breathing problems, you should not go. We soon found out why. We both found ourselves panting as we tried to get oxygen out of the thinner air. After a while we had to abandon the visit as we were becoming a bit woozy.

However, the trip was worthwhile. The views were spectacular, the snow sparkling white, climbers mere ants. Absolutely fabulous. I do not have the words so I’ll let some photos speak for themselves.

See the cable car on the right cable

Somewhat larger

At the halfway stop

How's that for icicles?
The very top

See how small the people are