Friday, 23 June 2017

Finding Fulfilment

It would be fair to say that I am exhausted. It would also say that it takes very little to make me that way. In what was a wonderful drive down from Fort Augustus to Furt William, then further down to Oban for a stop at the distillery, and finally the long push from Oban to Glasgow by way of Loch Lomond, I did not get out of the car even once. Yet all that time in the car, sitting, watching the scenery drift by, has left me more than just a bit tired.

Part of the reason is that I am still recovering from that damned bladder infection. Part of the reason is that the effort in simply sitting is tiring. Part of the reason is that, while I am on the road, I want to see as much as I can, craning my neck at every corner, looking up every hillside in the highlands, along every shore of the lochs, at every building in the many small towns we passed through

There were people who were worried that this excursion would tire me out. I knew it would. I knew it would take a lot from me, never giving an inch in return. I also knew that if I didn't do this now, I would never do it. I may have other opportunities, but I don't see them all that well in my future. With the amount of work David has had to do, this is our last "road trip" without additional help. He can't do it. I can't do it.

Yet here I am still trying, still working at living my much as much as I can. Today that included buying the single most expensive bottle of Scotch I have ever purchased. It included a stunningly beautiful drive down the Argyll coast. It included a stop beside Loch Lomond where David took my picture with our stuffed Nessie, as well as the lock, in the background.

I don't know how much longer I can live like this, or live at all. But it is better to be alive, out here, than at home fearful of what might happen to me. In the end, I know what will happen. It's just a matter of time. Better that I find fulfilment in that time.

Thursday, 22 June 2017


It's been another tough day on the road. I didn't sleep at all last night, so I slept as we journeyed today. We started at Culloden, the last Jacobite battlefield on Scottish soil, fought in 1746. This Jacobite rebellion against the English Hanoverian king George II. David was kind enough to wheel me though the interpretation centre, until I started falling asleep in my wheelchair. We took a quick look outside, then headed back to the car.

I fell asleep almost immediately, or as asleep as I could get sitting upright in the car's bucket seats. David drove us down Loch Ness, past the Nessie museum where he stopped, then onwards down the loch to Fort Augustus. We are staying the night in a lovely old Scottish lodge. Right now David is sitting in the great room, by the fire, checking out locations for tomorrow. We are fairly sure we will stay in Glasgow for the next couple of nights, but you never know what David will come up with.

Speaking of coming up with things, we appear to have a solution to my periodic incontinence due to the bladder infection. Diapers. Not Depends, but full blown industrial strength adult diapers like they use in a hospital. These things hold a lot of moisture, are very secure, and I can pull down the front to pee in a jug as needed. They are not perfect, but they are much better than the pinching catheters or trying get to the jug while seated in the bucket seat of the car.

I am largely unable to dress or undress myself, but David does not see, squeamish in the least when it comes to helping. For this I am truly grateful/

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Troubles Come In Threes

They say trouble comes in threes. Just who is "they" anyways? Regardless, trouble has come in threes for us today. I have managed to develop a bladder infection. It's a nasty one, with blood in my urine and the usual incontinence. It's another day of more towels, cleaning up, wearing a catheter, staying in bed. This happens whenever I fly. The airline seats tend to pinch my bladder and any catheter I might be wearing, causing urine to be retained. The retained urine causes the infection. Trips in my truck can do it, but are not so likely as the truck seat is more amenable to voiding. However seats on an airplane and the bucket seats in the rental car make for a real problem.

Fortunately I have a plan for this kind of situation. I have a single dose antibiotic I carry with me, one designed specifically for bladder infections. It starts working within a couple of hours of taking it, and will continue working for the next few days. I can already feel some relief in that the urgency and incontinence have receded somewhat. However my urine is still a shockingly deep red.

The second trouble comes from David, of all people. He seems to be coming down with a cold, most likely also from the airplane ride. He went off today to get some cold medications; we are hoping that will stay the worst of it. This cold, and having to help me so much, is also making his muscles sore and tired, especially his back. So today I stayed in bed all day. He has had to do very little lifting, giving not just his back but the rest of him a rest.

The third trouble is my laptop. The hinge on the right hand side broke during our travels. The video screen is holding on by one hinge. I hope it holds on until we get home. Once home, I will take it into Best Buy and see if they can repair it. If not, the I will need another laptop.

David and I both came to one conclusion today, a sad one. It's highly unlikely that we will do any more travel. My needs have expanded. He is out of holidays until next year when my needs will be much greater, if I am here at all. It's too hard for David to do all this lifting and pushing. The light weight stuff is fine, but I am heavy and difficult to get into and out of the rented car. Again, my truck is easier. There is the bed transfer, the wheelchair transfer, the commode chair transfer; all of these are increasingly difficult.

Troubles come in threes. Let's hope for a better day tomorrow.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017


We are in and down at the Daviot Lodge in Inverness. The town itself is about five miles away, while we are in a country setting just up the way from Culloden Moor, of the A9 on a narrow country lane, half the time paved, half the time gravel. There is even the obligatory Highland Coo in the yard here. Bucolic to say the least. Quiet, comfortable, relaxing after a long day of driving for David and a difficult day of bodily functions for me.

How I would do this without David I simply do not know. I can only say thank you so often, only apologize for my mess so often, only ask for help so often. It is difficult to deal with my physical failings on my own yet he seems so casual and calm about it all. He does all the loading, all the unloading, pushing my wheelchair, helping me with my commode chair, getting things I need, helping me dress, ensuring I am okay. It's amazing, and for this I am truly grateful.

This morning, after I got cleaned up from a night time disaster and not the jug kind, we headed out of Edinburgh, crossing the Firth of Forth, driving north into the Highlands. Our first destination was St. Andrews, ostensibly to take a look at the famous Old Course. In reality we were more interested in the University, the old castle and the old cathedral. Both the castle and cathedral are mere remnant walls, ancient reminders of what once stood proud against the sea and all enemies. Time and battle have taken their toll. All that remains of the castle is some of the outer wall. The cathedral is almost completely gone except for the two bell towers at the front and an aging graveyard.

We left St. Andrews, heading north to Inverness. The drive through Cairngorm Park was lovely, a classic highland setting, steep hills covered in low green browse, gorse here and there, heather abounding. We passed any number of distilleries as we moved down the Spey valley. Perhaps the most exciting sign I saw all day was the Speyside Malt Whiskey Trail. It is a further drive down the Spey, a few miles back of us. That is our plan for tomorrow.

We are taking it easy, not pushing too hard. Both of us are struggling with the seats in the car, bucketing us back into discomfort. For me, the seat makes it almost impossible to use my jug with any sort of ease. I had a catheter on this morning but the angle of the seat caused it to pinch, and ultimately to come loose, something I discovered just as we started touring St. Andrews Castle. I've done my best since then, continuing to struggle with dampness and leakage all day.

This is the real challenge of travelling in the wheelchair, of travelling with ALS. If I get wet, I cannot change easily. If I spill on myself, I just leave the stain until end of day. I can do little to help David, and even less to help myself. Yet here I am, thanks to David's help, touring the Highlands of Scotland, ready to explore the Speyside Scotch region tomorrow. It's still pretty good.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Fire Alarm!

It has been a relaxing kind of a day today, yet not completely spent in the hotel. David was worn out after yesterday, so chose to sleep well past noon. I am unable to get up and going without help, so I slept until will past noon as well. No matter, I needed the rest just as David did. By the time we got up and got going, ti was probably around 2:30 PM.

Fortunately for us, the HMS Britannia is a very short walk from our hotel, just across the street and down at the other end of the shopping mall. In fact the entry to visit this reminder of days past is actually a part of the mall itself. So you can't do one without the other. We walked over, through the mall, and took the tour.

It has become clear that I can no longer push my wheelchair any great distance, nor over any sort of rough surface. David clearly sees himself more in the role of caregiver and wheelchair pusher than in the role of travelling companion. It doesn't seem to matter to him; he just plugs along, pushing me and enjoying himself. I will be forever grateful to him for this, for his approach and for his willingness to help me enjoy both this trip and the others we have taken. I may be fading fast, but he is definitely keeping me going

Visiting the Royal Yacht HMS Britannia was interesting enough. What was more interesting was that the tour was suggested as an hour and 45 minutes, yet we managed to make it more than three hours. Certainly stopping for tea on the Royal Yacht was a highlight for us. David enjoyed the luxury of it all, along with the individual bar in each of the many messes on board.

For me, I enjoyed seeing the working parts of the ship. It reminded me of being on my Dad's ship as a child, and of the many other tours I've taken of various naval vessels around the world. The ocean and the ships which sail on her has long been a theme of my life. I was less interested in the luxury of the top decks; I will never live that life nor enjoy the splendour of being a "royal".

Our day finished with a bit of excitement. David and I returned to our hotel, to sit in the bar, enjoy a beer, and plan our tomorrow. We are headed north, first to St. Andrews, then to Daviot, just short of Inverness. As we were sitting, planning, the fire alarm went off. They cleared the hotel. I grabbed my laptop and beer. David grabbed my wheelchair handles and pushed. As we and all the other guests gathered in the parking lot, the fire department arrived and went into find the source of the alarm.

As it turned out, it was sort of a false alarm. One of the female guests was using her hairspray, far too much hairspray, in the vicinity of the fire alarm. The alarm sensed the gas and chemicals in the hairspray, and the game was one. She got her overly sticky hair while all the rest of us ended up in the parking lot.

David has called it a day. I am writing, drinking a beer, and relaxing out here in the bar. Some little fire alarm ain't gonna scare me off!

Sunday, 18 June 2017

The Royal Mile

It looks like my morning blog is going to become an evening blog for the next little while. Getting up in the morning is tough and time consuming, so getting underway is now more important than any morning commentary I might have. In addition, I have the evenings to recap the events of the day.

Speaking of which, it was an eventful day for us today. First of all, I got up at 8:30 AM, voluntarily. I blame it on vacation timing. The downside of an early start is that my eyes are near closing now.I am fairly sure I can stay awake long enough to finish this post. On top of the early start, we had a tremendously long day today, storming Edinburgh Castle then walking down the Royal Mile to Holyrood Castle. The real challenge was cobblestones; those things do a number on my back while in the wheelchair.

The upside is we got to see Edinburgh Castle. Because I am i a wheelchair, the cab was able to take us right up to the main gate. From there, a castle shuttle bus took us right to the top of the castle. After a great visit there we headed out of the castle and came immediately to The Whiskey Experience, just outside the castle main gate. These two stops took up most of our day.

I'm not strong enough to push myself around. My arms are too weak for the hills, and far to weak for the cobblestone streets, so David did all the pushing today, up and down the hills and across the cobblestone streets. He pushed me in and around Edinburgh Castle. In and out of halls and shops; through St. Giles Cathedral, all the way down to Holyrood Palace, and then around the Scottish Parliament building.I am not sure which is more tired; his back or mine, his arms or mine.

After a full day of exploring just this one part of Edinburgh, both David and I are ready to take it easy. We had dinner along the Royal Mile.I think sleep counts higher than food for both of us right now. No late night beer or Scotch, Just sleep, precious sleep.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Glasgow Tenement Tour

After a massive day and night of travel yesterday, we landed in Glasgow at 8:10 AM UK time this morning. As with every other transfer on this flight, things went smoothly. WestJet has done a great job so far in ensuring smooth transfers from flight to flight, from wheelchair to seat, and back again. We did have quite the way to go to pick up the rental car. It was nice that one of the Glasgow Airport ground staff stayed with us the whole way, pushing me so David could focus on the luggage.

It was 9:30 AM before we finally got our car. Driving on the "wrong" side of the road was no challenge for David, however the stick shift and car turning radius has proven to be a challenge. It's fine, nothing that a bit of practice won't cure. I will say that my truck seats remain the most comfortable I've been in, although this car was pretty good.

Right out from the airport we headed for Greenock and Port Glasgow, both small towns along the Firth of Clyde where once shipping and ship building ruled, hard towns of tenements, shipyards, and warehouses. My great-grandfather, Adam McBride, was born in Greenock in 1879 at 24 East Crawford Street. The building is no longer there, having long since been torn down to make way for new tenements. My Mom's mom, my grandmother Rebecca Howie was born in 1910 in Port Glasgow, just a mile or so east of Greenock. I don't have an address to check out, so we just drove through on our way back to Glasgow.

Our next stop was on Duke Street in Glasgow where, according to the research David has been working on, my great-great grandfather, also Adam McBride, was born. As with the other locations, the buildings have long been torn down. It seems the homes of the rich are built to withstand the test of time while the homes of the poor bring no history with them and so are destroyed as time goes by. The one notable thing is that the location of my great-great grandfather Adam McBride's home is directly opposite one of Glasgow's oldest breweries. How convenient!

Our last Glwasgow stop was on Wolseley Street, Glasgow where my Dad's dad was born in 1902. Once again the old homes have long been torn down to make way for a newer set of row houses and small, working class homes in a village style setting. The most interesting thing was the old church on the corner, just a block or say away from where my grandfather was born. I can just imagine him as a child being trooped of to church on Sundays while his own father recovered from one too many glasses of Scotch the night before.

By this time both David and I had had enough. We left Glasgow and made the 90 minute trek to our hotel in Leith. This is the port city for Edinburgh, an area being reformed from old docks and warehouses to new government buildings, a major shopping center, and trendy loft homes and apartments. Ten years ago, when I first came to this hotel, there was little here. Now it's all new buildings or restored older buildings.

We checked in at around 2:00 PM. After a five hour rest and nap, David and I walked over to a nearby pub for dinner, a beer, and for me a shot of Scotch. Nothing like keeping the family history intact. Tomorrow, we attack the Royal Mile!