Footpath Gardens: Esplanade West, Port Melbourne

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It’s  late February now, the end of summer, and a couple of months after these pictures were taken. The tomatoes are being picked, the lemons ripening and the peppers are colouring- all this on the footpath of Esplanade West.

The gardener landed here in Port Melbourne on a migrant ship from Greece and has lived and worked in Port Melbourne ever since. He is now retired. His front garden has a trellised crop of tomatoes over two metres tall and out on the footpath is his garden extension.

I wonder if the peach tree is the one he was given by a relative and which he initially planted on the edge of the nearby Lagoon Oval. He was furious when the Council made him move it. I was there that day, walking my ancient dog, Phoebe.

At the beginning of summer, I noticed  him walking back to his house with an empty bucket. He’d been watering a further outpost of his empire, a couple of tomato plants planted in a small section of non- asphalted footpath a few houses down. Theseplants are now about a metre high,staked and bare stalked with a few ripening fruits. He nips off the leaves once the fruit starts ripening.

Further down Esplanade West, the footpath gardening is more conventional, such as a pretty border of gazanias and baby’s tears around a melaleuca. There’s a clipped hedge of native shrubs screening a front door from the street.

But nothing to equal the fruit and vegies further up the street.IMG_20141021_115453

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Return to Tango: Week 5 after Anterior Hip Replacement

The Sidewalk Tango class this week was on Open and Closed Embrace.. I would really have liked to do that class to help me refine what I know already. At least this week, I felt strong enough to stand in the lounge and do some of the steps which don’t involve twisting. 

I enjoyed the regular Wednesday night after-class Practica. My legs and feet felt quite strong and springy as they walked and I relished the changes of pace and direction that Nick led me into. I can now go into the cross and step out backwards and even follow the lead to step over my partner’s leg. This is very encouraging as it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to cross my right leg over towards the left side of my body. I even tried an ocho on my new right hip joint. I did take care to set myself up on my axis and engage every muscle I could think of before moving into the step. It worked and felt alright but at the same time, I was aware that it wouldn’t be a good idea to do many more of them. It was encouraging to be able to complete a whole Tanda.

Background.

Thigh muscles are still tight and complaining but less so.However, I can loosen them more quickly now with stretches.  My upper thigh is still a little bit swollen.

Exercises: I’m increasing the the intensity of these now. It’s odd, but  during the last few weeks most of my energy has been spent managing daily life and I didn’t seem to have the energy for doing a lot of exercises.  Now I have and it’s good to do them and start feeling specifically stronger. My poor old left leg needs as much attention as the right.

Backache: still there and I’m a bit sick of it. But it is ‘just’ muscular for which I am grateful.

Walking: much better around the block now. I can walk quite steadily and at a sensible speed but still find it hard to maintain the enrgy for sustained walking.

Pain relief: down to Targin10 twice a day for a week. Time to step down further.

Return to Tango: 4 weeks after total hip replacement

This week, I actually did ‘return to tango’, on day 22 to be precise. Sidewalk Tango resumed classes on Wednesday, Feb 4th, after the summer break and Nick did the Intermediate class and I watched.

It was a quiet, reflective class with the last of the daylight filtering rosily through the drawn back curtains. The couples gradually became silhouetted against the last of the light as they worked on musicality and fluidity. Towards the end of their lesson, I put on my tango shoes for the first time in months. These are flat shoes as I have trouble with my metatarsal arches and don’t go near heels. It was achievement to bend enough to tie my laces.

During the twelve days since my first tentative steps at the Australia Day Milonga, my normal walking had freed up, my balance strengthened and I was more physically confident.

I stood in the embrace, waited for the lead and felt quite strong. And I was. I could step back, straighten my leg (no more creeping, Di) and feel spring in my feet and calves. I felt better than I did in my last ‘dance’ before stopping completely last year.

At one stage, Nick inadvertently led me into a little ocho – I flipped around automatically! What have I done!! I shoudn’t be doing this yet! Yet it felt fine, no pain, no strain, just a neat,quick ocho – straight and strong. Well, I’d better put that away for a couple more weeks.

I managed three pleasurable dances, a full song each, but just one at a time with a rest between. Two were with Nick and the third with a friend who led me around carefully and safely. That was another milestone.

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As a background to the actual tango, this is what was happening.

Stretches increasing and improving. Aiming for standing knee lifts, pulling knee into chest on floor, loosening tight hamstrings, thigh muscles, lower back. All still pretty tight but improving.

Strengthening: balancing, squats and increasing walks up stairs. Can do 5 flights of 11 steps up and down in one go now.

Walks. Can now do the 5 minute walk around the block quite comfortably and have today tried a different bigger block – 10 mins – good until the last couple of minutes. Tired and noticeable in the right glute.

Tightness easing in thigh muscles and I can now squat on my heels- just.

Back ache still there first thing as I wake. It goes during the day. It will gradually ease as all this tightness eases.

Started to reduce the Targin by a third during the day, ie down from 15 to 10, with the 15 still at night.That seems ok so far. In a couple of days, I’ll drop the night dose to 10 and see what happens.

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I wonder if anyone is reading this! I would have liked to learn about the rehabilitation process before my hip replacement, which is part of the reason for writing these rather navel/hip gazing posts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Footpath Gardening. A Traffic Shield and a Memory

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This carefully planted and maintained nature strip shrubbery shields the residents of the corner apartment building from the traffic whizzing from Beaconsfield Parade into Pickles Street. I think it would help with headlight glare and be a really good psychological barrier against the barrage of traffic.

A few weeks ago, a couple of days before my hip replacement operation (just wait, there is a connection), I was rung by an admissions nurse from the hospital for some final checking. After we’d gone through that, she commented that it will be lovely for me to go walks along the beach front as part of my rehabilitation. I was surprised and said something like, “Ah, you recognise the address?”

“Yes. I was born and grew up in the house on the corner of the Beach Road and Pickles Street. I used to love living there.”

Still on the phone, I walked to our front windows.

“I’m looking at that corner right now,”I said. “How amazing”

“Yes, I used to ride my bike to Sunday School at the Anglican Church and I was a member of the Port Melbourne Lifesaving Club.The house isn’t there any more. I’d love to be back there.”

“Maybe a retirement plan,” I suggested.

We hung up, each having relished a surprising personal connection and conversation.

Her house has been replaced by a solid attractive apartment building. I had taken the photos for this Gardening on the Footpath project a few months ago. When I can walk that far again, I will visit that corner and think about that nameless nurse and her childhood house opposite the beach.

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Return to Tango: 3 weeks after hip replacement

Briefly, for my record as much as anything.

My mobility is much improved. I walk everywhere without crutches. Walking feels smooth and natural  for a few minutes. I find that my right leg (new hip) gets tired on a walk outside after about 5 minutes. Lots of muscles are returning to work. I can balance on that leg for about 10 seconds. 

Physiotherapist has confirmed that there are ‘no restrictions’ and that I can stretch, mobilize the joint gently and continue to work on strengthening. It feels so good to get down on the floor again and start stretching. It’s only in the last day or so that I have felt confident enough about getting up from the floor even if I’d been able to get down there. Now that the incision has closed, I’m allowed to start doing exercises in the pool. 

Pain relief is working. I had a go at dropping it a bit a week ago, but that was not a good idea! Will continue for 2 weeks and then have another go at dropping it.  My GP has been very helpful. The pain is back pain which I’m pretty confident will gradually diminish as I regain fitness and continue with back massage.

The tight swelling around the outer upper thigh is diminishing. I’m massaging and icing it.

Generally, I feel good. It’s been therapeutic to regain independence around the house- today I have returned the hired shower chair. I’m cooking, carrying around cups of coffee and so on. However, I get tired quite quickly and it’s good to go off and rest. I’m still loving sleeping!

Return to Tango: Sidewalk Tango Australia Day BBQ and Milonga.

Nick and I are on the dance floor at Sidewalk Tango. Around us, couples are waiting for the music. We move into the embrace and, on the beat, Nick takes a small step . I step back, feeling the weight on my new hip. It’s alright. I transfer to the other leg and we are dancing. It is very modest. I’m not to straighten my leg on the step back, nor step back very far because of the pressure it puts on my still healing incision. So I’m ‘creeping’ – Don’t look, Di! – but a creep is better than sitting on the side. The embrace feels comfortable and Nick leads me into a little fake. That’s a bit harder but I can do it safely. And so we progress! This is Tiny Steps Tango and I last about half a song. I’m so happy.

Back in December, when this Australia Day BBQ and Milonga was announced after class, yet another one I had watched, I did a quick sum. Thirteen days after my hip replacement. I should be able to get up the stairs and just be there.Yes. I’d aim to do that.

This afternoon, I got out of tracksuit pants and into tango clothes, left one crutch behind and we drove through the quiet, public holiday streets to Swan St , Richmond. The music spilled down the stairs and out of the windows of the Tiki Bar onto the empty footpath. Through the tall wooden doors were the stairs, quite a long straight flight but now, not as insurmountable as I thought they might have been. Up I went, one step at a time with Nick following in case I decided to plunge backwards

No such drama. There I was, up in the Tango world. Couples quietly danced, people chatted, the BBQ on the roof outside the high back windows sent down good smells and our tango friends were there. Food descended from the BBQ, more food appeared from the Tardis like kitchen and we ate and talked and caught up with Christmas and New Year stories. Nick had a few dances with people who could do more than tiny steps and he and I had another short dance.

It was a perfect occasion to emerge from two rather claustrophobic and self absorbed post operative weeks  I spent the entire afternoon with a huge grin on my face.