Tuesday, 27 September 2016

The Story of my Floating Knees - The Update

So the last time I was on here I was posting holiday snaps. Fast forward to now and I apologise for not finishing them off (although there wasn't many to go).  I can't really remember the full details of the holiday to write about now because I have a terrible memory, so instead here is a knee update.

So, I got the results from my knee scan. It was a pretty negative experience to be honest as things didn't end up turning out the way I thought they would but we'll see where it will go from here.
Above I have drawn out what the scan kind of looked like to explain the full extent of my knee problems. On the left you see a normal knee with a socket, a knee cap doing the things it should. Being a good knee. 

On the right you see my knees.  Both pretty rubbish and not being good knees. My left knee doesn't have a socket, it's completely flat plus my knee cap is small and sitting off at an angle. My right knee cap is worse as over the many years of it dislocating (for a long time only my right knee dislocated), it decided it would fix things itself by growing upwards to try to reach the knee cap and I don't know, hold onto it or something. I started imagining the socket yelling, 'godammit enough of this! Don't worry babe, I'm just going to come get you myself!!'. But unfortunately, instead of helping the situation by reaching out to the knee cap, it made it worse because I kind of need a socket there, not a bump, so of course the knee cap is more likely to hit off this now and come off more often. 

So I was then told by this specialist that my case is severe and that a ligament operation to hold my knees on wouldn't fix anything because the main problem is the bones. I do however have loose ligaments due to my dislocating knees stretching them so much but we'll just add that to the list of things to fix on the side.

I was then told that the only operation that could be done is performed by a few people in the world and those people have only performed it on a small number of people and about half of those people's operations haven't worked. They would do one leg at a time,  so if something goes wrong I'd have one leg left that I could use. It's a huge operation that would scar my legs badly and one that they don't know the long term effects off yet. But also, if it does work he pointed out that it's only a temporary fix. Temporary. After all that, just temporary. He said that my legs will continue to get worse anyway and that I will never have normal legs.

I will never have normal legs.

That really stuck with me. A whole bunch of things flashed through my mind. Does that mean I can never do the hillwalking I've been dreaming of doing or go cycling and even just walk like a normal person and not feel self conscious about how I can't straighten my legs.
I finally have an answer for anyone who ever questions why I walk with bent legs.  My doctor told me that my knee caps are constantly in a state of dislocation. If I straightened my legs they would just fall off. Nice.

They really are floating knees.

So what's next?  The doctor told me that I'd be a fantastic case for the surgery as I'd be a good candidate for their studies. Funnily enough my mind isn't on their studies but more on my ability to walk properly. That aside I'm going to see the surgeon in Glasgow who performs the operation to see what he thinks since he's the one that specialises in it. He may give me a bit more faith in the operation and I can at least ask him all the questions since he knows more about it all. Then if it turns out I'm not happy with that I'm going to ask to be referred for a second opinion elsewhere.

So here I was thinking I'd maybe be getting an operation around about this time but it looks like the solution is a bit of a wait away. In the meantime I'm continuing to do exercises to strengthen my knees so that hopefully when some sort of answer comes along I'll be ready and waiting with strong knees. Dislocating ones but at least strong. 

Updates to follow...

If you want to read my previous knee post click here.

EDIT: Click here for the next update! 

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Camping holiday 2016 - Part Four: Return to Glencoe

Our next journey was to my absolute favourite place, Glencoe.  I've always loved visiting this beautiful area and it's filled with memories of all my previous holidays.  It also reminds me of my granny who passed away when I was wee. She loved the west coast and I remember my holidays with   her to this area. Every time I return it brings forth all these memories. Here she is in the photo above, fishing in Glencoe with the cottage in the background that I drew for my most recent drawing, 'The Keeper's Cottage'. It really is a very special place for me.

Our first stop was to the Glencoe Lochan which I have walked around many times over the years.  It's an incredibly peaceful place full of wildlife including some ducks who gave us a friendly welcome.

It was a lovely still day and the water reflected the scenery around it beautifully.  I loved the reflections of the reeds in the water as they looked like scribbly pen drawings. 

The woodland here reminds me of the Forbidden Forest in Harry Potter.  Some scenes from the Harry Potter films were actually filmed in Glencoe and I remember being very disappointed having missed seeing the cast and crew by a couple of weeks when on holiday one year.  I very much wanted to meet my favourite character, Draco Malfoy played by Tom Felton and I was even more disappointed to hear that the staff from Glencoe Visitor Centre had met him! I still keep an eye out for the areas that I know they filmed in, including the hill where Hagrid's Hut was built.

I took lots of photos of the plants surrounding the walk for some drawing and painting reference.  I didn't alter any of these photos as all the vibrancy was natural and didn't need altered at all. I have so many ideas in my head for future drawing work which is a great feeling.

The lochan itself was created by Donald Alexander Smith who was the 1st Baron Strathcona and Mount Royal. He acquired the Glencoe Estate in 1895 and moved across from Canada with his wife.  Unfortunately she was incredibly homesick so he created the lochan and replanted plants brought from Canada to try and make her feel more at home. 

It's a really beautiful spot for a walk and I really recommend taking some time out and having a wander here if you're passing through the area.

We then headed to the mountains and sat taking in the wonderful views. I could sit and look at the mountains of Glencoe forever. The atmosphere is incredible, whether sunny or rainy.  To be honest, I love it when the weather closes in and the wind howls down the misty glen. The sunny day we had there was perfect for capturing photos though. 

The sun really brought out the detail in the rock face.  I took lots of photos  of the mountains for future drawings as I'm planning on doing more and this time even bigger! I better start ordering new pen refills...

Above is my favourite part of Glencoe as I've always imagined walking up the centre next to the waterfall. There is a path which you can see on the left and one day I'd love to do this walk.  I just need to get my knees fixed first as dislocating knees on a mountain wouldn't be a good idea.

I hope you've enjoyed looking at these photos and taking in the detail.  I'd be repeating myself if I kept telling you how beautiful I think Glencoe is. The photos don't even do it justice as you really need to be standing at the foot of these mountains to really feel the atmosphere. I hope to return again very soon.

If you missed out on my other holiday posts you can see part one here, part two here and part three here. Part five will be coming soon!

Monday, 1 August 2016

Camping holiday 2016 - Part Three: Dunstaffnage Castle

Our next trip was to head over towards Oban and on the way we stopped off at the Castle Stalker View Point to take some photos. Castle Stalker is privately owned but you can head over if you book one of their boat trips.  The history of the castle is pretty all over the place.  Lots of death, lots of taking it off one clan and then another taking it back.  When I was reading up about its history, all I could think of was Game of Thrones. It's seen a lot of drama.  If you fancy having a read yourself, head over to the Castle Stalker website to get a bit of background info.

We then headed over towards Oban to Dunstaffnage Castle. The castle sits on a rocky outcrop with views across Loch Etive.  It's one of the oldest castles in Scotland and was built before 1240 by Duncan MacDougall.  He was the son of Dubhgall, the Lord of Lorn who's father was the famous warlord Somerled who called himself 'The King of the Isles'. Somerled had mixed Gaelic and Norse parentage.

 Robert the Bruce went on to capture the castle in 1308 in the Wars of Independence. It was then passed to the Campbell earls of Argyll in the 1460s. The Campbells made changes to the castle and by 1796 they mainly stayed in the 'new house' section and tower. There was a huge fire in 1810 but a tenant continued to stay in the new house until 1888. The Duke of Argyll at this time wanted to rebuild the castle to its former glory but only succeeded in restoring the gatehouse in 1903.  When the keepership passed on to the 20th captain in 1908, he wanted to have the castle restored so he could live in it. The duke didn't want this to happen and it ended up in courts in 1923.  They ruled that even though the duke owned the castle, the captain was the hereditary keeper so had a right to live there. Unfortunately during the First World War, the captain spent many years as a prisoner of war and while away the roof of the 'new house' collapsed. Repairs were carried out when he returned but his original plans of full restoration faltered. When the 21st captain then succeeded in 1958 both himself and the duke agreed to entrust the castle for State care.

 Once you climb up the steep worn steps into the castle interior, you are met with a ruin but at the same time are overawed at the length of time it's continued to stand through centuries of battle, weather and fire. This wall really made me want to draw it. The detail in the stonework is amazing.

I loved this ornate fireplace which would have heated the first floor of the 'new house'. This house was built for Aeneas Campbell, the 11th Captain and his lady, Lillias Campbell, in 1725. With the detail still sitting there now it's amazing to think what it must have looked like at the time.

From when I was a wee girl, I've always loved to stand in castles like these and try to really imagine the people that would have walked through these rooms. You can see from the walls that there were different levels to the castle. The castle once housed a great hall which was the main part of the original castle. This was thought to have been linked with the north west range where the lord's accommodation was. He could easily wander out of his private chambers right into the great hall to deal with the business of the day. There would have been great feasts and entertainment within these walls, as well as tenants coming to pay their rents and also criminals standing trial.

A seal matrix which was made from lead in around the 13th or 14th century was found on the beach near the castle and by the inscription, it was thought to have been used by the Lord of the Isles within these walls. 

We were able to walk along the restored wall-walk which existed around the top of the castle walls from when it was built. This was perfect for defending the castle on its more vulnerable side. I have to say, my knees were feeling a bit wobbly up here. The view from the top was amazing though but I saw no advancing armies, just my dad and the dog waiting patiently below.

 We had such a good day for taking in the views over the marina. It was then a careful descent back down the stairs. Dogs were actually welcome into the castle but on looking at the stairs we didn't think Keira would manage them.  We also had visions of her pulling us off the side which was the bigger deterrent.

After having a walk around Dunstaffnage we headed towards Oban.  We drove around the streets but didn't stop as Keira was in a bit on an excitable mood.  We did however end up having a walk around a quieter place which was the Oban Cemetery.  It's not a proper holiday for us unless we've visited the odd cemetery! We had a look for some family graves we know are there but the graveyard was so big so unfortunately we didn't find them. On entering the graveyard though, something bizarre happened. My parents had wandered off to another area but my eye had been caught by a big black object sitting on a gravestone. I just stood staring at it and I couldn't properly focus on what it was.  It was hunched over, larger than your average cat including its long ears.  The only feature I could focus on was its big yellow eyes.  I stood staring at it staring at me while  saying to my parents, 'can you see this? Is that real or a statue?', but they'd moved on.  I decided to walk up the hill towards it.  I wasn't too far away and it wasn't moving to I figured it was a statue.  As I grew nearer, still not able to focus on any detail for some reason, it leapt to the side and completely disappeared. I stood calling on it, and searched the whole area but it was gone. So there's either a large black cat with lightening speed living in the graveyard or something spooky. Or I need my eyes tested.

My holiday posts continue tomorrow but if you missed out on the previous parts you can fine part one here and part two here.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Camping holiday 2016 - Part Two: Forestry Walk

One of the best things about a camping holiday is getting to explore the area. Not too far away from the Achindarroch Touring Site we found a really nice forestry walk.  Firstly we headed along the cycle path past the burn that we could hear at night (the best sound to send you to sleep). It was one of those sunny days that had intermittent showers, so not too hot and not too cold.  A pretty refreshing day. 

Along the path were some inquisitive sheep and also some strange sculptures... As you can see below they seem to be pretty jolly tree people with the addition of some cuddly toys. 

The cycle path continued but we turned off onto the forestry path.  By this time the mist was beginning to settle in over the mountains and there was a light drizzle of rain. The air smelt amazing. The rain also brought out all the colours in the trees, moss and lichen. I spotted some more mushrooms too.  I got quite attached to the forms of the mushrooms.  I think I may do some drawings of them soon. 

I also fell in love with all the colours of the woodland. The greens were so vibrant and then there was  moss that was a rich burgundy in colour, others that were every shade of green you could think of. I took so many photos because I kept imagining mixing these colours with paint. I also loved the detail of it all, the tiny leaves, twigs, fragments. As well as a refreshing walk I couldn't help collecting drawing ideas and I now have lots to think about for future work.

We found lots of little caves where animals could live.  When I was wee, this would be the sort of place I would have thought small mystical creatures would live in.  No wonder though as places like this do feel quite magical.

Heading on along the track which was uphill all the way, we continued through the forest, past trickling burns coming down through the trees, creating small pools of peaty water. 

This then opened out to some stunning views of the misty mountains. The drizzle continued but it just added to the atmosphere and it wasn't cold at all. 

We then spotted some interesting footprints in the mud down one of the ditches.  They were really large and long toed.  After some research later, we think that they are beaver footprints. It's pretty exciting to think that beavers past by this way at some point.  The tracks looked quite fresh as well. 

We also spotted the footprints below but were unsure of what these ones were. There are so many different types of wildlife that live in these sorts of areas including Scottish wildcats, pine martens, foxes and deer to name a few. We could smell that a fox had been close by so it could have been fox footprints although from what I've researched, they don't look quite right to belong to a fox. 

After investigating the footprints we carried on up the hill to take in the views. We also heard what sounded like a buzzard and we could see something flying about through the trees so we stopped for a while to see if we could spot it. 

It was in this area that we could smell the fox and strangely we didn't smell it on the way up but we did on the way down.  Perhaps it had passed right by us! As you can see this whole area is perfect for wildlife and apart from the footprints there were lots of signs that animals had been close by from unusual droppings to paths trodden through the foliage.

The mountain across the way looked incredible and was lit up with the sun one moment and then shrouded in mist the next as the weather changed back and forth.

The trees were mesmerising and they gave me more ideas for drawing too.

We spent some time looking around this spot before heading back down.  My knees had done pretty well even though it was an uphill walk.  The track continued on and once my knees have been fixed, I'd love to return and continue on.

There are so many beautiful hidden spots like this all over Scotland, teeming with wildlife, and it was a pleasure to explore it that day.

I'll be posting the continuation of my holiday stories tomorrow so keep a wee eye out.  If you missed part one you can find it here.