25 reasons to be cheerful (when a holiday goes pear shaped)

For my inaugural post on Reviewanew, thought I’d review the recent holiday my wife Jan and I had in Canada and the USA.

Ian Dury and the Blockheads had a song Reasons to be Cheerful: Part 3. I remembered it when thinking about this trip. I’ll tell you why.

The plan

The itinerary was a couple of sojourns in Vancouver, a city we know well and love (partly because it is a darling of the urban planning world), about two weeks in Silver Star, our favorite ski resort (oh, okay, the only place we’ve ever skied!), and a few days in Seattle, where I’d been once but Jan was yet to visit.

The reality

Anyway, after an enjoyable and uneventful few days in Vancouver, we hit Silver Star, and things changed. On our second day skiing, Jan had an innocuous fall and immediately called out “I’ve done my knee!”. After a ski patrol experience, and a visit to the local hospital in Vernon, we had a clinical diagnosis of a ruptured ACL, and likely damage to her MCL and medial meniscus. In layman’s terms, it was rooted, and would need surgery and a long rehabilitation.

Silver Star

We chose to continue the holiday, as the hospital gave Jan a leg brace and crutches that would let her get around a bit while keeping the leg stable and preventing further damage, and any treatment would likely need to await the swelling and bruising to subside. Our daughter Annie-Kate and her partner Julian were with us, as was our son Toby and some of his mates, so we wanted to continue for them too. So we did. I stopped skiing in sympathy with Jan and we spent our days with her laid up recovering and slowly starting to go down to the village and spend some time out of the house each day. We read, ate, slept, watched a lot of TV – Jan hardly ever does this but is now a fan of The Big Bang Theory – talked, cursed our luck and reminded ourselves it was a first world problem.

A night or two after the hospital visit, Jan passed out in the bathroom, probably a reaction to the pain killer she took. Her pulse rate was down to 40 and she was a funny colour, but she came to and was okay after a while. Unpleasant though. To add insult to injury, in Vancouver the second time, Jan caught what is being called the stomach flu, involving diarrhea, vomiting, major stomach pain and several days of feeling poorly with no appetite. A-K and Juls also caught it the day they had to fly home, although not as badly.

To top things off, the train trip Jan and I had booked to Seattle and back was disrupted by mud slides so part of the trip down and all the trip back ended up being in a bus, not ideal when your leg is in a brace. And finally, there was a lot of hassling involved to ensure the travel insurance providers organized a business seat home for Jan, who simply couldn’t have fitted into an economy seat for the long flight home. It was on the day before the flight that we got that sorted after about a week of effort. We also canned a planned trip to the Tour Down Under bike race in Adelaide later in January. And about three days after we got home, I managed to hurt my back so I got to lie down a lot (like Jan) and whinge a fair bit (unlike Jan).

So that is a quick picture of events. At the time, we kept telling ourselves we’d look back and laugh about it all, but it felt like we were trying to enjoy ourselves when we really weren’t much. As the rail conductor said to Jan on the bus back to Vancouver “Are we having fun yet?”

Reasons to be cheerful

I’ve certainly found all this challenging, with a bit of “why me, lordy?” going on, but that seems to have passed. That’s what a bit of time and perspective can do. The real point of this post is that I have started to make a mental list of things to be thankful for in all this, so thought I’d write them down. These are in addition to the obvious big ones that apply all the time, like I’m just glad to be alive etc. So, with due acknowledgement to Ian Dury (oh alright, and to the Blockheads too), my list of reasons to be cheerful goes something like this:

1. I’m grateful we are able to even start out on a trip like this. Most don’t.

2. We had a really pleasant few days in Vancouver on the way to Silver Star, including a nice dinner with friends who live there and a chance encounter with a Brisbane planning friend and colleague in the main street. And the Blue Horizon Hotel where we stayed is like a second home, so familiar and comfortable.

3. We had some great fun times in Silver Star with family and friends old and new.

4.Many people stopped to see if we needed help when Jan fell, including some who let the ski patrol know we needed them.

5. The ski patrol guys (Steve and Brent?) were friendly, professional and amazingly skilled skiers. This service is vital at times like this.

6. A local we let use our house’s car park there, Scott Moffat – whom we’d never met – very kindly drove us to the hospital in Vernon and back on Christmas Eve, as he was going down to work that day. Without his help, it would have been really difficult to get there and back. Thanks Scott!

7. The doctors and staff at Vernon Jubilee Hospital Emergency Department were friendly, helpful, professional and nice.

8. So many people in Silver Star, but also in Vancouver and Seattle, stopped us in the street to empathize and tell us their stories of similar incidents from which they recovered to get back to skiing and an active life. That was really nice.

9. The resort shuttle drivers at Silver Star, Leo and Doug, went out of their way to make sure we got Jan to and from the village when we wanted to, in a most friendly and supportive fashion.

10. Having Annie-Kate and Julian, who are both half way through a medicine degree, with us was really great, particularly at the time of Jan’s fall and the fainting episode, but also more generally. Two half doctors make one full one, I reckon.

11. Toby and his mates added a lot of humour, and were helpful with chores too.

12. I managed to avoid the stomach flu!

13. The rail people were really good about making sure Jan boarded first and had two seats on the bus on the way back to Seattle, so she was able to be more comfortable for the four hours or so of that journey.

14. The staff at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle were fantastic about finding and mailing home a little stuffed dog toy I’d bought Jan in Silver Star after the fall, which we’d left there. Jan had grown really fond of him given her love of dogs. He arrived home less than a week after we did.

15. Ajay at the travel insurance team, once he understood our circumstances, did a great job in securing the upgraded seat for Jan.

16. Vancouver turned on some sensational weather at times for us. Crisp, clear and mild days with brilliant blue skies. (Seattle not so much!)

17. It was a brilliant snow season at Silver Star, which made this picture postcard place even more so. If you have to sit around and not do much, what a place to do it.

18. It was great to be in the cold of Canada for a while, rather than the oppressive sweltering heat Brisbane was turning on while we were away.

19. I had some great professional experiences, seeing the latest and greatest in Vancouver and Seattle, and also meeting and addressing a very impressive crew that former Vancouver City Councilor Gordon Price had assembled at his place, and also through contacts he gave me in Seattle.

20. The kind staff of Qantas in Sydney upgraded us to business class for the last leg home to Brisbane, without being asked. All we were after was an aisle seat or a bit of leg room!

21. I’m glad I didn’t do my back over there. I had a few bags and a limper to deal with as it was.

22. Our mate Darren and his brother Murray came to the rescue to bail out our spot for the Tour Down Under accommodation and our office manager at Buckley Vann, Keveena, unscrambled our plane tickets for that too. Thanks team.

23. Our doctor was fantastic once we got home. We had an appointment on the first working day after we got back. He organized the MRI that day, another appointment the next day, and he had Jan booked in to one of his preferred specialists for an appointment and operation within a week. Great stuff.

24. Our other daughter Alix booked that first appointment for us, and with her fiancé Ash looked after the ranch and our two Dalmatians, making the whole trip possible.

25. And last but not least, Jan has handled this all brilliantly. She has experienced issues with depression and anxiety most of her life, but has somehow found her way through this so far with mostly good humour, acceptance and determination. She is a trooper!

So there you have it, 25 reasons to be cheerful about our holiday. As usual, some time and distance works wonders for one’s perception of events and this trip turned out to be memorable after all, just mostly not for the reasons I thought it would! We are starting to laugh about it, and we’ve already started to plan our next trip…


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