I knew I had done something bad to my left knee as it has been hurting for a couple of months, feels all twisted up inside. But despite the fact that in the last week I have started walking like Quasimodo, I did not expect to be told, this morning at a Japanese orthopedic clinic, that I had torn my meniscus, that they can treat it, but that it will never fully repair unless I have an operation with a five day stay in the hospital, with two bonus months of recuperation time at home afterwards.











This is not part of my plan for this year! This is not what I wanted to be told on a cold February Monday morning. That I can’t walk down or up my beloved hill, past the trees and zen temples to the station: that I will have to get the bus everywhere, that I will turn into a chair-bound, miserable fat f*** who is unable to do any exercise, yet still supposed to teach my demanding students and work in the pressure cooker of repression that is the Japanese school without the depressurizing outlet of my night walk home, through trees, stars, night air; that I will be instead stuck, forever, on the slow, po-faced bus staring forward like a drone. Just kill me now.


Of course I realize that it is not that serious, when there are so many terrible things in this life that can befall us. It’s ‘just’ a knee operation, which I will have to schedule for the summer I reckon if I don’t want to lose my job ( a contract worker can’t just take two months off like that  here in ol’ Japan). In the meantime it will have to be all steroid injections, anti-inflammatories and knee braces, undignified hobbling and all-round grumpiness, but coming home, feeling very very sorry for myself on the aforementioned bus, I started thinking about the thought of spending five days in a Japanese hospital (ugh, the food! all fishheads simmered in konbu broths and swollen floating daikons), how it would be at the height of the sweltering August heat, how I would not be able to sleep, or move, and then I thought: oh my god, no showering or bathing: I will S T I N K.


And that is almost the worst part for me; more scary even than the terrible pain of having one’s ligaments severed: the thought, hateful, of being anaesthetized, naked, vulnerable, beneath my hospital ‘gown’ and within the control of strangers who can prod me, look at me, smell me. Hideous! I can’t bear it, can’t bear even the thought of it ; I need at the very least to have some control of the scent my cadaver is giving off as they cut me up; regions of my corpse are most certainly going to be scented with something strong, something lingering that nevertheless smells nice to induce compassion. Any suggestions? What is the way to go? A nice rose oudh? A gentle patchouli? Vetiver? (ooh, vetiver, yes……) Essential oil of vetiver smeared on thigh and calf; I will smell like a royal man being embalmed in the forest; dignified, woody, the dry, healing elegance of Indian grass…..



As for the rest of the time, stuck in a bed (the idea of the bedpan and its embarrassments makes me honestly want to kill myself), I can’t imagine how I will possibly cope. Does one really have to perform one’s most shameful bodily functions in front of an entire ward? To shit for the crowd? I think the humiliation will be seriously too much for me to bear: you can’t even begin to imagine how many essential oils I will be taking with me to that place…..each ‘session’ accompanied with an entire 11ml vial of bergamot and grapefruit….



In fact, this I have actually done once before. You can bet I most certainly did take essential oils the last time I was hospitalized (something I do not make a habit of, in case you were wondering): twelve years ago, in England, for a nasty bout of pneumonia I managed to catch on one of my many transglobal flights from Tokyo to London.  At that time, also, I remember, stuck in a hospital for eight days, how important smell and being clean and nice-smelling was to me. I have never felt so ill in my life, and was in fact alone, prior to being hospitalized, housesitting for a friend of a friend in an unbelievably posh house just off Hampstead Heath. Duncan had gone up to Norwich to prepare for his brother’s wedding, and I was to be joining him. Instead, I was curled up in the foetal position in the attic room at the top, unable to move or eat even one bite, totally isolated, semi-conscious… It was only when I managed, eventually, to slowly drag myself like a zombie to a nearby clinic, that I was given the news by the sweet and understanding doctor that I in fact had very serious pneumonia.




I remember tearily calling Duncan, excusing myself from the wedding, packing my bag, and walking, resignedly, down the road to the Royal Free, where I checked myself in and waited to be seen by the doctors. It was so strange. In fact, I was so feverish that the nurses couldn’t believe I had walked there (“get this man cooled down RIGHT NOW – he is forty two degrees!!!!!! Strip him off! Get him on a stretcher!!!!), but my sister, bless her, managed to get there very quickly and was in bemused hysterics as I flung lemon and lime essential oils all about me insisting that the room had to smell nice for the doctors, even as people who had been hit by cars or were in various other truly dire circumstances  (“I have gone blind“) wailed and moaned in the thinly curtained off spaces next to us. No, I was more worried about my scent than the fact that my brain was about to be fried like an egg if my temperature didn’t start to go down quickly (and I am a person who never gets fevers).


My delirum continued as I kept asking for more blankets to ward off the shivers (“You are honestly the messiest patient I have ever met!!!” one Australian nurse told me as she picked up the maelstrom of bedding that surrounded my hospital bed the following morning), and I felt so miserable and gross: all greasy-haired, slimy and foul-smelling, like a barnacle clinging to filthy, hallucinogenic rock, desperate, desperate to be clean and bathed.



Duncan had of course rushed back down to London, even though he had only just arrived in Norwich, and early the next morning he arrived with me pleading for toiletries, I couldn’t stand it, I was dying etc. And never have I been so tear-filled with relief to see a comb, some soap, and a new perfume. The angel had come back with some delighftul lemon soap and L’Occitane’s Vetvyer, a bracing, masculine and scent that was so perfectly chosen on his part that I thank him to this day. Although I was banned from bathing  – I remember eyeing the hospital bathtub with yearning and lust everytime I staggered past it – I remember, after a scrub, a few spritzes of that refreshing perfume and a rinse and comb of my grotesque strands, I felt a hundred times better and alive again, an effect more revivifying than any über-strengthed lung searing antibiotics could ever have hoped to achieve.



This time though ( can I be really writing about this? Should I not be processing it all before immediately splurging to the world? What is wrong with me? ) I suppose I will be much more immobile. Well I will be, of course, because my knee will have been cut up (god, I don’t think I can stand it, actually……I feel quite panicked writing this: I have always been queasy about knee-caps, the way they float in liquid, lonely above your knee, they have always felt so vulnerable….Jesus, HELP!!!! Have any of you had a similar experience or know someone who has? Will I ever dance again?  Is it going to be utterly excruciating?)








I expect so. Although Duncan says I am usually fairly brave in that regard. No, facetious though it may sound, it is the psychological agonies that worry me more than the operation. I remember, that last time in London, pleading with the docs for sleeping pills as I just couldn’t sleep with all the old men coughing and spluttering, all the nurses and staff coming and going all through the night ( I will leave an address at the bottom where you can all start sending me all your discarded psychotropes and mind-altering drugs for my stay, any unneeded valium, xanax, or tamazepan, just to keep me nice and calm.) Although usually a mug of rooibos tea and some sweet marjoram on my pilow is enough to send me to sleep when agitated, at that dreadful time, I was so grateful for the ‘little helpers’, weird though they were (where usually I have incredibly bountiful, strange, shocking, beautiful dreams) on this case it all felt like a razor cut film edit by Thelma Schoonmaker: one minute I was being tucked in by the nurse, the next it was suddenly the bright and breezy person shouting out ‘BREAKFAST!!!’ I felt as though my dreams had been stolen, my brain excised). But at least I did sleep. One’s worries in these situations really must be assuaged. And aside the vile reality of my gagging on fish guts or soy-cooked, straggling beef fat and fermented soy beans, the issue of smell really really does matter to me. Essential oils are most definitely vital, also for the fact that they ward off the diseases that hospitals these days are inundated with (you won’t be able to get near me for eucalyptus and rosemary).  Also, do I shave my hair off to lessen its grossness and to go the full ill-patient hog? (hair must be washed every day in my book?) More importantly, what do I drench my hospital ‘garments’ in?




And how about the ‘big day’ itself? I have just thought. What do you think about Kenzo Pour Homme? Should I go all fresh and ozonic? I have the deodorant stick and the vintage eau de toilette: fresh, edgy, patchouli sea waterish…..might work in the dire conditions of unconsciousness and butchering, and always good in summertime. Or do I go for something that I like more, one closer to my heart for comfort? Maybe not actually. Imagine five days stewing in Bal A Versailles or the lower echelons of Shalimar. I think the surgeons, faced with such a funky, reeking monstrosity, might just instead in that situation, put me out of my misery. Death by perfume. Execution style.







Filed under Flowers


  1. Sally M

    Ok first of all… BREATHE in out in out – good.
    Now I do know something about this as my husband had the same thing. First of all, where is your tear – is it the red or white zone of the meniscus? How big is the tear? This makes a difference as to if you really need surgery, what they do if so, and how well it will heal. Second, its bloody odd that you will have to stay in the hospital for 5 days. I know its Japan and they probably do things differently, but normally a stay isn’t longer than one day – my husband was out the next day with the knee brace on. A friend had hers done and was out the same day. They should be doing arthroscopic surgery – making small incisions to put a tiny camera in so they can see what’s what and doing the repair with little instruments. Ice packs, rest and pain killers for a few days, then the physical therapy starts. Hubby had the brace on for 6 weeks and did non weight bearing stuff. Then the brace came off and weight bearing stuff for another 6.
    According to him, yes it was painful, but not excruciating – he made sure to keep his leg elevated and did his PT religiously.
    Anyhoo, if you *do* have to stay in that long, I would certainly consider getting your hair cut really short, especially if its going to be hot. A little humidifier with gobs of eucalyptus would be a great idea for your bedside table. I’d also get some unscented cleansing wipes like they have for babies – the ones in the plastic boxes – and add some citrus oils to them. Orange or lemon would be really good. Then you can kill 2 birds with one wipe – refresh yourself so you don’t fall into the feeling like the bottom of a bird cage pit and perk yourself up with the aromatherapy thing of citrus.
    Not sure how you are with lavender, but its very calming so you might consider that too. Failing all this, I could send you what remains of hubby’s drugs….

    • Thank you so much for this, Sally. ‘Painful not excruciating’ is exactly what I needed to hear, as well as exact information on the operation itself.

      This is the problem: as an expat, I am no longer eligible for the British National Health Service (in fact, that time I was in hospital in London, which was an amazingly nice place with great food, staff and all FREE, (can you imagine?)……as I sat on my bed on my last day looking out over London and contemplating my strange existence, a woman, a ‘detective’ if you like, came to visit me, questioning me on where I lived and so on, saying that if there wasn’t concrete evidence that I had been back to the UK at least once a year for the previous seven years then I would be eligible for a 7000 pound bill, money I definitively didn’t have anywhere. I was in a total panic, the main reason being that – and I know this sounds fictitious but it isn’t – my bag had been stolen by a ‘Chinese knife wielding maniac’ who had actually come into my school one fine morning when I was doing a teacher training class, and in it, just on THAT day, as I had just transferred some money to England, was my passport. Two weeks before I was due to leave. So I had this horrendous stress trying to get a new passport, which obviously had no stamps or evidence in it saying I had been to England at all, and then this shrewd woman who was hounding me and saying I had to pay this money! Nightmare. I had to go and see her for interviews, but I did my best to appear forlorn (and I was still very weak from the pneumonia in any case), but as it turned out, her own daughter had actually died of pneumonia relatively recently and so she was moved to pity and didn’t make me pay.

      So anyway, I can’t go to the UK, and my mother on the phone was saying last night that she thought I would be better off in Japan in any case as the state of the NHS is so dire. Which is all very well, but my Japanese, ok-ish though it is, isn’t sufficient to understand all the minor details of what knee surgery entails, so I am not 100% sure of what the specialist was talking about, even though it was interspersed with rudimentary English. Apparently, though, as Duncan was saying, they do keep you in hospital much longer here than in other countries – they really do do things differently here (at the dentist, for example, you are supposed to keep going week after week after week, which all amounts to a fortune in the end). If I am in their system, I will just have to do it their way. But as I say, I didn’t entirely understand what kind of meniscus tear I have, but it seemed to be the worse one that is much harder to repair.

      In any case, knowing that it should all be manageable is very soothing to hear. Thank you.

      • PS. I do adore a good quality lavender, and will most definitely be taking some with me. It is the king in some regards in terms of its germ-killing qualities, soothingness, and pleasant aroma. What variety do you like the best? Recently, some of the best aromatherapy shops in Japan have started stocking an amazing array of lavenders: not just the usual French, English traditional, Bulgarian, but Mexican, high altitude, all the different Spike Lavenders and so on, as well as organic Hokkaido homegrown varieties.

      • Sally M

        re the lavender – I use 2 types of lavender essential oil. Angustifolia which is the one most used in aromatherapy and is not so camphor-y but more “sweet” and latifolia which is the Spike lavender you referred too – this is more camphor-y and a bit more on the spicy side.

        Ugh – I get the hideousness of the NHS – I spent the first 28 years of my life in the UK. I tell ya tho, the last 29 years have been spent in the US and the health system here has its share of problems but for different reasons as you may well know. $$$$$$$$$. And the infection thing!! I have just been visiting a friend who had a bike accident and was in ICU – we’ve all had to wear masks because of flu things and various other infections that are apparently running rampant in the hospital – scary. When my hubby was in last year for quad bypass surgery they were more worried about infection (and not from the op!!) than anything else.

        Your awful story about your passport sounds like a very bad movie which you would probably laugh at on the screen – being the “star” of it however, is another matter. That’s an eye opener about the bill – I had no idea that was the case. I still have my British passport and just assumed I would be okay in still receiving health care there if I should need it. But the same would apply to me – I’ve not been back there for that long at any one time so I’d probably be screwed.

      • It was all INTENSELY stressful!

  2. David

    I’m so sorry to read about your need for surgery. If I were to be hospitalized in the summer, I would always have a cool cloth sprayed with Alvarez Gomez Agua de Colonia Concentrada by my bedside.They also conveniently make towelettes. You can get both at an import shop on that main avenue (is it Aoyama Dori?) near the original Kinokuniya supermarket. What kind of essential oils will you bring? I’d do something with orange. I’d also mix up a spray with rose water. I would also luxuriate in the idea of two months off. I know, I know, maybe that means no pay. But stock up on books. Could you convalesce somewhere? The Inland Sea area of Hiroshima Prefecture is very peaceful, but might be too hilly ( or might be good if the doctors recommend a bit of exercise as physical therapy). Whenever I am faced with a medical issue, I watch the old movie with Bette Davis called “Dark Victory.” I’ve got you on the prayer list.

    • Thanks David: I will have to seek that film out!

      I actually do have a bottle of the Alvarez upstairs. Although I was a bit surprised by the musked cloviness of the ending, it is definitely a winner, and shall be splashed liberally over my sheets. Rose water sounds gorgeous as well, actually. So appeasing on the face when you are stressed.

      As for the convalescence, I am just going to have to contact my bosses and ask them what the deal will be. I have decided there is no way I can wait until August!

      You know, though, these days in Japan, a good teaching job is a rare and precious thing. Although I do sometimes moan about my job on here, as it is genuinely stressful quite often (but that is more because teaching ITSELF, unless one to one, has become stressful – I just hate having to stand up in front of people, even though I am quite the showman. It just makes me feel violated a lot of the time, extreme though that may sound. I hate being watched and JUDGED by these clever Japanese high school students, even I simultaneously have a great time with them and love the adrenalined, thinking on your feet aspect.)

  3. ninakane1

    Neil, I’m so sorry to hear this. What a nightmare! You will get through it, but it sounds like it’s a rocky Summer ahead. The advice given by people above here sounds great. Re: perfumes. I reckon cologne, cologne, cologne. Go for the simple, well-made watery ones. Anything from the Roger and Galet range – Gingembre is particularly refreshing for cutting through that hot, sticky feeling and is uplifting. 4711 for the armpits tends to be quite intense and long-wearing. Re: stick deodarants – try Tom of Maine perhaps? Take a load of essential oils in with you just to smell as much as wear – lemongrass, peppermint, lavender, marjoram. Thinking of you and sending strength, hoping it can get sorted soon. Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help. xx

    • Marjoram is my absolute favourite as you know : I can’t live without it as nothing, nothing! relaxes me the way that does. It seems to have a direct connection to my nervous system in a way that no other essential oil does. I have a rocky relation with peppermint, though I recognize its brilliance.

      As for colognes, yes, most definitely. I think you have mentioned the ginger one before – it sounds lovely. I think Roger and Gallet in general are underrated – I really love their Lavande Imperiale, actually, which comes in deodorants, soaps, sprays, and is just so lovely, with a distinctive nutmeg note that somehow works perfectly. Actually, you have given me ideas…….

      I will be in London in two weeks, and you can get their products in those lovely high end chemists. Roger and Gallet here we come!

      As for the knee operation itself, I am fearful of it, but reading what everyone has been saying here, it sounds as if it is less terrifying than I was expecting. There is just something about being cut up that is so hideous!

  4. I do empathise. I sheared my medial meniscus on my right knee and have had a spell in Kings College Hospital where they had a reasonably high mortality rate and MRSA infection rate so here is my survival guide;

    If you are at all hairy legged, get that leg waxed or shave it. Waxing is longer lasting. The reasoning being that you can take a stool into a hospital shower and sit under the shower safely if you have first wrapped the knee in plastic bags and sealed the edges with brown plastic packing tape which stays on quite well. Being hairless in that area will make tape removal so much easier. You can then shower 2 or 3 times a day.

    Don’t take any fragrance that you actually like into hospital or you will have a forever Pavlovian dislike towards it.

    Take Fragonia essential oil with you as it is the ultimate anti everything even MRSA but safe to use on the skin. Put some into your shower gel and shampoo and let that be your fragrance.

    When you are out and recuperating, assuming your physio agrees it is not too soon, wobble boards are brilliant at strengthening up the surrounding muscles to take the strain. Easy to do whilst watching television.

    My medial miniscus is still not right as I was not offered an operation here as the hospital told me once it was sheared it was final and inoperable and I would need to use a wheelchair for the rest of my life. There would be an outside chance that I could use crutches. I ignored their doom forecast and sought out a brilliant physio and with the wobble board now walk most days like normal. On a bad day I have a slight limp. I still think I could go dancing but at my age, that is probably best left as a thought only.
    Good luck!

    • Sally M

      Excellent point about the Pavlovian association to frags you like – I never thought of that. So glad to see you didn’t go down the Path of Doom that doctors are always so willingly to entice you on. Good for you and hope that you continue to heal.

    • Such brilliant advice here, thank you so much, really.

      Bravo to you for ignoring the doom forecasts ( I was also told after that terrible pneumonia bout that I would never be the same again, but I recovered fully) and going with the great physio instead.

      My mum was talking about the MSRA nightmare last night (I am from Birmingham and the dreaded Staffordshire ‘hospital’ with its plague of disease is not so far away!), and how it is probably better I stay here in Japan. Is it not DREADFUL that we have to be even talking about ‘high mortality rates’ in the UK of all places? That getting infected in hospital is more of a threat than whatever procedure you are going to be having?

      Thanks also for the practical advice regarding showering, and also the idea of adding essential oils to shampoos and shower gels and so on, which is something I often do anyway, but would do even more in such a situation, especially given the heat of summer.

      Also the Pavlovian response: I hadn’t thought of that. I was even considering Chanel no 19 as it has the best dry down on me of all time, pure elegance and long lastingness, and I just know I would be the most suave-smelling patient they had ever had, particularly if it was combined with a few surreptitious dashes of vetiver oil on my person…..I am still tempted, actually, but would hate to ruin my favourite perfume.

  5. Katherine

    Oh no! I obviously don’t know about the laws regarding workers rights in Japan and in your particular contract but I’m hoping that after you talk to them about it they may be more understanding than you fear? If it were something worse surely they would have to support you?! Not that it makes it any less sucky to find out about it but if you can let go of the work pressures and insist on the time out it sort of seems necessary to sort it out sooner and not over your holiday time. But sorry if that glaringly obvious objection just adds to the exasperation/upset!

    Yes wipes and facial spritzes, though I know there’s nothing as good as immersing yourself in water. I personally find rosewater calming and rejuvenating, though maybe that’s a bit pale in the hospital environment and something more potent called for – I like the kingly direction! I’ve just started assisting on a piece of hospital art, a large intricate window lattice, which one hopes will make a positive influence – but what patients really need are bathing and fragrance to aid the healing! I too am horrified at the thought of bedpans etc, though I reckon you’ll be able to hop about?! My Mum had a very bad leg break a year ago and I think she was lucky enough to find humour and camaraderie on the ward, and she loves nothing more than going for walks, but her spirits weren’t too low and to my memory she was up and about again remarkably quickly! Xx

    • I am very interested in your hospital art. Where are you doing it? What kind of design are you doing? How did you get involved in it? I love the idea of such a thing, something that for the sensitive of spirit could actually make quite a big difference to how they feel.

      Great to hear that your mum was back walking: hearing these stories is very cheering indeed. Thanks K.

  6. Rafael

    Jesus Neil. What distressing news.Nothing to do but get it over with and soldier on. Won’t be pleasant but will, eventually, be over. Best of luck with it. Know your public is standing by so don’t forget your laptop and a big box of samples to carry you and us on while confined. Aside, my saving grace fragrance for things that have to be dealt with like this, including 2 weeks of not bathing up and down the Amazon River, has always been Jean Nate (iced if possible.) It’s light, it’s deep, int’s antiseptic and most importantly doesn’t turn acrid regardless of how much or how often you aply. All thoughts are with you during this challenge and best wishes go along for the swiftest of Action Hero recoveries. I’ll post so everyone knows “Victoria Page will not be performing the Dance of the Red Shoes tonight.”

    • !! Love it. Never heard of Jean Nate, but HOW COULD YOU BEAR NOT SHOWERING FOR TWO WEEKS DOWN THE AMAZON RIVER?!!!!!

      How amazing though. I need to hear more about this trip. It sounds incredible. You know, I was obsessed with the Amazon when I was a child.I was actually originally going to be going to Brazil, and in fact had accepted a job position there, but because of meeting Duncan decided not to go, but when I was a weird little 9 year old (rather than a weird 43 year old) I actually wrote to the Brazilian Embassy in London asking for an information pack about Brazil and the Amazon, and when it came, this big bumper package of pamphlets and booklets, I would spend my days poring over it, sure that one day I would also go.

      Strangely, Japan has changed me, and I am much less interested in South America than I used to be, for some reason. Just can’t face getting kidnapped.

  7. First, let me say that I am sorry that you have to have surgery–as no surgery is pleasant no matter how minor. However, my ex-husband had two meniscus surgeries (one on each knee) within three weeks of each other and he did fine, although the first was easier than the second. Still, he was up and around in no time. One of my sons, on the other hand, had ACL surgery which was much more serious and a much longer recovery. And my youngest son broke his femur in two places while on a European trip an his was the most serious. So I would say that you will be okay in a very short time…and yes you will dance again and do any other forms of exercise as well. As for the perfume, I would go with fresh for this event. I can’t help you with the hospital food but I’m sure Duncan will see to that. If you were having that surgery here in the USA, it would be out-patient surgery. Good luck to you and keep us posted!
    Good luck!

    • Thanks very much, Filomena.

      Blimey, your family has certainly had its share of leg injuries! Great to know that everyone managed to heal, though. The thought of being immobile is obviously quite hideous, so I love to hear stories of people being back on their feet very quickly.

  8. Katy

    My Dear Neil, you will be fine. I seriously doubt you will be hospitalized for 5 days! You will not have to use a bedpan. You will be up and hobbling right after your procedure! Just do exactly what your Doctor and physical therapist tell you to do. The only people I know who have had trouble with this very common procedure are the ones who could not/would not follow directions. It may sound counterintuitive, but if you can strengthen your core muscles and your upper body a bit, whilst not putting more pressure on your knee, your recovery time will be much quicker. You will dance again! I am a huge rose water fan. I spritz myself several times a day. I adore lavender as well. I also find cheerful jasmines very enervating. I think your essential oils and a designated hospital cologne will get you through . Perhaps your food preferences could be designated as vegan or vegetarian for your hospital stay? That way there would not be fishy broths, but perhaps more fresh fruits and vegetables? Duncan can smuggle you something more appetizing if necessary. Ice and heat that knee for now. I use a bag of frozen peas, cheap and flexible. Use a hot water bottle or a heating pad. Take your favorite over the counter anti inflammatory. Baby your knee a bit, but live your life. Bash on!

    • Thanks very much, Katy. Lavender, definitely, yes, and jasmine I love as well: it somehow takes you beyond the banality of wherever you are – so shimmering with life and lust, love it.

      I think you definitely do have to do all the proper knee-strengthening exercises ( I was just doing some this morning ), and just try to be healthy generally, not something my dissolute lifestyle always supports!

      As for food, as everyone knows, Japanese food is the most healthy, and I like a great deal of it, but there are still just so many things I can’t bear, anything overly ‘fishy’ (even though I really love grilled fish), but anything involving fermentation, or organs, or seaweed, or raw, makes me honestly feel sick. I have been to a sushi restaurant here ONCE in seventeen years! My neighbour was very ill a couple of years ago, and when we went to visit her, even she was turning her nose up at this very healthy looking, but utterly revolting, evening dinner. Duncan would be forced to smuggle in pineapple and avocados and oranges, all the things I love, along with cheese baguettes, tomatoes, and perhaps a touch of chocolate!

  9. I’m so sorry that you are facing this, but you will get through it. Last October I had to have my hip replaced and pelvic bone massively reshaped, and these days I am walking everywhere, riding my bike, and dancing. The days in the hospital were contrary to personal dignity, but some jasmine essential oil helps. Once you escape the hospital, it is pretty much a question of how hard you work at physical therapy. I found it somewhat painful but honestly, not nearly as painful as the mess I had before the surgery.
    Are you sure it will be 5 days inpatient? My surgery was extensive and required temporary catheterization due to the pelvic work and still I only had to stay in for three nights.
    The food can kill you. A faithful companion who brings you green veggies that are actually green is the best thing that can happen to you.
    You can get through this, and in the long run your quality of life will be much improved. My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.
    We will all be cheering you on!

    • Thanks, Jasmine. I love the phrase ‘contrary to personal dignity’! Delighted that you came through your own procedures fit and healthy: walking everywhere, dancing… fantastic. I remember you mentioning you had been in hospital, actually. Did it affect your sense of smell or appreciation for fine scents in any way? Does one just become anesthetized to such things? I can imagine that perfumes themselves of any complexity could almost become nauseating…

      As could the food, definitely. But I have the D, and he will sort me out in that regard. Hidden almonds……

      About the length of surgery, I am not sure. That is what the doctor actually said, but I need to look more into it for sure. I get claustrophobic just thinking about five days of fish broth, the smell of warm piss everywhere, and insomnia.

      • When I got out I was so pathetically grateful for anything that smelled good, and everything smelled good. The first morning after I got home, the scent of coffee brewing and my husband frying bacon was so beautiful I wanted to cry. The only difference that I experienced in my sense of smell was that, for about two weeks afterwards, the raunchier ouds would make me feel ill, as if my nose had OD’d on poop smells for a while. But that was rather minor. Actually, noise at night and the consequent insomnia were the biggest problem in the hospital. Don’t set foot in that hospital until they promise you some really good sleeping medication!
        I have faith that no Japanese hospital will be allowed to smell of warm piss. It wouldn’t be allowed. Would it?

      • Oh god it would. You have no idea. Japan, to the outside world, seems so high tech, and in some ways it is. But you should see some dentists’ surgeries…

        No, warm piss a la chamomile tea is a very real reality.

        As for sleep medication: actually. I never take it, but know I will. I am one who needs the right temperature, darkness and silence to sleep so I know that is an absolute must.

        Your smellness post-op is fascinating to me. I can picture the bacon and coffee perfectly.

  10. Lilybelle

    I’m so sorry, Mr. Ginza! How horrible to have to go through all that, but I doubt it’s going to be as horrible as you imagine. Knee surgery is so common these days and apparently easy peasy. And you’re not going to be “butchered”. Get thyself back into the 21st century. I do sympathize, though, as I haven’t had any knee or joint surgery done (yet). I would be apprehensive (freaking, more like), too. I don’t like hospitals. Poor thing! 😦 But you won’t be wearing a knee brace forever. You will heal and probably quickly. Nobody knows better than you what scents to bring to the hospital with you. Me, I’d bring lemon and lavender oils, and probably some green cedar oil that I have and find very calming, some rosewater for spraying, a bar of rose soap. Some sort of eau de cologne. All good recommendations above. Yes, by all means cut your hair short. You can wash it with eau de cologne, massaging your scalp with it, which would be refreshing and nice smelling as long as the alcohol doesn’t bother you. The surgery and recovery will go well, and quickly, and with much less pain and upheaval than you are anticipating. These things are always much worse in our imaginations. Keep us up to date on everything, ok? We’re all wishing you well and you can vent and cry on our shoulders. I wish we could be there to spoil you and comfort you. In lieu of that, sending you virtual love and hugs. xo

    • Lemon, rose, lavender…….just writing them feels calming already!

      You are right, I am sure, about the healing process being much faster than I am imagining, and the operation itself being more ghastly than I am anticipating. And I really appreciate the thoughtful words: arigato!!!

  11. Dearest Ginza
    Poor you.
    Though Papa Dandy had a double knee replacement four weeks ago and was walking with a zimmer the following day and out of the hospital with three.
    He claims to have suffered little or no pain, despite refusing anything more than ibuprofen after the initial blast of morphine and is now walking – gingerly – but unaided.
    Imagine British hospital food too…
    In advance he was warned of trauma of epic proportions and pain unimaginable… methinks most surgeons are sadists (is there any other explanation for entering a profession that involves the controlled dismemberment of your fellow man?).
    Perhaps, just perhaps, it might not be as bad as it could appear to be on the paon front. But inconvenience wise, it stinks, no way round it, it is pooh on a stick.
    Perfume wise one could go with the pleasant cirtuses, calming lavenders, and light florals or… exacts a communal vengeance on all and sundry with the biggest, boldest most baroque pongs inamginable.
    Will soothing scents or schadenfreude feel best? I’ll leave you to be the judge of that!
    Yours ever, and do be careful of those steroid injections,
    The Perfumed Dandy

    • Why, what’s wrong with steroid injections?

      WHAT’S WRONG WITH STEROID INJECTIIIOOONNNNSS!!!! he screamed in hypochondriac panic…..

      Umm….schadenfreude…interesting. I do know that the nurses will certainly find the aura surrounding me olfactarily memorable. I would LOVE to be thought of as that ‘lovely smelling foreign patient’. Failing that, I can just be the stinking freak in the corner, but we can be very sure that there will be some scent happening.

      Glad your father is doing well. My dad also had the double job, and is fine as well, horrific though it all sounded. Do you really think that surgeons are sadists? I know what you mean, actually, although perhaps they just want the patients to be relieved that it all wasn’t as dreadful as they had been anticipating……

      • Dearest Ginza
        Administered correctly they are fantastic. However, I’ve heard that when given out over-enthusiastically they can do more harm than good and impede surgery.
        Two good friends are surgeons. You should hear how they talk behind closed doors.
        Sadists all.
        Yours ever
        The Perfumed Dandy

      • Veritas

        Yes….be careful of steroid injections…I had one applied to my knee thirty years ago and could not walk for several days….my leg felt as though it weighed as much as an elephant…

  12. jtd0000

    Best of luck and health! I hope it’s a quick visit to hospital and an uneventful recovery. A perfumed life is a wonderful thing to carry into the hospital and from me, a nurse, three bits for you. 1) Symptom management: what would help you when you’re having pain? nauea? fear? boredom? 2)We tend to take away your power and chip away at your identity when you’re hospitalized. What will bolster you against that? (I find a good ‘happy place’ perfume and a ‘fuck you all’ fragrance appropriate.). 3) Consider bringing something you’ve always wanted to try and suspect will be a pleasure. When you’re feeling it, put it on. Deciding to make good associations is very helpful. Best, jtd.

  13. Having a nurse telling me to bring a ‘fuck you all’ fragrance is sheer BLISS. I thank you, Jtd.

    Brilliant advice. I mean, the whole piece I wrote was somewhat more facetious than people seem to have realized, but I do nevertheless really care about the scents surrounding me in that environment.

    Incidentally, do the nurses just become inured to the whole bedpan/bedwash thing, or does it continue to be repulsive on a daily basis? I would love to hear more from the nurse’s perspective.

    Thanks for commenting!

  14. Martha

    I tend to agree with Sally M in thinking that you probably won’t spend 5 days in the hospital. In fact, if this surgery is handled like it would be here in the U.S, you would probably spend one night in the hospital, or perhaps it might be done in an outpatient setting. As a home health nurse I see people who’ve had total knee replacements and they spend only 2 or 3 nights in the hospital. Of course, we’re brutal here in the U.S. due to our effed up health insurance programs.

    I don’t have specific ideas about which oils/perfume you ought to take, but if it were me, I’d take whatever made me feel whole, strong, comforted, attractive. For sure, as jtd0000 said, those of us working in the hospital will wear you down with continual measurements and assessments of your body, and the workers in the building may adore you for bringing a beautiful aroma(s) with you to scent your quarters.

    So, about those bedpans… I’m sorry to say that even after 20 or so years, I’d still rather not deal with shit. You’d think I would be inured to it, but shit is shit and it is repulsive, it stinks. However, I am far more tolerant of disgusting bodily fluids/products than most non-nurses. I certainly don’t dwell on the contents of the bedpan once it is dumped and flushed. Since I work in home health, I typically don’t have to deal with poo directly though occasionally I give an enema or perform the evil digital disimpaction.

    • L’HORREUR!!!!

      I had forgotten you are a nurse: I remember now your wonderful surreptitious wearing of things under your uniform and how you were getting compliments from that patient about….which perfume was it?

      Thanks for dealing up the reality on the bedpan issue. I will just have to man-up and bear it, I suppose.

      I don’t entirely get this thing about nurses trying to wear you down: another reader also mentioned this. Although I do remember the awful injections I was forced to endure in London ( I HATED the ones directly into the stomach wall….god), and the fact that the nurses said I was horrendously messy, which I was/ am, I don’t have any memories of people trying to wear me down at all. I’d like to hear more about what you say on this topic.

      As for the time spent there, I am getting now that most people don’t have to spend that long in hospital for a knee replacement, but it does seem that Japanese hospitals keep you in longer. Also, as you say, there is a national health service: all Japanese, and many foreigners (but not me, I have private insurance which I haven’t claimed on yet – thank god I upped it to the silver plan this year somehow on instinct) pay regular health insurance and so the cost is mainly covered. Japan is far more egalitarian in many ways than the States, where if I were poor, I suppose I would just have to lump it.

      • Martha

        As for “wearing” the poor patient down: it isn’t really deliberate. What happens is that clinicians come in at all hours, on a nearly continuous basis it seems (except for when they’re really needed), and the poor patient gets no rest. You get weighed, have your blood pressure, temperature, pulse, lungs, heart assessed. There are numerous questions. The same ones over and over.

        I apologize for being blunt about the poo. Good lord, what was I thinking? My profession is one reason why I read perfume blogs. It is much better to read, write, and talk about aromas that smell lovely than it is to discuss the inevitable stench of life. To be honest, the idea of being hospitalized, sharing a room with somebody, and then trying to use the toilet without privacy makes me cringe.

        The perfume I wore one day at work was vintage Emeraude parfum de toilette. What a good memory you have!

      • It was a very vivid thing you wrote about, and contrary to what you may think, I am actually really enjoying the frank bluntness of the discussions we are all having on here: let the shit hit the fan!

        You all know I am prone to flights of fancy and ‘poetic’ indulgence when it comes to perfume, but I also like the earthy contrasts with brazen reality. As a perfume loving nurse who has to come into contact with these realities on a regular basis, I think you make for a very interesting contributor to the proceedings.

        To be honest, the Japanese teaching world is not especially fragrantly pleasing I must say. My work clothes smell of something, something schoolish, teenagerish, boyish, and I am always bunging my suits and coats in the washing machine and ruining them, but I just can’t stand it. There are no bad smells per se, just human ones, but for someone who yearns for beautiful smells it is a drab, unpleasing world indeed. Today I had no perfume on at all, save for a tiny touch of Il Profumo’s Vanille Bourbon on my scarf. I almost preferred it, actually, as I blended in better. But I incense the house so that when I arrive home I am greeted with stronger, more interesting smells. I even put patchouli on top of the door, so that when you open it it wafts out and you think…..ah yes, that’s much better….

      • Martha, I remember this so well! I especially recall being woken at 2am by a respiratory therapist who said brightly “I’m here to introduce you to your incentive spirometer!!” I assured her politely that I knew how to use it and had been using it since my surgery two days earlier, and she said “well, we need to go through your introduction and training. How much do you know about your lungs?” I told her again that I knew how to use it, was using it, and would now be going back to sleep. She was insistent. When I asked her why this was occurring at 2 am and over 48 hours after the surgery, she admitted “we forgot, and we have got to get this box checked in case you leave tomorrow.” I pointed out that if I had gotten a pulmonary embolism in the 48 hours post-op it would have been a real problem if that box wasn’t already checked. She said “Some people are really grumpy when you wake them up.” No shit.

      • This cheeriness sounds HELLISH!!!!

      • I can FEEL the drugged up desperation of your need to sleep here; it is passing to me directly through the wires.

      • Talking of which, I am off to bed. x

  15. So sorry to hear about your knee. I don’t have any advice on the surgery itself but have a funny story to relate. A colleague was telling me about surgery that her former manager had to go through…something with one of her knees and she thought it was to repair her hibiscus. I dearly enjoy working with this colleague but her malaprops make me cringe sometimes 🙂

    As to a scent, why don’t you bring the whole array of Atelier Colognes as they cover the gamut from citrusy to cozy. If I recall, you weren’t too keen about them but you tolerate them well enough to wear them sometimes (or perhaps I could be mistaking you for another blogger).

    In any case, I wish you well on your upcoming surgery.

    • Actually, I had thought of Atelier, strangely enough. They are pleasant in the extreme and could kind of work.

      And from now on, I definitely do have a torn hibiscus, not meniscus. Hilarious!!

  16. Torn meniscus. Another thing we have in common! I tore mine jumping off our deck Rambo-style to fend off the Rhode Island Red rooster who was attacking my daughter. I heard her scream and my flight-or-fight simply took over. Didn’t feel a thing until I turned around to head back and simply could not walk. I was in denial for months until my supremely painful and swollen knee severely compromised any sort of activity, even mincing about.

    Surgery was the easy part. Out-patient, arthroscopic, minimally invasive and very quick. I was walking the next day and even popped into Manhattan 2 days later. My surgery was done in the boondocks of upstate NY, so what is this I’m hearing about a 5 day stay? Make sure you have a surgeon who has treated athletes. Yes, this is an athletes affliction. Doesn’t that make you feel better?

    As a veteran of other surgeries, including 2 c-sections and one who has utilized perfume therapeutically to get through grad school, the architecture licensing exam and other stressful situations, I highly recommend taking several different oils with you. I found lavender to be too camphoraceous to be comforting and turned instead to my floral standbys: rose and jasmine. I also eschewed the pain medication that was thrown/pushed my way, opting instead for mental clarity to properly gauge my pain threshold. It was just never that bad so I directed my mental energy to getting up as soon as possible. The oils REALLY helped and I’ve not have any Pavlovian reactions to them. They are too multifaceted for that anyway!

    Will be sending you some positive thoughts to get you through this, and I’m confident you will be fine. If I can do it, anyone can!!

    • Thanks so much for this. You write so vividly I can feel it.

      I also, stupidly it must be said, have ignored the problem for way too long: in the last ten days though it has deteriorated to such an extent that I knew I couldn’t put it off a moment longer. Walking the way I am is very undignified, but then I am quite used to embarrassment as I am so clumsy and rude that I am often in humiliating-ish predicaments.

      Pain, though: you have an interesting stance. It kind of makes sense to me, in some strangely instinctive way, wanting to push yourself experientially and in terms of sentience, but at the same time the thought of SEARING pain is obviously terrifying, I think my S/M balance is fairly healthy in that regard.

      I am interested in your stories of perfume getting you through stressful experiences. Natural perfumes? Your own?

      • I’m not a fan of pain either, but I’d rather be the one to decide if I need the meds or not! The few times I’ve taken them, they’ve thrown me for a loop. I’m also of the opinion that if you feel some pain, you won’t make any funny moves that might further compromise your healing process.

        I’ve always relied on natural extractions and my own blends during medical procedures, probably because I contemplate their structure and it takes my mind off of the unpleasant stuff. They also have a certain vibration. During my c-sections (not procedures I elected to have) my husband wafted my essential oils under my nose which really helped me focus and stay calm. But I don’t see why a gorgeous perfume blend wouldn’t be able to do the trick! Whenever I fly I make sure I have a plastic baggie full of decants in my purse, natural and mixed media. Why don’t you try that? Duncan might have to smuggle them into your room, from what you’ve described about your host culture’s abhorrence of perfume!

  17. Tora

    Oh crap. That news must have been such a blow. But hey, meniscus surgery should be just an arthroscopic procedure, no ligaments torn in the process, and minimal pain. You will not have to use a bed pan!! I don’t understand the 5 day stay as my hubby had his done last year, and was home that evening. He was on crutches for 4 days and in physical therapy by the end of the week. It is basically a clean up job where they go in and shave the torn piece. But my nursing days are far behind me, so I can’t call myself an expert by any means. I do not think it will be nearly as bad as your imagination is making it.

    As far as perfume goes, I think that is a tough one. You don’t want to create memories of association of a fragrance with a negative experience. But it would be nice to have something to smell that takes you to your happy place. I would take some decants of a bunch of perfumes. Ones that really make you smile. Essential oils on your pillow would also be nice.

    I will someday, hopefully not too soon, have to have a total knee replacement . I will be asking You what to wear, when that happens..

    It will be okay, Neil. A total drag, to be sure, but you will Rock that surgery!!!!

    • Thanks so much. You know I am so glad I put this up: it has been so informative. I would never have known that this was so common, or that do many perfumistas have knee stories in common. I will probably go for aromatherapy over perfumery, but still reckon I might rock Chanel No 19 vintage parfum on the operating table. It will simply elevate me above it, and I will sink under the anaesthetic in its graceful, sylvan embrace.

  18. I am so sorry about this… I will try and give you the advice I give myself in situations like this. Actually it is not mine, it is NIKE’s: just do it! Don’t think about it. Thinking about things never got anyone anywhere. When the time comes you will know how to cope with this. The bedpan thing would be a huge problem for me too but the “just do it” exhortation really works here as well. Nothing is as big and as complicated as it appears in our mind. Or maybe it is, but being faced with the reality of the problem somehow makes one react more instinctively. All the best.

  19. Veritas

    This is the fragrance you should wear..
    you already know how much I detest hospital stays so I wish you well and best of luck with the surgery

  20. Dearest Narcissus! First of all, many apologies for the delay in response. It’s full-blown midterm exams for us over here and work has been rather overwhelming. Secondly — and more importantly — I am so sorry that you have to have knee surgery!

    I don’t think I’m the best person to ask about how to combat hospital smells; my dad is a physician and I have always kind of grown up around them so don’t really get bothered by them (in a weird side story, I badly cut my finger a couple years back and as I sat bleeding in the ER, I felt strangely calmed by the smell of antiseptic, bleached bandages, adrenaline, soiled bedsheets, and alcohol. My friends, on the other hand, freaked out). However, if I were to spend a few days in the hospital, I think some bracing lavender and vetiver hydrosols would be what I would reach for. That and a few cans of that Evian mist!

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