Knees up Mother Brown

Beware of bears and failing knees!

FEBRUARY 20 – 2022

I’ve been invaded by an ear worm! That bawdy Cockney classic song of the late 1800’s has burrowed into my brain and keeps repeating – knees up Mother Brown, knees up Mother Brown. There’s a whole heap of opinions about what the song is about – it was sung in pubs, in the World War 1 trenches – most explainations quite rude. For me though, it reminds me of my maternal Grandmother, my darling Nanna, born in an Irish community in the East end of London where the song originated. And whenever my extended family had parties, it was always sung. All my aunties sang it. My mum sang it. And, of course, so did my Nanna. It warms my heart – it’s comforting – and I kind of need that right now.

Which brings me to my own knees and the reason the song is suddenly resonating so strongly . I’m up for a total knee replacement. Unexpectedly TOMORROW!

I put my failing knee down to years of backpacking in my youth – backpacks often almost bigger than myself. I asked a lot of those little knees.

Backpack almost bigger than me – how did those skinny knees hold up!

I hauled a backpack around parts of Europe in the ‘70’s that weighed over 20 kilograms. Given I weighed only about 48 k at the time, you can realise the effect on my knees! Climbing up and down big hills and a few cliff faces, carrying my food and tent in a backpack on bush walks in mountainous Tasmania in my ’20’s probably didn’t help. Hauling myself up and down Western Australia’s Bluff Knoll in middle and late age more times than I can remember. Not to mention the 8 kilometre trek through the Kiso Valley in Japan last November, that I really should not have tackled with a crook knee.

As readers of my November 2022 Japan stories will know, I hobbled through the last part of our trip as my knee deteriorated. It has been a recurring problem for years. In 2017, a flimsy knee support peeped out from the bottom on my shorts in Japan.

My knee support in Takaayama, Japan 2019

Before I took off for Japan, I had some physio work done on the knee, and my doctor injected a steroid injection into it. It has been troubling me off and on for several years now.

At first, the knee held up on the November trip. And then – it didn’t. The few days in Tokyo were torturous. On my return, I quickly booked to see my Specialist, hoping for a quick fix. A little clean out perhaps, a tweak here and there in my knee – at worst, partial reconstruction.

It wasn’t bears I should have been wary about last November – it was stairs and my failing knee!

My specialist is Irish, and when he said a total knee replacement was necessary, I thought he was joking. Total? The whole lot! A little bit of my 70 year old body was heading for the bin, to be replaced by a shiny new manufactured knee! We have funerals when the whole body is done. Should I have an Irish wake for my knee as it departs?

The operation was set for March. But it has suddenly been brought forward a fortnight. Could I be ready tomorrow? Absolutely, I replied with conviction without really thinking things through.

“One other thing,” my specialist said in that casual Irish lilting voice of his. “We have just got a robotic arm to assist in knee replacement surgery, and you’ll be my first patient using it. The first actually at the hospital. We are all very excited about it. Are you ok with that?”

“Er, are you trained to use it,” I ventured. He assured me he was! He said he went to Queensland to do the training. Queensland? I didn’t know Queensland was a centre for robotic arm surgical training. Sun and surf paradise, yes. Tropical islands just off the coast, yes. Pineapples and bananas, yes. Ah, well, I figure if I’m a star ‘experiment’ patient, he’s definitely won’t want to lose me on the table!

So, here I am – less than 24 hours away. For the last few months I’ve been preparing for this, strengthening my knee muscles with daily special knee exercises and sessions on my stationary bike. One exercise sees me up and down on my tip toes – a bit like a ballet dancer warming up with the Pointe technique. It’s been quite a while since my knees have allowed me to dance, but I’ve become quite adept at the tippy toe exercise. I’m not quite up on the edge of my toes, but then it’s been well over half a century since my little tippy toes have been in ballet shoes! I read that the Pointe technique resulted from a desire for female dancers to appear weightless and symphony-like. Ha – well, a nice thought, but not happening with this frumpy old bird! My physiotherapist assures me however, that the exercises will help towards a quick recovery with the new knee. So, with that and the robotic arm I will soon be ready to embrace travel adventures again! I feel a bit like a race horse, champing at the bit. Surgery – bring it on!

Stay tuned – I’ll write part 2 soon – the recovery!

Travel bags on hold for now


  1. Oh you have such a way with words, 😁I’ll be thinking of you tomorrow and thinking I hope this doctor of yours is putting in a very strong new knee as it’s going to be going through many new adventures with travelling Therese YEH👏👏👍😍

    Liked by 1 person

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