Johnny has a mad moment

July 14, 2015

goodside                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          This is my hypericum hedge which was planted over five years ago and was a pleasure to look at until Johnny decided to trim it.  Not only did he trim it while it was in flower he completely devastated a large part of it before I realised what he was doing.

He razed several plants to the ground. leaving just a thin ‘hedge’ of the plants which had propagated themselves from the parent plants!!!


What on earth possessed him to do a thing like that? When I saw what had happened I was visibly shocked but contained my anger and just said I was terribly disappointed that he had ruined a hedge which had taken five years to grow.

He didn’t seem to see what a daft thing he had done but I made it clear he was to ask me before cutting anything down in future. In fact, if i see him bringing in a chainsaw again I may be tempted to confiscate it!

He is such a good worker  – usually –  that I wouldn’t want to frighted him away by telling him off  but tomorrow his first job will be to plant the hypericum I bought plants

Finding a Gardener

July 9, 2015
Not pretty but tidy!

Not pretty but tidy!


When I first retired to France my dream was to grow my own vegetables – to have a potager. However, it was nowhere near as straightforward as I’d imagined.

There was limited success but it was a continual battle with insects, plant diseases and small animals who ate carrots, beetroot and parsnips before I was able to pull them up. Some little beasties even chewed the roots of most of the fruit trees in the ‘orchard’ and they keeled over. All that’s left from twenty-five trees are two plum trees, a mirabelle and a pear tree that’s leaning over dangerously but which still produces a few  mangy pears.

Cauliflowers were full of caterpillars that remained despite soaking in salt and vinegar water and careful washing but I have to say we did get some good peas, green beans and pumpkins. One year there were some excellent cucumbers but the last few attempts with tomatoes were disastrous. One year there were loads of tomatoes in the greenhouse but they just wouldn’t turn red.

So, I gave up. The orchard became a chicken run and the rest of the garden was neglected and overgrown. There was hardly time to cut the grass.

In the end, it seemed we would have to pay someone to help.

The first chap came and looked and gave us an impressive estimate with a long list of things he would do at a cost of 280 euros. He turned up with his son and an enormous strimmer thingy and devastated the whole garden in less than three hours. The only jobs well done were that they took the rubbish away and his son cleaned the greenhouse thoroughly.

Then, in desperation i asked a neighbour’s son if he could  help out. He said he would but he left jobs half done and didn’t really know anything about gardening.

Then I came across the chap who used to look after the gardens in the village. He had retired but wanted a few jobs to supplement his pension. He arranged to come but after agreeing to take it on he never turned up when he said he would and didn’t even have the courtesy to let me know. His  worst ‘crime’ however, was to spray everywhere with Roundup after I’d told him I didn’t want to use chemicals ESPECIALLY that particular make!

I told him his services were no longer required.

Then I saw some cards in the local shops advertising a qualified gardener living quite close to us. I phoned him and he came to see the garden.

I explained how I needed someone reliable as I hoped the garden would look respectable by this summer when we were expecting several  visitors.

At first he seemed perfect but as more and more people contacted him with work he had less time to spend here. In fairness, he had offered me a cheaper rate to make up for the fact that, as we pay tax in the UK, we wouldn’t be able to claim the rebate which French people can obtain, so I can see how he would prefer to work for more money.

My dreams of a tidy garden in time for my sister’s visit in June faded fast.

Then, a couple of weeks ago my friend Elisabeth said she knew  a young chap who could solve the problem. His name is Johnny and he is a worker if not a gardener.  He has spent six mornings so far – even during the heatwave – and the transformation is amazing. There’s still work to do but he has cleared the ‘near’ half of the garden, weeded the terrace and banks  and taken ALL the rubbish away, carrying it through the house in bags and emptying it into big containers in the back of his car.

No longer weeds but room to plant things.

No longer weeds but room to plant things.

The downside is that he dug up some plants and left a few weeds but he is reliable and hardworking.

He is a little bit ‘strange’ and I can’t always understand what he says but it was highly amusing when Elisabeth told me that he said he couldn’t always understand me because I sometimes spoke to him in English. Oh dear, my French obviously needs to improve. . . . . . . .


A  touch of colour

A touch of colour


Hardly a lawn (especially after the heatwave) but now there's room to move.

Hardly a lawn (especially after the heatwave) but now there’s room to move.

A neat and tidy hedge by the terrace.

A neat and tidy hedge by the terrace.

The top of the bank

The top of the bank


July 8, 2015

This may be cheating but I felt this email from a friend was worth sharing.

Not sure I agree that the ‘winner’ was the best. Can anyone come up with more examples?

Lexophile” is a word used to describe those that have a love for words, such as “you can tune a piano, but you can’t tuna fish”, or “to write with a broken pencil is pointless.” A competition to see who can come up with the best lexophiles is held every year in an undisclosed location. This year’s winning submission is posted at the very end.
When fish are in schools, they sometimes take debate.

A thief who stole a calendar got twelve months.

When the smog lifts in Los Angeles U.C.L.A.
The batteries were given out free of charge.

A dentist and a manicurist married. They fought tooth and
A will is a dead giveaway.

With her marriage, she got a new name and a dress.

A boiled egg is hard to beat.

When you’ve seen one shopping center you’ve seen a mall.
Police were summoned to a daycare center where a three-year-old was resisting a rest.
Did you hear about the fellow whose entire left side was cut off? He’s all right now.
A bicycle can’t stand alone; it’s just two tired.
When a clock is hungry it goes back four seconds.

The guy who fell onto an upholstery machine is now fully
He had a photographic memory which was never developed.
When she saw her first strands of grey hair she thought she’d dye.

Acupuncture is a jab well done. That’s the point of it.

And the cream of the twisted crop:
Those who get too big for their pants will be totally exposed in the end.

End of Year Party

June 30, 2015

Our local librarian is unlike any other I have known and she is always willing to have a party.

The English classes I teach comprise a number of ladies who can think up many excuses for a drink and the end of the (school) year is as good a reason as any.

We invited the Italian group as well and the local priest came along as he teaches yoga once a month in the parish hall.

This year Isabel provided ‘soupe au champagne’. I’d never heard of it but after a couple of glasses I felt rather tipsy and then she admitted she couldn’t remember the actual recipe but she had used the best part of a bottle of Cointreau, some fresh lemons, sugar and, of course, several bottles of champagne. No wonder we were all very animated.

The priest surprised us all with some rather risqué jokes such as “We priests have to make up for our celibacy by listening to ladies confessions” and “nuns live in celibacy but die ‘en sainte‘(holy)which is pronounced the same as  enceinte (pregnant).

There was plenty to eat in the form of dainty morsels – mostly savoury – but then they produced little individual chocolate mousses and after that, mixed red fruits with custard.

The party took place in the yard behind the library. it was shady and there was a welcome breeze considering today’s temperatures.

We begin again in September. I hope there’ll be another party before Christmas!

Animals and People

June 25, 2015

Kica has had her haircut and bath and is now ready for Summer.
20150624_181327 (2)Here she is showing an interest in the snacks accompanying our ‘apero’.

We don’t make a habit of drinking champagne but my sister and brother-in-law came for a few days.  It wasn’t a very exciting holiday for them as I couldn’t go out much because of the problems with Bear and Whale.

Someone has to be here to help the carers tackle Whale’s wash and change twice a day and Bear has been completely off his head this week so I didn’t feel I could go out and leave him.

At 4a.m. a few nights ago I woke to find him sitting on the edge of his bed talking earnestly to ‘a group of women’ who were apparently staring at him but refusing to speak. He was convinced he had been abandoned on King’s Cross station but he couldn’t remember who he was staying with or their address. When I put the light on he exclaimed, “Oh, here’s my wife. she’s come to collect me at last!”

He is still chiding me for leaving him alone during his “trip to London”. In fact, he really doesn’t like me at the moment and calls me all sorts of names. My brother-in-law overheard his verbal abuse and came into the bedroom to tell him off.Later I heard Bear on the phone telling someone that he had been threatened with physical violence!

There are more tales I could tell but that gives you an idea.

Returning to animals, we had to say goodbye to Holly ( one of the cats) on Monday. She has a tendency to hide in the house so it was unusual for her to jump on the chair beside CC and she cried out, “Mum, have you seen her face!”.

Poor Holly had a swelling on one cheek and her eye was oozing bloody mucous. Of course, it was off to the vet on Monday morning. After an x-ray to confirm their diagnosis,the vets said she had an inoperable; tumour and it was pushing against her eye.

We couldn’t let the poor cat suffer with that.  We have buried her in the garden and bought an elder bush in her memory.

To end on a happier note, I had been worried about the two young cockerels, Frick and Biscuit, who crow as soon as it’s light and make a heck of a din. The neighbours haven’t complained but it’s hardly fair to subject them to the noise.

Anyway, I’ve found a solution – anti-crow collars. It’s just a band, attached with velcro which stops them from expelling all the air when they crow: result, a reduction in volume (and a rather strange  sounding crow).

It took them a day to get used to wearing them but now they don’t seem to notice anything. Hopefully it won’t disturb the neighbours now.

Animal update

June 6, 2015

This is Kica on Thursday when she was just back from the ‘dentist’. She had to have her teeth cleaned as her breath was really bad and she was a bit reluctant to eat. However, since then she has woofed down fish, minced heart, some left overs from our trip to the local restaurant, two packets of catfood some yoghurt and her tablets crushed and mixed with egg. Today she’s back on dog biscuits and some pigs liver.


All we need now is her bath and haircut later this month and she’ll be a ‘new dog’.


The other news is that Bryony has hatched two chicks.  I was beginning to get worried as there was no sign or               sound from underneath her and the babies were overdue. Today I decided to risk lifting her up to see if the                    remaining eggs were broken or bad and, lo and behold, there was a little black chick.



It seemed more than a day old but as there was still an unhatched egg in the nest I suppose Bryony was still ‘sitting’ in the hope that it would hatch so I discarded it.


Then from underneath her there appeared a second chick:

chicks      She had started with six eggs, bought online as her own eggs would                have been fathered by her sons!

She broke one and rejected two but I’m happy with just two babies as I don’t really want to increase the flock.

I just hope they are hens!

Going to the baker’s

May 10, 2015

Usually our village is pretty quiet. When Kica and I go for our walks we rarely see more than a couple of people.

However, Sunday morning is different. Everyone goes to the baker’s which is open until 1p.m. As a rule I’m stuck at home waiting for the carer to wash Whale but as he’s still in hospital I was free to go out when CC phoned to ask if I’d get some bread for her and Jay who are on the way back from England.

Kica was excited to see her lead and off we went. We were hardly out of the door before we bumped into Francine who was coming to give me details of a chap who sells lamb at the monthly market in Renwez. She told me that Mr. N had committed suicide on Wednesday and his funeral would be held next week.

Gosh! That’s the second suicide recently. A couple of weeks ago the garage owner’s wife hanged herself after years of deep depression. Francine reckons there’s ‘something in the air’ and the saying ‘never a second without a third’ sprang to mind.

When we turned the corner Kica decided to jump up the bank beside the stadium. It’s higher the other side of the wall so I hung onto her lead and hoped she’d get down at the end of the bank. She did but got her lead caught round the corner of the wall. Fortunately for me, our neighbour from opposite was coming back and he climbed up the bank to free the lead. He’s a really nice man but not very talkative. He didn’t even say much when my car rolled down our drive into his car. He and his wife helped me to fill in the insurance form and I stayed in their house until Bear had cooled down a bit!

A  man I don’t know came over to stroke Kica and ask how old she was. She loves attention nowadays and lapped it up.

A little further we met Sabine who had just come back from shopping at the supermarket. KIca tried to get into the boot of her car. She loves travelling in a car – even if it means seeing the vet. Sabine speaks excellent English so we chatted about the course at the library.

We passed one or two other people with just a ‘Bonjour’ before arriving at the bakery. There is a convenient post for me to attach Kica’s lead and she usually waits patiently.

There wasn’t a queue so we were soon on the way back.

A van stopped and the driver called out. It was Pascal, whom I hadn’t seen for some time. We caught up with each other’s news – mostly medical – and went our separate ways.

The last chat was with the nurse, who had been to redo Bear’s bandage. She had stopped outside her parents’ house and told me that Bear had seemed ‘half-dead’ when she arrived but was playing the fool by the time she left.

“He’s a good actor’ she said.

The trouble is he may be ignored one of these days if he’s genuinely ill after crying wolf so often.

So, our walk which normally takes 40 minutes took nearly an hour and a half this morning. It made a pleasant change especially as it will be back to the normal routine after Wednesday when Whales comes back from the hospital and I won’t be free to go out on Sunday mornings for some time.

Hospital Shuffle

April 27, 2015

Last Tuesday Bear remarked casually that Mustard (one of the cats) had scratched him . It’s something that happens all the time in our house.

On Friday, while Gilles, the carer, was washing him he drew my attention to the base of bear’s right thumb which was red and a bit swollen.

“You must see the doctor about this” he insisted.

The doctor had already been in twice; on Tuesday to give Whale his 12 weekly injection of Zoladex and on Thursday when he was short of breath and complaining of chest pain. She also looked at Bear’s aching shoulder (after a fall).

I rang the surgery but the doctor had already left on her rounds so I made an appointment for the afternoon and took Bear down in the car.

She squeezed out some pus and dressed the wound with copious amounts of disinfectant and bandages and gave him a prescription for antibiotics and more bandages for me to change twice a day.

“BUT” she said, “if the infection goes up his arm you must go to hospital immediately.”

All was OK till Sunday when Bear complained of a throbbing pain and there was an ominous red line working it’s way up a vein.

Hospital it was then.

There were two young nurses who spoke English and they were vying with each other to practise on us until an intern came along. She took one look and said she was going to call the surgeon.

Sure enough, he came to have a look and said he would operate as soon as possible.

Poor Bear had a very unpleasant time in the operating theatre as despite the local anaesthetic he said it was extremely painful at times and he could even feel a throbbing in his leg. He came back to the room with an enormous bandage on his hand. They kept him in overnight but he was allowed home this morning with prescriptions for loads more tablets and  for the nurse to change his dressing every day.

Meanwhile, Whale was definitely off-colour. He didn’t feel like finishing a cup of tea, ate very little breakfast and decided he didn’t want any lunch at all. He was short of breath and had a dry cough which also made him gasp for breath and he felt sick.

So I rang the surgery and the receptionist said she would add him to the doctor’s list.

The doc turned up just after 2p.m. while I was at the chemist’s getting  Bear’s tablets and dressings. As soon as I got back it was a case of ringing for an ambulance to take Whale to Casualty (the doctor provides a letter and a transport voucher and you have to make your own arrangements here).

The hospital staff will think there’s an English invasion.

It wasn’t a Tic

April 21, 2015

Well, I said I’d never seen a tic attached to anyone and that still holds true.

After several unsuccessful attempts to remove the offending object from Kica’s neck we decided we’d have to take her to a vet. I like our usual vet but the journey there is horrendous and after a near accident because of the bad edges on the bendy roads I wanted to find another vet, a bit nearer (and safer).

One of Whale’s carers said her vet was wonderful and she gave me directions. She told me there were no  appointments. You just turn up between 5 and 7p.m.

Jay drove Kica and me and we arrived at five to five to find a small queue of people and animals waiting outside. The vet turned up at 5.15 to let us in and we squeezed into a narrow waiting room.

Only one person came after us so we were nearly last and had to wait well over an hour and a half. I had taken all Kica’s medical records as she also has a problem of bad breath due to her bad teeth (not that she has many left!).

After locating the object the vet told us it wasn’t a tic but a polyp and we should leave well alone.

Then I asked her about Kica’s teeth and tried to explain all the problems she had already had with fistulas, mouth ulcers and gum infections but I said all her notes and x-rays were in the folder.

The vet surprised me by not showing any interest. She just said, as you would expect, that there is always a risk with general anaesthetics and it was our decision. Kica  was showing signs of going off her food so I said we would book her in for a ‘detartrage’.and offered to leave the medical notes for her perusal. She still wasn’t interested.

She gave us an appointment for Thursday but didn’t ask Kica’s name – or our name and phone number for that matter – but i gave it to her anyway.

On the way home, Jay and I decided that we didn’t really want to trust Kica to that vet as she didn’t seem very professional and if she put her under and then discovered that it wasn’t a case of a simple cleaning then Kica might suffer because of her  lack of attention.

So, yesterday I rang to cancel the appointment and am still trying to find a reliable vet where I can feel safe if I have to do the driving. However, I suspect we’ll be going back to Nouzonville where both vets are really good.

As for the car and it’s MOT. We took it to the garage to replace the brake pads but when we went back the next day to collect it, M. Magny was not very pleased. The brake pads were NEW so he suspected that we had already had them repaired!!

I remembered that they had been replaced when we had new winter tyres put on in November and as I don’t do many miles, i suppose there wouldn’t be much wear. So why did the controle technique list ‘serious wear and deterioration’ under brake pads?

Today I rang the boss of the Controle Technique place and he explained that the wear and tear referred to the electric cable (for the brake lights I suppose) but it had to be listed under brake pads. Anyway, it wasn’t a serious problem.

So I rang M. Magny to explain and we both laughed about it so I hope that means he won’t run a mile next time we take a car to his garage.

Little things which are sent to try us.

April 15, 2015

Firstly. Kica has a tic! Help, I’ve never had to deal with one before.

I was just stroking her neck when i felt a lump and on closer examination I found the little black bug firmly attached. Jay bought a tic remover but I haven’t managed to get it off yet. Kica will not stay still enough for me to locate the creature and then use the ‘weapon’ Needless to say she and all the cats have been hastily treated with Frontline .and I’ll keep having a go at getting at the minibeast.

Briony showed signs of going broody so I brought her indoors and gave her some eggs from the marans (lovely dark brown ones) to sit on. However, after less than a week she spread them all over the cage floor and made it clear she wanted to go out and play. The cage is now occupied by Molly – one of the year-old hens, who is showing signs of being broody but doesn’t seem to realise that it involves sitting on eggs.

Still on the subject of chickens, my little family of bantams, who have decided they’d rather live on our side of the fence because the big ones bully them, have blotted their copybook by eating all the leaves off my newly planted strawberries and shrubs.

The car – a 19 year-old Citroen managed  to pass the ‘Controle Techniqe’ – French MOT   – but there was a list of problems that might need to be dealt with before the next test in two years time. We took it to the garage in the next village for an assessment and Mr M said he understood that we didn’t want to spend a lot on an old car and so he’s just fitting new brake pads. He reckons the suspension should last another year or so if we’re not doing lots of kilometres and the other ‘problems’ are not serious enough to spend over 1000 euros to put right.

Bear has tried mesotherapy for the pains in his legs and back but after four sessions there isn’t much improvement. His eyes are getting worse and worse and it seems there’s a shortage of specialists in the whole of France and in our area most of them won’t take on new patients. Our opthalmologist seems to have lost interest in his patients but he still charges way above the usual rate, which means we don’t get fully reimbursed. We’ve made an appointment to see another doctor in the next departmente at the beginning to July.

CC started a teaching contract for 10 weeks last week but has been feeling very tired since having a bad cold for a few weeks. She had to come home early yesterday and went to see her doctor who decided she had bronchitis (though she was complaining more of blocked sinuses  and didn’t seem to have a cough at all!).  She’s on antibiotics and is beginning to feel a bit better.

Finally, my computer has started to play up intermittently. The mouse just seizes up and so I can’t access anything. Today it’s working so I’m making the most of it. It’s a good job I didn’t phone the computer man to come now it’s behaving itself.

Fingers crossed it keeps going.