Archive for July, 2009

Se tutoyer ou pas?

July 27, 2009

Thanks to Whale’s disability we are entitled to a certain amount of help, including 8 hours of housework per month.

Originally my neighbour, Claudine,  was happy to oblige but she is not in good health and the paperwork involved when someone is off sick is complicated, to say the least.

Needless to say, I was relieved when, with a bit of help from the doctor,  her illness was ‘upgraded’  so that she could work part-time, thus reducing the need to send off various forms every time she wasn’t well.

However, snce the death of her husband , she has become much worse and, after a trip to the ‘medecin de travail’ she no longer has to work. She recommended a friend to take her place and so Francine has been coming this month.

She is a delightful little lady, bright and chatty, and very thorough. She even went after cobwebs I hadn’t seen!

The only problem, as with most French people, is whether to use ‘tu’ or ‘vous’.

It seems that the rule we learned at school – NEVER to use ‘tu’ unless you were really sure you knew someone well enough – doesn’t apply nowadays. But French people have different views on the subject all the same. Some find it easy to ‘tutoi’ while others are quite uncomfortable  with the idea so it’s not a good idea to assume that you are being friendly by addressing someone informally.

After four weeks of trying to remember to use ‘vous’ but occasionally slipping in a ‘tu’ without thinking, I finally got around to asking Francine what she preferred as she was leaving today.

“Oh, it’s fine for you to address me with ‘tu’,” she smiled, “but I’ll continue to call you ‘vous””.

There followed a discussion about different views among French people and she told me that when she worked for ADAPAH, a society which organises home help, she was strictly forbidden to use ‘tu’ or to ‘faire la bise’ (greet someone with kisses).

“But you’re not a servant.” I protested and this led to a conversation about class distinction.  It was a bit delicate, because I had the impression she wasn’t entirely comfortable using ‘tu’ but she realised that I found it unfair to use ‘tu’ to her if she didn’t reciprocate.

She suddenly broke into a huge smile and the deal was done.

On va se tutoyer. (We’re both going to use ‘tu’). But she’ll forgive me if I forget and lapse into the odd ‘vous’.

Why do the French have to make such a simple thing so complicated?

Bear has a Bath

July 27, 2009

Some of you may already know that baths and Bear do not get together very often.

Today he has an appointment with the dentist – a very pretty young lady – and so last night he spent an age in the bathroom while I read in peace without the telly blaring out.

The smell wafted into the room before Bear even appeared: a powerful, cloying pong that got stronger as he approached  his armchair. I thought he must have bathed in neat bubble bath.

“What did you use in the bath?” I asked.

“Just the usual stuff” he replied.

“Well, what is that smells so strong?”

“I opened that new bottle of aftershave ” he said sheepishly.

He must have poured the whole lot over himself!

He went off to bed before me as I wanted to finish a chapter but the smell remained.

In the bathroom it was overpowering and then I had to get into bed next to the sickly smell. It was worse than his usual odour. . .

“I have to admit, I don’t like that aftershave.” I told him.

“Neither do I.” was his reponse.

The bathroom was just about bearable this morning as I had put some strong smelling aromatherapy oil in the pomander but the offending smell is still apparent on Bear.

I wonder what the dentist will think!

Parsley the Prawn Pincher

July 26, 2009

As I may have mentioned, the fish lady comes by in her van every Thursday and my regular order is salmon for CC, Whale and me and plaice for Bear, but occasionally I also buy some cod to make a fish pie.

Last week my neighbour bought some prawns for her grandson and I was surprised at how many she got for less than a couple of euros so I thought I’d get a handful to put in the fishpie.

As I was peeling the first one,  Parsley appeared from nowhere and grabbed the beheaded prawn before I could take off the rest of the shell. She would not let go, and I only just managed to remove  the tail before she took off with her ‘prey’.

The other cats gathered round with interest and as I’m a bit of a soft touch with felines I thought they should all have one. After all, we could do without prawns in the fish pie.

However, the other cats were not sufficiently keen on their share  of the booty to demolish it quickly. Chloe and Willow managed to eat theirs but the others hesitated or spent too long sniffing cautiously. Parsley was in there like a shot and  finished off their helping.

There were only one or two prawns left – not worth putting in the pie –  so she had the rest. I’d forgotten how much she liked them.


Welcome Home for Whale

July 21, 2009

Whale, of course, was very pleased to come home but Bear was quick to express his displeasure. In fact, within minutes of his arrival, Whale must have overheard Bear’s complaints when I had to go and help him settle back in.

CC and Jay had shopped for a ‘welcome’ meal but on Friday evening no-one felt like doing justice to a celebratory dinner so we put it off until Saturday. Bear opted out and went to bed early in a mood but the rest of us enjoyed beetroot salad (freshly cooked beetroot cut into cubes with a garlic and parsley dressing ): aubergine bake (grilled slices of aubergine  layered with fried  onions and herbs and topped with breadcrumbs and mozzarella) ; and a Nigella Lawson chocolate pudding recipe which results in a gorgeous chocolate cake and sauce all in one, served with Hagen Daz vanilla ice-cream.

I am  now trying having to get back into the old routine after nearly two weeks of relative relaxation. It was wonderful to stay in bed until after 8 0’clock some mornings; to feed the cats and then have a leisurely breakfast; to be able to sit at the computer undisturbed (Whale has already called me four times since I started this post); to relax in the evenings without being called just at an important moment in a programme . . . . . . . . .

Oh well, Bear is booked in for a few days from August 4th to sort out his diabetes, so there’s another little break to look forward to.

Medical Updates

July 16, 2009

Whale is due to come home tomorrow afternoon.

CC and Jay are planning a ‘welcome home’ meal for him so Bear is going to be grumpy.

Today has been spent at the dentist’s and eye specialist’s for Bear. He had a ‘loose tooth’  which started playing up a couple of weeks ago and the receptionist was most apologetic that there wasn’t a vacancy until today. Inevitably, the tooth was no longer painful but after she’d poked and x-rayed it the dentist said there was an infection and a problem with the gum, so, after a week of anti-biotics  it will have to be extracted and his denture adjusted for the gap. After consulting her computer she gave us two appointments for July 27th and 28th.

We had lunch in town and then made for the eye specialist’s surgery just before half past one. They have the rather illogical system of booking several people at the same time but as the surgery is closed from 12:30 until 1:30  there didn’t seem to be much point in arriving too early. Bad mistake; we were third.

By twenty to two the waiting room was full and very airless so I opened the window. Despite the heat outside we appreciated the slight breeze that made breathing a bit easier.

Our opthalmologist is reputedly the best in town. There are only  eight in the local phonebook and only two of them carry out operations. This means that some  send their patients to Reims for surgery. An appointment with our Dr. C.  can often involve waiting over two hours but he’s worth it.

Bear’s name was called and we were put in one of the two consulting rooms to wait. The great man appeared, shook hands and examined Bear’s eyes.  He always seems to cope with Bear’s English pronounciation of the letters and even tries to speak  a few words of English in return. He decided that he would have to deal with the cataract in his right eye but, because of damage to the retina, he couldn’t guarantee that the result would be as effective as the left eye.

Bear has to go into hospital at the begining of August  because his diabetes is not well stabilised. He may have to go on insulin. After that, Dr. C  is going away on holiday and so the operation has been booked for October 1st.

The ten minute appointment cost 55euros (more than twice as much as seeing our GP) but we were out by quarter past two: much sooner than we expected.

Whale’s stay in hospital

July 13, 2009

Whale is still in hospital and likely to stay another few days. He has an anti-biotic drip and the infection is diminishing but his leg is still swollen, if not as red and hard as it was.

He has been told off a few times for being demanding  (which I can understand) but one of the ‘aide-soignantes’ – (carer/nursing assistant) shouted in his face, which I don’t think was necessary.

There was one traumatic night when the other chap in his room died (unexpectedly I gather). Whale was put in the corridor while the nurses attended to the body and the relatives came.

He was, naturally, quite shocked when he rang the next morning and also said he thought they had taken his razor and a grey toiletries bag by mistake. Fortunately CC and Jay found the missing items when they went to see him. They have also decided to take him a flask of tea every day as he doesn’t like coffee and hospital tea is awful.

Today he was taken for some physiotherapy and managed a few steps in the parallel bars. Not bad, considering he hasn’t been able to move from bed or chair for the last ten days.

As far as food is concerned, I know that the hospital he is in does not do such good meals as the Polychinique  (which is semi-private) but, although they don’t give you a menu to choose from each day, they do fill in a form stating your likes and dislikes.

Now that Whale is getting his appetite back he is taking more of an interest in what’s on his plate.

“It’s not that bad,” he said. “I eat what I can and leave the rest.” Doesn’t sound very gourmet does it?

VAT reduced!

July 8, 2009

The British government’s derisory 2.5% cut in VAT didn’t do much to boost the economy but in France they have chosen a different way.

TVA  (French for VAT) in bars and restaurants has been reduced from 19.6% to 5.5% so, provided the owners are prepared to pass on the saving,  it makes quite a difference.

Our weekly lunch out at the local restaurant now costs 22.5 euros instead of 27, for the two of us.

Despite its appearance (rather basic) the hotel – bar- restaurant in our village  provides an excellent lunch all week, with three choices of main course and two or three desserts at a set price. Or you could go for the menu if  nothing on the board appeals.

Today the ‘plats du jour’  were boudin blanc with apple purée, steak with pepper sauce or roast veal. You can choose your accompaniments from a list which includes chips, green beans or peas and carrots but today the chef had provided timbales of carrot and celeriac purée plus dauphinoise potaotoes and grilled tomatoes with garlic and basil.

Afterwards the choice was banana split, strawberries served with cream, sugar, icecream or ‘nature’ (however you like them) or ‘orange a l’orange’ which is a fresh orange served in a pomegranate marinade (absolutely delicious and refreshing).

Two courses with wine or beer and a coffee to finish for just over 11 euros a head.

Bear insists that we eat out once a week so he has his good points doesn’t he?

Hospital for Whale

July 7, 2009

 Whale has been extra poorly lately. His legs became swollen and the doctor gave him some tablets for fluid retention. Then one morning he woke up to find a large wet stain under his right leg. We thought the water mattress (a small one for his back) was leaking but as it is wrapped in a towel and that was completely dry we decided that wasn’t the case.

Whale blamed a cat but it wasn’t cat pee. The mystery deepened. But when the nurse came in she explained that it was coming from his leg! Apparently with oedema this can happen. Whale, of course, was in a state of panic but everyone else seemed to take it calmly.

“It’s not serious” said the doctor, and she prescribed dressings and iodine to prevent infection.

But, after a week, things got worse. His right leg swelled up even more: he became a bit breathless and disorientated.

“It could be  an infection, or thrombosis or both  – so it’s Hospital” said the doc, and asked me to phone for an ambulance while she wrote a letter.

The ambulance was here within half an hour and off we went. The nurse who met us recognised him but, although he didn’t want me to leave his side,  she sent me off to do the formalities and said I’d be sent for later.

At reception it was a case of producing the Carte Vitale and insurance card and confirming his details as he’s already ‘in their computer’. Then it was almost an hour’s wait before they came to invite me into his room. (Yes, in casualty everyone has their own proper room – not cubicles).  But he wasn’t there.

“He’s gone for an ultrasound” explained the nurse. “We’ve taken blood samples but it will be a couple of hours before we get the results. You can wait here if you like or go home and  come back later.”

I waited until he came back. The ultrasound confirmed that there was no thrombosis so he was much happier. The nurse said it was likely he could come home once the bloodtest results were known and I should ring  about 1 o’clock to find out what was happening.

Whale was happy to be left with his book so I went home.

However, when I rang they informed me he would be admitted to “geriatrie” at three o’clock as the infecton was quite bad and he needed to be on a drip.

He was hoping it would be a short stay but after the doctor’s round today he was told they want to keep him for a week to ten days. I feel sorry for him bacause it’s not much fun being in hospital  – but I do appreciate the ‘holiday’.

Also, Bear is ‘booked in’ for a few days in the diabetes department on the 4th August as he may have to go on insulin because his last blood test showed that his diabetes is not very well controlled.


July 5, 2009

Nothing has happened that merits a full post so here are a few short  ‘interludes’.

The sporty cock

As I handle my glasses rather roughly when I clean them it was inevitable that they would break sooner ot later and last week they fell apart. Our favourite optician said I had timed it well as frames ere on offer – 30% off – so I asked her to show me the ones most suitable to put my lenses into.

The next day Yvette admired the new glasses.

“The colour matches your hair” she said, “but what’s that written on the side?”

I didn’t know there was any writing. What did it say?

“Le coq sportif” – not exactly me!

Le ramoneur

Yvette rang to say that the sweep was coming to do her chimney and should she send him round to do ours.

He turned up, bless him, and heaved the heavy stove aside.

Then there were some interesting expletives, the gist of which were that the chimney was completely blocked and therefore a fire hazard. He asked for a torch and showed us the pipe, absolutely full of pieces of charcoal.

He set to to sweep it clean and then gave me a gentle lecture about four reasons why this had happened:

1. We must never let the fire burn with the damper completely closed as a fault with the make of stove we had chosen means that it doesn’t let in enough air.

2. We are not storing our wood correctly (air should be able to circulate underneath if it’s kept indoors) and, anyway,

3.  it was not dry enough. We should keep it for at least two years before using!

4. We must not burn too many logs at once.

It was a relief to have found all this out and cleared the chimney in time but it left me with a fair bit of cleaning, plus all the chair and settee covers to wash.

Another repas des Anciens

As I’ve often written about the meals we enjoy with the village ‘oldies’ suffice to say that the latest  one was a great success with Bear enjoying couscous despite maintaining previously that he would never eat it!