Archive for September, 2009

Medical matters

September 24, 2009

Just when I thought September was already full to capacity with medical appointments  Bear and Whale managed a double whammy.

Yesterday Bear went down with ‘flu symptoms. I’m not saying swine ‘flu because it wasn’t that bad. A temperature of 37.7 soon went down to 36.2 but the aches and pains persist and he doesn’t feel like getting out of bed. On the other hand, the nurse said he must eat, even if he is sick afterwards,  to counteract the insulin.  He’s only been sick once (yesterday) and now he is eating happily – but  he only wanted a few chips with his fish so he’s not back to normal by any means. The big problem is that he’s due for a cataract operation next week . . . . . .

Then it was Whale’s turn. I came back from my appointment with the physio  to find him in a panic because his catheter was leaking.  This is the second time in two weeks and it usually results in making his legs stiff so he can hardly move them – also a sign of an infection. I rang the locum but she absolutely refused to change a catheter (not that we have one handy at home).

I asked her if I should try ringing the out patients’ department where the nurses usually do it (every five weeks) because  it’s only these last two occasions when it was changed on the ward and then in casualty when there have been problems.

It may be a coincidence but when the home nurse used to change it  he was always having to go to hospital because of leaks and blockages. The hospital used a different make of catheter but our local chemist couldn’t get hold of them for us and the hospital refused to let us have any from their pharmacy so, eventually, the doctor decided he should have it changed at the hospital every five weeks. This means the cost of an ambulance (about 150 euros) plus an outpatient visit instead of  less than 10 euros if our home nurse did it. We don’t have to pay ourselves but it seems a waste of money for the SECU (roughly the equivalent of the NHS).

Anyway, the nurses at outpatients couldn’t fit him in so I had to dial 15  for medical emergencies after all. I explained the problem and an ambulance arrived within ten minutes. That’s what I call service!

Now, some of you may know that I’m very interested in alternative medicine and I  recently heard of  Hydrogen Peroxide as a  cure and preventative for many diseases. It can be good for boosting the immune system and relieving ‘flu symptoms so I thought it would be a worthwhile investment seeing as we’ve all decided to avoid the new vaccine like the plague!

The 35% Food Grade H2O2 has to be diluted with distilled water so we ordered a contraption that produces a gallon of distilled water in 4 hours.putting together It took a bit of careful reading of instructions and washing of all the bits and pieces before I was able to assemble it and go into production.

Bear stood around offering criticism and advice which I could well do without but, eventually I got it working and yesterday we  started taking a few drops of hydrogen peroxide in 5 fluid ounces of distilled water as explained in the booklet.


I’ll let you know if it alleviates  Bear’s ‘flu symptoms and prevents the rest of us from catching the lurgy.

The front garden

September 22, 2009

It’s actually difficult to know how much of the ground in front of our house actually belongs to us but most people make an effort to keep the road looking pretty even if we don’t have front gardens as such. small bacs The containers in the picture should have geraniums or other colourful plants during the Summer but I’m afraid I left the heather and pansies from last Winter  until they finally died off.

Thierry replanted them with some greenery which looks much fresher.

He weeded between all stones and tidied up the garden in front of Whale’s bedroom window. side Our neighbour’s son had already given the conifer a haircut but the rest looked much healthier for a ‘good weed’ and the addition of some pansies.  You can see the weeds growing in front of the neighbour’s house. Ours were much worse than this!

There were two rhododendrons hidden behind the conifer and strangled by weeds.behind Thierry rescued them and put them in front while I put down plastic sheeting  covered in cocoa shells and held in place with logs to try to keep it tidy.

Every time I go in or out of the house I have to pinch myself to realise that this is our ‘garden’ all neat and tidy at last.



In answer to Derek’s question (see comments) here is a wider angled photo. We park the old Citroen in the garage and Jay has to keep his car outside. front of house

The Garden is tidied

September 17, 2009

A few months ago Whale received a letter from  the French  government stating that as he is handicapped he would receive 200 euros worth of  ‘cheques emploi  services’  to employ additional help.

This sounded like wonderful news  but when they arrived they bore no ressemblance to the normal  ‘cheques emploi service’ which are used to pay legally for any work done by someone not employed by a business.

After asking one or two French people if they could make sense of the directions on how to to use them I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t being totally thick and, maybe, the government wanted to put people off using their gift. Which, naturally, made me even more determined to find out how the system worked. 

So I asked at the Mairie  and a very friendly member of the council came round and studied the instructions. She scratched her head, read through the notes again and then decided to phone  for assistance.

After a long conversation she told me that my ’employee’ must sign up with cheques emploi service and  then the ‘borderaux’ (slips which enable you to cash the cheques) woud be sent directly to him or her.

After asking around I found Thierry, who was willing to do 20 hours of gardening in return for this strange method of payment -but he didn’t know what to do either.

He said his aunt had used them so he took all the papers with him last weekend to ask her. It seemed you had to do it online, she said and she wrote down a list of instructions which he brought with him on Tuesday.

Going online resulted in me signing up to fill in the monthly forms by internet – something I’ve resisted doing up till now  but will have to get to grips with it  at last.

When it came to Thierry’s part it clearly stated that he culdn’t sign in without a valid email address. Thierry doesn’t even have a computer so we were back t square one.

“I’ll send the form by post” he finally decided.

I hope we do get this sorted because he’s already done a good few hours and here are the results so far:                                                                          


The vegetable patch has been dug over and sown with mustard seed. Apparently if you dig in the mustard before the Spring it will fertilise the soil and help prevent the weeds from growing. The ‘bush’  in the far corner is horseradish and you may just be able to make out one lone sweetcorn just in front of it. I used two packets of seeds and  of the 3 (yes THREE)  that germinated this is the only one that has survived. I’m thinking of preservng it somehow!

The hedges that our friend planted last year had been sadly neglected but Thierry cleared away the grass and weeds and put cocoa  hedge3shells down to keep it tidy, and hopefully weedfree.

These cocoa shells smell strongly of chocolate and CC and I used them in the bed by the garden shed where the weeds come through from next door.


Yummy, they made our mouths water but there was no chocolate in the house to eat.



There’s a buddleia and two other shrubs planted in the earth and we’ve part buried some boxes to grow herbs . The plastic sheets are meant to stop some of the weeds from invading and the hosepipe takes well-water up to the vegetable garden.

In addition Thierry has weeded the borders by the path and planted some pansies to fill the gaps where the perennials have died.

There isn’t much colour left but here is the last rose of Summer, looking a bit of a sorry sight.

last rose

Next stage is to tackle the front of the house.

Le Bois de la Rosiere

September 13, 2009

Every September since we’ve lived here we’ve read the invitation to the ceremony at Le Bois de la Rosiere  but we’ve never been able to go to it until today. entrance

We thought it would be a similar occasion to the ceremonies marking the end of the war but we were  wrong.

It started off in the same way. We met up with some neighbours half way down to hill to the church  and they said they were waiting for the procession to the cemetary to pass to save walking down and then up again. More people came and parked their cars along the road. We thought it was strange because they didn’t live that far away.

Eventually the band struck up and led a large number of people up the hill. There were eight flag bearers, about twenty children skipping and laughing and then a more serious group of adults including soldiers and police. We joined in and followed to the cemetary where a drummer and trumpeter from the band played during a short ceremony at the tomb.

The  we all followed the same music back down the hill. people started getting into cars.

“Do you need a lift?” Mary-Paule asked .

“Why, where are we going? I thought the memorial was in Rue du Bois de la Rosiere.”

“Oh no, it’s too far to walk.” insisted Mary-Paule.

We got into her car and drove out of the village and along the bypass. The gendarmes were on hand to stop the traffic while everyone turned left. Parking was haphazard and very tight as a large number of cars squashed into a farm. Then there was a long wait for the Prefet (or his deputy) who always arrived late.

During this pause Mary-Paule told us the history. It seems that eleven prisoners who were being held in Charleville prison for being members of the Resistance  were taken out near the end of the war and, instead of being released as they had expected, they were taken to the woods and shot.

One young man was still alive when the villagers came to remove the bodies but he died soon afterwards. Among the victims were the parents of a teenage girl, who had also been in jail. She is now a little old lady in a wheel chair and she comes every year to pay homage. Another silver-haired lady was pointed out to us. One of the young men who was murdered was her fiancé. She eventually married someone else but she always comes back to remember him.

vipsThe Prefet’s representative finally turned up in her chauffeur driven car and more time passed as she chatted to our Mayor while the band shuffled in position ready for the off.


Finally we all set off (with the band playing the same old tune) along a  winding path towards the memorial at the place where they were Here there was a laying of wreaths, the band played the Marseillaise and then the children sang it (unaccompanied). The Mayor gave a speech that no-one could hear because the microphone didn’t work, the band played a slow dirge which was badly out of tune, and then we made our way back towards the parked cars, following the same march at a lively pace.



walk back

The morning ended with a Vin d’Honneur at the Salle de Fete  accompanied by pizza and quiche.

To mark the sixty-fifth anniversary of this event, the two ladies who survived the tragedy were presented with medals and flowers.

!t is surprising that it has taken us seven years to discover this sad story and to take part in the simple but moving ceremony of remembrance.

The lighter side of the holiday

September 9, 2009

Looking on the bright side, this last weekend did bring home to Bear the fact that, with the best will in the world, we couldn’t possibly undertake the longer holiday he has been hoping for.

It was fine while we went around with our friends in their car but they had to leave early on Sunday and that left us with the rest of the day to kill in Calais until our train to Lille  in the  afternoon.

We walked along the sea front taking frequent breaks on the wooden seats to stare across the sea at England as it was a very clear day and to watch the ferries as they came and went. Our brief walk along the sand on Saturday had done Bear’s knee more harm than good so we didn’t dare go on the beach and the town centre was much too far.

We passed the  time until midday and then went to the hotel for lunch. Even though we tried to make it a leisurely meal we had finished before two o’clock and asked the receptionist if he could order us a taxi for about three. Then we waited in the small lounge area beside the dining room until the cab turned up.

We arrived at the station with loads of time to spare and so sat around again until the train came in. It was a scrappy old model with torn, uncomfortable seats and filthy windows but we were able to find a couple of places where you could just about see through the glass.

We weren’t expecting it to be crowded but quite a few people boarded before we set off. Strangely enough it stopped at many of  the little stations we had passed through on the way there and more and more youngsters got on, two of whom played very loud music.

“Must be time for the University to go back”  we thought, but when we arrived in Lille we found that it was the annual ‘braderie’ in celebration of the beginning of the mussel season. The station was packed and the town was heaving with bodies, stalls selling all sorts of rubbish and heaps and heaps of mussel shells. There were skips overflowing and mounds of them on all the street corners and every eating place was advertising “moules frites ” .

We had been told that the hotel we had booked was 200 metres from the station so we asked directions from one of the many policemen. He told us which exit to take and said it was beside ‘Flunch’  so we managed to push our way through the crowd until we found it.

We decided not to risk going out to eat but dinner at the hotel was disappointing. We tried their speciality of  ‘poulet au maroille’ – chicken with the local cheese. It was tasty but not very hot when it was served. Dessert was a rather tired apple tart for  Bear and a meringue and ice-cream concoction in a plastic container for me. The wine was served in a litre carafe and we were informed that they measured it after the meal and only charged for what we had drunk. Coffee arrived thirty seconds after dessert so it was a bit tepid by the time we were ready to drink it. This third rate repast cost over 60 euros!

What is it about the typical English  tourist that makes us accept these things without complaining. One of my excuses is that I don’t trust my French to be able to express my complaint in a suitably strong but polite manner, but I have to admit I would probably chicken out in English as well, unless I was feeling particularly stroppy.

 The streets had been cleaned up pretty well and were fairly empty when we ventured out just after 10.30 next morning.  Bear wanted to photograph the organs in the Cathedral and Church of St Meurice so we made our way in a stop-start  fashion to the latter and after helping Bear to negotiate the steps I sat down on a hard chair while he fiddled with the camera. Organ-hunting used to be quite a pleasure in the days when I was  enamoured but I have to admit I find it terribly boring now.

With St Meurice done and dusted he made noises about finding the Cathedral. But it was twenty to twelve and they’d be locking the doors at noon so it wasn’t worth it but we proceeded slowly in the right direction until Bear was near to collapse  and, luckily, came upon a small café.

We sat down gratefully at the nearest table in the shade of a tree but after the young lady had taken our order it became very noticeable that the local dogs had watered the tree copiously.

“It stinks of dog pee” I complained but Bear was not too keen on getting up and moving to another table. However, after a few minutes, the whiff penetrated his nostrils as well and we moved away.  Lunch was a light meal of quiche and salad for Bear and tuna salad for me before we set off for the cathedral.

It was still closed when we found it but there was a garden with seats where some of the locals were having their lunch break. We struggled towards an empty bench and Bear almost fell onto it. With more time to kill I began to regret not bringing my book with me. We sat in silence  and I found myself wishing I was at home.

Eventually the doors were unlocked and we went in. A beggar at the door waved a plastic cup under my nose asking for money. I told him I hadn’t any change – which was quite true;  in fact my purse was completely devoid of any money at all – but he followed us into the church and tried again a few minutes later. Fortunately he had gone by the time we  we ready to leave.

Several coffee stops later we decided to collect our case from the hotel and make for the station. We might as well kill time there as anywhere.  We found seats in yet another coffee shop and I left Bear there while I went to look for the toilets, clutching the handful of coins he had given me.

The signs seemed to lead nowhere so I had to ask a chap in SNCF uniform who informed me I had to go down the escalator and turn right, down some more steps. Sure enough there was the unisex loo with a stern looking attendant at the door.

“How much is it?” I asked her.


I counted the coins Bear had given me: it came to 42.

“That’s all he gave me” I pleaded

“Well you’ll have to go and find some more” was the response.

Thank heavens I wasn’t in ‘desperate mode’. Back up the escalator I went and asked Bear if he had another 8 centimes.

A few minutes later I was back at the toilet with a 5 euro note.

The attendant grinned broadly and handed me the change.

We left the coffee bar and found a seat facing the departures board. Time passes very slowly when you’re bored and the seats are hard but at long last the platform number came up and we were able to make our way to the train.

Thank goodness it was a modern, comfortable train and we found a group of five seats where we could keep the case with us, and hopefully, not have anyone in the seats opposite. As it happened a lady did have to squeeze in until the first stop but after that the train was practically empty.

During the last part of our journey I broached the subject of Bear’s  difficulty with walking and the fact that a longer holiday wandering about all day without a base just wouldn’t be practical.

Much to  my relief he agreed. Our anniversary trip will be reduced to 48 hours.

A Short Holiday

September 9, 2009

Some friends of ours were coming to Calais to shop. They only had three days – not long enough to come and see us so Bear and I took the train to Calais last Friday.

It was grey and miserable when we left but by the time we reached Valencienne the sun peeped out from behind the clouds and it stopped drizzling.

By the time we changed trains at Lille it was warm with blue sky and sunshine and at Calais, despite the strong breeze, it was like a real Summer’s day.

Our friends met us at the station and whisked us off to the hotel to check in before going to Auchan. We left them poring over the goodies and went for a coffee and snack  as we hadn’t had lunch and Bear has to eat regularly now he is on insulin.

He chose a ham and cheese sandwich which turned out to be a whole baguette while I had a rather disappointing Croque Monsieur – the bread wasn’t toasted so it was soggy – but it prevented us from fainting with hunger.

Our weekend was spent visiting Cap Gris Nez and Cap Blanc Nez, from where we could see England very clearly, watching out friends shopping, sitting on the beach (!) and eating.

During Saturday evening dinner Bear started complaining that I was less than enthusiastic about our forthcoing anniversary. We have often ‘laundered our dirty washing’ with these close friends but my heart sank when I forsaw it all coming out again. They’ve heard it all before and are careful not to take sides.

But this time, when he was bemoaning the fact that I didn’t love him any more (to get sympathy), while he loved me ‘as much as ever’ I’m afraid I had to get involved.

“Didn’t you realise how much I loved you? Didn’t you know how much you hurt me in the past? What did you think when I told you you were killing off my love for you by the treating me as you did?”

His response was a classic:  “I didn’t believe you”

Our friends were flabberghasted – and so was I: I’d  never heard that one before, but it was enough to lose him any sympathy instantly.

He realised this and shut up. Our friends decided it was time to retire and we went to our rooms. Nothing more was said but I couldn’t get to sleep for ages going over the past and getting nowhere.