Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Visitors, hospital and days in the garden!

A week ago today, we were getting ready for our latest visitors, my stepson Paul and his friend Caine.  Well, their visit came and went in the blink of an eye!  I hadn't been sure of what to expect; after all this is rural France - not a hot spot of lively activity for young men, especially in March!  But it was a wonderful few days!  We think Caine fell in love with rural France and I'm sure he'll be back for more visits in the future (we hope so!).  Of course, they were lucky with the weather as it was dry, sunny and warm.  This is how we enjoyed one particular afternoon, having been down to our local boulangerie....

The dogs were delighted to have some "fresh meat" to get more attention from and hardly came near us for five days, preferring their new best friends. 

Here's Paul with Liam...

and Caine with Finn!

The boys went back to the UK on Monday after what we think was a good break for them.  Inevitably, the house felt very empty and quiet but these days, it doesn't take us long before we slot back into our usual life... and we know we'll have more visitors before we know it!

On Tuesday, I went back to the hospital for my "arthrography" (just to remind you, this was in place of the MRI which they couldn't do the other week).  I was in the hospital for a good couple of hours having various forms of radiologie and scans.  I had to have an injection of what I assume to be a kind of dye and it was possibly the most painful thing I've ever endured.  It was injected directly into my shoulder and it made my arm feel as if it had been clamped in a vice.  At the risk of sounding a bit melodramatic, it was all I could do to stop myself from bawling my eyes out!!  Anyway, it's done now and the next step is to see the orthopaedic surgeon again on 3rd April. 

My friends in the UK are suffering from further snow and bitter cold but here in Poitou-Charentes, spring has sprung.  We believe more rain is on its way but for now we are enjoying the sunshine and mild weather.  The sun brings out the lizards and our kitten Mo is fascinated by one that appears to live just outside one of the lounge windows.  She spends a good deal of each day, looking at him....

Look carefully and you can just see the lizard on the window ledge.  Mo is not too bright.... all she needs to do is go outside herself and she'd see him better!!  Still, this is a whole lot better for the lizard!

Danny and I took advantage of the good weather this morning; I pruned some of the hydrangea bushes (the previous owners seemed to love hydrangeas as there's about a dozen bushes around the place!) while Danny did the first mowing of the year in the back garden...

Finally, I am going to leave you with a funny story that demonstrates how difficult it is to learn the French language.  This happened to a friend of mine a couple of weeks ago.  The husband of another friend of hers had an accident and got a nasty cut across his head.  My friend called the ambulance service and explained the situation in her best French.  At our next get together with Hélène, she checked to see if she had been correct.  It turns out that instead of saying that the man had cut his head she had actually told the ambulance service that he had cut OFF his head.  There was just one itsy witsy reflexive pronoun missing and it just serves to demonstrate how very easy it is to slip up here!!

(By the way, I do love hearing from you, so do feel free to leave a comment below)

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

A week of good news...

Contrary to the last week or so, this week is looking brighter!  Yesterday I had good news from my friend who I mentioned a few posts ago which seems to have set the scene for good things to come.

This may not seem like a big thing but I think the problems with my shoulders must be easing.  As a reminder, prior to the current problem with my right shoulder, I had been diagnosed with having both of my shoulders frozen - this was while we were still in the UK.  I think the left shoulder may be "thawing" - and I wonder if I hadn't fallen and hurt the right shoulder whether it would be alright now too.  Still we'll never know!  And the brilliant thing for me - which I expect only the girls to understand - is that for the past couple of days, I have been able to do up my bra at the back!!  (Sorry to those men who read my blog; I know it's hardly world shattering news!)

Now this picture of our little kitten Cali, gives a clue as to the next good thing that has happened this week.....

What is she staring at so intently out of the window??

Yes... the cows are back!  They haven't been in the fields beyond the house all winter and I'd quite forgotten how wonderful it is to see them and what beautiful animals they are!  I know it's silly, but seeing them brought a very happy grin to my face. 

But going back to Cali.... it's the first time she's set eyes on them so she's a bit bemused!

On the subject of pets, here are some brilliant photos taken at dog training last Saturday.  I wrote about it in my last post but didn't have the pictures at the time.   In the first series Finn isn't doing too badly but by the last couple of pictures, he'd had enough!  And frankly, so had I!!

Apart from the kittens who spend a fair amount of time chasing around the house, most of the time our animals are horizontal!  Danny took this panoramic picture the other afternoon because every one of the animals was asleep on the lounge chairs.... you can just see Charlie, our ginger tom, in the bottom right hand corner!

And before any of you make any rude comments about my mauve and pink bootee slippers, they were a present from our grand-daughters Molly and Lilly for my birthday last year!!

This post is becoming more and more animal orientated as I go along but I can't resist showing you this collage of more sleepy pets....

The lap of luxury huh!

On a totally different subject, we were driving back from a shopping trip to the village of La Chataigneraie, and as we came into the small village of Chantemerle, there in the car park of the Bar/Restaurant called Le Chaudron, was a flipping great aeroplane!  We think it was being taken to a museum.  We were so nonplussed we didn't think to get a photo but luckily a friend of ours saw it in another village, Scillé, on its journey and she got this picture....

Impressive eh?

And finally, I am going to leave you with this picture of the frog!  You may remember I included  a picture of him on an earlier blog, and I couldn't believe it when he was still on the same plant the next day.  As you know my photography skills aren't great but this is a really nice picture of him..... needless to say, he's gone now..we know not where!


Sunday, 17 March 2013

A very brief catch up!

As suggested by the title.... this is going to be brief!  I wanted you to know that all is well but that there is nothing much to tell you!

In the past week we've had dreary weather again including some snow early in the week.  It didn't settle but it has been bitterly cold.  Even with some sunshine it's been very cold and our wood burner is still on all day long.  I have been reassured that this winter has been a "freak weather" winter (they said that about the summer and I just hope that normality resumes this year!)

Highlight of the week?  We had our chimney swept - for those of you without 'real' fires and therefore blissfully unaware of such things, you need to do this on an annual basis, partly because it's usually necessary but also because if there were to be a fire in the chimney, you probably wouldn't be covered under your insurance policy!  The man who did the chimney also told us quite a lot about having our new wood burner and fireplace fitted and it sounds far more involved than I had imagined!  I have a sneaky suspicion this is going to turn out to be far more costly than we first thought!

After the MRI fiasco, I went back to see the orthopaedic surgeon and he has now sent me for "arthrography".  My appointment is on 26 March and I will be seeing the orthopaedic surgeon again on 3rd April.  In the meantime I continue to have physiotherapy on my shoulder - not to mention help with my French while I'm there!

Talking of French, I have started getting together with a few other ladies and a French teacher called Hélène on a weekly basis.  We are taking it turns to meet at each other's houses on a Thursday afternoon and we are studying hard.  I do feel like I'm making progress but it's far from easy!

Dog training continues on a Saturday afternoon.  This week I had charge of Finn who decided he didn't want to be trained.  He behaved like a recalcitrant teenager - looking bored, yawning and generally seemed to be saying "Yeah, whatever!  Tell it to the paw!"  On the other hand, Danny took charge of an incredibly good Liam who 'sat' and 'stayed' and pretty much did what he was told to do.  I have to admit I'm left wondering if it's actually me that's useless and not the dogs!!

That's it really.  Danny's son Paul is coming to visit for a few days with a friend and they arrive on Thursday afternoon.  That means I'll be sprucing up the guest rooms, making up their beds and putting together my menus!  I'll tell you all about their visit in due course.

Until then, à bientôt!

Saturday, 9 March 2013

A lovely spring day!

Well, all it took was a bit of sunshine and all seems well again!

My last post found me pretty much in the doldrums and I think it's true to say that it's never one thing that gets you down, it takes lots of little things doesn't it.  And equally, when you feel brighter, so all those little irritations melt away!

So, for a quick update, I saw the orthopaedic surgeon on Thursday and he is sending me for a different type of scan on my shoulder.  It would appear from his reaction that it is the norm over here to not be able to have an MRI scan if you have lens implants in your eyes!  His secretary told me she would ring the next day with my appointment.  There was a time, not so very long ago, when the thought of having to deal on the telephone with someone who doesn't speak English would have cost me a night's sleep!  It is a wonderful feeling to know that it is not the case now and when the lady rang, I understood what she was saying and when my scan appointment will be and when I need to see the surgeon again.  (Well, I think so anyway!!!). 

Bank wise - I cheated and used Google Translate the other evening to pen an "angry email" to the lady we'd been dealing with at the bank.  She responded the next morning with an invitation to come in and see her that day (usually you have to wait for an appointment which can take a couple of weeks!).  We were there about 45 minutes in which time she sorted out all the things I'd complained about and she seemed genuinely concerned that we were angry.  We now have full access to the new current account, a cheque book, bank cards and Internet access codes! She transferred some money into the old account because some pesky direct debits have still to be changed over and at the moment, all looks good. 

Before moving on, I must just add a few words about culture again.  You see, it can be so frustrating for us Brits to have to deal with the French bureaucracy but when I calmed down and stopped to think about it, I reminded myself that one of the reasons we love this country is that in so many ways it is like England used to be.  Well, in England years ago, people didn't change banks very often - in fact, loyalty counted for a lot in those days.  Now in the UK, people are actively encouraged to change everything from banks to utility companies and as a result, the mechanics of doing so have become slick and efficient.  In France, generally, the norm is to stay with your bank, your car, your house and so on.  It's easy to see then, that when a Brit comes along and wants to change their bank for example, it's not an everyday occurrence and you have to make allowances for that.

Anyway, I gave today's posting the title of "a lovely spring day" because that is what we've had - even though this morning you would have thought it would be anything but that.  We drove through the rain to go to the dogs' training session this morning but when we got back home this afternoon, it was to glorious sunshine!  And to prove it, here are some pictures of our lovely spring flowers coming up all over the garden.

While out in the garden taking these photos, I spotted a small, bright green frog on a leaf on the shrub in the larger photo above.  I hope you'll be able to enlarge the picture below to get a good look at him...

And finally...we now have a security light above the main barn.  Hard to believe that this barn used to just stand open, without any doors.  Now it has its magnificent doors and the security light above them.  Danny fixed it up there a couple of days ago and each day we've waited till it got dark to see if it works!  Finally, last night it did!  There's a sensor which detects movement so if someone walks up the drive the light will come on.  There's just one problem in my humble opinion.... usually we have our shutters closed and the curtains drawn so I wonder how we'd know if the light comes on.  But no doubt Danny will explain that anomaly to me!!!

Here is the barn with its new security light.... the style is very 'French' by the way

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

With apologies for my absence.......

but I do have all sorts of excuses!

Firstly, for those who don't use Facebook and may therefore not be aware, I haven't been very well.  Oh don't be alarmed as it was nothing serious, but something that started like a virus, which felt very much like the flu (except that I had a flu jab back in the autumn) and after two or three days, developed into a ghastly streaming cold. 

In the midst of it all, I got two lots of bad news from friends in the UK, which on the one hand put my piffling cold into perspective but on the other hand really upset and depressed me. 

I should like to think that those of you who read (and hopefully, enjoy) my blog would like to know the downs of my life as well as the ups!  I'm not going to dwell on these recent "downs" but I feel it's only right to try to explain how things have affected me this last week.

Aside from what I've mentioned already, we have two issues running along in our life.  One is the problem with my shoulder, which I've mentioned in earlier blogs.  Well, yesterday I was due to have an MRI scan ahead of seeing the orthopaedic surgeon on Thursday.  We were up and out of the house earlier than we even get up normally  as we had to go to the hospital in Niort, at best about 45 minutes drive but this was early morning and we were advised to allow an extra 30 minutes for parking etc. As it was, the hospital is made up of various sprawling buildings with little on them to give any clue as to which might contain an MRI clinic. (Click here to see a plan of the hospital).  After much deliberation, we opted (correctly) for the main building!  We needn't have worried as I wasn't seen on time anyway and when I was, the doctor wouldn't do the MRI as he considered the implants I have in my eyes would make having a scan too risky.  (To explain, I had the equivalent of a cataracts operation in each of my eyes, many years ago, to improve my sight).  Already feeling down as I was, I was very upset (in fact, I admit it, disproportionately so!) because I don't know what effect this will have on getting my shoulder sorted out.  The surgeon wanted the MRI scan ahead of doing keyhole surgery to repair a ruptured tendon in my shoulder.  Oh and needless to say, when I checked out the situation on the internet, I was assured there was no reason why I couldn't have an MRI scan!

The other issue is the bank!  Have I already mentioned that we are in the process of changing our bank branch to the local one in Moncoutant?  At the risk of repeating myself, the bank (Crédit Agricole) appears to be run on a kind of franchise basis and it is not possible to simply transfer your current account from one branch to another.  I refuse to bore you with all the details but suffice to say, having started the ball rolling on 16th January, here we are on 5th March still without cheque books or bank cards!

But why am I letting these things get on top of me?  It's simple really and it comes down to the language problem.   I'm convinced that the problem with the MRI yesterday was, at least in part, caused by a lack of understanding by the doctor of what I'd actually had done to my eyes.  And, if I were having problems with a bank in the UK, I would be demanding to speak to the manager and threatening all sorts of things!  Yes, I can make myself understood to a degree here but dealing with officialdom (not to mention the classic French shrug - which translates loosely as "well, if you don't like it, you know what you can do"!!!) is a whole different can of escargots!

Looking back over what I've written, I realise that doing so has been therapeutic because I can look back on these issues now and smile at them.  And I must remind myself that I have had some successes of late, too.  For example, I've been having some physiotherapy on my shoulder and because I was unable to find an English speaking physiotherapist, I am seeing a French one.  And it's been doing me the world of good because I have had to speak French.  He is very understanding and helpful and as I see him once or twice a week, we are building up a rapport so I feel quite comfortable and don't panic if I don't understand something he says or if I'm struggling to think of the right word to say.

Anyway, I must just finish by telling you we have enjoyed a couple of gloriously sunny and warm days.  It really feels like spring is just around the corner now!  Danny and I made sure to take advantage of the good weather and we got various outside jobs done.  I'll leave you with these picutres of Liam, enjoying the sunshine and kitten Mo, deciding whether or not to brave the big outdoors!!