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Sheila’s been feeling a bit unwell these past few weeks. Not quite herself. So, we arranged a trip to the doctor down in Mouliherne. Arranging a trip anywhere is like a military operation here. The back of the car has to be emptied of the EU shopping bag mountain, and all the car accessories before replacing them with the wheelchair. You see, I’m notorious for forgetting to take a bag into the supermarket when I go in. Well, it’s not that I forget, it’s just that the intention is only to buy one or two things, and carry them back to the car in my arms. But, French supermarkets being what they are, invariably I find I’ve over-stretched my resources, both fiscally and physically, and I need a bag (or three). So, I buy a bag (or three) and add them to the ever increasing pile in the boot! At the last count there were 29 in there! That’s not counting the ones we have dotted around the place – in the gites, in the shower block, in the lofts. We’ve even started giving them away to campers when we get their shopping in for them. “Do you want your bag back?” “Er, no – you keep it. Cadeau!”

Even Bernard now has a collection of our bags as we’ve donated kid’s cast off clothes to his ever increasing family and friends. There’s no ‘stigma’ attached to us giving our cast offs to a friend, rather than throwing them into the bowels of a skip destined for who-knows-where. Bernard’s grateful, as we once were as kids, when a distant relative came to our house with bags full of hardly worn clothes. And we’re happy in the knowledge that we’ve helped someone out. It’s cool.

So, once the boot was emptied and the wheelchair inserted where once had all been bags, it’s then time to get Sheila seated comfortably. She’s not walking too good these days, she’s 77 now, and 78 in a few months, so time’s beginning to take its toll on the old bones. So it’s less of a walk, and more of a studied ‘shuffle’ to the car. I have no idea how she manages to see anything out of the windows as she’s so tiny, she can barely see over the dashboard. Syb’s the same actually. It’s scary. You must have seen these tiny people get into cars, and drive them off, peering through the steering wheel, and then the windscreen? What amazes me more is that when Syb’s been driving, and I follow, is that I physically can’t get into the driving seat. She has the seat at its fullest extent forward, and I at its fullest extent backwards! The wing mirrors remain untouched, which I find bizzare, as I can’t see out of them if I crouch, and scrunch myself into Syb’s driving position! She does alter the rear-view mirror though. So, you have two dwarves driving along country lanes in rural France. Keep a look out for them.

The doctor’s has a few steps outside the bungalow leading into the surgery. So, it’s a bit difficult. The notice on the door says ‘Sans Réservation’ between the hours of 10 & 12, so it’s a given that the doctor will be there. Isn’t it? Ah, but this is France. And rural France to boot. The médécin is elsewhere today. The receptionist took Sheila’s details and promised she’d make a rendezvous for the day after. Then she offered to help Syb with Sheila getting her back down the steps and into the car. She was visibly shocked at the difficulty Sheila had, even with two helpers, negotiating the steps. So, very firmly, she insisted that the doctor would visit Sheila at home instead!

So, the following day, Dr. Annie Petit strolled into the grounds and proceeded to give Sheila a thorough going over. She took around half an hour, wrote out enough prescriptions to fill 29 carrier bags, explained that Sheila was troubled by aches and pains normal to her age and disability, and that it wasn’t too serious. The warmer weather will be arriving soon, and she’ll thrive a little more then!

The chemist happily dispensed various pills, potions and placebos into 29 carrier bags, we handed over the carte vitale and a small sum of cash, and all was well. Sheila’s had a visit this morning from the nurse to take a blood sample, bang on 9am as she said she would be on the ‘phone. That’s now gone off for testing, and the results will be sent here, to us. This is the most bizarre aspect though, as in the UK, the results would go to your GP? We’ll have to ask Annie to come out and explain to us!

Anyway, the costs? Well, for the nurse to visit this morning and take the sample was €10.30. The home visit by the doctor was €44.00, double what it costs for a consultation at the surgery. The 29 carrier bags of pills, potions and placebos came to around €15, after 70% or so had been reimbursed by the state via the carte vitale. The doctor gave us what’s known as a ‘fueille de soin’ to hand in at the CPAM office in Saumur. This details the care given, and the cost. There’ll be 70% or so of that reimbursed too. So, all in all we’re pretty impressed with the state of care over here. This isn’t the first time we’ve had need of the health service here in France, and I doubt it’ll be the last. But, what with so many forums decrying the state of the UK’s health service, and hearing about it on the news etc. I wanted to inject a little dose of reality about the healthcare system as we find it here. I’d say it’s probably different elsewhere in France, the big cities especially, but where we are, it’s a first-class service. Sheila even has a chiropodist make a home visit each six-weeks or so. That’s been going on almost since we arrived in France. marie is lovely, and looks after Sheila really well. Everyone is professional, and so very kind and gentle with Sheila. All she wants now is a bit of sunshine on the old bones. As do we all!

It IS coming – honest!

Until the next time, au revoir.

TBC

All content © Le Chant d’Oiseau, 2006-2009

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A Bad Day!

Anyone who knows us will tell you that we’re friendly, hard-working and sociable people. It’s a struggle at times to make a living here, especially in the current economic climate. We try to improve things for our guests year on year, and we can only do this when time (and more importantly) money allow. We didn’t arrive in France with a bottomless pit of cash to draw on. We sold everything we owned in the UK to fund our dream, and then we took out a mortgage to take up the shortfall. A not inconsiderable shortfall. Things had to be prioritised. Firstly, we needed to convert our grenier into living accommodation for the family. Then we set about trying to improve the facilities here at Le Chant. We’r constantly doing that too. To the point that we ourselves go without, (ask our kids!) to ensure that our guests don’t. We believe that’s a good way to build our business, and set it on a firm footing so that we can spend the rest of our lives here.

Why am I telling you all this? Really, just to let you know how some small-minded people think it’s ok to undo years of hard work, of patience in the face of sometimes insurmountable odds. It’s one thing to have a dream. It’s another thing entirely to be able to maintain it. When we see reviews online that are dated from 2006, but appeared only yesterday, and detail something that we simply do not recognise as our home and business, we get deeply upset. I personally feel right now like throwing in the towel. I’m sat typing this with my wife at my side. Both of us in shock really.

I’m sorely tempted to ask Trip Advisor to remove the latest review, but then I understand that we have to get over it. We don’t mind constructive criticism here, and have taken on board many, many times what folks have said. It’s improved the place no end, and in the process we’ve had guests turn up time & time again. Often bringing friends and family here on subsequent visits. Indeed, many have become friends to us. So, at times like these, after yet another very busy season, one full of laughter and returning friends, it’s sad to think that these words could do us so much damage.

I’m not going to name these awful people, but suffice to say they weren’t typical of our usual friendly, fantastic guests. We’re grateful for that at least. We truly hope that their own business is strong enough to withstand such personal and blatantly false attacks.

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Ok, so. The last time I sat in this very chair attempting to guide you all through the chicanery of life in France, I left you with the perhaps distressing thought that I was about to impose my ‘unclehood’ on my poor sister’s baby, right? Well, things didn’t quite turn out that way, and for many & varied reasons, my gorgeous sister and her equally gorgeous (in a back-slapping, lager drinking, manly way of speaking) had to make a heart-wrenching decision to terminate their pregnancy due to a sequence of tests that left them in no doubt of their baby’s chances of surviving and leading any semblance of a normal life. Baby Connor had Spina Bifida to a quite alarming degree. Coupled with multiple defects, this meant that the less cruel option was to give him the dignity in death that he would never have had in his probably very short little life. It was a very sad time for all the family, and my two sisters and their husbands, already very close, have been brought even closer together if at all possible by those events.

Anyway, as sad as they were, the whole family came out to France for a long weekend of fun, laughter, tears and love in September. They’re all fine and although baby Connor may never have drawn breath, he certainly didn’t lack for love. In the pictures of him that I was privileged to see, he was beautiful, just like my sister. Although it may seem to some that it’s strange, to give a name to a child never destined to live, it’s really not. It’s bestowing a personality upon him, and ensuring that his memory will live on. He’ll always be a child, my sister’s first child, and no less special for not having cried, suckled, made a sandcastle on a beach, nor never known his uncle.

I’ve actually struggled for some months with creating a form of words to explain the situation here within the Blog, because believe it or not, I do get folks visiting us all the time who tell me they read it. I’ve opened up the software and sat at the keyboard attempting to tell you all of the past few months of hell. It always ended the same way. I’d shut down the program and go play scrabble on Facebook instead! Or, I’d disappear somewhere to shed a few tears myself. Not this time. This time it’s just flowed, from my heart and I like the way it looks. I hope my sister does too. By the way, she and her husband are expecting again, so, this time – everything’s crossed. Which makes it kind of difficult to pee straight!

Right, we’re often invited to John & Mary’s for a few beers and a laugh and one night they’d decided to invite a few folks ’round to have a bit of a BBQ and a bonfire. So Syb & I decided we’d go on the bikes with her mum following on the shopping trolley. Actually, when I say ‘shopping trolley’, it’s not actually one of those steel things often seen at the base of canal bridges, in an attempt to create a natural reef, or even sometimes in Asda; no, it’s one of those electrically powered things that are a complete menace on the roads in the UK. There was a story on the news the other night about a lady who was mown down by one at a terrific speed of almost 4 miles an hour, causing a broken leg when she stepped into the road to avoid it and was hit by a passing car doing 40! I think I’ve mentioned mum and her off-roading antics before? This night was no exception. She has the road sense of a baffled hedgehog caught in the glare of a 40 ton truck at the best of times. We have quite a busy main road at the end of our 2 mile lane. There must be, oh, at least 20 cars and lorries per day that use it. Have you ever noticed the similarities between the words ‘stop’ and ‘go’? No? Neither had we until that evening. Stop plainly meant go, and vice versa in the parallel universe between mother’s ears. The look of sheer horror on the face of the driver of the huge 4×4 as he bore down on this mad, grey haired old lady driving something across his path that he’d previously only seen in the adverts at the back of ‘Saga’ magazines in the doctor’s waiting room was quite something to behold. All Syb & I could do was close our eyes and practice calling the number for the Sapeurs Pompiers while waiting for the impact. As luck would have it, the car swerved down the road in which we were traveling, and missed mum by a few feet! Thank God the French are such crazy drivers!

Even as we were just getting over the shock, a few miles down the road, mum swerved into John & Mary’s drive and almost immediately scattered half a dozen plastic patio chairs, coming to a halt just inches from mine host, clutching a gin & tonic with his eyes closed. Now I think about it, he and the 4×4 driver looked painfully similar.

Anyway, we proceeded to have quite a good night. Tales were told, jokes were shared and much drink was drunk. It came to going home time and we all saddled up for the ride home. Mum set off in the lead with lights blazing. Syb & I brought up the rear. We’ve figured it out that it’s safer for us if mum’s in front, as it’s just too stressful having her going off-road behind us all the time. I’d just stopped for a mo to adjust my posture, and wave goodbye to the hosts. As I put my foot down, the verge disappeared into the fossé running alongside the road. I completely lost my balance and ended up arse over tit in the ditch, laughing uncontrollably with the bike trying it’s best to force me further into the dyke! People came sauntering urgently from all angles to add further insult to my indignity when all of a sudden, lights came blasting down the road, and a horn sounded.

Whenever Bernard passes John’s, or our house, he hoots maniacally on the horn, and we, it has to be said do the same. That’s how I knew who it was. Even though it was gone midnight, the horn still called out it’s plaintive song to John….then it stopped, just a few feet from where I was still on my back giggling. If you’ve ever suffered a Frenchman taking the piss out of you, you know what it’s like to be humiliated thoroughly, and completely! In the most friendly, and companionable way imaginable. We just can’t take offence at Bernard. His smile is infectious, the gleam in his eye is wicked and we love he & Mauricette dearly! Anyway, Syb & mum wobbled off back to the farm, while Bernard, Mauricette, Mary, John & I laid waste to some more good French wine!

So, good & bad and sad also to report in this update. I promise I’ll be more on the ball from now on as I appear to have found an impetus again. I still haven’t told you about the duck. Or the boar, or the night of the rugby semi-final…

Until the next time,

Au revoir.

TBC

All content © Le Chant d’Oiseau, 2006-2007

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