Monthly Archives: April 2016

So Will I Buy the House? Or Not?

Well – I somehow imagined it would be all plain sailing.

The house had been empty for thirty years, and when I tracked down the owner and asked it seemed they were interested in selling. But our negotiations appear to have struck difficulties.

It is so hard to judge prices here as the property market is so very different from the one at home

Should one find an interesting and unimproved property it seems that, after spending goodness knows what in time, expense and heart-ache, one is reasonably unlikely to even recoup one’s costs.  And that is assuming the property actually sells, with many properties staying on the market for year after year.

So I had to be sensible.  Everyone who has moved here advises that I should take my time before buying as there are so very, many, vacant properties on the market.  They say in the UK that a two percent undersupply means a property boom, and a two percent oversupply means a property crash – and here I think there must be at least a fifty percent oversupply if not even more.

I have only just started seriously looking around now that it seems our negotiations may have reached an impasse, with my already having offered more than fifty percent over what I am  reliably informed by ‘those-in-the-know’ is the correct value.  And nearly everyone tells me not to rush into things as there is just so much choice available.

Not that it would interest me, but just this morning a local agent has emailed me about a property he has on the market – a small hamlet of five houses and some barns, one house renovated and one half completed, at the end of a private lane, and overlooking fields, woodland and a stream with an asking price of under £100,000, and I am absolutely certain they are open to offers.  If I was just a few years younger, or a few years fitter, I would have no hesitation about wading in.

So I will let fate lead me.  I am a firm believer in ‘what is meant to be is meant to be’ so it will either happen or it won’t.  And each day Phoebe and I venture further afield and discover new delights. And places I didn’t know existed.

A Change of Diet

After my brothers flew back home, and my new friends had driven off I decided to watch a video series that had been on the internet about alternatives to the general idea of the way to go.  And it chimed in with my thinking.  Soooooo……. I decided to take drastic steps to firstly change my diet.

I cleaned out the fridge and cupboard of everything that was not organic.  By posting on the internet I found a local(ish) shop which sold only organic food, and off I went – my first real journey in the Renault since having the port for chemo fitted.

The shop was a delight to look at – full of vegetables and fruit bursting with life and vitality and enough to make a non-vegetarian jump ship

I left laden down with bags of fresh produce, probably far to much to eat quickly enough but I was just so delighted to have found it all.

So for the next seven days I restricted myself to raw vegetables and a small amount of raw fruit, with just water and some herbal tea to drink.  I have to say, although the produce looked so delicious, by day seven I was finding it hard going to say the least.  Particularly the raw broccoli which is supposed to be so incredibly good for you, but boy, is it bitter.  I wished I might have found some raw purple sprouting which surely must be nearly as good and I quite enjoy eating raw.

On day eight I gave myself a real treat!  Some very lightly cooked sweet potato and cauliflower quickly stir fried in coconut oil.  Isn’t it amazing how life changes us?  Last week living high off rich French cooking and lots of champagne and wine.  And now!  – I was delighted to just have something warm to eat, which didn’t require endless chewing.

The following week I gradually introduced more fresh fruit and some dried seeds, nuts and fruit.

Week three gave me a couple of very lightly cooked eggs.  They are supposed to be much better for you when eaten raw, but somehow…….!!!

I have to say that my symptoms have abated somewhat and I am not in as much pain – not having had to take a single painkiller since I started.

By now I had read so many articles, and absorbed so much conflicting information, that I decided to ‘hoe my own row’ – and talking of hoeing rows – should I get a property again I think I may well have to give up my idea of never, ever gardening again, as I certainly miss the fresh, bursting flavours of the many fruits and vegetables I produced for years in my own garden, let alone the access to such a variety of foods freshly plucked, picked and dug minutes before consuming.

New Friends!

I had a lovely surprise when a couple who I only really knew from the internet made a special detour to call by and see me, and we spent a few days together, sharing some meals and walks in the country, and a few glasses of wine in the evenings.  We had a good laugh together and I am sure that Laughter is the Best Medicine.

IMG_2432

Jackie said that it was partly after reading my blog that she and Martin decided to go full-time motor-homing themselves

The hadn’t had their vehicle long, and in fact this was their inaugural trip abroad, which had encompassed touring France plus some days ski-ing for Jackie.  What an interesting couple they are, full of life and loving their new-found freedom to roam, though they currently need to return to their UK base for Jackie’s mother’s Ninetieth birthday, and later in the year a son’s wedding.  They had home schooled (with great success) their four children and were full of passion for all sorts of things.  Wonderful!

Then I received another email from a fellow solo-female traveller that she was heading in my direction, so we arranged to meet up and ‘do lunch’ together.  Even though I am not able to travel at present I am still constantly meeting new and interesting people.

Carol is a solo motorhomer like me, and this was her first trip over the Channel.  She had started off with some others she knew to gain a bit of confidence and had gone through France and spent a lot of time in Spain, though she soon struck off on her own itinerary, and was now returning homewards for the warmer months.  I think she found our more wet and windy spring here in the Limousin somewhat of a challenge after the warmth of Spain, so how she will fare when she returns to the more northern parts of Britain I am not quite sure

Once again it was off to the nearest restaurant that I hadn’t tried.

IMG_2439

This time owned by a half English couple who had move here a couple of years ago.  The menu catered to both English and French tastes, though it was the French husband of the team who did the cooking.  Much to my surprise I really fancied the Fish and Chips and Mushy Peas.  So after a suitably French starter that is what I choose and enjoyed it as much as I thought I would.  It must have been that two year Fish and Chip taste test – as before starting to travel I could almost count the amount of fish and chips  I have eaten in the last few years on my fingers – and I don’t mean Fish Fingers.

I had arrived on the Hardly Davidson, sans Phoebe, but Carol was keen to meet Phoebe and see Thebus, so we walked back along the Voie Verte.  I sadly had to decline giving an internal tour as I find I have been feeling so tired and washed out just lately that Thebus’ insides are nearly as much of a disgrace as mine must be.

But we took Phoebe for a walk together and stopped at the local cafe for a coffee.  And although we sat outside Phoebe was not as well behaved as I might have liked, partly because their little terrier who is always sleeping in the window of the cafe side had taken a dislike to Phoebe when we passed him on our walks, so they spent the time looking at each other through the glass doors – Phoebe with delight and love at seeing a potential playmate, but the terrier with quite opposite thoughts on his mind.

Then back for a coffee to Carol’s motorhome – which unlike mine was fit to be seen.

IMG_2442

All too soon it was time to part and wish Carol a safe journey home.

A Visit from The Boys

Of course, I shouldn’t call them ‘The Boys’  but I am the eldest child of three, and have always thought of my two younger brothers as boys, though even the youngest is now in his fifties.  Nick is five years younger than I, and Mike, six and a half years younger than Nick.

I had been in close contact with them since my current problems had begun, and they had arranged to travel over to France and spend a few days with me here.

The local airport at Limoges, as I have mentioned, is not very far away, and is a delightful little airport.  The carpark is smaller than many UK supermarket car-parks.  And having found a slot, which seems easily done, then even I deem it a short walk to the reception area.  The cafe there sells good home produced food, and excellent French coffee, which can be taken to the seating area, or on nice days outside to the terrace overlooking the arrival bays.  Several folk were there with their dogs to greet homecoming family members, and there is a relaxed and informal feeling.

Nick arrived in France first.  His actual name is Richard, but the family have always call Nick, since he was ‘nick-named’ by a Great Aunt of his when about two years old, commenting.  Well!  I have heard of Old Nick, so I would guess this one must be Young Nick.  Quite what mischief he had been getting up to at the time I don’t remember.  But I do remember being asked to watch him whilst my eternally busy mother was doing something.  The upshot of leaving a seven year old to watch over a toddler was that he emptied the saucepan cupboard, selected a measuring spoon, which had been a wedding present to my mother from one of her friends, and then proceeded to scrape the tar from the bottom of the newly installed electricity pole and anoint his face and hair.  I had at the time a book which contained the story of the Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby and somehow the two things have become stuck together in my mind – if you will pardon the pun.  All my story books must have been hand-me-downs, and I think if I had them now they would be worth a fortune as that particular one seems to have been published in the 1880’s.

But the grown-up Nick had very thoughtfully hired a car, as although I now had the Renault I am never certain when I might be called in to the hospital – though I have to say I am still awaiting the letter even now.  After he had arrived and settled in we headed off down into the village for a very nice four course meal at the local bar/restaurant, and that was the beginning of a few days of intensive eating and drinking.

Next day we both went to collect Mike from his morning flight, which arrived early so the passengers had to queue for a few minutes to let the previous scheduled plane unload.

IMG_2385

Back at the campsite to celebrate being together we cracked open a bottle of excellent champagne purchased from Andree next door, and had a light snack of fig bread and Coulommiers cheese, which I have decided I like, then went to have a look at the house at Bos du Mas.

Nick brought his laptop and surveying kit with him and got stuck in taking all the measurements to draw me a full set of plans and elevations, so I can decide exactly what I might want to do in the way of alterations, and also have something to show the Marie and the planners in Limoges if necessary.

IMG_2388 IMG_2389

Mike tried to get the door to the animal housing part of the Sous Sol which had stubbornly refused to yield to all and any attempts to get it to open, even after having been doused  liberally in WD40 and Three-in-One.  His verdict after an hour or so was that the final bit of the barrel is seized up through lack of use.

IMG_2398

 

I wandered around trying to decide what might fit where in the way of bathrooms and kitchen fitments, and then out in the garden found quite a little plantation of Spotted Orchids,  Well I think that is what they will turn out to be when they come into flower.

IMG_2390

 

Nick started drawing up some of the plans on his laptop then in the evening we headed off for a meal at the local Relais recommended by Andree.

And what a good recommendation it was.  Okay we did opt for the best of the Menus, but at 25 euros (currently £20) we had Flambé Prawns in a Cream Sauce, and what large and juicy prawns they were.  They came with a salad and bread and they would have made a main course in most UK restaurants.

Next up was an entree of sweetbreads.  I know many people are not keen on ‘offal’ as it is disparagingly termed, and there is a determined, and totally incorrect idea amongst the British, that sweet breads are testicles, which anyone who understand food knows they are not.  We all without hesitation choose the sweetbreads, though as with all the courses there were several other good choices.  Beautifully prepared, and again with enough in each serving to make a British main course I was determined not to waste a morsel of the wonderful sauce.  So with the bread required to mop up the sauce with the prawns, and the bread required to mop up the sauce on the sweetbreads by the end of the second course I was absolutely stuffed.

My brothers had both ordered the Limousin steak, and Madame who took our order and was also the cook was delighted when they wanted it cooked a point (medium rare) rather than well-done.  I had a Pave of Veal which was beautiful, but I had to pass most of it over as it was just too much, but I did manage the delicate and excellent Timbale of Vegetables, and some of the very nicely cooked chips.

Then came the cheese course.  I tried a postage stamp size piece of each of the four on the cheeseboard, and only about as thick, but couldn’t eat them all.  But not to be defeated I ordered a Creme Carmel for desert, though once again had to pass most of it on after a spoonful.

The wine was excellent and inexpensive, as was the coffee.  At only 4 or 5 miles from Champagnac I think this will definitely be somewhere I will be seeing more of.

Next day I had to wait for the nurse to call and give me my daily injection of anticoagulant following the keyhole surgery, but ‘the boys’ went off to do some more measuring and scramble up into the loft and check on the main roof timbers.  And by the time I got down to the house, guess what it -was time for lunch!

So off down the Voie Verte to a very modern restaurant which had been created in the old engine shed of what would have been the railway station at Champagnac, and it is only just over ten minutes stroll.  We had the menu of the day for 14.95 euros – which was a nicely dressed and finely chopped salad with pieces of goat’s cheese and sun-dried tomatoes, followed by a beautifully tender daube of veal with red and green peppers, followed by a choice of a massive and delicious chocolate trifle type desert with macerated fruit and biscuits in the base, or two large scoops of excellent home made sorbet.  Not bad for the equivalent of £12.

A little walking off was required and we headed along the Voie Verte and down though the woodlands

IMG_2469

Coming out by the old Washing Shed, where in times past the local womenfolk would have beaten and rinsed the families washing

IMG_2405

So having taken some exercise we thought to go down to the town for a light pizza supper in the evening.  Sadly Wednesday was closing day, but we were on a roll, probably quite literally, and headed off to the nearby town of Challus with its ancient castle and interesting buildings.  (I think well worthy of a further daytime visit)

I had Limousin Pie and something else, but to be honest by now I was thoroughly sated with eating.  The restaurant bar was in a wonderful old building, with a fireplace taken from the ruined castle nearby, and in which the  very friendly owner insisted on lighting a fire for us even though we were the only diners.  He had expected no customers that evening as there was a big English / French Rugby match – and his bar had no TV!

IMG_2410

Even after all the eating we had managed to do, next day after taking Mike back to the airport – and me into the hospital at Limoges for running repairs – Nick and I  headed down into the local village for the three course lunch of the day, before Nick waved farewell leaving for his afternoon plane.

I feel overfull just typing all this food out!

More Hospital Investigations

I think I may have been delaying writing this post, and have written about some of the nicer things which have been happening in my life, but anyway on Maundy Thursday I was due to go into the hospital in the evening, stay overnight and have the procedure on Good Friday.

I have always been interested in, and used homoeopathic remedies for my illnesses, but now my current predicament seemed beyond my self-taught skills.  I had previously managed to locate an online practitioner but was not too confident in his abilities, and I think he felt the same as things became more complicated.  I really needed someone with full medical training who was also practicing as a homoeopath – so I turned to the website of the British Homeopathic Association.

You had to enter a postcode to narrow the search, and I just used my last uk one and up popped someone who filled my requirements.  Only problem was I hadn’t realised that he practiced in Harley Street as well as Hereford – with commensurate prices!  Still, he was qualified and I was feeling pretty desperate, so we had a half hour telephone consultation, followed by an hour on the day I was due to go into hospital.

Why is it that I keep forgetting the time difference between the Uk and France?

I had spoken to a builder about giving me an estimate on the house I had been looking at, so knowing he would be arriving at one o’clock I happily arranged the telephone call for noon.  I arrived at the house early to give me plenty of time to look round before discussing it all, and guess what?  Everything happened at the same time!  So I had an emotional phone call, whilst the poor builder had to look round on his own.

Then it was off to the hospital.  As the Renault hadn’t arrived Ken and Steph, who live here at the campsite when they are not off on their own travels, kindly dropped me off at the hospital.  I had the cheese-counter ticket dispensing machine well within my grasp now, plus I was armed with an English / French translation of all my details, so it was fairly plain sailing till I was up on the same ward on the troisième floor as last time – and this time I even knew what troisième meant.

Once again non of the nurses spoke any English (which of course I would not expect them to – it is my lack of French which is the problem, not their lack of English) – I had strict instructions as to how to wash and shower with the special antiseptic soap and a special electric razor was used to tidy up any bits which needed tidying up – all surprisingly difficult things to mime.

Next morning it was up early hours as I was to be the first in for surgery.  I had the same ruggedly handsome  porter to push my bed though to the operating theatre – when Lisa met him later on she said he could push her about anytime!  They must have decided on using a different anaesthetic this time as it was just something which went into the vein – last time there was a mask which for some reason must have not fitted very well, and as I am so short and had to be way down the bed the anaesthetist somehow couldn’t reach my face and had to climb onto the operating table with me, which was somewhat disconcerting.  But this time I was asleep in a flash and before I knew it I was in the recovery room, and very soon returned to my room where I was grateful to sleep and rest, though of course the nursing staff came in regularly every three hours or so throughout the day  and night to check on me.  My blood pressure was perfect at 120 over 80 which always seems to bring a smile to the nurses faces.

Next day the dressings were removed and I was allowed to have a shower and get dressed.  Which made me feel so much better in itself, and I was promised that after lunch I could speak with a doctor who would discharge me.  Once again all in mime and my few words of broken French.  I used the time to fill in the very, very lengthy questionnaire I had from the English homoeopath, well,  I had filled in quite a lot after our first half hour phone conversation, but it was only when I reached the end I found the instructions on how to fill it in correctly – so I had to go back and redo several sections.

After another produced-from-scratch lunch the doctor – I think a young intern – visited and although she spoke very little French she had her iPhone with her, and together with that I worked out that I would have to wait for the results of the tests before I really knew what was going on, but she smiled a lot so I felt more hopeful, although a few tears did silently escape.

Once again the hospital were insistent that I could not leave alone, and by now Lisa had returned from the van collecting trip, so, very kindly, once again she turned up – this time in the new (to me) Renault and we called for Phoebe on the way back home.

A Reiki Treatment

Quite a few years ago I knew someone who taught Reiki and learnt some of the techniques and also how to meditate.  Exactly why I stopped doing either I am not sure, as they had a profound influence on my life

Thinking that all challenges in life are a form of making us stop and reassess our current situation, I looked for someone nearby who gave Reiki.  There was a French lady in Limoges, and when I finally plucked up the courage to telephone and try out my minimal communication skills it turned out that she spoke EXCELLENT English having been an English teacher some years ago.

She sounded delightful, and suggested I visit her at her home in Saint-Jal.  I had a quick look on the map and it didn’t seem all that far, perhaps my grasp on miles and kilometres is a bit vague as it took me well over and hour and three-quarters to get there.

But what a stunning journey.  Allowing myself plenty of time I had started early.  Not as early as my morning starts when travelling, but early enough to pass the cattle and horses, still sleeping in the dew-covered fields, their rough winter coats bespangled with another coat of sparkling dew-drops.

The route I took followed, for the most part, a local scenic route supposedly tracing that taken by Richard Coeur de Lion, shortly before he was fatally wounded whilst besieging a local castle.  It is mainly high ground with wonderful far-reaching views.  Foolishly I had forgotten to take my camera, but as I have mentioned before the scene before one’s eyes when transferred to a small screen is a poor reflection of the true experience.

We had enjoyed (or suffered) depending on your view, a dramatic thunderstorm the night before, and now the morning had dawned bright and clear, putting the far distant sweep of the valleys and hills in the distance into sharp focus: the strong sun causing the mists to rise in ethereal drifts from the many lakes and ponds, giving a fairytale landscape.

The little hamlets and towns were quiet, and even more deserted than normal, and it was interesting to monitor the pitch of the rooves as they changed from the shallow pan-tiled ones of the Haute Vienne, to the steep Dordogne variety.  When I visit again I will remember my camera and hopefully allow more time so I can include some photos.

For mile after mile the fields looked charming – filled with trillions upon trillions of bright yellow dandelions and white daisies – what a feast for the bees and insects, and what bounty then for the birds.  I passed two swallows perched together on a wire, high on a hill, surveying the scene, and probably just newly returned from Africa. I even passed swathes of wild orchids growing along the verges, though not quite out in bloom as yet.

Maire-Pierre is a delightful lady, and the house she lives in – inherited from her grandfather – has been beautifully and thoughtfully brought into the twenty-first century.

A day to remember, and I hope the first day on my road to a return to the true ‘me’.

A Night out with the Choir

When I had visited Champagnac-la-Riviere, and stayed at Camping Parc Verger before Christmas, Lisa here had just joined a newly formed local choir, and now they were due to perform at their very first public engagement, and singing together with a local French choir.

To say they were nervous about it all might be something of an understatement, though in the event their nerves were unfounded, and they put in and excellent performance.

The choir had been formed as a ‘pop’ choir just some six months before, and their repertoire included old favourites from the Beach Boys early hits, and Manhattan Transfer numbers.  Their French counterparts had stuck mainly to a classical programme with just one or two more modern numbers.  So it would be an interesting juxtaposition of styles.

Now for some reason I had understood that the concert was to take place in the local – what we might call – Village Hall, so deciding it was the sort of occasion which needed a bit more care than my normal warm woolies combined with a good set of thermal underwear I had gone for something lighter and a pretty jumper, together with an alpaca throw in case I got chilly later on.

I must admit I was surprised when we arrived at an ancient and beautiful church just as dusk was drawing in, but thinking this must be a local concert venue I was not unduly perturbed about the heating situation.  Had I known that the French churches are not even as well supplied with winter heating as our normal stone-cold English ones I think I would have stuck to the warm woolies and added an extra layer of thermal undies.

Lisa had been similarly mislead, and had opted for a rather smart suit with tights and high heeled shoes.  We both were aghast when we entered the stone built mini cathedral with arches soaring away into the darkness overhead.

Lisa promptly texted her husband to ask him to bring an extra jacket for her and a knee rug for me.  (We had gone extra early for the practice session beforehand)

At first I decided to sit on the plastic chairs at the back near the stone wall, which seemed to radiate coldness.  I am not sure if coldness can technically be radiated, but if it can’t it certainly gave a good impression of doing so.  Lisa said try nearer the front on the open-backed benches, which were apparently near some form of heating.  Though I think they were the over-head infrared type and as I was not near enough to get beneath them I gained no benefit at all from their grilling rays.

I kept glancing anxiously towards the entrance door for the expected arrival of Franc together with Lisa’s coat and a blanket for my knees.

I think he turned up about three quarters of an hour later, sans blanket or coat, and seemingly completely unaware that Lisa had even texted.  Though I did notice he had a nice thick overcoat on himself !!

By now, even though I had enjoyed listening to both the choirs going through their paces, I was feeling so cold that I did a mental check of everything that had been in Lisa’s car on the way over, and wondering whether it would be worth asking for the keys and putting on the boot liner from the back, but thought I would probably just get colder fetching it.  Would I survive for the whole of the programme?  Well I had no choice.

Then, we were ready for the actual concert to start and the French Choir was to sing first.  The outgoing, and somewhat full-figured lady who was their leader and conductor and also accompanied them on the electronic organ got ready for the off, and……….. she was taking off her very warm looking, fluffy sheepskin jacket!!!!!!

I had not a suitable word of French, but the idea that this bundle of potential warmth was to be laid on a pew just across the aisle from me was too much to bear.

Madame, Madame,  Sil vous plait.  I gestured, and pointed, and mimed, and put my hands together in silent, pleading prayer, until she finally understood what I wanted, and, thank you God, passed me her heavenly-warm jacket.  I must say if I ever see one like it I will buy it whatever the cost.

Both the choirs were excellent and it was an enjoyable, if somewhat chilly evening.  Afterwards we retired to the local hall where not only was there heating, but the ceiling was a normal height, and we were packed in together with the extra warmth that human bodies and conviviality combined with suitable quantities of good French food and wine can produce.

But another time I will be better prepared !

Phoebe growing up

 

Meanwhile of course, Phoebe is growing on apace, and turning out to be a really lovely girl

She will now trot alongside the scooter without being on the lead, and walk beside me at my pace, which is exceedingly slow, again without being on the lead.  But people she knows, or who look like they might make a fuss of her are often just too much to resist, though her recall is excellent.  She understands a lot of what I say to her, and mostly tries hard to be good,  but underneath there is still a mischievous streak, which I have to say I like.

Waiting for all my appointments we took time on nice days to explore more of the countryside around, though the weather this spring has been surprisingly wet.  The dry hollow in the goat enclosure by the lake has been an overbrimming pond for weeks now, and all the ditches along our woodland walk are filled with water.  – One of the phrases Phoebe understands is ‘splish-splash’ as she dashes in and out of the muddy water having a great time.  Normally just before we head back to Thebus, so she is still nice and muddy when we get back

But she changes mentally and physically almost day by day – She is such a joy to have around, and I am so very pleased that I did the stupid thing and said ‘yes’ to having her.  She lies beside me on settee at nights when I use the laptop.  And I am ashamed to say, in the mornings when she wakes as soon as it is light and the birds start to sing (it is a wonderful dawn chorus here in The Limousin) I generally invite her into bed with me and we had a lovely cuddle.

We have a fairly strict procedure on this.  Firstly she has to go outside in case she needs an early morning wee.  The she has to go back to her bed so her feet are clean and dry.  Finally she is invited to ‘Come in my bed” where she has to wait until I am safely in, then lie along side me, with her feet facing outwards – so I don’t get kicked.  Once in she has to be still, and no fidgeting!  And she understood all this very quickly.

However unhygienic having a dog in the bed with you is (and I have to say in my adult life she is the first dog that has had this privilege, other than a couple of times when Old Phoebe was very ill)  I think I look forward to our morning cuddles as much, if not more than she does.

When it’s time to get up I ask her if she wants to get up, and mostly she just snuggles down even more firmly, but if I insist, gets up – front feet first, then a long stretch, while her back feet are still on the bed.

On our twice-daily walks together we explore a little more of the area on nice sunny days, though it certainly has been a wet spring here.  Even as I write this we are in the midst of really quite a violent thunderstorm.  I suspect if I do finally buy the house at Bos du Mas it will be a fine place to view any incoming storms, of which there seem to be quite a few.  Probably as we are so high.  I assume it is not called The Haute Vienne for nothing.

Phoebe is not as tall or filled out nearly as much as her namesake, but she is an elegant looking girl, and I would suspect still has quite a lot of growing to do.  After her visits to the Dog Creche she comes back exhausted.  I think not only is she tired from all the playing, but needs to catch up on some growing time as well.

Keeping Busy

After the meeting with the doctor I didn’t feel up to phoning friends and family with such gloomy news.  I tend to be alright about things when I can keep them buttoned up, but having to tell others brings out all the weepiness, and I wanted to avoid that.  So I emailed, explaining I was okay but not really up to talking about things yet.

Of course most of them wanted me to return home immediately, but my feelings were that the health system here seemed good, quick and efficient, and even if I couldn’t understand much of what was going on due to the language barrier, I doubted I would have been very much more in the picture back at home.  Plus, the chances were, I would have to start all the tests over again, with the inevitable delay

I like the campsite here very much, and the owners Franc and Lisa couldn’t have been kinder, as well as others just staying on the site.  Before making the decision about whether to stay in France or return to the UK I checked with Franc and Lisa that they were okay for me to stay, and they were truly kind about things.

The Voie Verte and quiet lanes round here are perfect for exercising Phoebe, and I would imagine I will have nicer weather here than in the UK as well.  So that was it – I would stay   Though I did check with my own doctors, and the locum I spoke with said it sounded as though the treatment I was getting was good, and if he were in my shoes he would stay on.

So with the decision made that put other things into motion.

Firstly I needed to get the Renault from England brought over here.  I had been trying to arrange various ways of getting it over with varying success – but then fate intervened

The closest I had got to a viable plan of getting it to France, was that the sellers took it to the nearest south coast ferry port, then Lisa and I  (mainly because I was unsure of how ill/well I might be feeling)  took a train north, and day trip on the ferry to England then driving back,  The day trip crossing was necessary, as, to have it sent as cargo was £360 plus vat, whereas two one way ferry tickets and a return crossing with the van and two passengers was considerably less.  As the train had to go through Paris I though it would be worth stopping over for a day or two to have a quick mooch round the city and I must admit I thought this plan had some attractions,  But everything changed again when Lisa returned from visiting family and friends in England

Her mother had purchased two electric tricycles for herself and Lisa’s father to use when they visited Parc Verger in May, but they were now stuck as to how to get them delivered to France.

They would fit in the Renault!  So we hastily booked two cheap plane tickets, and a ferry crossing.  We would fly into East Midlands airport where I arranged for the Renault to be delivered.  Then drive to Morecambe, where Lisa’s parents and the trikes were.  Load them up and drive back to the ferry next day for a midnight sailing with cabins booked.  Stressful, but do-able.  The reason for the short time scale was that we were fast approaching the Easter holidays, when, as soon as the children break up from school the prices of everything increase to ridiculous rates.  But even worse, when I visited the hospital (again ferried by the kindly Lisa) I was given an appointment for the day the ferry returned us to France.  Could we make it from the North Coast of France with an 8 am docking, to Limoges Hospital for a 2pm appointment?  Everything was booked and I thought it was worth a risk.

But Fate intervened yet again.  All my appointments were brought forward, and I was to go into hospital on the Thursday before Easter. So poor Lisa had to fly out alone, collect the van and drive up to Morecambe, though fate had now supplied a young nephew with a football injury who could accompany her on the journey back.

All this planning was keeping my mind from dwelling on maudlin thoughts, but whenever there was nothing much to think about, it started whirring off down less than positive routes.  So I decided, that if I could, I would buy the house that I had liked on the Voie Verte.

Of course after having heard my bad news, the idea that I was now thinking of buying such a dilapidated property requiring so much effort in the way of planning and arranging building work folk thought I was crazy to do such a thing at such a time and tried to talk me out of it.  If I wanted a house why not buy one ready to move into, or even rent one.  But my reasoning was more obtuse than that.   I was reminded of a greetings card I bought many years ago, and kept until I left The Grange, in fact I may even have packed it away with my photos and books.

It was very small, and there was a hand drawn picture of a small figure walking into the distant mountains, with a pig on the end of a piece of string.   The caption read –  I Will Go Where My Pig is Headed.

Trying to explain my reasons for going ahead at such an unsuitable time I remarked to one of my brothers that if I didn’t buy the house now I felt I would be giving up on my future. Since then both of them (who were adamantly against my buying) have been one hundred percent behind me.  I was not buying the house so much to live in, as to have something to keep my mind occupied.  I didn’t  feel in the mood for planning future travels, in fact I should, even now, have been in Morocco where I had paid for an escorted tour – driving over the Atlas Mountains, camping in the Sahara Desert then travelling back via Marrakesh, Casablanca and wonderfully evocative places I had only heard of in films or books.

And I was, and still am, unsure of how I will react to the chemo therapy, or even what my prognosis actually is !

Hopefully more than the six weeks which invaded my dreams lying on my hospital bed, the night before my operation on Good Friday.

Bos du Mas

I am sort of jumping back a bit in time now.

After Gill had called to take me and Phoebe out and show me round, not content with giving me a lovely day on Sunday she returned later in the week to take me shopping and also bring me a wonderful jar of home-made crab soup and loaf of home baked bread. Delish!  We left Phoebe at Thebus this time as Gill was using the Smart Car, so space for the three of us plus shopping might have been a bit tight.

It’s really good getting to know the local area, and it may, in fact become my local area.

When I had visited Champagnac-la-Riviere before Christmas I took Phoebe for regular walks along the Voir Verte, an old railway line which has been tarmaced to make a wonderful cycle track and walkway running for nearly 7 kilometres in either direction.

And along this walkway are various houses, many looking like holiday homes occupied for only short periods during the year, but one or two looked really closed and barred, as though not used at all.

I asked Andree, the lovely French lady who lives next to Parc Verger, if they might be for sale. Well – I think that is what I asked her! And I think her reply was to try asking at the Marie (Mayor’s Office) as they might know.

Eventually I plucked up courage and visited armed with a google translation, and there, together with the delightful young lady (who had as much English as I had French), we located the houses on the map and she wrote down the names and addresses of the owners. One was owned by an English couple with a UK address and I thought it not worth contacting them, as, even since I had visited in December some improvement work had begun. But the other was owned by a lady in the nearby town of Limoges

Armed with this information I consulted Frankie the vivacious French lady I had visited in Toulouse as to whether I should write, or would it be more polite to visit in person. Frankie thought a letter would be fine and helped me write one in proper French with correct grammar, and the letter was duly posted.

After some time a reply arrived at the campsite. The property was owned by the writer’s mother, and she may be interested in selling it. So an arrangement was made for us to meet at the house.

It turned out the the house there had not been lived in for nearly forty years, when it had belonged to the aged grandparents. So you might imagine what the inside was looking like, plus back around the turn of the Millennium the area here had suffered from severe storms where many rooves were ripped off. This has been the case with Bos du Mas, and although the roof had been replaced the ceilings and even the floorboards had suffered from damp and were damp or spongy. But the house had a pleasant feel and I took to it immediately. I have to say one shouldn’t buy property with one’s heart rather than one’s head, but I think as soon as I stepped inside my decision was made.

IMG_1094

View of the house from the cycleway

IMG_2271

View from the house

IMG_2274

Kitchen

IMG_2278

Sitting Room

IMG_2291

Track through the woods just opposite

 

The only thing which troubled me, and which I will need to sort out before any purchase, is whether it will be possible to adapt the accommodation to make it easily accessible for me, as the house is a traditional French design, where the Sou Sols is on the ground floor, with barns and stabling for animals and the living accommodation is on the first floor.

IMG_2416

This was the last owner, and the door to the animal part of the Sous Sol is behind him, with the same rose over the door.

Time will tell – so watch this space.

There are extra photos on the clip below

Gloomy News….!

The day for my appointment to hear my test results was set and Lisa once again was on hand to take me in, even though she had just returned from England for a short holiday.  All in all I really didn’t feel I could keep taking advantage of everyone, and had been looking for a vehicle which would be large enough to transport both my rather large scooter – which has now been re-named the Hardly Davidson – and my rather large puppy

I had tried looking for something which was already here in France, but it is such a specialised sort of thing, that finding something using French search terms, followed by asking the sorts of questions involved in buying a vehicle, felt entirely beyond my current grasp of the language – in fact buying bread in the morning is almost beyond my current grasp of the language.

Firstly I though to get something as small as possible, but it quickly became apparent that getting on and off the scooter once inside was going to be something for a lithe and able-bodied person, which rather defeated the object, plus there would not be a lot of room left over for Phoebe.

Eventually I hit on a Renault with an electronically powered lift.  The bed of the lift sounded a bit small for the size of the scooter, but after numerous telephone calls and emails it was decided it could be made a little larger and all would be well.

But I am getting ahead of myself again.

Back to the hospital.  Perhaps I am delaying putting it all down in writing.

I must be – as now I am going to tell you how the hospital admission system works in France

Of course I didn’t know this when I first went in, as once again all the instructions are in French, and in this part of the country very few people speak anything but their native language – which of course I have no gripe with.

So….. when one goes in the first thing one does is to go to a little machine and press the middle of it, and eventually out pops something, for all the world, resembling a ticket for the cheese counter in your local supermarket.  I didn’t know this at first, so went straight to a vacant ‘booth’ for admissions.

NON !!!  I was waved away – obviously told to get a cheese ticket and wait my turn.  I didn’t understand a word, but the waving away was obvious so I duly sat down – sans cheese ticket.  An elderly lady (well probably a bit younger than me actually) took pity on my ignorant foreign ways, went a got a cheese ticket for me and thrust it into my hand.  After a couple of minutes the penny (or should I say centime) dropped.

I waited till the electronic board announced my number and proceeded to the appropriate booth.  All very efficient.  All very French.  As was the young lady in the booth who had not a word of English.  Eventually I got the gist and went on to the next cheese ticket dispensing machine, now armed with the obligatory sheaf of sticky labels with my name address and most intimate details printed on every one.

Another booth, and another waiting room.  But eventually my name was called.  Here in France the doctor seeing you visits the waiting room, calls your name, shakes your hand and escorts you to his office.  All very civilised.

I wasn’t expecting good news, but it was worse than I thought.  I was told I have advanced cancer of the womb, inoperable, but they would try chemotherapy.  I would need a further thorough examination under general anaesthetic and whilst I was under they would insert something in my shoulder ready for the chemo therapy.  Another appointment was made and another anaesthetist seen.  Even if things weren’t looking good – at least things were being done.

I have to say the prognosis at this first meeting sounded so gloomy that I actually asked if I had weeks or months, and the answer – that it was impossible to tell as each person reacted differently – was not really what I wanted to hear.

I have in recent years tried to always maintain a positive outlook as I feel things go better that way, but this really knocked me for a six.  They would look to see how far the tumour had grown into the wall of my womb, what other organs might be affected and also whether cancer had invaded my  lymphatic system.

Lisa was there for me when I came out, which was a comfort, but I still felt pretty shaky.  She had arranged to call at a friend’s house to feed the cat whilst she was on holiday in Morocco, and I wished that I was there myself, and not here with such bad thoughts on my mind.

Exploring in Périgord Forest

The Parc naturel regional Périgord Limousin (or Regional Natural Park Périgord Limousin) was created in March 1998.  It consists of 78 communes situated in the Haute Vienne running down to the Dordogne, containing about 1800 square kilometres and with around 50,000 inhabitants.  And in my opinion is very beautiful.

The whole area is dotted with woodland, and at this time of the year many of the trees have been harvested, particularly mature oaks, and lie in vast piles along the roadsides awaiting collection by the huge double-jigger lorries which one meets unexpectedly along the roads.  The brash piled alongside is destined for the pulp mills, the Limousin being the largest timber producing area in France

IMG_2228

As so far I have only had the mobility scooter to get around, we haven’t been very far, also too much exercise for the younger Great Dane is not recommended so we have limited our explorations, but the wild life here is wonderful, with many tracks winding their way though the woodland.

IMG_2291

Though I haven seen any yet, there are lots of deer and wild boar, even genets.

tumblr_m9mt76fy471qmdlyqo1_400

I have to admit when I saw an extra large domestic tabby cat hunting away over the fields I wondered at first what it was, but the close zoom on the camera left me in no doubt that it was not a genet.  There seem to be lots of cats around – some of a surprising size, and by the look of it excellent hunters.

At the end of February many flocks of Cranes (apparently a flock of Cranes is known as a Sedge)  flying mostly around dusk crossed overhead with wonderfully haunting, burbling cries as they flew, and by the Ist of April the cuckoo could be heard and the bluebells were beginning to flower, which together with the cuckoo flowers make a pretty sight along the woodland edges.

IMG_2204

The birdspotting here is said to be excellent.  I have heard lots of woodpeckers and owls, and seen nearly all the raptors, even things like Hoopoes and  Nightjars breed here, though again I have not been lucky enough to see any as yet.

I love the look of the suckler herds of russet coloured Limousin cattle which abound in the fields and woodland.

IMG_2366

IMG_2232

I even saw a red squirrel.  Though this is not my own photo, as the one I saw was hippity-hopping along the Voie Verte.

3431-red-squirrel-1

Just before the bluebells came few primroses and cowslips, and lots of vivid violets. There are probably lots of wild flowers to come, but even without their colour the beauty of lichen-hung, moss-encrusted forest trees, makes a relaxing feast for the eyes.

This little gecko came out to sunbathe on one of the warmer days

IMG_2351

Testing the French Health Care System

But I am getting slightly out of sequence here, as I am writing this in retrospect, having at first wondered whether to carry on with the blog at all.  Since my initial hospital visit I was getting the idea that whatever the news was going to be, it wasn’t going to be all that good.  Plus internet research was giving me a pretty good idea of what to expect.

My MRI scan having been done they decided I needed a thorough internal examination under a general anaesthetic.  Here in France the system is very different to the UK, but I have to say the medical staff are excellent and things progressed very quickly. And within the week, not only had I been given an MRI but another – I think – Ultrasound scan

I had first visited the local doctors surgery on the Saturday morning, and by Saturday evening I had been given internal examinations and spoken to the an anaesthetist about the forthcoming ‘Intervention’ as they like to call it here.  Plus, I was given a prescription for a special body wash, which I was to use the night before the operation and again on the morning before visiting the hospital, even directions as to how I should wash and shower myself.  All quite precise, and of course all in French.  So basically I couldn’t understand a word of it.

Frankie in Toulouse sprung into action and gave me a translation, and suitably doused in antiseptic I was taken in for the appointment by the ever kindly Lisa.  Yet another set of instruction in French informed me I needed to be in a couple of hours before, then it would take about 30 minutes for the procedure and about 30 minutes to come round, but they were insistent that I must be collected by someone.

In the event something went wrong – either with me or the procedure.  I am not sure which, or what, as once again the language barrier was a problem, but I was not allowed out of the recovery room till evening, and then throughout the night the nurses came to take my blood pressure and check on everything else every two or three hours.  Jubilantly insisting I put on my glasses to see when my blood pressure finally reached 100 over something or other – I have never had much interest in medical things – I now know that is actually quite low, so what it must have been before I am not sure, but I certainly had a ‘pale and interesting look’ when I was finally allowed out of bed to use the loo.

I was given a room of my own with an ensuite wet room, and I got the feeling that is standard procedure in France.  There was a TV and a telephone, again with instructions in French, but to be honest I was happy to just rest. The food was all home cooked food, and though it might not have been up to French restaurant standards it was all made from scratch using fresh produce, apart from the desert which was a light French cream cheese/yogurt in a little pot with some stewed fruit accompaniment.  Fresh bread for breakfast with jam and butter and a huge bowl of cafe au lait; turkey fricassee and fresh green beans for lunch, and I was not sure about supper as I was home by then

They had kept me in till gone lunchtime, insisting that I could not have a taxi but had to be collected by someone, and from my hospital room, also checking that I would not be completely alone when I returned home, otherwise they would not discharge me.

I did see a young doctor before I left but she said little other than I would need to await the results of the tests and an appointment would be made and posted to me.

Dear, kind Lisa from Parc Verger campsite turned out to collect me, and I returned back to Thebus, feeling grateful that we had taken Phoebe to a nearby dog creche, otherwise I would have been desperate to get back to her – expecting to have only spent the morning in hospital, not a day and a  half!

The dog creche is great.  Steph, one of the ladies here at the campsite, had found the address in a magazine produced locally for the English ex-pats here.  For ten euros a day, if I took her food and bedding, she could live in the house as one of the family, which seemed to include at least two adults, four young grandchildren and four family dogs one of which was a Bernese Mountain Dog – plus whoever else was boarding there that week.

When she arrived I think there were about ten dogs in total.  Phoebe, at around nine months old was in her element, and although not quite sure how to react when I dropped her off, was grinning from ear to ear when Lisa and I collected her on the way back from the hospital.