Sunday, 30 January 2022

There I met an Old Man Clothed all in Leather

There was a soft tap at one of our doors that set the dogs barking.  The challenge was to find which door.

The layout of our house confuses new visitors as there is no obvious front door.  On one occasion Tod was lying in bed when a tap at the bedroom French window revealed a woman who was looking for the chateau her mother worked in during the seventies.  Tod assured her there was no chateau round here. This was the early days when we knew no better.  In fact the farm along the ridge, perched on the next sandstone outcrop is clearly sitting on huge foundations that show where the chateau was, until the then owner gave up the fight to keep it going and knocked it down.

Those who know us just come along the terrace to the kitchen door. So I headed out that way in search of the tapper, to be confronted in the late afternoon cold mist by an elderly gentleman with a sweet smile wheeling a sensible bike with a panier full of folders, clothed from head to foot in sensible weather-proofed clothing.  A childhood poem (song?) immediately sprang to mind, not thought of in nigh on sixty years:

One misty, moisty morning, when cloudy was the weather,
There I met an old man, clothed all in leather, 
Clothed all in leather, with a cap up to his chin,
How do you do, how do you do, how do you do again.

After we had said our "how do you dos" it transpired he was the census enumerator, come to collect our data - it was our turn.  I knew he was due.  We'd had a letter from the mayor's office a couple of weeks earlier to say, among other things, that we could do the census online.  In COVID times that makes a lot of sense.  The letter included codes so we could get online and I had carefully put the envelope to one side.  I apologised to the elderly gentleman and assured him I would do it online straight away and sent him on his way into the cold with the words "bon courage". On reflection, I suspect he would have much rather come indoors for half an hour to warm up and complete the census by hand.

So, after supper, I resolved to do it. That's the point where my plans fell down.  I had put the envelope on one side. Safely, I thought. But a search through the pile on my desk - the cardiologist's paperwork, Tod's prescription for glasses, the letter from M&S about my unit trusts, the pension company letter asking me to confirm I'm still alive, and the latest newsletters from various local government bodies - revealed nothing.  Well, not entirely true. The 2022 calendar with the rubbish and recycling dates did drop out from one of the newsletters. So that was useful.

My heart sank as I began to think the mayor's census letter with the necessary code numbers had gone up the hill behind us to the recycling bin, which was out on the road ready for tomorrow's collection.  By this time it was dark, foggy and very cold.  I began to imagine large fines for not completing the census.  They would know we hadn't done it. The French are very bureaucratic and no doubt not doing the census would be frowned on heavily.

So, we took the car up the drive and heaved the big black bin with its bright yellow lid into the back - thank heavens for an estate car.  The bin refused to go through the kitchen door so we opened both French windows into the lounge - which was warmer with the log fire alight.  This was the moment Tod announced it was past his bedtime.  I found a large black sack and began to take out Amazon cardboard envelopes, empty dog food tins licked spotless, old copies of Private Eye and the weekly advertising rubbish from all the supermarkets and the DIY stores (we really ought to put a "PAS DE PUB" sign on our letter box, but we always think there might be something useful - there rarely is). I had to get some steps so that I could get up higher and reach down further in the bin.  And there, nestling alongside the week before last's Lidl catalogue was the mayor's envelope, complete with contents.

By this stage Tod was snuggled in bed, so I lugged the bin back up the drive - the exercise was a good test for my new pacemaker.  Our neighbour's dogs went frantic at all the to-ing and fro-ing that late in the dark and were yelled at by our neighbours.  An hour later our census form online was completed. Result!

Sunday, 16 January 2022

Misty Frosty Mornings

The fourth morning in the row we wake to minus five and mist.

Normally Sunday mornings are a walk along the ridge.  These days, to save Vita's back legs I drive them to the entrance to Monsieur F's farm, drop them off and they walk back.  It's flat and then downhill all the way.

Twenty minutes of defrosting the car, putting on layer upon layer, wrapping Vita in a tartan jacket, getting kitted out with hats and gloves and Vita gets as far as the now-warm car and stops.  She very determinedly heads back towards the house for breakfast. Tod sets out with Bertie.  Two minutes later, they too are back at the kitchen door.

No walk today.  Can't say we mind too much.

A single shot from a hunter somewhere in the field up behind us sends Bertie racing back out to set the world to rights. Heaven only knows what the hunter thinks he can see in this weather.


Friday, 14 January 2022

C'est Chouette!

 For those of a nervous disposition, who are inclined to faint at other people's descriptions of their operations, rest assured this is the last time I will be talking about my pacemaker op.

As an aside, for a time I lived in Brazil with my then boyfriend.  He was of a nervous disposition when it came to details of operations.  Part of his job was shepherding visiting American management round the local chemical plants.  On one such trip the visiting elderly American was enthusiastically describing his quadruple by-pass operation over dinner.  Said boyfriend fainted at the table and had to be helped from the dining-room by elderly American and nearby waiter. 

Anyway, I digress.

Part of the impeccable National Health Service in France includes post-operative care by nurses every two days to check all is progressing well with healing and to clean and replace the dressing.  So this is what I have had for the last two weeks.

Every nurse who has peeled back the dressing has exclaimed when they have seen the work of the surgeon.  I think I have the best operation scar in France.  It is immaculate.  It has been described as "jolie", "impeccable", "magnifique" and my favourite: "chouette" which literally means "owl".  

So I have an owly scar! Of which I am very proud. And the surgeon should be too. I will tell him when I see him in three months time.

Saturday, 1 January 2022

Done and Dusted

 Well, I have it!  My new pacemaker!  That and a somewhat battered left side to my chest.  

I have strict instructions from the cardiologist not to drive or garden for two weeks (what am I going to do with my time?) and not to raise my left elbow above my shoulder. No hanging washing out on the line or reaching up to get a mixing bowl from the top shelf (or even the middle shelf).  

I'm learning just how much I lead with my left hand and arm - the first to reach for the heavy swing door or to open the boot of the car or to lift a kettle full of water. The NHS website advises putting a phone to the ear furthest from the pacemaker. Answering the phone with my right hand and putting it to my right ear feels very strange - almost as if I cannot hear properly.

Being at the hospital on the eve before New Year's Eve, I feel I have the place to myself - empty waiting rooms and wards, a radiologist standing ready for me as I am wheeled to the X-ray department, an orderly who arrives in a trice to wheel my bed back to my room when the op is done, nursing staff who are chatty and friendly and have time to gossip (including the one who has been at a language school in Brighton and wants to practise her English). When Tod picks me up, the large car park, normally packed to the gills, has half a dozen vehicles. I begin to wonder whether the cardiologist has come in specially, just to "do" me?

My paperwork includes a prescription for a nurse to come to our house and change my dressing every two days. Doctors who live in the centre of towns don't realise just how onerous such an instruction is for community nurses in the country. I phone Vero and we agree I will come to her "cabinet" in town on Sunday - even that feels unkind at New Year, but she reassures me "c'est normal". Tod will have to drive me - I'm not used to this.

And among the papers there is also a small blue booklet which I must have with me at all times, twenty-seven pages of instructions and details about me, my pacemaker, my doctors (GP and cardiologist), tables to be filled in each time I have a check-up and from now onwards to be waved under the noses of the border police so I don't go through a body scanner. A friend in the UK says he has "a bit of paper" to show. The French do not do these things by halves.

Celebrations are foregone this year and we are all in bed by ten-thirty and asleep soon after. I wake briefly at midnight to hear distant fireworks from our neighbours up the hill behind us.  The dogs don't even stir.