What season is this?

February has been extraordinarily mild till now and indeed I gather that there were scarcely any frosts while I was in hospital. So the birds and the bees are very confused.

Three days ago I stood out in the sunshine wearing just a tee-shirt, watching the masonry bees busily hunting nest places in the cracks round my bedroom doors. (I gather they don’t do excessive damage, see for example, http://www.stockport.gov.uk/services/environment/envhealth/pestcontrol/commonpests/mortarmasonrybees/ )



Then, after weeks of fine weather, the rain came.  It poured yesterday and during the night we had a wild thunderstorm coming from the south – and at the same time the wind and rain beat against the house from the north.  This morning it is colder and the hills above are covered in snow.

2014-02-26_IMG_6251At the same time, there is blossom on my neighbour’s tree



Another car scrape

Yesterday continued to be a mauvaise journée. On my return from Montpellier I collected Poppy, who had spent the day with Hans and Margaret. One of the car doors was not properly shut, so I stopped just before the bridge. There was a party in the school, making it difficult to find somewhere to stop. When I drove off I heard that sickening scrape/scrunch noise. I had not seen I was parked beside a protruding boulder.

I honestly don’t think I can blame this accident on the fact that I’m still really driving one-handed. Being tired and the twilight probably did not help. I just started to turn right too soon.

Anyhow here is the offending boulder just before the bridge

and the result

It’s going to cost, but luckily I know somebody who works on the cars of friends and family in the evenings. I’ll get him to cover some other scrapes and scratches while he is about it. 🙂

Shoulder saga drags on

I saw my surgeon, Teissier, in Montpellier yesterday. He was under-impressed by my progress. Despite three sessions of exercises each day I’m not able to raise my arm as high as I should. Nor can I move it far enough behind my back. The actual shoulder prothèse is OK; it is the damaged tendons and muscles that are the problem. I fear I put off the op for too many years.

He has prescribed 20 physio sessions – three a week – ‘actif’, with things like pulleys. This is not the sort of physiotherapy that Joceline does and I’m going to have to break the news to her tomorrow. He also prescribed Celebrex, a more powerful anti-inflammatory for my hand, which is still numb and lacking in strength. And I must not lift anything much heavier than a glass of water until he next sees me, in May.

This all means that I won’t be able to pay a spring visit to See the family in London.

Processionary caterpillars

Well, we get days of wind and rain, but they are interspersed with glorious days of sunshine, like today (temperatures hit 17 this afternoon). But the lack of any real cold weather has some worrying implications.  The pin maritime in front of the house has about a dozen chenilles processionaires (processionally caterpillar) nests.



This is really worrying.  When the caterpillars come down, they form a weird line, head to tail.  But they are not just fascinating to look at, they are extremely dangerous and poisonous..  Last year we came across a line of chenilles during my birthday party, and guests quickly and efficiently burnt them.

Here’s a photo I took in 2009.

Chenilles processioaires

I’m particularly worried because these are particularly lethal for dogs.  I just have to look out for them every day and get there before Poppy does.

Much prettier is the changing colours in the landscape as the hazelnut trees are covered in catkins.



Time for a clear-out

There is a gloryhole at the back of my house euphemistically called the garage. (Garages are exempt when calculating area of the house for local taxes – and anyhow, it was originally intended to house Chris’s scooter.) In fact the garage is dominated by a vast water tank, needed to supply the underfloor heating system as well as normal plumbing.

Anyhow, my garage, which was already a disgusting mess, has become impenetrable following the installation of the new kitchen. It has all the wood from the old kitchen dumped in it, there are plastic boxes everywhere, which I used to house the kitchen during the work. I also have other recent additions, like boxes of toys dating from Kate and Jude’s childhood, to find space for.



So, time for another clear out.  I have started to do what I can with one arm and am now waiting for Joris, the young man from the local village, to arrive to help with the heavy stuff. He texted he would arrive at the ‘fin de l’après-midi’.  Well, it’s now ten past six, so I’m beginning to wonder when afternoon ends…

I’ve got piles of stuff stacked up outside to take to the dump, a mountain of cardboard boxes for him to burn, stuff to take to the gite, not to mention cases and boxes to load in the garage..

The pile for the skip grows all the time:



Chris’s eucalyptus tree

Well, our weather is clearly milder than in Britain, but apparently there were some quite strong winds in January, when I was in hospital. One of the casualties was sadly the eucalyptus tree which we planted over Chris’s ashes, on his former vegetable plot.

It was already snapped in half a year or so ago, but quickly re-established itself. This time, I fear it is too near the base.

View from my new bed

Taking a quick rest before driving (first time in three months!) down to le Vigan for a physio session.  The photo is all skew whiff because I’m lying on my back (notice Poppy has sneakily crept up) and does not do justice to the glorious warm sun shining on my bed.

2014-02-04_IMG_2072.JPGThe terrace is unfortunately a mess.  The jacuzzi was covered inefficiently in my absence.

Couldn’t resist a couple more photos of the new bed on which I was reclining.

Bassin naturel

My bassin naturel – natural pool (cleaned by filtration and plants and no chemicals) – has made excellent progress while I was in hospital.  Jackie, the landscaper who is creating it, is an artist, delighting in the challenges that the location of each pool brings. He is currently taking a one month break, but the pool looks well on schedule to being ready for this summer.

The pool will be on a lower terrace in front of the house.


Room for a tree and viewing bench in the foreground.  The water is pumped from below (pump house just visible) up to the top of the pools (right), passes through a pool of plants, over a little waterfall into the circular swimming area below. The main sitting area and entry to the pool will be top left.

Photographed from the main sitting area, you can see the sole problem: the visibility of the neighbours’ house.  Jackie had to cut back a lot of greenery which hid this.  We are now discussing what to plant which will quickly restore the privacy.


This will be the way down into the pool:

2014-02-02_IMG_6205And here is the view from below the pool, looking up to the house (neither car nor bulldozer will be there!):



Medical transport in the countryside

Le Vigan does not really have any taxis as such; it has a number of firms which operate as taxi-ambulances.  In fact their work is almost entirely transporting people to and from medical establishments.  We are after all, 15 km – along winding roads- from the Ganges clinique, and over 70km from Montpellier.  The bus service is timed to transport children to schools rather than for medical or social appointments.

I have always thought they must do a roaring trade given how many people I know who have been taken to or from Montpellier (including me on this last trip back from the Clinique Ster), with the health system (CPAM) picking up the tab.

It looks as if this is about to come to an end – at least for journeys that are not for major things like dialysis or chemotherapy.  When the doctor visited today, I asked him for the bon de transport – the equivalent of prescriptions – for a taxi to take me to the physio this week, the eye clinic in Ganges next week and Montpellier in two weeks.  He replied that these trips were no longer covered by the CPAM.  He acknowledged that this was difficult for people in the country, but they had to rely on family and friends.

I’m a bit flummoxed, as the letter from the surgeon, for example, states explicitly that the one should ask ones GP for a bon de transport if he thinks it appropriate.  Or at least that is how I understand this paragraph in the letter from the hospital:

Screen Shot 2014-02-03 at 18.51.34

So now I’m rereading an official account of the rules to try to understand when one gets reimbursed: