B-P visit

The B-Ps (Bennion Pedleys) are here – Jude, Ed and the two children. Ella and Maddie.  It is wonderful to have them and they are responding completely philosophically to the non-stop gales and resultant cool weather! (Not that that has stopped them from already sampling the jacuzzi).

Just now Ed and the children have gone off to offer apples to the horses, which is why I have a rare moment at the computer.

Later… The family continued to have a good time, with lots of walks.  Maddie walked all but 50 metres of the Avèze to le Vigan river walk and Ella was unfazed by the Bréau to Esparon walk on the last day.

The weather continued chilly (and of course I caught a cold), but Ella – and Maddie enjoyed exploring the terraces round the house, going right down to the ‘shack’ – the ruined shed which was obviously once occupied, perhaps by migrant workers.  Ella, with help from Daddy, and using her newly acquired compass (part of an explorer’s kit) produced this plan of the land:

I particularly like the single ant.  Jacky planted 30 olive trees while the family was there – hence the olives in the plan.  He insists they will produce olives in two or three years, but I will have to live to 80 to be sure I enjoy the splendour of the olive groves.




Runup to family visits

Ten days has passed in an above average hectic fashion.

My neighbours the Pressleys were here; I collected them and took them back to the airport, acted as translator for various house and garden related problems, lent the car to take rubbish to the tip – and in return had good company and was well fed.

The first trip to Montpellier I was still not well enough to risk visiting Sylvia, but last week I fitted in an hour and was so glad to have done this.  Sylvia is being remarkably positive, planning for the future, appreciating her physio and the young man who is providing her with wigs and scarves.  Mid-April she is due for a break from radiotherapy, and will return to the local respite home, les Chataigniers.

I of course could not go two weeks without a medical trip: a visit to Ganges for xrays of the hip for my surgeon (doing OK) and arthroscopy of the right knee, which a rather offhand radiologue told me was completely without cartilage and had a bone displaced and required a visit to the surgeon… …  I told him it would have to join the queue, along with my second shoulder.

Meanwhile the gite bathroom project finally came to an end.  It looks magnificent and now that I’m spending a week down there I can say that it works really well.

Stephen the plumber did a splendid job but was quite one of the dirtiest builders I have had.  A splendid young woman, Dorothy, spent two energetic days doing a thorough spring clean of the gite.

In the process I was forced to come to terms with the evidence she showed me of significant roof and wall leaks in the second bedroom.  I can’t ignore the problem any more, summoned Jean-Pierre the builder, and he is the process of clearing and repairing the back drainage system against the rock, mending broken tiles on the roof and re-rendering the north-facing wall.  In theory the roof should be taken up and redone completely, but Jean Pierre persuaded me that it was not necessary just yet. Once he has fixed outside and I have no more spring visitors, he will dismantle and rebuild an interior wall in the bedroom, installing better insulation than at present.

I do rather feel that the gite is eating money insatiably.  For 15 years Chris and I did virtually no maintenance; I’m paying the price now.  All doors and windows need replacing with double glazed versions which open and close properly, the kitchen needs an uplift, and the shutters need varnishing…

I had already hired Jean Pierre to build a slight extension to the garage in my main house and he will be starting this after visitors.

And just before collecting family, I fitted in a visit to the art exhibition vernissage – bought one picture (unplanned impulse…) and fell for a couple more.  And Poppy and I both had haircuts.



Back to health issues – yawn

Not a spectacular start to the year which was supposed to close its door on boring old health problems.

The cold/cough which I caught at the start of my trip to London dragged on for over a month. In the end I had to postpone my major dental surgery until April and, as March progressed, became worried I would have to do the same thing for my gynae ‘intervention’ (I rather like this French word for operation).

A routine biennial visit to the gynaecologist, Dr Maistre, in January resulted in a return visit in February for a more detailed echography and then Dr Maistre referred me to his surgical colleague, Dr Anne-Marie Moutte, at the Clinique in Ganges for a biopsy.

My first visit with Dr Moutte was somehow a very French occasion. She is a delightful woman, approaching 50 I would think, but waving her head of long blond hair like someone half her age, and she combined stylish looks with a warm, voluble compassionate manner – and a rather romantic attitude to all problems gynae.  When I suggested that perhaps a hysterectomy was in the offing, her response was: shock, horror – the uterus is at the centre of being a woman (she said in heavily accented English).  The only reason to move it is if there is a cancer.

Well, my reason for being with her was to arrange the investigation: a hysteroscopy (camera shoved up into uterus to investigate, a routine D&C to remove fibroids etc, and a biopsy. I saw Dr Moutte on 6 March and the op was set for 19th March (yesterday) with an overnight stay as I live on my own.  Another visit to Ganges on the 9th to meet the anaesthetist and then a desperate attempt to get better in the intervening ten days.  This has rather preoccupied this month!

So, at midday yesterday I arrived at the clinic and was shown up to a room on the maternity floor (something I found rather disconcerting) to a large room which I initially shared with a young woman who did not utter one word in the two hours before first she and then I were wheeled down to the operating block.

I was surprisingly anxious before this op, not helped by remembering that Dad was only a year older when he died after a stroke in the recovery room after a mundane prostate op.  But it was a jolly, friendly team who prepared me.  Dr Moutte had said I should tell everybody about my fragile crowns and implants, and my less than six-month old hip replacement.  They listened carefully and suggested I remained awake while they put me into position so I could feel if there was any strain on the hip.  (And perhaps worries about my teeth explained why I was put to sleep with a mask and did not seem to have the usual tubes in my mouth.)

I have no idea when the actual op took place but it was nearly seven in the evening before I returned to my room, the young girl having now left (sadly, I suspect an abortion).

After a not very surprising poor night, this morning I was raring to go home.  No pain to speak of, but strange episodes of dizziness, no doubt the anaesthetic plus loss of blood (continuing).

Dr Moutte came by to tell me that the op had been a bit longer than expected (I get rather used to hearing this) as she had had to remove a huge number of polyps and fibroids.  I asked if there had been any signs of cancerous cells, but she said nothing would be known before the biopsy results are sent back, in ten days or so.  And then I have to fix an appointment with Dr Maistre in a month’s time.

Peter, who is coming mid-April is going to have a jolly time with me getting up-tight about dental and gynae sessions.  Actually I’m quite calm and positive about the latter.  Every such experience does not necessarily end up with a cancer diagnosis, and if it does, the prognosis for recovery is usually good (about 75%). Well, I must continue to think in this way, mustn’t I?


My friend Sylvia

Over the past couple of months one bit of me is constantly thinking of my good friend – my best French friend – Sylvia Dupuy (Sylvette to many).

The end of last year saw her hospitalised with a strange tummy bug and general acute fatigue.   In January the problem switched to the identification of a ‘lesion’ on her brain.  As the month progressed, this was diagnosed as a level two (non malignant) brain tumour.  In the course of February this was suddenly and dramatically converted to a level three (malignant) tumour and then a week ago, scans showed it was growing fast.

Sylvia now suffers from headaches and nausia and is under medication.  She is currently in a Montpellier hospital, with regular news bulletins sent to her friends by her partner, Yves.  Given that he is a writer and former teacher of literature, these are eloquent as well as loving.  The radiotherapy has been brought forward and starts tomorrow, along with some sort of expensive drug. Yves has been vague as to what it is or does.

This is not my first friend to be seriously ill, and given our age, it is something one has to come to terms with.  But there is something shocking about someone so dynamic, with a life full of projects (singing, writing, broadcasting, organising…)  and such fun to be with, facing a tough struggle to survive.  Before I went to England I popped into the local maison de repos, where she had been staying, every day, but now that I am still infectious with my cold, I cannot contemplate going down to Montpellier to see her.

Here she is singing away at a village lunch in Bréau – she is far prettier than my impromptu snapshot suggests.


Jacqueline Ruer and Sylvia Dupuy help out





Dental saga – latest chapter

Monday morning and I had just left a message on my dentist’s answerphone cancelling yesterday’s appointment because of my cough, when I felt that familiar wobble.  Yes the very prominent front crown was about to fall out again.  I spent much of the plane trip surreptitiously pushing it back up, willing it not to embarass me.  By the time we reached Montpellier, I realised I was failing, and rang to request that my cancellation be cancelled.

Yesterday I expected Lapeyre, my dentist to simply ram the crown back, as he has done before, but he is determined to solve the problem and has some complicated technical solutions.  My heart sank as instead of five minutes I was once again in the chair for an hour, while he took xrays and impressions.

None of this is costing me anything, as he is determined to solve the probem of the misbehaving crown/implant, which he installed in 2002.

In contrast, I got the estimate for next week’s major dental surgery: 3600 euros!  I should not be surprised, as this covers one tooth extraction, insertion of two implants, preparation of third tooth, three temporary crowns and at a later date three permanent ones.

In fact the bill would have come to over 5000 euros, but Lapeyre has cut it by the amount I paid in 2008 for a three-tooth bridge (now in the bin). I thinnk I can claim about 400 euros back from social security; when I’m feeling a bit better I will see if I can get any more from my mutuelle (private insurance).

At the end of the day, it has to be done: it represents the main biting power on the upper right side.  Thank goodness, I said to Lapeyre, there are only four sides (two upper and two lower) in my mouth!  Thugh of course, in my case, the offending implant this week has been upper front… …


Grandchildren a joy

Despite being so under the weather, I loved seeing the four children.

Otto was so very excited about celebrating his fifth birthday, so much so that when people called out “Happy Birthday, Otto” he replied “Happy Birthday” (despite Ella painstakingly trying to correct him). The celebrations started on Thursday 26th (his actual birthday) and continued, seemingly non-stop through the weekend.  The only minus moment was when Otto really wanted the party to stop while he opened all 15 presents.

Kate and Steve achieved miracles with the party.  I had expected 15 five year olds plus some siblings and about 15 parents to be a recipe for disaster, but amazingly it all worked out.

The ‘entertainment’ was an unusual woman with a passion for bugs.  She had brought along a large menagerie of creepy crawlies which she introduced to the children and passed around for them to touch.  They came in many sizes, with varying numbers of legs, starting with a milliped and ending with snakes (no legs…). Somehow the animals included a sweet little hedgehog, but undoubtedly the show stealer was the snakes.

Then after the usual excitable party games, tea, with 15 children seated round the table, and an amazing giant cake commissioned for lovers of bat/spider/superman.  Yes, all three were present at the party, with Otto sporting his superman outfit.  The guests, incidentally were a delightful bunch of kids, mainly boys, from the reception year.

I got to know Willow a bit better this visit. Her first year was completely marred by illness, last year I did not visit at all because of hospital visits, so I’m now slowly building the bridges.  She is a physical livewire, but with a penchant for drawing and increasing dexterity with puzzles, invariably of Disney princesses.

Ella continues to be a delight.  We talk – a lot.  (Though I’m afraid I do not come up to expectations as a source of pretendy stories.)  The morning starts with Ella sitting on the loo, conversing, while I take my shower.  She is fascinated by my latest hip replacement scar and wants to talk about scars, operations, accidents…  She absorbs information like blotting paper, and comes up with amazing facts about nature and science (mainly thanks to Ed).

And how does one describe Maddie?  A nearly-two-year-old with needle-sharp intelligence who does not talk. Only recently has she added to her two initial words, No and Go, with Mama, Dada, Ella and Gaga (me). Rather than verbalising her wishes, she has an amazing repertoire of grunts, shouts, and signs.  Much impressive banging of plate, pointing at what she wants, and should you be too stupid to understand, an imperious grabbing of your hand and marching you to what she wants.  All done with wonderful gusto, yells, shouts and much chuckling laughter.

Dreaded lurgy

This Facebook entry explains a two-week silence!

Fortnight in UK has not turned out quite how planned. Yes, I have seen the four lovely grandchildren. Yes, I was here for Otto’s fifth birthday. Yes, I managed to spend a fortune on shoes and specs. But hang on, I did NOT sign up for a prolonged, miserable bout of bronchitis, which has turned me into a moaning Minnie with no energy to go out and see friends. Remind me to stay in the south of France next February. Can’t handle damp cold.

It all started with two delightful outings with the family, first by boat to Greenwich where we crossed the Thames in a cable car (swinging alarmingly in the wind) and the next day a leisurely stroll round Dulwich Park.

Yes I know that being cold does not in theory lead to catching cold.  All I can say is that I was jolly cold, remained cold when we were indoors in well-heated houses, and felt ill several hours later.

As usual I acquired a bronchial cough and spent the two weeks dithering as to whether to go to the doctor.  Bronchitis and colds are supposed to be viruses and therefore antibiotics no use, but I’ve been there before and antibiotics worked.  Another inhibiting factor is that the walk-in centre is not very nice (been there before – with bronchitis).  Also, I know I will need antibiotics next week, when I have major dental surgery and wanted to try to get well with just cough mixture.

Awful coughing.  Poor family, having me hacking over them. And not in great shape for being a lively granny.

Anyhow, probably it was probably a mistake not to go as here I am two weeks later, still coughing.  I go to my local GP tomorrow to discuss what should be done.