The Somme – and my grandfather

Today is the centenary of the death of my grandfather, Ronnie Greig, killed on the Somme at the age of 40.

He was a professional soldier, got the DSO while fighting in the Boer War and by 1914 was a major in the Royal Engineers. He was killed while superintending advanced trench work on the night of 27/8 August 1916.

Chris and I once did a detour to look at Trônes Wood where he died.  It was a moving experience.  The trees had regrown, but you can imagine the desolate landscape (now full of turnip fields) and the trenches which presumably Ronnie was supervising the rebuilding (Trônes wood had been taken by the British a few months earlier, but then was retaken by the Germans).

I have no real image of what Ronnie was like; I get the impression that he was kind and amiable but not particularly exciting. But obviously his death, followed in 1917 by the death of her favourite brother, David, was devastating for my grandmother, Tish. She was left with three small children. My mother, the youngest, was six months old when her father died.

BP visit

I can’t believe that it is three weeks since I last wrote – perhaps one of the longest silences recently.  Why?  Because there has been a  lot of energy-sapping hot weather plus have had two lovely weeks with the BP (Bennion Pedley) family.2016-08-01_DSC01939

Despite the heat their visit was incredibly action packed.  Jude and Ed have taken up a regime of rigorous exercise (plus healthier eating) which they continued throughout most of the holiday.  Ella and Maddie slept in the house with me, while Jude and Ed were down in the old house and set off on a brisk walk (several miles each morning) at about 7am. There were also quite a few family walks later in the day, some of them of impressive length and undertaken in the mid-day sun.  The family has developed a new repertoire of local walks on paths on the hillsides above the valley, joining the various local hamlets and villages.  Inevitably Maddie gets some carries (probably her last in the backpack) but Ella clocks up the kilometres.2016-08-08_DSC02048

Every day involved sessions by the pool or bassin, of course.  Ella has been a water babe for several years and jumps and swims under water with enthusiastic abandon.  Maddie started the holiday clinging to her parents’ necks, insisting she was going to ‘dwown’. Magically their patience paid off and by the end of the fortnight she love doggy paddling (usually backwards) and floating independently (with armbands of course) and did not want to get out of the water.

The pool sessions were interspersed with trips to Le Rieumage (the local river, where we also picnic) and the campsite at La Corconne (where lunch in the cafe is a highlight).  Maddie enjoyed the shallower water of the ‘beach’ there and the two of them reminded me so much of Kate and Jude in the same river when they were young.

A more ambitious trip was to the very well set up tree climbing park ‘Les Accros d’Anjeau’ where Ella (accompanied by Ed) developed her skills traversing  the wires high up among the trees. I had not realised until this year that these adventure parks are all the rage these days.  We first went to one in Italy and the local one in Montardier is even better (with excellent, friendly staff). A very good experience for Ella, though Maddie was less impressed and did not appreciate sharing the toddlers’ trampoline with some rather energetic older children!



The whole family (minus me) also did a long trip to Aqualand at Cap d’Agde on the coast.  This is apparently a giant water park with a huge variety of water slides and chutes.  Definitely a hit with Ella, despite capsizing once on the fearsome black hole ride.

What was lovely for me to watch was how much both children – and the parents – enjoyed just pottering round the house and garden. When it was very hot they were inside, Maddie (and me!) often taking a siesta while Ella was gripped by the Horrible History videos (which I also found entertaining!).  She is also reading Harry Potter, so the trip to the magnificent toy shop in Montpellier on our way to the airport inevitably involved acquiring a splendid wand plus witch’s hat.  (Unlike Otto, who ‘is’ Harry, Ella sees herself as Hermione, the brains of the gang).

The chidren also enjoyed playing on the new double-seat swing, in the ‘shack’ now furnished for meetings,and the sandpit.  They were too busy to find time for the jacuzzi this visit!2016-08-15_DSC02094



Hospital preparations continue

On Tuesday I had a shoulder scan, which confirmed its poor state, and then saw my surgeon, Marion Bertrand.  She pointed out on the scan that there is a arge growth of bone, caused by the arthritis, which she will have to cut away before doing the replacement. She confirmed that this would be a prothèse inversée (reverse shoulder replacement).  She also broke the news that this would be done under local aenesthetic!  Unpleasant, she added, but not painful.  I’m slightly horrified as I imagine the sound effects could be awful, but there is no doubt that there are fewer risks and complications afterwards.

I have chosen the Centre Maguelone for réeducation, as Mme Bertrand says she thinks the physio there is currently the best.  And now I have a mountain of paperwork to get through, not least dealing with my troublesome mutuelle (the insurance that pays for my bedroom and other ‘hotel’ costs)  as well as a return visit to Montpellier for a meeting with the anaesthetist.

I’m also going to try practising dictating into my iphone to see if the speech to text software really works, as I suspect that left-hand typing is beyond someone as right-handed as I am.