Snowed in

There is an eerie silence as the snow blankets out all sounds and views,

The Meteo France forecast has been amazingly accurate: yesterday’s sunshine is history and we can expect snow until midday tomorrow.

Richard and Phil started work this morning (the temperature was minus 7!) and broke through the layer of concrete under the paving stones enough to confirm their theory, that the subsidence had been caused by a broken drainage pipe. And then as the snow arrived, they beat a hasty retreat just before the road closed. Richard says all shops in le Vigan are closed and his car is stuck in the middle of the road 200 yards from his house.

My next concern is tomorrow’s appointment with the neurologist in Montpellier. I imagine the snow ploughs will come once the snow stops, but I’m not sure how I will get the car from its shelter to the road!

Early evening

Tomorrow’s trip to Montpellier is not looking promising (and the next appoint possible is at Easter when the family may be here).  I’ve just rung a local councillor (as always he does not bother to come to the phone – his wife lays down the law…). There seems to be no plan for snow ploughs.  And she was talking about the bigger road below my land, not the precarious steep descent just outside my drive.

Meanwhile, I couldn’t resist some more photos of snowy views from my house, just before it got too dark.

 

 

Repairing the bedroom terrace

Yet another work of necessity rather than pleasure: making good the terrace outside my bedroom.

The removal of the non-functioning jacuzzi left a gaping hole.  But perhaps more serious, over the past nine years this terrace has subsided, not only causing nasty pools when it rains but causing a potential damp problem under the bedroom doors.

The first stage is to take up the limestone paving and investigate possible causes of the subsidence.  The paving stones are now all up, thanks to sterling work by a local called Phil (despite being French) drilling away all day for two days in freezing temperatures.

Tomorrow – if it does not snow – the next stage will be to decide what to do with the sagging cement.

Hopefully all will be repaired and paving stones relayed, this time with proper drainage, before Easter.  The gate, which used to lead to the jacuzzi inspection panel, will now be the start of steps leading down to the space below the house where I store my wine and which I would like to see expanded to provide additional bedroom space (another story, another day…).

The battle against the sangliers

The sangliers have continued to wreak even more damage since I last wrote about them.  But luckily Jacky has returned from his travels and last week constructed a magnificent but discreet  electric fence.

In a couple of days he had enclosed the top half of my land (containing the bassin and the olive trees). His friend, Jacquot, arrive to instal the electrics, looked at the damage and exclaimed: “C’est une catastrophe!”.

Jacky told me that he now insists that anyone wanting him to do landscape work instals a fence like this, such is the extent of the damage the sangliers are now doing. Not very romantic or rustique, he said, but essential.

He has made two gateways, one on the path down to the gite and the other above the steps to the children’s cabin (although I will probably switch off the electricity and open these gates in the daytime when the children are here).

He levelled out the churned-up earth everywhere and sowed some grass seed in the worst areas.  He will be back in a month or so to prune the olive trees (and replace those which have not made it) and replace all the plants destroyed by the sangliers.

 

Cold

We have had some stunning weather over the last week-If you don’t need to work outside. Cold, but with wonderful, cloudless blue skies.

We have just had the coldest night so far – it was minus 12 degrees at eight this morning in le Vigan. But because it has been so dry and there is virtually no wind, it is bracing rather than dankly chilling.

All that might change tomorrow: snow is forecast all day, with even some flakes falling in Montpellier.  As a precaution I have postponed tomorrow’s medical visit. Hard to imagine snow tomorrow, but if the wind changes direction it could still arrive.

Thereafter the weather is due to become warmer and wetter.

Capricornes – again

I have unfortunately become a bit of an expert at recognising the arrival of capricornes: I had to deal with capricornes in my bedroom in 2015 and then last year in the wooden posts and beams of my terrace. So this month I had no difficulty in recognising the light crunching noise above my head at night.

So once again I rang Rastop, the firm that has dealt with my previous capricorne invasions as well as with the nests of chenilles processionaires in the tree in front of my house. Within days I had a visit from Serge (we are now on first name terms…).

After consulting Daniel, who did the actual treatment, they came to the conclusion that the culprit must be the chestnut beam above my head, which is mainly concealed in the wall between the bedroom and study.  Only the part which was visible was treated last time.

So, on Tuesday Daniel returned to drill holes through the plaster in the study to treat the wood on that side, and also gave a good surface blast to the beam on both sides. To avoid side effects from the treatment, I shut off the bedroom and study for three days and Poppy and I slept in the spare room. Luckily all this is covered by a ten year guarantee, the original treatment having been paid for by the builder, not me.

Last night we returned to my bedroom and I can report no nightly crunching noises.  Fingers crossed.

New physiotherapist

I still have three physiotherapy sessions a week, but at last I have a physiotherapist in le Vigan and will no longer have to do the 25 km trip to Ganges.

Charlotte looks incredibly young – too young to have a ten-year-old daughter.  But she is highly competent and very pleasant.  She is an amateur musician – singer, accordionist and, in the past, saxophonist.  Though she has temporarily stopped, as the youngest child is only three. But she understands my desire to return to my previous level of cello playing and adapts the programme of exercises accordingly.

It is nice feeling we have this shared target, although she warns me it is going to take a long time and hard work for the muscles to come to life again. Three times a week she  gives me half an hour of massage and manipulations, followed by half an hour of exercises.

She approves of my efforts to return to some playing activity at the Ecole de Musique, as trying to bow long notes is an important form of physiotherapy.  I told her that I have just been given a bit of Bach to play and for once was pleased to see that the notes are all black (rapid, for those of you who do not read music) rather than white (sustained, which I do with difficulty, particularly on the all important A string). She laughed and said that was fine, as long as the tempo was not slowed down so much that black actually meant white. Nice to have that sort of conversation with a physiotherapist, who has also enjoyed playing Bach.

Deborah has left

What a bundle of energy: in ten days Deb has sorted out so many things in the house.

Our last joint task was tackling the mess in the ‘garage’ (junk room with boiler, tools, toys and other family boxes, suitcases, my shoulder exercise kit… …. We are both keen labellers of stuff, Deb in particular.  So it should be easier to track down tools in the future (I’ve just laid my hands immediately on my Stanley knife, for example).

Sub-zero temperatures at night meant that Deb could not do much in the garden, unfortunately, but she has vigorously cut back the neighbours’ pyracantha, which was making access to my dustbins a prickly experience.

It has been so nice basically allowing myself to be spoilt by Deb (did she lose that last game of Scrabble to be kind to me?), so now it is time to adjust to fending for myself. I’ve just made a large amount of vegetable soup to ensure that my veg intake maintains the high level achieved under the Deb regime.

Graeme

My dear friend Graeme has a particularly nasty brain tumour. I heard the news earlier this week and, although we are both over 70 and this kind of news is going to arrive more frequently, I am filled with shock as well as much sadness.

Our two families have been friends for three generations and I have known Graeme since we were small children.  We grew up in the same town, went to university together, stayed close friends when I got together with Chris.  Thereafter our contact has been spasmodic – letters, family get togethers, me attending a couple of his concerts . Because Graeme has spent his post-doctorate life in Cambridge, while I parted for Africa, Scotland and now France.

Graeme is one of the cleverest and most talented men I know – at Cambridge he has wandered between mathematics, biology and quantum physics, and at the same time plays the piano and performs at a professional level.  He is also kind, humorous, eloquent (on paper), modest and self-effacing.

What this news brings also is a sense of regret.  Why have I not made more of an effort to accept his invitations to go to his concerts, to nip up to Cambridge when visiting the children in London? It reinforces my appreciation that one has to work at obstacles like long distance or busy lives in order to see more of one’s lifelong friends. They deserve it, and their friendship enriches our lives.

I may not write much here about Graeme in the coming months.  But I find my thoughts return to him frequently as he currently undergoes radiotherapy and then faces the uncertain future thereafter.

 

Deborah here

A week has passed since I last wrote, but I have been busy. Or rather, my sister, Deb, has been busy, while I have been the gofer as well as  creator of tasks.

Deb arrived for a ten day visit on Friday. Since then she has sorted the garage shelves – again – and labelled its boxes, fixed the fridge door, fixed the bathroom cupboard doors, created more shelves in the bathroom and helped reorganise my disgusting amount of ”stuff” onto them.

Together, we did a major sort of bed linen – it’s amazing how single and double sheets and covers can get jumbled up – separating out  things only used when the kids are here – and we have vacuum packed about a dozen duvets of different tog measures.

After my initial offering of magret de canard, Deb has somehow slipped into the role of chief cook.  No surprise to others who visit me….  and because my sciatica is having a bad moment, she has done most Poppy walking.

Meanwhile, when not managing my complicated diary of medical paperwork and forthcoming appointments, I have swanned off to spend Saturday morning playing with the music school orchestra and yesterday playing with the other cello students.

What does Deborah do to relax? Well, when she is not reading one of the huge books she has brought with her, she beats me hollow at Scrabble or Boggle. I had one brief, sweet victory last night, thanks to two seven letter words and getting away with more two letter words than usual.  But maybe she was just being kind.

Does this paragon of a younger sister have any vices?  (We will gloss over the main one: that while nobly sorting out my house, her own remains in complete chaos.). Once again she has arrived with a blocked ‘good’ ear and is very deaf. Not strictly a vice, but it brings out the worst in me, as I fail to speak loudly and I forget to wait till I am looking straight at her before talking.

I said I could not have had the patience to be married to someone who was deaf, and we both remembered our grandmother, Tish, and her impatience with her husband often guessing wrongly what she had just said. Deb has been applying oil three times a day without any effect. After googling blocked ears we agreed all other home remedies are risky and she has promised to see a doctor when she gets home.

My shoulder – and my cello

I am a long way from being able to play the cello properly, that is, back at the modest level I had reached before the two operations and the months leading up to them.

I can play at the heel of the bow, especially on the lower strings, but cannot play to the tip of the bow, especially on the higher strings. If you are not familiar with cello movements, imagine stretching your arm out in front and then raising it to the right, to a two o’clock position.  Just not there yet: the muscles refuse to cooperate.

Marion Bertrand, the surgeon, said the best reeducation I could undertake was to practise the cello and get this movement back.

So, I have rejoined the small group of cellists who play once a week and will be restarting the orchestra on Saturday.  Both of these activities are at a level far easier than I normally play. I have said I am not yet ready for individual lessons, it would be too depressing failing to play music I could tackle 18 months ago.

On Monday I at last started sessions with my new, Le Vigan based physiotherapist, Charlotte. She understands that my objective is to play music again and that this is more important than reaching the top shelf in the kitchen.  So hopefully my rééducation sessions will help achieve this goal.