Gillies’ visit

The Gillies left on Monday.  Since then I have cleared the house, been to Ganges for my glaucoma check, got passport photos ready for next month’s trip to the Prefecture in Nimes – and resumed my local social life.

Now, time to reflect on the Gillies stay.  There are more photos than for the BPs. For some reason I took more and also now I have more time to put them up.

The two families overlapped for a few days and immediately embarked on an active weekend tree climbing and canoeing. Both were a great success – so much so that the Gillies returned for a second tree climbing visit.  Otto, who is also not keen on tree climbing, surprisingly went back for the second trip and managed very well. They continued also with more walks than normal.  Bravo to them – Otto and Willow are not keen walkers but managed much better than last time.

On the night before the BPs left, the children organised a disco.  The definite dancing star was Otto, who performed some current routine effortlessly, unlike the adults…

Another party highlight was Steve’s birthday.

His present from Kate was a magnificent ‘action camera’ (GoPro): a tiny device which Steve can attach to his head when cycling or swimming underwater.  The first trial, on the accrobranche trip was thwarted by the children discovering they could use voice commands to active or stop filming! Later Steve took some splendid footage in the pool which must get my hands on.

The pool was of course the main centre of activity during their stay.   The inflatable canoe I had bought proved a hit, with Willow showing instant skill. Otherwise lots of jumping in, squirting, splashing, and lounging.

There was a lot of time spent on electronic devices.  I have to admit that this was partly the grownups’ fault: we had become addicted to the card game, Monopoly Deal, introduced to both families by Ed.

There was also some splendid writing and drawing. Otto wrote a very touching entry in his new note book and drew his (imaginary?) band, made up of his mates at school

Willow produced a carefully crafted cutout and started a story, ‘The Lost Tiger’.  She is a perfectionist and every time she made an error, she tore it up and started again. Her handwriting is amazing for a six-year-old; she reminds me so much of my schoolfriend, Christine, with the same range of talents: handwriting, art, maths and sport.

Suddenly their week was over.  Back to the grind for the parents, two more weeks of holiday for the children, who will be meeting their new childminder next week.




Summer whizzing by – BPs depart

It’s a fortnight since I last wrote.  The BPs – Jude and family have been and now departed; the Gillies – Kate and family – overlapped and will be here till next week.  I start the morning at 6.30, putting the robot in the pool and all too soon the children are awake, and my normal quiet writing time in the morning is over.

The BPs arrived from an active visit to the Ile de Rey and continued with their usual impressive round of walks (Ed and Jude doing one while the children are still asleep in the morning), swimming, canoeing, a visit to the water park near Agde, picnics beside the local river, trips to the old campsite and, together with the Gillies, a visit to Accrobranche, the splendid local tree climbing centre.

Ed as usual was the cook and even managed to fit in an impressive lunch for our friends, Charles and Pierre.  He regarded my dietary limitations as a culinary challenge. Rather than expecting me to eat something different, he modified his usual range of family dishes, though sadly this meant he did not lay on his two special annual treats, roast lamb followed by tarte tatin. It is still a strange summer, to have no barbecued food, spicy dishes, salads or cheese, all washed down by glasses of water, while others knock back the wine and beer.

The BPs like their food and meals are regarded as highlights.  Just before the end of their holiday, Ed looked out at the view one morning and said “I do enjoy breakfasts”.  So do I.  It is perhaps my best time of the day.  I’m full of energy and enjoy this moment of communal leisure.

Ella and Maddie are now great conversationalists. Meals are a time when we all talk and Ella in particular holds forth with articulate gusto.  But Maddie is holding her own, fiercely competitive and refusing to accept that she is three years younger. How often one hears the indignant “That’s not fair!” as Maddie measures portions, considers what role she has been given in a game or resists going to bed earlier. Most of the time they play wonderfully together, Ella making diplomatic concessions in their endless games of pretend and the evening shows she put on for us grownups.

Both girls are more interested in communication than sporting activities, with the big exception of swimming. Maddie has made huge progress with her confident doggy paddle, crossing the pool fearlessly (though still insistent that her face must not go under water) while Ella has a superb range of strokes – breast stroke, a stylish crawl, and even butterfly. Perhaps even more impressive was the way both tackled the tree climbing. Ella was the star, refusing to allow fear of heights prevent her from completing a nail-biting course (green 3) which Ed, who followed her, admitted was one of the scariest things he had done.

Ed and Jude meanwhile managed to have quite a lot of leisure time, walking or lying by the pool.  And in the evenings I was introduced to the addictive game of Monopoly Deal. So far I am the dunce while Ella, who learnt it a few days after me, proved a star (beginner’s luck, I say…).

Their ten days here came to an end too soon.  I miss them already. Seeing the grandchildren so little is the main downside to living here, but we did pack in


Operation date fixed

On Monday I saw the gastroenterologist, Dr Vandome, and yesterday I had an appointment with an anaesthetist before seeing Dr Glaise, the surgeon, again.

This was my first meeting with Dr Vandome, who is serious but very nice. She told me that the scan report after my duodenal ulcer crisis showed that after the ulcer perforated (with that still very memorable agonising pain), a bit of intestine had floated up and blocked the hole. This was what had saved me from immediate emergency surgery, and allowed the less dramatic slow healing of the hole.  Dr Vandome will undertake the colonoscopy and endoscopy, which will be done under general anaesthetic on 31st August. Obviously subsequent surgery will depend on the results of these tests.

Yesterday’s meeting with the anaesthetist was a brief, relaxed affair. Then on to the lovely Dr Glaise, and we had moved on from discussions about the ulcer to the planning for the hernia operation.  in French the term éventration is used – I think – to describe a hernia caused by previous trauma or surgery. In this case, said Dr Glaise, the cause was the operation and radiotherapy for my cancer in 2025.

She checked with the radio therapists and told me it was a large éventration which would require the biggest size of patch, or prosthesis . She showed me an example of the simple but high tech patch that would be inserted, after the intestine had been pushed back and the surrounding sac removed, to block the hole in the muscle wall.

I don’t know how much she was covering herself for unforeseen complications or how much there was a risk these might exist, but she said that she would not know exactly what she was dealing with before the actual op. The worst case scenarios seems to be adhesions, or bits of intestine stuck together, in which case she would only be putting in a temporary patch (presumably because further surgery would be needed).  Suddenly it all sounded a bit scary, though I continue to have confidence in Dr Glaise .

The operation will be on 11 September, to give time to recover from the anaesthetic at the end of August, and to fit in an appointment with the heavily booked cardiologist, on 7th September.

After a few days at the Clinique in Ganges I would have to transfer to the Chataigniers for recovery. Dr Glaise stressed how crucial it was not to put any strain on the stomach in the months following the surgery and broke the news I would have to continue wearing the dreaded corset day and night for six months.

Goodbye plans to travel this autumn.



Family arrives

After that enticing bout of rain, we were back to hot humid weather. Then yesterday this came to an end with more thunder and rain. The temperature dropped to the upper 20s. Quite chilly!

Jude and family arrived to this new fresh but cloudy scene, bronzed from their activity-charged stay on the Île de Rey. Ella and Maddie plunged straight into holiday mode: passionate greetings with Poppy, some intensive sessions on the double swing, and then a swim. Maddie has developed a powerful if idiosyncratic doggy paddle since last year, while Ella can do a superb, stylish crawl.

Lovely to have Ed in charge of the kitchen again. And after supper I was introduced to a new, really good card game, based on monopoly, but more skilful.


OK, it only lasted for about 20 minutes.  But what sheer bliss to stand under this sudden, violent downpour. Then sadly, the rolls of thunder moved onwards and the rain slackened and stopped.

The rain has – hopefully – brought to an end one of the most uncomfortable ten days of my life.  I’m used to heat; we have it every summer here and I have memories of writing school reports in Nigeria, wrapped in towels so I would not drip onto the reports.

But this has been the most overwhelming heat I have ever known. If you didn’t get things done before midday, then forget it.  The afternoons and evenings have been relentless furnaces, with temperatures topping 40 degrees and accompanied by a cruel, stormy heaviness. Everybody has been overcome, locals and incomers alike. Yesterday I bumped into a market stall holder I know and he said all they were doing was existing – putting up the stall, taking it down, going home and collapsing.

I have been struggling with the additional burden of compression stockings and corset, a bit like being dressed for winter in a sauna. I wander round the house, sweating, unable to settle to do anything, looking for just one corner of the house that is is not stifling. Yesterday I actually felt ill, and wondered how many more days I could last this.

Because of my hospital stay and then the corset I have not had a shower since 17th July! The result is that I now have problems with the skin under the  corset.  A nurse comes once a day to wash the skin and treat the angry red patches – I have to have no infections by the end of the month if the op is to go ahead. The four nurses come in rota and are all exceptionally nice. Today Jessica laughed sympathetically when I said that that brief period when she undid the corset and washed my skin was one of the highlights of my day.

Today Odile helped me set up, rather belatedly, a sprinkler system for the flower bed in front of the garden.  We got it working just as rolls of thunder announced a possible storm. Usually the storm clouds are just there to tantalise us, and to make the air even more oppressive.  But this time, magic. Suddenly there was hail, turning quickly to fierce rain.

The temperature dropped down to an acceptable 30 degrees.  The weather forecast from now on looks like more hot days followed by thunderstorms, and not returning to the unforgiving 40 degrees.