Operation over

A very familiar scene: after a long wait I was wheeled to the operation bloc by the same young man as a fortnight ago – he with a girlfriend who is a world class scramble biker. And then I was met by Michel, the anaesthetist that had to use an ecograph  machine to put in the last of my drips in July.

I don’t know what was in the drip, but i came round feeling quite normal and the cocktail saw me pretty painlessly through the first twelve hours or so. The only time I had -have – pain is when I have to move, especially getting in and out of bed to go to the loo. Now I have no drip or drain and feel mentally OK.

This morning my friend, Dessa, texted me to say her friend’s daughter, who works in accounts here, said my op had gone fine! Such is the relaxed rural network. Later my surgeon, Dr Glaise (now seven and a half months pregnant) confirmed  the same thing. She said there were two éventrations, but she managed to deal with them both using the largest size prothèse or mesh -8×6 cm. And there had been no adhesions.

She talked of me possibly going to the Chataigniers as early as tomorrow! Meanwhile I have my orders to ‘marcher, marcher, marcher’. I have already been back and forth down the all too familiar corridor and no signs of the ‘gases’ everybody asks me about. Surely my system should work faster,  as this time I’m not on a nil by mouth routine and so continue my thrice daily laxative doses (to prevent further occlusions).

I am also officially back on normal food after three months of regime, not that hospital food is a good way to celebrate this. I can’t blame the food for my bad episode at lunch – I had hardly started it. I was gazing unenthiastically at a plate of over cooked meat, clearly tinned vegetables and  pasta, when I came over all sweaty and started to faint. I managed to lie down and ring for a nurse. My blood pressure had plummeted from a too high 15/11 this morning to 10/6. Not catastrophic and not the first time this has happened to me in recent years when experience sharp pains.

The blood pressure is still low, but I feel fine. It’s the afternoon ‘gouté’ time. Out of habit I have chosen tisane rather than tea or coffee, but have been give two madeleines to eat.  And it’s not much more than two hours before I get to see what delicacy we have for dinner.

Ready for op

Here I am, dressed up in the elegant blue garb without back, the ensemble complete with new white compression stockings and one of my horrible corsets.

I’ve just had the second of my two Betadine showers. At least this time I didn’t have to wash my hair in the stuff – yesterday evening’s ablutions have left me with hair (cut short in anticipation of weeks’ incarceration) standing up on end.

This is my third stay here this summer, so I have become a bit of a fixture. On se connaît – we know each other. The nurse who has just put my stockings on is also one of the four who visited me at home in July. She works two days in the clinic and the rest of the week as infirmière à domicile.

In theory I go to the ‘bloc’ at 11. I regret not being one of the first, not least because Dr Glaise must now be about seven months pregnant and so 8 trust there are no complications – for her sake, and mine!

Preparing for hospital

Why have I been writing about the pyrale du buis?  Because it means I can put off what I should be doing this afternoon: getting ready to go to hospital tomorrow.

I don’t know how long I will be away – one month? two?  At any rate, I have had to make sure fridges are emptied, bins put out, the pool furniture stored for the winter, various garden tasks completed, Edith – the cleaning lady – ready to look after the inside in my absence, the bathroom and clothes tiedied up so Margaret can, as usual, track down things like clothes, if and when the present summer weather becomes autumnal.

This morning we did the most important task: Margaret and I drove for an hour, over the winding roads of the Causses, to St Maurice de Navacelles, to meet the woman who will look after Poppy for the ten days when Margaret and Hans are on holiday. She comes on the commendation of two people and we saw immediately that she is devoted to animals – there are goats as well as the three dogs she is currently looking after (one an English dog, appositely called Scruffy).

Poppy was clearly not impressed by the sight of a room filled with dog beds and some rather enthusiastic occupants.  I think she sensed something was afoot and on the journey home resisted going into the back of the car.  Needs must, sadly.  I have not found anyone nearer able to give a home to Poppy at this time.  Then I took Poppy and her bed to Margaret and Hans. She was more interested in playing with her new rubber ball than saying goodbye to me.

Tomorrow I drive to Ganges and report to the now all too familiar surgical wing on the first floor. Dr Glaise will be operating on the éventration on Tuesday.  I don’t yet have a sense of how long I will be in the clinic in Ganges and then the maison de repos, Les Chataigniers.  But I reckon I will not be home for at least a month.

Box moth invasion

Our region is completely overwhelmed by the box moth, or the pyrale du buis as it is called in French.

I know they have been around for longer, but I first became aware of them in the summer, when they seemed to make a beeline for the hair of my daughters, sunning beside the pool.

Over the past two weeks I have noticed them everywhere , fluttering  round the garden, whizzing past my car screen, clinging in large numbers to my bedroom walls. I took this photo two nights ago when I had to get up get rid of a hornet buzzing round my bed, and noticed there were about six pyrale on my walls.

I don’t quite understand why I have so many on my land – I don’t think I have any box bushes.  Have they started to diversify their menu? I bumped into a friend on Saturday whose partner has a magnificent old box garden, a couple of centuries old.  They are struggling to suppress these moths; and my friend said that Anne, says if the boxes go, she goes – after about 50 years there.  And I wonder if the box bush, so much a feature of the wild, desolate Causses landscape, will survive.

This is perhaps an even greater catastrophe than the invasion of the processional caterpillars every spring.  At the same time I see fewer and fewer of our regular visitors, like the lizards.  Though the scorpions are still here, particularly in my bathroom.  And crickets still try to bang their way through my windows.


Thursday the 6th

Way back in the spring I started the laborious business of preparing the dossier for an application for a carte de séjour permanent. This means the right to stay permanently in France. Well, renewable every ten years – but that’s a long way ahead……

Then came my eventful health summer, which interrupted the process somewhat. But in July -after my two hospital stays – I made my formal application for a rendezvous at the Préfecture of the Département du Gard in Nimes.  At this meeting you have to hand over your dossier and who knows what happens next or how long it will take. The rendezvous can only be asked for on the internet so there is no way of talking to anybody about this.

Then I waited, and waited.  The wait became more urgent the more messy the Brexit process becomes.   As long as the UK is in the EU, we don’t need a carte de séjour: if you have lived here for at least five years you have the right to live and work in France with or without the carte.

But now both the British Ambassador to France and the Direction Générale des Etrangers en France (DGEF) have said it is advisable to have a carte de séjour permanent before 29 March 2019.

After Brexit (horrible to think this is likely to happen) this carte should be relatively easy to change for whatever is required then (no decisions yet).  This covers the first of the three big problems (residency rights, health care and the drop in the value of my pensions).

So imagine my relief when I got an email towards the end of August saying my rendezvous was on Thursday 6th.  This morning I was up at 6am, anxious to get to Nimes with time to spare, given the dire warning on the website that the rdv is off if you are five minutes late.

I have bad memories of the Préfecture of Nimes, and in particular its unfriendly Bureaux des Etrangers.  I was pleasantly surprised that things seem to have changed: a cheery young woman greeted me in reception and asked for my passport.

“Oh,” she said, “I don’t see your name on the list for today. Can I see your email?” She looked, and confirmed my meeting was on Thursday the 6th.  BUT IN DECEMBER! What an eejit I have been!

So my rendezvous will be nearly five months after asking for it, with no idea how long the subsequent process will take and whether I will get the carte before the end of March.. And I can say goodbye to the next step, applying for French nationality, any time in the near future.

Surprisingly, apart from being annoyed with myself, I am not as upset as I might be.  It has been hard work assembling my dossier.  I don’t really know what the Départment du Gard wants.  The Interior Ministry has provided guidelines, but apparently different départements are interpreting these with some variations

At least this is now  done and hopefully I can just pull it out again in three months time.

This is what my dossier includes (thank goodness for computers; it all looks quite stylish and convincing – at least to me).

  • the completed demande de titre de séjour, including some text on why I am applying
  • documents confirming my identity – passport, photos, birth certificate with translation
  • documents on where I live and my rights to be there – I got formal statements, or attestation from my notaire and the commune of Bréau
  • proof I have lived here continuously for five years – I have downloaded electricity and telephone bills for this period
  • proof I have sufficient income not to be a drain on the State -including a description of my various pensions, a spreadsheet showing income from all sources over the past five years, and bank statements showing the receipt of pensions
  • income tax assessments for the past five years
  • attestations showing my rights to healthcare under the French health system and that I have a fully complementary private health insurance



Roy’s 75th birthday lunch

I spent a very pleasant afternoon at Roy’s, despite having to forego most of the barbecued lunch.  There is nothing more pleasant than sitting out in the lovely September sun (temperatures high twenties but no humidity) just talking.

Sitting next to me was a Frenchman who arrived ranting about the imminent, mindless cutting down of mature trees in the village ‘place’ below.  He sought advice from the Dutch (bigshot) European lawyer sitting on his other side. I picked up that there was little to do, as these small rural mayors and councillors may these days have relatively limited powers of governance, but exercise these autocratically.  As one councillor said: “We consulted – what more do you want? Now it is our job to decide – and we are cutting the trees – they are too old.”  The fact that the consultation gave rise to a big petition cut no ice.

On leaving the lunch I discovered that this man is the owner of the beautiful old family house below Roy’s much more modest dwelling.  And indeed, his house looks over a backstream to the river Herault onto these trees.

The conversation moved on, as it so often does here, to Brexit and Europe.  I overheard the Dutchman and Roy agreeing that Europe was in a very bad way both economically (pending disasters in Italy and maybe later France) and politically (with the upsurge of the populist right everywhere. The Dutchman was of the view that Germany should heed the views of the Scandinavian bloc and agree to compromises to keep the UK in Europe as a valuable political and economically.

His forecast as to what would happen to Brits in Europe was as uncertain as everybody else’s.  I showed him an alarming  article in the latest issue of an online magazine aimed at British expats in France, reporting that some officials are interpreting a hard Brexit as meaning pensioners like me would have all rights to healthcare cut off on 29 March next year.

His reaction was very much a lawyer’s: this should be fought in the courts on the basis that we long-term residents are covered by the principle of protection universelle maladie . But this legal right is qualified by your economic circumstances and in my case I would have to pay an additional 8% income tax.

I’m currently very much absorbed by this problem, as at last – after nearly three months waiting – I have received an email instructing me to attend an interview on Thursday at the Prefecture in Nimes to present my large dossier in support of my case for having a Carte de Séjour. Obtaining this carte is a prerequisite if I wish to continue and apply for French citizenship while retaining my British one). A growing number of commentators, including the British ambassador in Paris advise this to help strengthen our case next March.

The whole thing is a dreadful mess, philosophically, politically (regardless of inefficiencies and corruption in Brussels), economically and personally.


Health tests continue

On Friday I was back in the Ganges Clinique for day surgery: to have an endoscopy and colonoscopy.

This is not particularly pleasant, in particular the 24 hours preparation before (constrained diet and dramatic laxatives – I lost 1.5 kg overnight!) and I felt quite unwell for a day after the general anaesthetic.  But child’s play compared with what I have had in the past and I fear will have next week.

The results were not bad: no signs of stomach ulcers (though samples were taken for biopsy) and the intestines were not great (the doctor removed the largert of the polyps and diverticula) but nothing really serious seen.

As usual my gut is taking some time to recover from these intrusions, but I’m doing my best to eat carefully to avoid another occlusion in the run-up to surgery.