Cats and Dogs

Trips outdoors are brief and carefully planned. My lovely convertible has its roof shut and the air conditioning on. When Poppy and I walk, we choose a short, shady stretch.

Poppy has had to put up with short toddles from the bridge car park up to the village of Serres, because that side of the valley is still in relative shade in the early morning.

This means, of course, negotiating the prolific four-legged population of Serres. On our way up this morning we came across the two extremely unpleasant, yapping pugs, who lunged towards Poppy, beside themselves with fury. Their owner sensibly keeps these unattractive animals on their leads.

Once at Margaret’s house, I met Poppy’s bosom pal in Serres, a long-haired dachshund called Gaston. Owned by a nice (gay) couple who have a weekend house here, Gaston is friendly, playful, and as obsessed as Poppy by rubber balls or, in his case, bones. This morning he went after Poppy’s ball while she, as usual, played the submissive I’m-the-bottom-of-the-pack role, and watched on. Whereupon Gaston amazingly pushed the ball over to her, recognising it was for sharing. Gaston’s owners, Marcelle (the wheelchair-bound neighbour in her nineties), Margaret and I spent a happy quarter of an hour laughing at the two dogs’ antics.

That is, when we were not sharing a moment of disapproval at the people who park their cars in the allocated disabled space near Marcelle’s house. “Inadmissible,” said one of Gaston’s owners. We all know that one of the offenders is the sole member of the council who lives in Serres. Like so many of the breaches of rules here – such as the abandoned old cars taking up parking spaces, or the eyesore of dozen or so trucks and cars in the most visible location in the valley, a car business in blatant disregard of the planning restrictions – nothing is done. The maire likes the quiet life.

On the way back down to the car, we have to pass the house with the two fierce cats. These sit on the wall, staring malignantly at Poppy and one has in the past actually attacked her. Both Margaret and I have had to use a stick to beat it off Poppy. She now knows to walk briskly straight past the house, looking straight ahead, hoping somehow that she is invisible.

This morning I came across another cat who looked equally hostile. It leapt back through the hole in this door and then popped her head out, growling menacingly, daring Poppy to come up the steps. Poppy very wisely declined. She loves chasing cats who run away from her, but has learnt that if they hold their ground they are best avoided.

May Day

I am pleased that the French still celebrate May Day on the 1st May. I know May Day has many historical associations with spring or religious festivals, but for me this is a day when one marches for better jobs, social reform, or against racism. So I regretted the UK decision to move the holiday to the first Monday in May, breaking this link with workers’ marches.

The May Day marches in Paris and other French cities were spoilt by violence and the confusion caused by competing groups such as the Gilets Jaunes. And I’m I don’t even know wether there was a ceremony in le Vigan this year.

Instead, as it was a lovely sunny day. I joined others at the annual spring plant show – La Main Verte – in the grounds of the Chateau d’Assas.

Poppy’s tenth birthday

Of course the other reason May Day is important is that it is Poppy’s birthday. Ten is quite a landmark: Poppy has become a wonderfully adaptable, (mainly) biddable dog, with a friendly, happy temperament and lots of character. I’m very lucky to have such a special dog. Lucky also to have friends like Hans and Margaret, who look after her when I need to be away for the day or longer. Theirs is her second home.

Poppy en pension

As usual my friends Hans and Margaret have been looking after Poppy; she absolutely loves being with them, getting lots of attention and walks, and having village life to entertain her. Indeed she is getting somewhat proprietorial about her patch – the paths in front of the house.

All that changed on Sunday. Hans and Margaret were about to go on holiday. First Margaret took Poppy to a woman in St Maurice de Navacelles, who looks after dogs. Several people had recommended Mme Hilsdorff and Margaret and I were reassured when visiting her three weeks ago.

Even so, Margaret, like me, was somewhat anxious when leaving her.  She texted me: “ This time the dogs there where friendly and well behaved they just sniffed bums and wagged tails, but Poppy not quite sure as they where all very large.She quickly realised if she sat under a chair they couldn’t get down to sniff her bum.!! Mme H. picked her up and carried her around and was rewarded with a licked face, so I left feeling not too bad.“

Just as I wrote this, Mme Hilsdorff rang to give me news. Poppy is fine, she puts up with the big dogs (there are five dogs en pension plus her own), seems happy with the three daily walks, continues to have too healthy an appetite and sleeps well.

Mme Hilsdorff is clearly smitten by her. She says that with her easy temperament she quickly transfers her affection, albeit temporarily, and so does not languish. The first night she made Poppy sleep downstairs with the other dogs. Last night Poppy made it quite clear she wanted to spend the night in Mme H’s bedroom. And so she did. I think the pension rules have been waived.

Poppy is 9

Poppy greeted me with wild enthusiastic licking (why always the ears?).  She has clearly had a lovely holiday – as usual – with Hans and Margaret.  What’s more they have brought her back to normal behaviour after her somewhat stressed post-vaccine combined with new biscuits-only diet.

Yesterday was her birthday, and she punished me by refusing to eat anything.  A battle of wills is going on: the food bowl remains firmly untouched.  But I am not going to give in and return to her unhealthy diet of Pedigree Chum.

It is nearly nine years since I collected that little black bundle from Véronique at the trout farm and she frightened Margaret and me by nearly jumping into the deep hole under the house or hiding in an unstable woodpile.

She has become the ideal companion: happy, friendly (especially to humans)  and obedient (relatively).  Just a little blip while I try and get her back on course eating a healthier diet.

Black period

I’ve just had a couple of bad days when I suddenly became overwhelmed by the bleak prospects of the future.

Until now I have immersed myself in practical planning, but I think when Maelle delivered the report from Lyon confirming the Mixed Müllerian Tumour, it finally shut down some doors of hope.  Yes, there is hope, possibly 50%.  But it would have been so much easier if I had had a normal cancer of the uterus.  Why do I have to get a very rare one which they don’t really know how to treat?

I thought of my friend Sylvia, weeping as she said she wanted to see her grandchildren grow up.  Well I don’t expect to be there when mine are adult, but I do want to follow their story a little longer. My daughters also.  I want to be there to see the 30 olive trees I have just had planted grow to maturity.  I want to have the courage to take up the cello again. I want to fulfil my dream to return to India – and explore elsewhere.

Once again, in the Saturday market, when I bump into so many friends and acquaintances, I find myself undecided how to reply to the inevitable question “Ca va?” usually followed by exclamations of how well I look and am I ready to take off now my hip is finally better.  Do I reply ‘ça va’ or do I say, actually no, I have cancer and am about to go into hospital.  My dilemma is becoming easier because word of mouth information means that increasingly my friends stop to wish me well rather than ask me how I am.

Well, I hope I have got over this bleak moment, helped by a day of eating and drinking with my friend, Deborah – my companion of the months in the Hopital du Vigan. And now I have a whirlwind range of activities which threaten to use up every moment of the next two days: a visit to Sylvia, visits from Joceline (my physio) and Charles and Pierre, an extended lunch party today at Christine Capieu’s, reply to dear friends who write or phone, the arrival of Jean Pierre, my builder, to continue work in the two houses (he doesnt know yet that I wont be there), hiring someone to continue to cut the grass which Joris hasnt finished, packing, checking my medical records are all in place … …

I must also spend some time playing with Poppy, before she goes into kennels for the first time in her life on Tuesday morning.  I’m not too worried: Laure is a pleasant, animal-loving young woman, and it is only five or six days before Hans and Margaret return from holiday to take over.  But it is a bit like taking a child to primary school for the first time.  Will she cope with being outdoors only during the day?  Will she handle the attentions of the two boisterous sheep dogs plus any other pensionnaires?


A break from endless health sagas, this lovely photo Margaret has just sent of Poppy.  It does make me miss her – but I know she is having a ball staying with Hans and Margaret,