2 December 2021

MISINFORMATION

The château at Le Grand-Pressigny in winter.

We decide that the time has come to get some help for Dad.  Carers will need to be paid for.

I go online to the Gov.UK website and find the form to claim for Attendance Allowance*.  It has to be filled in accurately, not missing out any detail, so that DWP can see exactly what the situation is.  

The form is a 28 page document, taking a Very Long Time to fill in.  I fill it in using a PDF file, printed it out and take it round to Dad for him to sign it.  "What am I signing for?" he says.  I tell him and he immediately forgets, asking me the same thing twice again.

I return to the Gov.UK website to find out where I should send it.  The wording on the web page is:

"Send the completed form to:
Freepost Attendance Allowance
You do not need a postcode or stamp"

You can see it for yourself here.

A 28 page document doesn't fit into a regular business envelope, or even an A5 envelope, so I use an A4 size envelope.  I carefully address the envelope as per the instructions given and take it to the post box.  It doesn't fit.  The slot in the post box is too small for an A4 envelope.

Nick takes it into the post office to hand it to the post mistress (Nisa shop assistant) who gives him a telling off.  It seems that the Post Office advice is that they should not accept items with a hand written Freepost address on it.  They are only supposed to accept them if in a printed Freepost envelope or with a printed Freepost label.

Nick points out that that is what it says we should do on the Government website and she agrees to take it "at your own risk with no guarantee that it will be delivered".

This means that, having followed the instructions on the DWP website properly, there is a possibility that this document, containing very personal information about my father, including his bank details, might not be delivered and could go astray.

How stupid!

I write a polite but succinct letter to our MP about it.  Meanwhile, instead of thinking "job done" and being able to sit and wait for a decision, I now have to worry about what happens to the blasted form.

Why does EVERYTHING have to be so damn hard?

A reply comes from our MP's office very quickly, after only two days in fact, saying they are writing, in the first instance, to the Post Office, to seek clarification on their policy regarding this matter and will keep me informed. 

I can't help wondering if this incredibly prompt response has anything to do with the beating the government is taking for their appalling record on Social Care.  And that maybe our MP's office staff have their computers set to filter out and prioritise any emails that contain the words "social services" or "care for the elderly".

Not that it will help one bit if my dad's bank details end up somewhere they shouldn't. 

*Attendance allowance is a non-means tested benefit that can be used to pay for help with certain tasks in someone's own home.

29 November 2021

A WINTER'S TALE


Exactly a week ago today (22nd November) we were sitting in our Derbyshire garden in pleasant sunshine, admiring the plants that were still in flower.  It was a mild 13°C.


Just a few days later it snowed.  Today (29th November) it barely reached 3°C.


Snow in November is not unusual in Derbyshire.  Typically we would get a significant fall of snow in late November then another in mid December.  The snow doesn't usually hang around for too long as temperatures go up and down and we haven't had a true white Christmas here for decades.

I thought it might be interesting to go back through my photos over the last ten years and see where we were and what the weather was doing at the end of each November.


November 2020.  We were stuck in the UK in lockdown, some friends were staying in our house in France where the weather was gorgeous.  They sent us this picture to prove it.


November 2019.  Pre-covid.  Our last normal year.  We returned to France for the last week of November to put the garden and house to bed for the winter.  It was cold but mostly sunny.


November 2018.  Our last week in France for the year and we had deep frosts.



November 2017.  We had moved house in the UK and were in the process of having a new kitchen.  The weather was bitterly cold, it snowed or rained constantly.  It was a miserable time.


November 2016.  This was our "annus horribilis".  Our beloved dog Lulu had died young in the summer, I had had my handbag stolen on holiday in Barcelona, the UK had voted to leave the EU and, although the weather in France was beautiful in late November, a few days after this picture was taken, Nick had his heart attack.



November 2015.  We were getting to grips with the reality of our new house in France.  The weather was cold but bright and sunny and we had new wood burning stoves installed.


November 2014.  We had been in our new French house for two months.  The weather was gorgeous all through the autumn and we ate outdoors most days.  Lulu loved it there.


November 2013.  One of our favourite walks in Derbyshire, any time of year.  I had retired.  Nick was still working but we were formulating ideas for a future life in France.



November 2012.  The weather turned, as it so often does at this time of year, from pleasant to simply awful in a matter of days.

The winter of 2012-13 was a really bad winter.  Heavy snowfalls one after the other.  Having to fight my way to work in it, over and over again, became more than I could bear so in the February I decided enough was enough.  I handed in my notice and gave up work for good three months later.  Having worked flat out for forty years I found I didn't miss it at all!



November 2011.

So here we are, exactly ten years ago.  A cold and frosty month, snow on the hills just a short distance away.  At this time we were both still working, we had a small holiday home in France and no idea what the next ten years would bring.

12 November 2021

HARVEST TIME


Our house is completely surrounded by fields.

All the fields right next to the house are owned by a farmer who lives in the next village.  The set of fields next to them are owned by two other different farmers.  They all tackle the harvest at slightly different times, the furthest to the east being the first and ours being the last.  This means that we usually have a bit of a warning when it's about to happen chez nous.

This is something we need to know!

We need to know because it makes a lot of mess!  The first time it happened we were out and got home to find everything covered in a thick coating of dust and chaff.  Fortunately the weather is often quite breezy where we live and the wind will soon blow the worst of it away.  Unfortunately we found out the hard way how much dust it creates inside the house if we leave any windows open.  

On 1st August this year we heard the tell-tale rumble of our farmer's old and trusty combine harvester in the distance.  He always begins with the fields furthest from our house.  That gave us time to whizz round closing doors and windows and stacking garden furniture and other bits and pieces in the barn.  If you have ever wondered how long it takes to clean up chairs and tables and remove dust and straw from candle holders and tealights just ask!



By the time he approached the back of the house everything was put away in readiness and Daisy was ensconced on the highest shelf in the wardrobe!    


The machine makes an unbelievable amount of noise as it rattles past the back of the house within a few feet of our ancient walls, although I suspect it's also the vibration that makes Daisy go into hiding.  Hugo isn't usually bothered too much but we keep him indoors, as an eyeful of the horrible dust or chaff would not do him any good at all.


When we bought the house we understood that the fields were owned by the commune and that they might sell us a strip of land around the perimeter.  It turned out that the land is actually owned by our friendly farmer, right up to the hedge and walls themselves.   As it happens he leaves a wide pathway uncultivated around the house itself so that we have constant access to our walls and boundary.

We did ask if he might be willing to sell us a strip but he replied that for legal reasons he was unable to do so.  It's a mixed blessing.  It would have been nice to have a bit of space between us and the crops but more land would mean more work in looking after it.  Luckily the number of days per year when we have to batten down the hatches and take cover doesn't amount to very many and we have learned to live with it.  The peace and quiet that comes from being surrounded by farmland is wonderful and so many of the houses that we looked at before we bought this one had noisy neighbours and outdoor dogs that were constantly barking.

All the farmers seem to plant the same crop, alternating between wheat and rape every year.  This year was slightly different, some of the further fields being planted with sunflowers, a joy to behold.  

Bon weekend !!

10 November 2021

HALF WAY AND TWO BIRTHDAYS


There was plenty of colour in the garden when we arrived in France on 30th June, a welcome surprise after such a long absence.

It's early November and, back in the UK, we are roughly half way through the twelve weeks that we have to be out of the Schengen area.

It's now almost dark by five o'clock in the afternoon, the trees in the wood behind our UK house are a riot of golden colours, we have had our flu jabs and our covid boosters.  Autumn is well set in and winter is lurking around the corner.  Nick has put the garden to bed, Hallowe'en and Bonfire Night are behind us and we have Christmas to look forward to.  Also two birthdays this week.


The house chez nous was surrounded by endless fields of sunflowers.

We both had a nasty reaction to our covid boosters.  For twenty four hours we were feeling washed out and shivery with aches and pains very similar to a dose of the flu.  It's the first time either of us has had any symptoms following our flu or covid vaccinations.  The jabs earlier in the year were Astra Zenica and the boosters were Pfizer.

This summer was definitely the year of the sunflower.

We have been kept busy since we got back to the UK and those six weeks have flown by.  Reoganising some things for my dad has taken up a lot of time.  We are in the process of moving him to a different  GP practice.  

It's fairly windy chez nous, good for drying the washing.  We rarely have to use the tumble drier.

Two years ago when Dad had to give up driving because of his eyesight he moved to a practice much nearer to his home, the theory being that he could get there on his scooter if necessary.  He was very happy with the service there and we were so impressed that we also registered at the same place.




Arriving in France at the start of July was too late to grow any of our own veg.  As always we received gifts from friends who had surplus courgettes!  We made a courgette and potato gratin and Nigella's pasta with courgettes with some of them.

After he moved into his assisted living apartment last October I called at the practice to notify them of his change of address and was told that he could no longer go there because he was now out of their catchment area.  I therefore had to choose between the two surgeries nearer to his flat.  The one that I knew was best was not allowing patients into the practice during lockdown - they were having to queue outside in all weathers.  So I felt we had to use the other one.  How bad can it be, I thought.


Although the weather was mixed we ate outdoors most of the time through the summer.

Well, the service has been terrible, they have messed up every single thing they have done for him, and the last straw was a couple of weeks ago when they changed their telephone system.  It took me two days of hanging on the redial button and about fifty phone calls to make him an appointment for a routine review.  I went to the surgery to try to make the appointment in person and there was a notice on the door saying that patients were not allowed inside to do this and they must phone in.  (I also took a letter asking if they realised how bad the new phone system was but the letter box was nailed shut.)  Goodness only knows what I would done if he had actually been ill and no wonder the emergency departments and ambulance services are inundated with people needing non-urgent treatment.  How can you blame people if they are ill and can't get a GP appointment?



 The garden was in a quite good state when we arrived.

So I'm moving him to the other one in town, where patients are now no longer made to queue outside - they are allowed inside the building into their warm and spacious waiting room - and the phone was answered after only two rings.  






The little garden centre in Descartes still had some plants for sale and they were at knock-down prices.



It's Dad's birthday today.  He's 93.  
It's also Nick's tomorrow.  He will be 67.  Where did the years go?





We plan to go back to France soon after Christmas or maybe New Year for a couple of weeks.  We will be able to finish putting the garden there to bed for the winter, clearing up the piles of leaves and getting them to the tip and generally making sure the house is as winter proof as it can be.  Only another six weeks or so to go and we can't wait !!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Changing the subject.  Nick and I, and most of the people I know, would have been sacked if they had been using their workplace and work computers for their other job.  Especially if the other job was to defend someone against an investigation by our employers.  Someone I know was sacked because he sent jokes to a friend on his work computer, it was the company rules.  It seems that every week a member of our corrupt and incompetent government is caught out doing something that is totally unacceptable and would be a sacking offence for ordinary citizens.  How low can they go?

2 November 2021

THE PUDDING OVERPAYMENT

A relaxed evening chez nous in July.

In early September Dad's lady friend came to stay with him for a week.  We were in France so my brother dealt with all their shopping needs but life was made easier because they could eat lunch together in the ground floor restaurant.  Getting Dad to eat enough has been a challenge so knowing he gets a cooked meal for lunch every day is reassuring.

The "Royal Visit" was a great success. Dad perked up and was a lot more alert, some of which we attribute to his eating more snacks but also to having someone to talk to him all day (he doesn't talk back much).

Dad no longer handles his own money and I now pay the restaurant proprietor, Sharon, by bank transfer online.  After the departure of the lady friend Sharon sent me a text with the bill to settle up.  She also told me that Dad now has a "pudding* and a cuppa*" every day which so far we haven't been paying for.  That's good news I thought, a pudding every day will help to stop the weight loss and extra fluid is a bonus.  I went into online banking, adjusted the four weekly payment to include the puddings and the drinks in future, and settled up for the puddings and drinks supplied so far, sending Sharon a text with my detailed calculations.

Three weeks later Sharon sent a text to say Dad no longer has a pudding.  It's as we thought, he ate one every day that week in September to please his lady friend!  I did the complicated sums and adjusted the next standing order online for his restaurant bill to include the "pudding overpayment".  I sent a text to Sharon explaining in detail how I had arrived at the amounts paid.

Shortly after that Dad told us he never has a cup of tea with his lunch.  I questioned him closely.  He's sure they never bring him one, he never gets offered one and he never asks for one.  He said he doesn't want one.  Dreading an awkward conversation with Sharon and the palaver of working out the sums again I checked with him several times. 

My brother was due to visit him last Sunday and eat with him in the restaurant.  He was going to observe the routine and clarify the situation regarding the supply of drinks.  Unfortunately Dad forgot he was coming, went down early for his lunch and was back in his flat by the time my brother arrived!

So, I questioned Dad one more time.  I timed my phone call for when he would be back in his flat straight after his lunch.  Did he have a cup of tea?  Does he ever have a cup of tea?  Do they offer him a cup of tea?  The answer to all three questions was no.  At £1 a cup it doesn't sound much but it mounts up and I feel it needs to be right.  The implication that we were being charged for something that they were actually not supplying niggles me.  Harrumph.

I composed a difficult text to Sharon, deciding to write off the overpayment but make future payments correct.  Having done that I settled down in front of my laptop to do some Dad related paperwork.  Five minutes later the phone rang, Nick answered it and it was Dad.  "I've been thinking about the cups of tea."

My ears pricked up and I had a sense of dread.  "They do give me a cup of coffee every day instead."

Nick found me crumpled in front of the computer, head in hands.  What on earth was I going to say to Sharon without looking like a neurotic and a complete idiot.  Going to my phone to compose an excruciatingly embarrassing apology I noticed that luckily, I had forgotten to press "send".  

*For anyone who is confused, a pudding is a dessert.  Other terms for it include "afters", "sweet" and simply "pud".  A "cuppa" is the word normally used for for a cup (or mug) of tea.  A cup of coffee would normally be referred to as "a coffee".

31 October 2021

TWO DAYS IN THE LIFE of a bossy daughter, one month apart.

The bridge over the Creuse at Descartes in September.

Day one.
A phone call:
Dad: can you tell me the number of the chemist. My tablets haven't come.
Me:  I had a text two days ago to say they would be delivered yesterday.  (I check texts on mobile phone.)  Are you sure they didn't arrive?  Have you looked outside the door?
Dad:  they're not there. I've run out of my heart tablets (he means his anti-angina pills)
Me:  leave it with me.

Phone call to his nominated pharmacy delivery service:
Them: they were undelivered.
Me: well that's odd, he never goes out. How can I get them?
Them: you can collect them from here.
Me: where's that? 
Them: …..they give directions to the "pharmacy hub" on the other side of town, twenty minutes away.

At the "pharmacy hub" twenty minutes later:
Me: I’ve come to collect my father's meds. His name is……
The assistant looks efficient and goes to get them.
Her: they're not here.  They don't arrive back here until after 4pm on the day after they should have been delivered.
Me:  I wasn't told that. Does that mean I have to come back here again later?
Assistant looks sympathetic and makes a suggestion.
Her: should I ask the driver to deliver them to his nearest pharmacy instead? 
Me: oh yes, thank you, that would be much easier.
Her: I’ll phone the driver now.
She goes away. Muffled voices heard from the back of the shop.
Her: the driver says they were delivered yesterday.
Me: but I was told they were undelivered and Dad says he hasn't got them.
Her: the driver says he asked her to put the box in his airing cupboard.
Me: box?
She has a look of pity on her face.

Back at his flat:
Me: they say you asked the driver to put the box in the airing cupboard.
I inspect the airing cupboard. No boxes, just a jumble of sheets and towels 
(I make a mental note to try to remember to sort that lot later)
Dad: a box came the other day. I don’t know why.
Me: what was in it? Did you look? Where is it?
Him: I don't know.
I go into his spare room, thinking this is odd, his meds come in a paper bag, not a box.
The spare room is a jumble of boxes piled around his mobility scooter which hasn't turned a wheel since he moved in.  Unpacked boxes since he moved last year and several boxes of catheters.  (When he had shingles a few years ago he lost bladder function and ever since has been self catheterising.)
  
All the catheters come from a company called Charter. There are at least four huge boxes with "Charter" labels.  And one without.  I open it.  Inside are another ten boxes of catheters and a small paper bag containing his meds.
Counting up the boxes I reckon he has enough catheters for at least a year. 
Mental note to self: must phone Charter and suspend the order.
I hand the bag of meds to Dad who immediately opens it and begins to sort them out.

Day two, one month later:
A text from the pharmacy delivery service:  Your (Dad's) medication will be delivered tomorrow. If you're not going to be in phone this number….
Me: (to self) rats!  That’s the day I'm taking him for his booster.  Better phone them.
Them: would you like us to deliver them to his nearest pharmacy instead?
Me: yes please , that's much easier for me.

The next day, on the way to the vaccination centre:
Me: your tablets were supposed to arrive today but because you're out they're sending them to the chemist round the corner and I'll go and fetch them.
Dad:  ok.

Booster done and back at his flat:
Me: are you feeling ok?  Your tablets were supposed to come today but they're taking them to the chemist round the corner instead.  I'll go and fetch them.
Dad:  yes, is it time to go down for lunch?

At the pharmacy round the corner:
I've come to collect my dad's meds, his name is.......
An unsmiling young assistant avoids eye contact and goes in the back, returns empty handed.  I get a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.  She taps on a computer.
Her:  we don't dispense your dad's meds any more.  
Me: yes, I know but............I explain the situation
Her:  they won't be here until after 4pm today.

The next day, at the pharmacy, 1.05pm.
Another unsmiling young female assistant:  I can't give them to you while the pharmacist is out.  He's having his lunch.  
Me: (thinks to self: he's probably within earshot at the back of the shop.)  Does that mean I have to come back again?
Her: yes.
Another man in the shop:  I've come for my tablets
Her:  I can't give them to you..........
I exit the shop as they argue about it.

Later that afternoon, after 4pm
I think I'll just phone and check where these blessed tablets are before I go out in the pouring rain again.
Me: can you tell me if my dad's meds have arrived?  His name is......
Assistant (I recognise her voice.  She's the Polish woman who's always very friendly and helpful): we don't dispense his medication any more.
Me:  I know but.............I explain the situation again.
Her:  I'll go and check for you.
I'm on hold for two minutes
Her: they're not here. 
Me: I was told they would be here after 4pm yesterday.
Her:  would you like me to phone the delivery driver and find out where they are?
Me:  yes please, that would be very helpful.
I'm on hold for five minutes.
Her: the driver said she delivered them two days ago.

Phone call to Dad:
Me: have your tablets come?
Him: what tablets?
Me: the ones that were supposed to come the day I took you for your booster.  I told you they would be sent to the chemist instead and I would fetch them.
Him:  yes, they brought them two days ago after I came back from lunch.  I was asleep and they woke me up!

Five minutes later, the cork out of a bottle of whatever is nearest, I begin arrangements to change his "nominated pharmacy" to Tesco.  They have a pharmacist on duty all hours that the shop is open, 7am to 10pm, plus 10am to 4pm on Sundays.  That means any of us, me, Nick, my brother or "that woman" (how he refers to his cleaning lady who also does his shopping) can pick them up at any time and take them round to his flat.  It's a two minute drive from home, two minutes more to his flat, and you can park outside.  Fetching his meds every four weeks is going to cause me a lot less trouble than having them delivered.

I add this story to my repertoire of anecdotes of disastrous deliveries.  The Amazon parcel that I ordered for him while we were in France, that I had told him when it was coming and where to put it, that he said hadn't come and searched for for days, that I opened a missing parcel case with Amazon for, and that my brother found in his flat, unopened, exactly where I had told him to put it, after the delivery driver had "handed it to resident" just as the email said.  

Then there was the talking clock incident, the little grey box with the big yellow button on, that sat on his chairside table and that he had no idea what it was or how it got there.  Turns out it was a gift from his lady friend who, tired of him phoning her at night to find out what time it was, ordered it from the RNIB.  We found out later that "that woman" had luckily been at his flat when the parcel arrived, helpfully fitted the batteries that were supplied with the clock and set it up for him.  When his lady friend asked how he was getting on with it he said it hadn't come so she complained to the RNIB and they sent another one, which was still there in its box, unopened.  

Life has turned into a sort of never ending comedy of errors.  As soon as one problem is solved, another one follows and we have to find a way of making life easier for us as well as trying to make it comfortable for him. 

29 October 2021

A SUMMER EVENING IN ANGLES.

 

Our friends Chris and Gail had spotted a flyer for the evening market at Angles-sur-L'Anglin in late August and invited us to go with them.  It was one of those typical events of the rural towns and villages we have come to love.  No charge to park the car and no entry fee.  Just arrive, wander and enjoy.


The weather in August had so far been a bit hit and miss, not as hot as we would expect for the time of year.  We were thankful for that on the whole, yet were somehow missing the heat.


On this particular Friday evening, it was perfect.  The sun had shone all day and the evening was warm and heady with the fragrance of summer flowers everywhere.


Angles is always good for a stroll around.  We first went there in 2007 during our first house hunting tour of the region.  That would have been almost exactly fourteen years to the day.  Goodness, how time flies.  Where does it go?  I remember that we thought how beautiful the place was, contributing to our feeling that it would be great if we could find somewhere to live in this region.



There was little folk band working its way round the town, moving on to the next spot and starting their repertoire of tunes all over again.


There are dozens of little higgeldy-piggeldy quaint cottages around every corner in Angles.


The umbrellas were all out on this beautiful summer evening.


There was a mysterious feature or artifact to ponder here and there.

The view from the upper part of the town over the river Anglin is fabulous.

In Angles there is an abundance of quaintness everywhere.

Not all the houses are crumbling, humble cottages.  Some are for the more well heeled.


The ruined château sits at the highest point overlooking everything.




The poo bag dispenser (a recent acquisition I think) sits on a wall opposite the memorial to fallen soldiers.  Anything that helps the war on dog poo is very welcome.

One can ponder what this building might have been.


And what was behind these old doors.


 We claimed one of the empty tables at the first restaurant we passed and decided on an early dinner.  There were a lot of visitors and not many places to eat.  By the time we had ordered most of these tables were occupied.

The light was fading as we finished our meal but the market was still in full swing.

A stroll through the ancient streets after dark presented a whole new perspective on life in an old medieval town. 

Bon weekend !!