14 January 2021



Chez Grand Ma.

I took my dad to the local leisure centre for 7.12pm yesterday evening to have his vaccination.  Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw.  The vast sports hall was a sea of very old people.  They were shuffling along in a snaking line not dissimilar to that at a Ryanair check-in at the airport, except much, much further apart.  Some were by themselves and a little more sprightly, some leaning on the arms of sons or mostly daughters.  Some, like my dad, being wheeled along in rickety old wheelchairs.  I don't know where they brought those from but ours had that distinct unpredictability of a wonky supermarket trolley.

My dad had been a bit off colour for a couple of days and he was walking a bit more unsteadily.  As we entered the hall I thought we were in trouble as I knew there was no way he could stand for more than five minutes in that queue.  But, I needn't have worried.  We were immediately pounced upon by one of the many meeter and greeters, details taken, and I was directed to stand in the queue for him while he had a seat in the waiting area.  As promised, as soon as a wheelchair became available he was wheeled to me so that we could both enjoy the queue.

Snaking up and down the hall pushing a wonky wheelchair was a skill I had not yet learned but after a couple of hairy handbrake turns at the corners we eventually got to the front of the queue and our (his) turn.  There were six "pods" staffed by a doctor and a clerk.  We were marshaled to one in the middle and a very nice young man checked details, got through the formalities, gave the jab and off we went.  Not outside of course, there was a strict fifteen minutes of waiting to be done at the top end of the hall to see if any allergic reactions occurred.  Each person was given a sticky label to wear stating at what time they could leave and a kindly fierce looking (is that possible) matronly type with arms folded strode up and down the rows of aged people to make sure nobody left early!

I came away understanding the scale of the problem.  They must have vaccinated hundreds of old people that day and I don't know how many of them were in the hall during the time we were there, but if only half of those caught the virus and ended up in our local hospital it would be in deep trouble.  

I know there are some ridiculous conspiracy theories out there, that covid is a government smoke screen for something (what I have no idea), that it's just the flu and that people are being paid £500 a time to take a test to boost the numbers.  I also am aware that there is a good deal of resentment amongst a certain age group that their lives are being put on hold or ruined just to save a load of old grannies.  That letting granny die so they can pocket the inheritance to prop up their modern lifestyles would be a good idea.  Why let all that money go on care homes when it could be spent on fancy cars, gadgets and holidays?

Snaking my way up and down that hall yesterday evening I felt quite humbled.  All those doctors, nurses, note-takers, cleaners, meeter and greeters, marshals, security guys and bossy matrons were there to make sure that all these very old, frail and vulnerable people do not get ill.  We look after our old folk, cherish them and do our best to ensure their last years are comfortable.  They are loved, valued and cared for.  The whole atmosphere in the hall was one of love and care and it was immensely heartwarming.  

There was even the faint air of the care home Christmas party about it.  You could see that this was the greatest excitement and first outing that some of the old people had had for months and months.

I did drop a hint to one of the nurses that I was so looking forward to getting my own vaccination so that I could get my life back, but to ask outright about leftovers somehow didn't seem appropriate.  The hint wasn't taken and I guess you have to know someone in the business to be able to jump the queue.  I'll just have to wait my turn like everybody else.  As it turns out, my dad had had a phone call in the day from his GP practice to offer him an appointment for the vaccine, but he was pleased to say he was already booked in.  So it seems they are getting round to everyone eventually after all.  I reckon about March for mine.

12 January 2021



Le Grand-Pressigny in early spring.

I know what I said but.......

My sister in law has a friend who's a community nurse and is doing the round of the Derbyshire care homes with the vaccine for the over 80's.  On Sunday evening by the end of her shift she had some spare doses, sixty of them, left over so rather than discard them she phoned round some vulnerable people she knew and gave it to them, including my SIL, who is only 66 and not vulnerable, but why not, I don't blame her.  All credit to the nurse for not thinking well that's that, end of shift and chucking the precious stuff away.  She could have gone home an hour earlier if she had.  Meanwhile my father, aged 92 and therefore well within the over 80's category, with heart problems, sits and waits, and waits for his.

I phoned the office at his facility (ie block of flats) and was told that because it was not a care home as such, all residents would be called for individually by their GP and it would be done wherever the GP had arranged, not at the facility.  However, BTW, some residents had contacted their GP's and got an early appointment.  This is against government advice, but that seems to count for little these days, so I phoned his GP and got him an appointment for tomorrow.  The practice receptionist was quite chipper,  cheerfully reported that they're gradually working their way through their list of patients and there was no insinuation that I was jumping the queue as she booked him into the next clinic.

It seems that half of Derbyshire is well ahead of the curve and already into the next category, the over 70's, while other areas are yet to even receive the vaccine and start on the over 80's.

Our illustrious leaders have had months to prepare for this but we seem to have ended up with a postcode lottery after all.  They must have known that sooner or later a vaccine would come along and it would be a massive logistical exercise but maybe they were too busy with other things to think about how best to deliver the vaccine to the great unwashed, like dishing out lucrative PPE and test and trace contracts to their mates.   Leave it to the GP's to organise.  

So, if you can't beat em, join em.  While I'm at the local leisure centre with my dad at twelve minutes past seven tomorrow to get him his vaccine I will enquire if they have any to spare that they need to use up.  It's worth a try.  It should never be down to who you know or who is prepared to put their head above the parapet and wave their arms about but I'm not proud.  I only have one life and I'd like to hang on to it any way I can.

I suggested to the office at his facility that maybe a note to all residents that it might be worth contacting their GP would be fair (rather than leave it to a random comment to concerned family members) but they couldn't possibly.  Because then the residents might expect the facility to provide the transport and if they couldn't would blame them.  Words failed me.  If at risk of any possible blame, do nothing.

Enough !!  Back to the happy stuff next time..........I promise!

11 January 2021



We first visited this restaurant many years ago, possibly in 2010.  It was a recommendation of Jim Budd, as being handy for lunch during a wine buying/tasting day.  It's not far from Chinon and the numerous wine makers along the Vienne valley.  We have enjoyed lunch there many times over the years but it's a good distance from where we live.  Too far to be staggering back along country roads after a good dinner in the evening.

I love the saucepan sign that hangs outside.  It is always nice and shiny and I wonder whose job it is to keep it perfectly polished.

These photos were taken in 2012, when we were doing a winetasting tour of Chinon with Ken and Walt.  The restaurant has been redecorated since then and is now a bit smarter, or more chic.  The food remains excellent value, being not expensive for a really good menu du jour.

We learned early on in our gastronomic adventures in France that it pays to arrive early unless you have booked a table.  12.00 midday is our usual aim.  Any later and you may find that all the tables are taken, or, if you're much later, that if there have been no customers the restaurant has decided to close for the day!  If you book a table you can choose the time you want to eat and the restaurant will be open even if you're the only diners.  On this occasion we had booked and that was a wise decision as by 12.30 it was pretty full.  

Another thing we learned is that it's always worth having an apéritif because with that you get the amuse bouche.  This is a selection of little appetisers, or nibbles, usually home made and very tasty, sometimes the best part of the meal.

I'm always pleased to see a small number of choices on the menu because that means they're more likely to be freshly made.  The bigger the menu, the more the chance of getting bought-in food in my experience, unless the restaurant is big and very busy warranting enough kitchen staff to do the prep.

As there were four of us, between us we had one of everything on the menu.  As usual the main courses were not huge but everything was delicious and we came away amply stuffed!

The most likely course to be bought in is, in our experience, the dessert.  For the price of the menu du jour here it's likely to be home made.  It's always disappointing when a nice meal ends with a bit of supermarket pudding!  This apple tart was definitely restaurant made and lovely .  

We've been back to this restaurant at least once and often two or three times most years.  That might not sound like very often but there is a vast choice of restaurants within easy reach of where we live so to make a special effort to go that bit further shows it must be worth it.  This is one of the restaurants that has not closed.  It was certainly still open when we were last chez nous in the summer of 2020 and you can see its website here.

9 January 2021



Chenonceau in winter.

Things are bad, really bad here in the UK.  Over a thousand people a day have lost their lives to this awful virus recently.  The number of positive tests is vast every day.  It is, frankly, terrifying.

I have decided that the only way I can get through this, mentally, is to ignore it.  We have our heads firmly buried in the sand.  We have click and collect shopping and are staying away from other people as much as possible, almost completely in fact.  Essential trips to shops are a mad dash in and out if it absolutely can't be avoided.

The château at Le Grand-Pressigny in early spring.

I am watching the news rarely.  It does not help me one bit to hear how bad things are.  No matter that most of the deaths are elderly people who may not have lived much longer anyway.  They are all people and do not deserve this, not to mention the hell that those who are looking after them are going through.

So, I'm spending time doing my customary browse of old photos, the usual tidy up of files and posting some happier stuff.  These dark days will pass and I need not to be a nervous wreck when we get our lives back.  

I usually find this browsing through old photos a bit unsettling, that it increases the longing to get back to France as soon as we can and pick up where we left off the previous autumn.  Curiously I'm not finding that this year.  Having changed tack I just need to get through to the summer in one piece and stay out of hospital.  Hatches are firmly battened down and we just need to wait.  And wait.  Seeing all my pictures of our beautiful little corner of France and our equally beautiful house that we are so lucky to own there is giving me something to look forward to, something to work towards and make sure we live for.  (Even though of course we have the horrors of Brexit to deal with before we can get to France at all.)

Enough !!!  Happy posts only from now on.  The anger is buried.  It's the only way I can cope.

7 January 2021



On a blisteringly hot Saturday in August 2011 we had arranged to meet some friends in Preuilly-sur-Claise to watch something called the "Comice Agricole".  It's a kind of countryside and agricultural parade and usually starts early afternoon.  We thought we'd make a day of it and pop into a restaurant in town for lunch beforehand.

The interior of Le Twenty was like hundreds of traditional small town restaurants we have found all over France.  Something like a cross between somebody's front room and an old fashioned country hotel.  As it turned out they only served pizzas and, if I remember correctly, a few other basic pasta dishes.

I remember that on that Saturday lunchtime we happened to be the only diners and that the dessert menu was like a book of lovely artwork to browse while waiting for the food. 

Being full of pizza we didn't stay for dessert and vowed to come back for it another day.

The main menu was a work of art, too.

The general ambience was homely, comfortable and unfussy.

We enjoyed our pizza and stepped out into the sunshine to wait for the parade to start.

The parade was an amazing spectacle.  Fabulous costumes and music from distant regions of France.  Goodness knows how the dancers managed without collapsing in the heat, some of the costumes being hot and heavy to wear.

We intended to go back to Le Twenty but time drifted on, like it does, and we never did.  One day I glanced in its direction as we drove along Grande Rue and saw that it was closed.  One of the restaurants we have lost, and it still remains closed today.

5 January 2021


 A fireplace in the château at Azay-le-Ferron.

Well, the receptionist at the new local vets was true to her word and got back to us about the cost of pet travel.  This I was most impressed with as she would have worked out quite quickly that we (Daisy and Hugo) are not already patients there.  I think we will be the next time we need a vet.

She confirmed that both pets will need an Animal Health Certificate (AHC) before travelling to France and that Daisy having a French passport does not exempt her from this.  Which also means that there's no point in getting Hugo re-vaccinated in France or whatever to get him a French passport either.  So that's £65 each per trip.  She also said that exactly as before dogs will have to visit a vet in France for a worm treatment before returning to the UK at around 22€, say £20 each trip, although she was not sure where this would be documented as the pet passport as such is no longer valid so no point in the French vet stamping it up as before.  She assumed there would be a section on the outgoing AHC for it.  I am inclined to wonder whether our local vet in Ligueil will be up to speed with the new rules by the time we get there (which is still anybody's guess).  So £130 extra per trip is what we will have to pay for no extra benefit than the vet having to fill out a multi page document.  (Better though than the £300 per trip our current vet is planning to charge us for it.)  

Speaking of paperwork..... 
Nick ordered some new walking boots online.  He chose Sketchers boots because he's had their shoes before and they usually fit.  He desperately needs these boots because every other item of footwear he wears that can cope with the slippery mud that makes his morning walks with Hugo such a delight (not) has given up the ghost and fallen apart this winter.  Thick, slippery mud is everywhere on all our usual walks, it having rained more days than not since the beginning of October.

He also chose Sketchers UK thinking they would be dispatched from a UK site.  The next thing he hears is that a "label has been printed" by UPS in Belgium.  After hearing nothing more for several days he sent and email and was told that transport of goods into the UK was stalled due to the coronavirus and no update was possible.  No refund was possible either until he recieved them then sent them back.  Oh the joys of internet shopping !!  Not !!

He also discovered in his quest to find out what had happened to his new boots that numerous smaller EU companies are reluctant to supply goods to UK customers due to the excessive paperwork around the VAT.  It simply isn't worth it.  Well, who would have thought that ??!!  Another Brexit bonus perhaps ??!!

2 January 2021



(One of the things we meant to do last summer was to repaint the front gate.)

Most weeks during our summers in France we have spent a happy couple of hours with our friends Chris and Gail chatting about this and that whilst enjoying an apéro and the last of the evening sunshine at one of the two bars in the village, the Pre Histo or Chez L.  Time would pass quickly as we chewed the fat and watched the world go by.  2020 was very different and we were only in France at the same time as them for a much shorter spell.  The rest of the year we had occasional meetings on Messenger instead.

So there we would be on a Saturday evening, in front of the laptop, glass of fizz in hand and plate of mini sausage rolls on the table, and time would whizz by.  Conversation would meander from one subject to another, usually starting with the coronavirus and crossing the English Channel and back again many times, but tonight we have an actual agenda!  We have a lot to get through in the two hours we usually spend chatting!

Item number one on the agenda is the new pet travel scheme.  They take their dog with them to France and are as keen as we are to find out exactly what we will have to do.  We have been doing a little  research and frankly information available on the rules and costs is all over the place, literally and figuratively speaking.

The Royal Veterinary College says that the new animal health certificate (AHC) will cost £93.50 per pet per trip.  Gulp!

The vet we have been going to in Matlock says it's likely to be £150 per pet per trip.  Good grief!!

The recently opened vet in our little Derbyshire town says they will be charging £65 per pet per trip.  That sounds a lot better.  The receptionist I spoke to there also said that the AHC is valid for four months but if you stay in France for longer you can get an extension there.  I had no idea about that.

I also asked her to find out for me if Daisy will need an AHC because she has a French Pet Passport, and if Hugo will still need to pay the visit to the vet in France before return to the UK for a worm treatment.  She said she would ask the vet and get back to me.

There is of course no rush.  Before we can go we need to (1) have completed the sale on Dad's house, (2) got our vaccines and (3), last but not least, travel restrictions been lifted.  Assuming no unforseen delays, (1) should be done by the end of February, (2) by anywhere between March and May and (3) is anybody's guess!

I shall report back on the outcome of this evening's pow-wow or when we have a definitive idea of the situation.  After all, the last time I was waiting for a train to France there was a huge poster saying that since 2001 Eurotunnel had transported over two million pets across to Europe, so we're not the only ones faced with this palaver.  It has just this instant occurred to me that Euotunnel's website might be a good place to get accurate advice - it is after all their job to make sure passengers know what they're doing.

To be continued..........