July 12, 2016

A WEEK OF SPORT

Last week was a week full of distractions of a sporting nature, starting with the Tour de France and ending with the Wimbledon final, The Grand Prix and the football.  I’m not passionate about any sport these days although in the past I had my moments, but the proximity of the Tour de France route got us all excited and we thought “why not?”.  So off we set to the lovely old town of St Savin with sun cream and picnic, arriving in good time to get a good spot.

Of course, it’s really all about the advertising.  The caravanne takes hours to pass through, followed much later by the leaders then the peloton, which goes by in seconds.  If you blink or look the wrong way you miss it.

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Nick found us a good spot to sit and watch, with a clear view of the road, opposite the old abbey.  I couldn’t help pondering the difference between France and the UK when I noticed that the very young female police officer, her motorcycle parked nearby, was carrying a very businesslike firearm.  You would be highly unlikely (probably unlucky too) to ever see a policeman with a firearm in the UK.

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The caravanne started to arrive and it was worth the wait.  What fun these people must have, dressing up and fooling around through France for several weeks, seeing smiles on people’s faces as they go by.

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After the entertainment of the caravanne, it was time for lunch, picnic pies, fruit muffins, ham sarnies and a bottle of fizz.  After what seemed like forever, suddenly it all happened.  The leaders passed by in a flash, followed by the rest of the cyclists.  Whoosh, gone.  Followed by hundreds of spare bicycles.  And that was that.  Time to pack up and go home, after a great day out in the sunshine.

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At the weekend, having watched Hamilton win the Grand Prix and Andy Murray take the Wimbledon trophy, we wandered down to the village for a beer at the PreHisto to find excitement mounting for the evening’s football.  Nick fell victim to the enthusiastic face painting going on but after a while we headed home for dinner and to watch the match in comfort on our own sofa.

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What a damp squib that was.  There’s nothing more boring than a football match where nobody scores.  I don’t get it.  How can people become millionaires for kicking a ball around and not getting goals?  After the first half I went off to finish the ironing, much more worthwhile!

July 11, 2016

LIFE GOES ON

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In years gone by I have learned to be careful about who I told about losing a dog.  There are those that understand and those that think that it’s only a dog and the answer is to go straight out and buy another one.  A conversation with either is likely to find me in tears.  It helps that, at last, summer has finally arrived here in Sud Touraine.  Long, hot and sunny days and plenty of the usual activities to distract me from the constant feeling that I have forgotten to do something, of expecting to see her lying in the grass soaking up the sun, or lying in just the right spot to be in the way on the cool tiles when she’s got too warm.

Two weekends ago we went to two outdoor musical events, one an Irish night on the Friday, with fish and chips – some local musicians playing Irish jigs in the square behind the church in the village, fish and chips being served all night by local people, and very good they were too, popular with both French and English customers.  It was a great evening and we had a good time but my mind wasn’t quite there as it was too soon, and the photos of the event are poor.

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The next evening we went to an annual do called “Les Barroudeurs”, an outdoor music festival down by the river in the next village, Barrou.  This year the music was exceptionally good and much more to our taste than in previous years.  We had a lovely evening in the company of friends and I began to feel a little bit more like my old self.

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Some friends gave us this lovely rose which we have planted in Lulu’s memory next to her favourite spot in the garden.  Other friends gave us a climbing plant which we have planted so that it climbs the wall overlooking the same place.  How kind people can be when it really matters.

We are trying not to let the loss of Lulu spoil our enjoyment of the summer whilst at the same time not wanting to forget all about her.  We just have to get through the first few weeks so that we start to recall the fun part of life with Lulu, not the sadness of her last days.  

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With that in mind, we at last got round to tidying up the picnic area and bringing it back into commission for the summer.  It’s a great place for lunches outdoors, barbecues and long lazy evenings.  The house faces south so is in full heat of the sun, but this shelter always provides a shady spot to sit.  When we first looked at the house we had no idea how useful it would be.

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We have more or less finished the changes to the garden.  We have enough flower beds to provide a bit of colour without having to spend hours watering every day.  There is a small veg patch where we grow a few beans, cucumbers and lettuces but not so much that we don’t know what to do with them all.  There are two rows of tomato plants that we more or less ignore.  The biggest job is the weekly mowing of the grass and transporting the sacks of clippings to the déchetterie.

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All in all, we are feeling settled here.  There are places all around the house where we can sit to either enjoy the sunshine or escape the heat if it’s too hot.  As a last resort we can sit indoors, where it is always blissfully cool.  And with so much happening, life goes on and is pretty good.

July 1, 2016

RIP Lulu

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Our joy in getting back our old Lulu did not last very long.  We collected her from the vet’s last Friday evening, full of vitality and brought her to France with us on Saturday, but on Tuesday morning I thought I noticed signs that all was not well.

She deteriorated fast, as our UK vet had warned us she might.

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After her teatime walk on Tuesday she was obviously in distress and took to her bed where she stayed for eighteen hours.  An appointment was made with our vet in Descartes for Wednesday afternoon. 

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We got her up at lunchtime and after pottering around the garden she came with us for one of her favourite walks around the lake at La Celle-Guenand.  We all like that walk and it’s on flat ground so not too taxing for a dog that’s feeling poorly.

The vet in Descartes was wonderful.  The practice is in a different league to our vet in Derbyshire, but that’s another story.  We showed him the report of her illness and treatment and he said he would take another blood sample.  Our hearts sank.  If we had to wait another two days for the result Lulu would most likely be in a terrible state again by then, and we didn’t want that to happen.

But no, the surgery is far better equipped and after a last walk around outside, amongst the flowers and trees, the result was in and showed that her kidneys were in a very poor state.  With no other treatment available and no future for Lulu except pain and feeling ill, we decided to have her put to sleep there and then, before she became as ill and distressed as when we first took her to the vet in Derbyshire.

Anyhow, that’s where we are.  Doing the right thing never feels right afterwards and now we have to adjust to a life without Lulu.  It won’t be easy.

June 24, 2016

WE GOT HER BACK. ONE OUT OF TWO AIN’T BAD.

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Having spent two days in “hospital” having intravenous fluids to flush her kidneys, Lulu is much, much better.

The shaved area on her back (she has a matching one on the other side) is where they performed the ultrasound scan.  This showed that her kidneys looked perfectly normal so there is no obvious explanation for why they are failing.

She is more like our old Lulu, the one we now realise we lost several months ago, which is probably when she started to feel ill.  When we collected her from the vet’s she was bouncy, wriggly, full of beans, although skin and bone because she has eaten hardly anything for over a week now.

She was discharged with kidney pills, antibiotics and a load of special food that should not put any stress on her kidneys, dried kibble and canned meat.  When we got her home she managed to eat and keep down a small amount, which is looking very promising.

The idea is that now she feels better and the flushing of her kidneys has eliminated the toxins they can no longer remove, she should stabilise as long as she stays on the special food.  If her kidneys are so badly damaged that they can’t cope she will go downhill and get to the point where she was last week.  If she remains stable, we could keep her for months or even years.  Now that we know how lively she should be, we should be able to spot the deterioration quickly.  The sad thing is, if it happens again, there will be nothing that can be done about it.  So we’re keeping our fingers well and truly crossed.

So we got our Lulu back when two days ago we thought she was a gonner.  As for the result of the referendum – words fail me.  Goodness knows what will happen now.

June 23, 2016

WAITING, IN LIMBO

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Today is a difficult day for us.  We are in limbo, waiting, to hear the outcome of two things that mean a lot to us.

This picture of Lulu was taken seven weeks ago, in the bluebell woods near our UK home.  At the time we had noticed that she was often a little less perky than usual, sleeping more during the day, but she enjoyed her walks and her food.

Just before we came back to the UK on 14th June we realised that she was becoming much more subdued, spending most of the day sleeping and often being reluctant to get off her bed and go out for a walk.  This we put down to possibly her age and also the weather.  We have had awful weather in our part of France and Lulu has often been known to refuse to go out or get out of the car in the rain.  She hates getting her feet wet.  We hate her getting muddy so it was a fair arrangement.

On arriving home we decided that there was something very wrong.  She was eating hardly anything and keeping very little of it down, meaning she was losing weight rapidly.  She was also in pain, shrieking horribly when she first got up off her bed, then being rooted to the spot, looking terrified and trembling violently.  A visit to the vet resulted in a diagnosis of infected anal glands.  These were dealt with by the vet and she came home with antibiotic tablets.  She got rapidly worse, eating nothing and vomiting for no reason.  She became very thin very quickly and the pain episodes increased. 

And yet, often by the afternoon she would be almost normal, trotting along in her walks and doing all the things she likes to do.  We took her back to the vet who agreed to do a blood test and, luckily, she exhibited her most dramatic symptoms in the surgery, shrieking and shaking and looking terrified.  Otherwise we had the distinct impression the vet thought we were making it up.  Although you couldn’t make up the obvious loss of weight, she was so skinny it was heartbreaking.

Yesterday the result of the blood test was made known and her kidneys are failing.  The vet told us of the possible outcome, that nothing could be done to repair her kidneys, but, depending on what they found after doing an ultrasound scan, they might be able to make her feel less ill and more like herself by “flushing them out”.  Then there would be long term medication, a special diet and regular blood tests resulting in the “flushing” treatment when she became ill.

We’re not sure we want that for Lulu, or for ourselves.

She has spent the night last night “in hospital” at the vet’s, on a drip which would flush the kidneys.  It’s the first time ever that she has spent a night on her own, not with us or friends who love her.  This morning she is having her scan and after that we will decide what to do.

We went to vote in the referendum early, so that we could be back and be sure to be in if the vet phoned.  There were plenty of voters around, all gleefully accepting the free pens being handed out by the older woman (probably my age) wearing the red “vote leave” t-shirt.  We declined.  Where were all the “vote remain” supporters and who is financing all these t-shirts, posters and pens?  Living in what is usually described as a “staunch labour area” it makes no sense that so many people seem to want to leave when the labour party advise against it.  I can’t help wondering what the hell we are playing at – this is the stupidest game I have ever known.

So we wait, on two counts.  One has me in tears every five minutes and one has me in numb disbelief.  You can guess which one is which.

Lulu is a lovely dog, beautiful, well behaved and utterly delightful.  We are so glad to have had her for nearly eight years and it seems so unfair that we might lose her in her prime.  We really would love to keep her for another two, three or even four years.  But we are not about to embark upon an uncertain future which requires frequent visits to the vet for blood tests and treatments that can’t guarantee that she will feel well and not be in pain.

I sincerely hope that we will not wake up in the morning to find our world has been turned upside down on two counts.  This has been a difficult post to write, we are in pieces, just waiting.

June 12, 2016

A SINGLE WEEK OF SUMMER

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You would have to be living in a cave to not know that we have had some terrible weather in this part of France.

When the above notice went up a few years ago, I wondered whether anyone would be wise to buy a building plot so near to the river.  Now we know.

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The lake on Lulu’s favourite walk overfilled and the paths around it became an extension of the lake itself.  Not Lulu’s favourite thing at all as she doesn’t like getting her feet wet.

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All around us, buildings became flooded, rivers became raging torrents and wildlife became displaced.  It has been awful. 

For us, we haven’t had major problems to deal with, just huge puddles, a soggy cat and disgruntled dog. 

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I feel for the people who were on holiday that week.  “Spring bank week”, or the last week in May, is the first chance that many UK people have to take a break from work.  The Spring bank holiday is half term for the school children and many people head for France for a holiday.  As if the awful weather and the flooding were not enough, people also had fuel shortages to worry about, as well as the blockading of some ports and threats of air traffic control strikes leading to cancelled flights adding to the anxiety.

I have to say that when we were working we often had poor weather to deal with during Spring bank week, even in France.  But with fuel shortages and the rest to spoil our enjoyment if we were not already here we probably would have gone somewhere else.

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Then suddenly, as if someone had turned a switch, everything changed.  This last week has been a completely different story.  Warm sunshine arrived, day after day.  The floods receded and in many places you would never know there had been a problem.

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Lulu’s favourite walk became a pleasant place to be once more and we had blue skies every day.  Such a change from the dismal grey that we have had virtually all year.

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Apart from a few puddles, our walks around Le Grand-Pressigny were a joy, just like any year before.  The roses were especially happy to see the sun and the air has been filled with glorious scent.

But, it seems it was not to last.  One week of summer, that’s all we have had.  This weekend rain, grey skies and blustery winds have returned and the next week looks very unsettled.  All very unsatisfactory.  With the year nearly half over and one month of summer gone, goodness knows when we will get any real summer.  It’s very unsettling.

May 26, 2016

ROOF WORK

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It’s hard to believe how much time has passed so quickly this year.  This was the scene at one of our favourite walks with Lulu, the morning after I flew back to France in early April.  The trees were bare, there was a deep frost and a heavy mist on the lake.

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Whilst I was still back in the UK looking after my dad (who is now fine, btw), Nick was by himself chez nous (with the dog and cat for company of course) and supervising the start of some roof work.

On the front of the house are two dormer windows, known in France as “lucarnes”.  One of them leaked badly and last year we had some work done that we hoped might fix it but it didn’t, although they did look a lot better afterwards.

The source of the problem was the fillet of cement/concrete/whatever that runs down the side of the lucarne where it meets the roof tiles.  On one of them it was letting water in and we suspected that the other would soon follow suit.  So we decided to get the experts in and get it properly repaired.

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When the roofers took the outer layer of render off the lucarnes, underneath there were concrete blocks at the front and bits of flattened out corrugated tin at the back.  The only way to sensibly solve the problem of the leaks was to more or less rebuild the sides of both lucarnes.

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Roof tiles were removed either side, zinc flashing was fitted, batons were fitted to the sides of the lucarnes and they were then tiled.  The whole job looks much more businesslike, much smarter and we can rest easy in our beds in the knowledge that they won’t leak any more.

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While the scaffolding was in place, Nick took advantage of it to paint the outer frame of the lucarnes, the new oak pieces that were fitted last year.

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Once the lucarnes were finished, the roofers then moved on to repair the chimney stack and roof at one end of the house.  The concrete fillet around this was no longer doing its job and we had had leaks into the bedroom in heavy rain.  A good dollop of mastic was an effective temporary fix but we wanted it doing properly so that we could sleep in peace.  The roofers removed tiles around where the chimney stack meets the roof, fitted zinc flashing and replaced the tiles.  Job done.

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Whilst all this was going on, the landscape rapidly changed.  Leaves appeared on the previously bare trees on our favourite walk.  The surrounding fields turned a startling yellow as the rape seed flowered and temperatures rose – although not as much as we had hoped.

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On 1st May we hitched up the trailer bright and early and set off back to the UK to complete another task.  There had been a deep frost the night before and it was only 2°C as we pulled out of the drive.  We were reminded of the previous year when my brother came to stay with us for ten days in mid April – the temperature had ranged from 20-28°C for all of his stay.  This year was not turning out so good weatherwise, but we were getting nearer to finally getting all the important building and repair work done.  Poor weather but peace of mind on the house.