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.

May 19, 2016

A TALE OF TWO CAKE STANDS AND CATCH UP.

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So where did the month of April go?  Not to mention more than half of May?  With the spring equinox a distant memory and the summer solstice only a few weeks away the year is passing at an alarming rate.  We have been very busy, crossing the channel and back again, dealing with workmen (roofers), mending things (as always, we are tired of mending things now), reorganising the upstairs to accommodate new furniture and a guest, getting the garden in shape for the summer and, of course, living – the normal day to day stuff that you have to do regardless of whatever else is also going on as well.

More about all that later but just for now I couldn’t resist telling the tale of the two cake stands.

When we first looked at the little house at the foot of the château in Le Grand-Pressigny, the agent said that he thought the owner would want to leave all the contents.  We said that we sincerely hoped not as we wouldn’t want any of it – but I did rather like the cake stand that was on the table.

When we looked at the little house for the second time, just three days later, the agent offered me the cake stand.  I declined, as it wasn’t his to give away and taking it would have felt like stealing.  We made an offer on the house and the process of buying was put in motion.

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When we finally got the keys to the house it was completely empty,thankfully.  whilst some of the furniture and contents might have come in handy we would have had to spend a great deal of time getting rid of most of it, and we wouldn’t have known where to start.  Everything was gone, including light fittings, shower curtain, in fact everything that could be removed without trashing the house.  Including the cake stand.

We thought that the old lady had probably got a firm of house clearance people in to get it all out and it occurred to me that one day some of it might turn up at a local brocante or vide-grenier, possibly even the cake stand.

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May is the first big month for such events and there are several every weekend.  My brother had just arrived for his holiday with us on Saturday so on Sunday we set off to do a tour of some of the brocantes.  First call was to the one in Loches.

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It was a nice one, not too big but big enough to be worth going.  Plenty of quality items for sale at affordable prices, not just expensive dealer stuff or useless household junk.  With the sun shining and the bars and cafés open, we were having a nice time.

Then I saw it.  The cake stand.

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I recognised it immediately and swooped.  I was pretty sure it was the same one and when back home I looked through the old photo files that we took when house hunting to be sure I was right – and I was.  It had only taken me nine years to find it!

Of course it might not be precisely the one from our house, there must have been others around although I have never seen any.  Mind you, the day after my amazing find a friend showed me her cake plate – an identical top without a foot so a plate not a stand – and hers came from M&S many years ago!

April 9, 2016

A MYSTERY BOWL

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Now that Nick has found the alternative Live Writer – don’t ask me how he did it, I have no idea – I can forge ahead with a backlog of posts that were in the pipeline at the point where the old Live Writer would no longer publish to Blogger, or when I scurried back to the UK to look after my dad with only my tablet for company.

My dad is fine now, back up to where he was before he got shingles in January.  Well not entirely.  Let’s say there have been complications with a lasting effect that he is learning to live with.  But for 87 years old he’s in good shape.

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This post hasn’t been in the pipeline for all that long, but I’m keen to get it posted because it includes a mystery. 

We bought the three items on the table at a brocante a couple of weeks ago.  The metal wine carrier will be used to carry a bottle of wine and a bottle of water to our picnic shelter when we start using it again……we’re waiting for the better weather, which is late this year.  Much better than having them wobble about on a tray as we step up and down over the decking and the uneven grass.

The long bread basket thing is, we think, a proving basket used to leave the dough to rise during bread making.  I have no idea why it should be so long but it’s not so much useful as decorative.  It now resides on display in our humongous bread oven.

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The interesting piece is this metal bowl.  I looked at it on the stall and the lady said it was for serving dried fruits.  I can believe that, as it has sections just the right size for things like dried figs, prunes and other fruits. 

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The curious thing is that I have never, ever seen one before and it doesn’t really look very French to me.  It’s quite heavy.  It looks like it should be made of tin or a similar cheap metal, but it’s too heavy for that.  I’m not sure that it’s silver or a mixture of silver and something else.  There are no markings on it suggesting silver although it does look like it would benefit from periodic cleaning with Brasso or Silvo.  It does feel heavy enough to be made of brass but it’s the wrong colour.

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It has three nice legs which are firmly welded to the base, making it very sturdy and level.

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It’s about 20cm dia. and the markings remind me of a wall plate I used to have that came from Morocco.  I bought it for the princely sum of 3€ and it looked great with little Easter eggs in it on the table.  A bargain but also a mystery.

 

Any ideas? 

Bon weekend !!