March 18, 2017

SOME THINGS CHANGE, SOME STAY THE SAME

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I returned to France in mid February, unbelievably a month ago already.  Nick stayed behind to complete his rehabilitation programme at the hospital and followed two weeks later.  Now that we are back we are trying to rediscover normal. 

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During the last month the weather has been mixed.  Horrible grey days, drizzle, tremendous winds, and also some sunshine to lift our spirits.  One of the reasons for my early return was to check on the house.  There was some damage after storm Doris a few weeks ago and since then more in the last high winds.  All has now been sorted, thankfully.

On one of the recent bright and sunny days we took a familiar walk around the village and the route around the château that we used to do almost daily with Lulu.  I still find these walks painful.  I can visualise her trotting along ahead of us, enjoying being off the lead, stopping for a good sniff here and there.  It will be some time yet before the joy of remembering her will overcome the sadness of being cheated out of having her with us for more years. 

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It is incredibly coming up to ten years since we set foot in the village for the first time.  The little house below the château where we used to live looks pretty much the same as when we left it.  The house below has new owners and has had a lot of work done to improve it, turning it from a scruffy dump of a place into a smart town house.  I wonder if we would have got on with our new neighbours.  Rumour has it that it’s a holiday home and I wonder if there will be a lot of noise when they are in residence.  One of the great joys of our little house was its peace and quiet, despite being in the middle of the village.

Further up the hill the two cottages where the very old couple lived are now shuttered up and seemingly empty.  Someone said that both of them were now in an old people’s home.  I shall miss seeing them pottering around and seeing their bright geraniums on the window sills.

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This view of the château is one I never tire of.  It hasn’t changed much recently, except that the electricity pylon has now gone, all the cables having been buried underground. 

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The château itself hasn’t changed much, not since it was reinvented and reopened several years ago.  Displays and events come and go but it remains a beautiful, tranquil place, with lovely views over the village.

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Walking back down to the village from the track behind the château the view is exactly the same as it has been for the last ten years.  I love it from either direction.  Going up there is the promise of a lovely walk where we’re unlikely to see another soul.  Going back down there is the promise of a glass of something in the bar in the village, always something to look forward to.

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The village evolves gradually all the time.  The florist was closed for a while and we were so pleased when it reopened a couple of years ago.  Now we are sad to hear it is closing at the end of the month and the shop will be empty again.  I imagine it must be hard to make a living from selling flowers and plants in a small village.

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One of the two bars has been closed since mid December.  There are new owners who are apparently taking over in mid April.  It will be nice to see it open for business instead of shut up with whitewashed windows.  Especially in the summer it will be good to see happy people enjoying the sunshine at its tables outside.

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We have come to a decision, of sorts, about our house.  We had changes planned for this year, mainly upstairs.  A new ensuite bathroom in the main bedroom, decorating, lowering of ceilings and air conditioning.  But we’re putting all of that on hold until we find out exactly what the outcome of the French elections will be and, of course, that awful word, Brexit.  If we find that living in France more or less full time is no longer an option or what we want, there seems little point in spending money improving what would become a second home again, especially considering that we are unlikely to recoup that money if we decide to sell the house and move back to a smaller one for holidays only.  It’s money we could use to buy a better house in the UK if the tables are turned and we end up spending most of our time back there.  This is not something we would want but we think it’s best not to tempt fate.

My carte vitale has still not arrived, five months after I applied for it, so we’re still faced with the prospect of returning regularly to the UK for health care and so on.  Our dream of living permanently in France is not looking as realistic as it did this time last year, which is when we made the decision that that’s what we would like to do.  Which just goes to show, you never know what’s around the corner and planning something is one thing, actually achieving it is another thing entirely.

Bon weekend !!

20 comments:

  1. Brexit is still such an unknown, plans are difficult to make. We have only one option and that is to stay in France, but we might well have to become French citizens, not that it would really be a problem.
    Many things have changed here since we bought 12 years ago, the saddest on is our favourite French neighbour who passed away while we were in America last year. We gather a young couple have bought the house, but there has been no signs of anyone there yet and we are hoping to be able to make new friends.
    Keep well and we hope that France will remain an option for you and that the health system soon gets sorted. Diane and Nigel.xx

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    1. Diane, the situation for ex-pats is very uncertain, making plans impossible. Some people assume everything will be ok, others are quite worried. Nobody has any real idea what will happen.

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    2. Diane and Jean, Walt and I didn't have much trouble getting a carte de résident, and that gives you everything except the right to vote. There was a waiting period, but you have probably satisfied that already because you have owned property here for many years. For the carte de résident, the French administration wants to know if you have enough income to live here without seeking employment, but that's all.

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    3. Actually, I'm not sure about the requirement that you justify your financial resources. In fact, the carte de résident gives you the right to have paid employment, if you want or need it.

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  2. And yet Preuilly has 2 florists.

    You should be able to use the French health system, so long as you have a reference number, even without the actual carte vitale. You just ask for a feuille de soin and post it to the health insurer to get the reimbursement. My carte vitale took 5 years, and that's how I managed all that time.

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    1. The feuille de soins is the paper the doctor or pharmacist gives you showing how much you paid for a visit or a medication. You send in the feuille and the CPAM reimburses you about 70% of the price.

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  3. Jean, have you gotten to the stage in the health insurance application where they ask you to prove that you spend at least 6 months out of the year in France. I think that's one of the condition for getting coverage. I remember being asked for a copy of my passport, but rather that copying all 50 pages of it, I just took it to the CPAM permanence in Saint-Aignan one morning. A clerk thumbed through the passport and certified that I was spending more than 6 months a year in France. Does your passport get stamped when you leave and then return to France? I see there are CPAM offices open in Descartes (a permanence) once a week, and in Loches every weekday. And I think Susan is right that you don't have to have a Carte Vitale to get benefits.

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    1. Ken, I don't think we are required to prove that we live here for more than six months a year, other than providing proof of an address, or at least, it has never been mentioned before. Our passports are not stamped, in fact they are barely looked at as we enter France, only inspected when we go back into the UK.
      We have an EU health card which is intended for emergency use only, not routine matters, or at least that's how I understand it. Other than that we have to pay for consultations, medication and treatment, none of it being refundable except under any private health insurance.

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    2. My understanding is that you have to spend at least six months out of the year in residence in France to qualify for French medical insurance. Maybe there is a reciprocal agreement between France and the UK for these matters. If there is, it doesn't seem to be working for you. Can you be covered in France and in the UK at the same time?

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    3. Jean you are not correct with that statement None being refundable... When we lived there we generally got 70% back after handing in the feuille de soins with our details to our local office in Chinon. That included for my hospital stay and for things like doctors appointments and prescription charges. Its a reciprocal agreement with the EU so what will happen after, who knows!

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    4. Colin, did you and E. have the Carte Vitale? If not, why not? Walt and I got ours really fast when we realized in 2006 that we were eligible for the French medical coverage.

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    5. I aee this on a web page:

      "CPAM have an English speaking helpline service based in Normandy and they may be able to help you if you have difficulties or questions: 08 11 36 36 46

      "The English language CPAM helpline office is based in Normandy and staff have access to local records but outside of the region they may need a few days to access paperwork in order to help you."

      CPAM is the Caisse Primaire d'Assurance Maladie and is the government agency that handles national health insurance matters.

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  4. Thanks for all the helpful comments!
    Being prompted to do some proper research, i.e. asking people who've already done it, I now understand the health care process better and feel much happier!

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  5. Hello. I am assuming you are of UK retirement age. The CPAM process is to take your S1 to the local office with supporting documents. If accepted you will then get a letter (ours recently took less than 2weeks) which gives your CPAM number and two forms one to elect your GP or medicin traitant ( your french GP has to fill this in) and the other to get access to the CPAM on line system. You have to complete them both and send them back once you do that you will get the green card. In the meantime once you have your CPAM number you can buy a top up policy via either an insurance company or a mutuelle and claim back the part that CPAM will pay for using the feuille de soins. Once you have AMELI access you can make all claims on line. If you have used your S1 to apply you have already left the UK health system and the U.K. Government is sending a sum to France for you. So if you don't intend to be in the health system in France then best to write to CPAM and tell them you are moving back to the UK and let Newcastle overseas pensions dept. know so they treat you as a UK resident.

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  6. It is good to hear from you. Sad to hear about the political changes, and uncertainty. Worried that visiting Europe will be more complicated for US.

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  7. I feel sad for you that after all of your efforts to find you French home, become a part of the local community and uproot yourself from the UK that you are now facing so many unexpected challenges and uncertainty. Not coming form an EU country, we bought our French cottage with the understanding that we would only be in residence for 3 to 6 months per year, which has made our life much easier to plan and manage, both in France and Australia. Best wishes.

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  8. Hi when did the Canadian couple shut down the Joan bar,as we thoroughly enjoy our time every year sitting outside it in the morning?

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    1. David, the Jean Bart closed last December but......you're in luck.......it's reopening under new management on 28th April.
      It will be serving snacks as well as drinks.

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    2. HI You would recognize our family as we come every august for the last 12 years + my dear old mum ,we knew the lovely lady who had it , then these Canadian people, now we have to make friends again , but that is easy , as everyone in Grand pressigny is friendly
      We are hoping Thierry , the lifeguard might be back again this August , as he was not there last year .
      Enjoy your spring

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