We have had a magnificent spring so far. Ever since Nick arrived back from the UK on 5th March we have had barely a cloud in the sky and some really warm days.
The garden is loving it. We had a good show of daffodils, swaying gently in the breeze, followed by the tulips, which have been glorious.
Tulips are possibly my favourite flower. They come at a time of year when we really need them. After a long winter we need their bright colours to cheer up our gardens and who can resist having them in the house, to lift our spirits.
Nick should get all the credit for our display of tulips this year. He planted the bulbs last autumn to give us little forests of tulips all over the garden.
We have tall and sleek ones, short and frilly ones and crazy two tone ones.
I think my absolute favourites are possibly this little clump of short and stubby ones which are the most amazing orange colour. Tulips come earlier here in France than we get them in the UK. Which is good news for a tulip lover like me.
Another piece of good news is that as of this very morning we are one step nearer getting my carte vitale. A letter arrived giving my number in the French system and requesting an up to date photo for the card itself.
I have to say that since my last post I have asked the right questions of people who have used the French health system and now understand how it really works for UK citizens. I had got it completely wrong and it is much simpler than I thought. The carte vitale is not essential to get treatment, it just makes the process easier. Maybe I will write a post about it one day, if for no reason other than to have it written down for my own future reference.
Just to prove the point, I had to visit the doctor in the village recently. It’s all so different from in our home town in the UK. There, I would have to jump through several hoops to get an appointment quickly. Certainly, if you are really ill you will get seen on the same day. If you have something less urgent to discuss you would be lucky to be seen in less than three weeks. If you need a referral or a blood test either can take several more weeks to get done.
When I phoned the doctor’s number mid morning on a Saturday, I was told to come down to the surgery for 12.15. The surgery is in a ramshackle building with peeling paint, cracked, ancient tomettes and nearly as ancient magazines. The door was propped open to let in the lovely spring sunshine and I was the only person there, the place seemed deserted. I sat opposite the door so that I could hear the birdsong and watch the cats playing in the courtyard. There were no automatic doors, no computers, no severe looking receptionists, no coughing and grumbling patients, it was more like sitting in a friend’s front room waiting for the kettle to boil than waiting to see the doctor.
Which brings me to the point about the owl. When people ask what it is about living in France that I love so much, I am sometimes lost for words. Where do you start? I could rabbit on about how the tulips come early and how you can get to see the doctor the same day without having to be seriously ill. I could mention the almost total lack of litter, bad language and bad manners, and point out the deserted roads.
How much do these things matter? Each one doesn’t matter very much by itself but when you add them all together they amount to a feeling that life here is better than it could ever be back in our home town in Derbyshire.
When we were looking at this house and thinking about buying it the previous owners were very keen to point out that an owl was nesting in the barn. I was curiously impressed and when he said “but of course you’re not going to buy a house just because it has an owl” I remember thinking that in actual fact I couldn’t think of a better reason at all. If a house has its own owl, it can only be because it’s a really good place to live. Sitting in the sunshine, admiring the tulips, listening to the birds, contemplating the lack of traffic noise, I realise that the owl was right.