14 March 2024



My mum always used to say that things come in threes.  What she meant was that you never get just one problem at a time to deal with.  Three come along at once.  It depends of course on what you count as a problem worth counting as such.  Many more minor trials and tribulations just get dealt with and go uncounted but yesterday we had our third countable one.  

The first two this year are (probably) getting the chimney swept which took four attempts and getting our long awaited fibre installed which took two attempts plus intervention by a builder to drill a hole.  Both of these were challenging for us to deal with because of the level of our command of the language and especially when trying to make arrangements by telephone.

In some ways I feel we managed better when our French was worse.  People would cotton on instantly to the fact that we are English and speak slowly, using basic vocabulary and hand gestures to help us to understand.  Now that we have a better command of French they speak at their normal rate and sometimes seem more irritated if we don't understand, so we still struggle, especially on the phone.

When we first registered with our GP in France last May she listened carefully to our medical history and referred Nick for a follow up to a colonoscopy he had many years ago.  (There had been no follow up at all in the UK.). The earliest appointment he could get was nine months later, so this February.  Off we went to a clinic in Châtellerault last month and after a bit of umming and ahhing the doctor decided he should have another one.  Oh joy!

He came away from the clinic with a huge dossier of forms to fill in and instructions and a date for the procedure at a hospital in Tours one month later.  Yesterday in fact.

Before this he had to make an appointment to see the anaesthetist as in France it is done under general anaesthetic.  This involved a couple of phone calls and on arrival at the hospital two weeks ago for the appointment the first thing we had to do was to take a queue ticket to meet with someone to arrange his room for the day of the procedure. We paid for the room then headed off to check in at the anaesthetist's office.  As we paid the anaesthetist he checked we had reserved a room.  All of this was quite challenging but we managed well without any of the staff resorting to speaking in English.

Anyone who has had, or lives with someone who has had, a colonoscopy will know that the process of preparing for it is not pleasant.  If you don’t, Google it!

We arrived at the hospital in good time yesterday and went to the first floor to check in as instructed.  We were sent to a waiting room to wait to be taken to Nick's own room.  A nurse popped in and out and gradually worked her way through the people to take them to their allocated rooms.  Nick's room was allocated but we were asked to wait a few minutes.  Then we were called to some seats outside the surgeon’s office along with another couple.  The surgeon came out to speak to us, wearing his outdoor coat.

I could hear my mum's voice in my head saying "summat's up here".  She was right.

Twenty minutes earlier, some idiot with a bulldozer had driven through a water main in the middle of Tours and the hospital's water supply had been cut off.  

The surgeon spoke in rapid French but we got the gist.  The operation was cancelled.  Then we got confused thinking he said to come back at 6pm.  The other couple stood up and left but as we exchanged glances he decided to clarify by speaking in very good English.  6pm was the earliest time they expected to have the water back on.  We were to go home and phone his secretary's office for another date for the procedure.  He apologised, saying he knew how hard the preparation for this is.

We drove home in a daze and sat with Hugo and Yvonne in the first really warm sunshine of the year.  Nick managed a slice of toast and I had a glass of wine.  I agreed to phone the office today to find out when he can have another date for the procedure, if we need another dossier and another appointment with the anaesthetist and will we have to pay again for it?  He will need another prescription for the medication so would they post it along with the dossier or will we have to go back to Châtellerault to get it?  Maybe our GP could give him a new prescription for it.  Will we have to pay again for another room for the day surgery, having not got as far as using it the first time?  

The secretary was obviously up to date with the events of yesterday and was ready for our call.  Nick could have had it done next week but I'll be back in the UK then and he can't really go through all of that by himself so it's going to be in April.

The secretary was keen to reassure me that he didn't need another dossier, or to see the anaesthetist again.  She would send his prescription for the medication through the post and was sure we wouldn't have to book another room.  "N'inquiétez pas" she said.  Which means "don't worry".

I am already worrying that we will go through all the palaver again and get to the hospital to find that in fact there is no room.  A friend just said "there's a chance it might all work correctly".  Or, as my mum would have said, "there's a first time for everything"!

Hey ho.


  1. OMG. We saw Doctor Bourat today and he told us about the nightmare yesterday. He has 8 patients to slot in somewhere as a result. We are off for the same procedure at Vinci on 10 April. So I'm quite glad to read your details of the procedure so I know what to expect. I like Dr Bourat, and his English is quite good. He asked Simon today if he had a pain in the arse :-)

    1. We're just glad it was cancelled before Nick was under the anaesthetic, or before I had already driven all the way home, or that he wasn't in for major surgery.
      We could tell that Dr Bourat was very annoyed!

  2. Here's hoping eerything goes to plan...

  3. Lots to follow up upon; may it all work out OK enough in the end.

    1. We're crossing our fingers! The French health service is challenging to navigate, not just because of the language!
      My dad used to say "it's as awkward as Dick's hatband", although in fact he would have said "it's okkard" in his dialect.

  4. I hope the procedure goes better than getting to it.