14 January 2022

TIMING

The view from the château in early spring.

4.30 am.  The phone rings.

It can only be one person.  I stagger out of bed to answer it.

Me:  hello

Silence

Me:  hello Dad, what's wrong?

Dad:  nobody's been

Me:  it's four thirty in the morning

Dad:  well nobody's been

Me:  Dad, it's four thirty in the morning.  Have you got up?

Dad:  yes

Me:  well go back to bed, it's the middle of the night

Silence.

Our lime tree after its last haircut in February 2015.

The announcement yesterday that the French will now allow entry into France from the UK is great news but the timing is all wrong.

We have a number of commitments next week that might result in further appointments and until we know that we are not in a position to book a crossing.  It's now looking rather like we will be going in mid March as usual, after a full six months away.  Again.

Sadly, had we been able to travel in late December when we planned to, it would have worked out fine.  We had hoped to be there for a couple of weeks in order to finally put the house and garden to bed for the winter and, hopefully, oversee the pruning of our lime tree which is now overdue.  We have been in touch with our new gardener (the previous ones having crossed us off their list of clients last summer) but apparently the timing isn't right and the weather is all wrong. 

I have to wonder what has been achieved by closing the border to the UK for three weeks, other than pissing off a lot of people on both sides of it.  British holiday makers and the French hotels and other businesses that lost out on their custom.  

Another timing issue is when to apply for our visas, the VLST's that will give us freedom to come and go as we always used to.  They require an interview at the French Embassy, Manchester being our nearest office.  And they cost £150 each with all the add-on charges.  And we will have to go through this cuffing palaver every year unless we become French residents and go through all the palaver associated with that.

Brexit.  How to complicate life for so many for virtually no benefit to anyone.

Still, it looks like time is running out for the elitist tosser currently in number 10.  Who declared that a "close family member" conveniently tested positive so he could justify going into hiding.  Although even that is his own bending of the rules for his own purposes, which currently say that fully vaccinated contacts no longer have to self isolate!  Let's hope enough people will now realise how they have been taken for fools for too long.

Bon weekend!!

3 January 2022

FINGERS CROSSED


 It snowed chez nous in January 2016

From today UK citizens will once again be allowed to travel to Germany, dependent of course on negative tests etc.  We have fingers crossed that the French will soon follow suit and lift the ban that only allows for "essential travel only".

The virus is all around us here in the UK.  Estimates vary from one in fifty to one in thirty people being infected but most of them experiencing no symptoms.  Those that do mostly have something similar to a cold or at worst mild flu.  

We know of whole families that have been infected, only one having symptoms.  In our own family a nephew and his fiancée have caught it twice since they were double vaccinated, him after having his booster.  Again only mild symptoms.  Those worst infected are the unvaccinated.  Many of those being people who have declined the vaccine by choice rather than circumstances.  

I overheard a conversation between three people the other day, in a shop doorway.  A couple in their fifties were talking to a much older woman who said she wouldn't have the vaccine because you have no idea what's in it.

I have wondered what I would say if I got into such a conversation.  Would I accuse the person of being selfish, of putting not just her own health at risk but also that of her friends and family, not to mention every person she breathed on?  Or would I feel obliged to respect her view?

I think I might be tempted to say "well I hope you get away with it if you do get infected".  Or maybe "you don't know what's in most of the food and drink you have been consuming all your life either, not to mention all the other tablets you have taken when you were ill, or the ones that undoubtedly keep you alive".

More than likely I would simply end the conversation and step back to a safe distance for her sake and mine.  My understanding is that it's hard to dissuade the misinformed these days.

Today in our part of the UK the sky is blue at last.  Weeks of grey cloud and endless drizzle have only been bearable because of the distraction of Christmas and New Year.  For once it hasn't rained overnight and the forecast is for a dryish spell and very cold temperatures.  Nick will be able to resume his woodland walks with Hugo - they both enjoy an hour's trample through the woods and fields every morning but not when they come back covered in mud.  The washing machine has been going every day to cope with muddy clothes and dog towels.  Lately their usual walks have been so awful that they have resorted to the paths and parks that are good under foot in wet weather with the disadvantage that every other dog walker in the area is doing the same thing. 

And so we keep our heads down.  To catch the virus and have a mild dose of it would be bad enough but to have to self isolate when there is dog walking to do and Dad to look after would be very awkward.  If the French drop the drawbridge back down and we have the opportunity to go for a couple of weeks to finally sort the garden and house for the winter it would be tragic if a positive test result stopped us from going!

Fingers well and truly crossed here!

27 December 2021

TROUBLE AHEAD?

 

The Christmas market in La Roche-Posay, December 2016.

Well Christmas chez nous (the UK chez nous) has been and gone.  We had a nice time, my brother, his daughter and my dad joining us for lunch.

On Christmas Eve, after phoning round numerous pharmacies, we managed to get the last box of covid lateral flow tests to be had locally.  The last one I phoned said they only had two left so to go straight round.  I changed out of my PJ's in record time and got there just in time to get the last one.  We performed the tests on Christmas morning and with negative results we felt as comfortable as we could be to go ahead with the lunch.

Yesterday, Boxing Day (a very British celebration I believe) Nick and I went out for a drive in the fog.  One of the disappointing things about Christmas this year is that the weather has been so AWFUL!  Fog, rain, drizzle, not a drop of sunshine for days.

However, it was nice to get out of the house but not so nice to see that every pub car park was full of cars.  Which means every pub was full of maskless people enjoying themselves.

My neighbour has a friend who works in a nearby major hospital.  She says the NHS is already overwhelmed, long queues of ambulances outside A&E, corridors full of trolleys, operations and clinics cancelled to divert staff to covid wards to cover for absentees.

There is trouble ahead I think.  Time for us to keep our heads down.

I WISH YOU ALL THE BEST OF NEW YEARS.
May 2022 bring us nearer to normality.

22 December 2021

MERRY CHRISTMAS

 

Chenonceau in winter.


MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR !

Keep safe and well and let's hope for a good year in 2022.

16 December 2021

THWARTED AGAIN

 


Well it looks like our plans to return to France for a couple of weeks just after Christmas are thwarted yet again.



With the Omicron variant running rife in the UK I'm not surprised that France has introduced restrictions for visitors from this side of the English Channel.  For maximum impact they start this weekend, in two days' time.


 I was expecting it, glad that our plans were not to be there for Christmas itself and having to make last minute cancellations.  Although disappointed I don't feel as bereft as at this time last year.  

We could have coped with all the testing and the self isolating when we get there but the real stumbling block is the "imperative reason for travel".



I'm not sure that "need to sweep up the leaves from the grass" would cut it.
Nor would "desperate to get back now that our Schengen 90 days has clocked over".

This is becoming monotonous and once again we question whether owning a house in France is a worthwhile and sensible thing to do.

I know that once we do get there all such thoughts will be swept from our minds.

10 December 2021

AN ISOLATED INCIDENT?

The rooftops of Le Grand-Pressigny in winter.

Well it seems that the refusal to accept my father's application in a Freepost envelope is a one off - an "isolated incident" unique to our local post office, according to the reply received by my MP from The Post Office, who looked into it very swiftly.  

I wonder.  My experience in the workplace is that employees rarely make a mistake only once, that they are not usually found out until it's happened several times and that for every example you find there will be several more that remain undiscovered.  

However, we are reassured that because the assistant did actually put it in the collection bag it probably will have been delivered.  No doubt we will find out in due course.  I expect there is also some relief in the MP's office that at least this particular system isn't broken.

Of course, the same principle applies to Christmas parties...for every one that is discovered there are almost certainly several that have not been found out about yet and that nobody will admit to !!

Bon weekend !!

2 December 2021

MISINFORMATION

The château at Le Grand-Pressigny in winter.

We decide that the time has come to get some help for Dad.  Carers will need to be paid for.

I go online to the Gov.UK website and find the form to claim for Attendance Allowance*.  It has to be filled in accurately, not missing out any detail, so that DWP can see exactly what the situation is.  

The form is a 28 page document, taking a Very Long Time to fill in.  I fill it in using a PDF file, printed it out and take it round to Dad for him to sign it.  "What am I signing for?" he says.  I tell him and he immediately forgets, asking me the same thing twice again.

I return to the Gov.UK website to find out where I should send it.  The wording on the web page is:

"Send the completed form to:
Freepost Attendance Allowance
You do not need a postcode or stamp"

You can see it for yourself here.

A 28 page document doesn't fit into a regular business envelope, or even an A5 envelope, so I use an A4 size envelope.  I carefully address the envelope as per the instructions given and take it to the post box.  It doesn't fit.  The slot in the post box is too small for an A4 envelope.

Nick takes it into the post office to hand it to the post mistress (Nisa shop assistant) who gives him a telling off.  It seems that the Post Office advice is that they should not accept items with a hand written Freepost address on it.  They are only supposed to accept them if in a printed Freepost envelope or with a printed Freepost label.

Nick points out that that is what it says we should do on the Government website and she agrees to take it "at your own risk with no guarantee that it will be delivered".

This means that, having followed the instructions on the DWP website properly, there is a possibility that this document, containing very personal information about my father, including his bank details, might not be delivered and could go astray.

How stupid!

I write a polite but succinct letter to our MP about it.  Meanwhile, instead of thinking "job done" and being able to sit and wait for a decision, I now have to worry about what happens to the blasted form.

Why does EVERYTHING have to be so damn hard?

A reply comes from our MP's office very quickly, after only two days in fact, saying they are writing, in the first instance, to the Post Office, to seek clarification on their policy regarding this matter and will keep me informed. 

I can't help wondering if this incredibly prompt response has anything to do with the beating the government is taking for their appalling record on Social Care.  And that maybe our MP's office staff have their computers set to filter out and prioritise any emails that contain the words "social services" or "care for the elderly".

Not that it will help one bit if my dad's bank details end up somewhere they shouldn't. 

*Attendance allowance is a non-means tested benefit that can be used to pay for help with certain tasks in someone's own home.