2 July 2022

FAREWELL TO MY DEAR DAD.

 

This is Dad when he came to stay with us in France in 2018.



And here in 2014.

Same cardigan, I think.


On his 90th birthday.


In Chinon in September 2012, at the tender age of 83.

My father passed away peacefully in his sleep last night.  He had been in hospital for three weeks after falling in his apartment, then he was transferred to a care home where he lived for just one more week.  He was 93, and in fact was just four months short of his 94th birthday.  

He had been an officer in the Royal Navy, was a gifted design engineer, an accomplished pianist, a novelist and, of course, a caring husband, father and grandfather.  

R.I.P., my dear old dad.

18 June 2022

SALAD DAYS

I have just returned from two weeks in the UK.  It was a planned visit, one of the individual trips we intended to make this summer rather than returning "en famille" which is much, much more expensive.  

While in the UK I was hoping to be able to tweak the care package put in place for my dad at his sheltered housing facility, having finally seen the back of the care agency who were awful and managed to get him taken on by the on site care team.  However, the news is not good.  The day after I arrived he had a fall and ended up in hospital, which is where he still remains.  Not only that but when he was admitted to hospital he was able to walk and now he isn't. 

When he is discharged it will be to a care home, something we have actually been hoping for for some time.  Unfortunately it has taken a serious mishap to get him into one.

My brother has encouraged me to come back to France and is handling everything himself at the moment.  Once Dad is discharged there will be a lot of work to do so I will go back.  That could be as soon as this coming week.

I returned to France to a heat wave - the word in French is canicule.  It has got hotter and hotter day by day since I arrived.  Today, Saturday, is forecast to be 40°C or even higher and that is unbearably hot.

On the way back from the airport late on Tuesday evening there were fire engines attending a field fire just north of Limoges.  On Wednesday we went shopping to Chatellerault and on the way back passed a huge burnt out field.

Local farmers have been told not to do the harvesting or use agricultural vehicles in the afternoons because of the risk of fires.  Hence when we got back from an evening out yesterday we arrived home to find most of the fields around us had been done while we were out, in the relative cool of the evening.

We were glad about that for a few different reasons, not least of which the huge racket made by the machinery when it gets close to the house and the not inconsiderable amount of dust created.  




By 7.30 this morning the farmer was already harvesting in the field opposite our house.  We have to make sure all doors and windows stay firmly shut to prevent the dust entering the house.  It makes enough of a mess outdoors without the extra cleaning inside!

Mind you, with the temperature forecast it looks very much like we will be battening down the hatches and staying indoors all day anyway.  Even under the picnic roof and umbrellas it's not comfortable to be sitting outside.

Nick took Hugo for his morning walk at 7.30 and we got all outdoor jobs done as early as we could.  Now we can just sit in the cool downstairs rooms and wait for the heat to pass.

And pass it will.  Temperatures are forecast to fall to a warm 28°C on Sunday and getting cooler with a little rain next week, which will be very welcome.

We will probably sleep downstairs tonight.  We don't have a downstairs bedroom but will fetch the mattress from the spare bed and use that.  Sleep is just too elusive when it's 30°C in the bedroom!  Our little portable aircon unit works well but even when working flat out it doesn't bring the temperature down enough.  Sadly the devis for the installation of proper air conditioning never arrived and we forgot about it thinking maybe this year we won't need it anyway.  We were wrong!




Our tomato plants are doing well.  For the last two years we were unable to get here in time to grow anything but this year we have tomatoes, cucumbers and courgettes coming on.  Home grown salad is such a joy.

As was our lunch today.  Nick made his "salad niçoise maison" for which he had to boil some eggs and cook some green beans and although it is not very authentic it was perfectly yummy.  I can't wait to be making it using our own home grown tomatoes and cucumbers.

Also growing in the veg patch are these flowers, called rudbeckia.  They make an excellent indoor display - once you have allowed all the hundreds of tiny beetles to beetle off elsewhere!

When I got up this morning I wondered how I would pass the time, a whole day having to be spent indoors, but it's passing quickly enough.  There are plenty of indoor jobs, downstairs ones of course, to catch up on, books to read, sewing to do and blog posts to write.

I do however feel for those people who have organised outdoor events for this weekend.  We certainly won't be going to any and I wonder how many will brave the heat and turn up.  

27 May 2022

A BANK HOLIDAY DAY OUT

 


Yesterday was a bank holiday in France for Ascension Day.  There are several bank holidays in May and we tend to forget about them!  

We thought we would have a day out doing a touristy thing and go to our favourite place, Chinon, for a mooch around and a spot of lunch.  We were a bit late setting off and part way there it suddenly dawned on me that it was a bank holiday and I thought that finding lunch might be a problem by the time we got there.  

In the UK restaurants make sure they are open on bank holidays to catch the extra trade.  In France many of them close because it's a bank holiday!  Many of those that are open are booked up for family gatherings because.......it's a bank holiday.

We were pondering what we would do if we got there and found no place at the inn.  (This has happened to us several times before.)  Then, just as we got to the village of Lilette I remembered the little restaurant we have driven past so many times before, usually on the way to Chinon, saying we must stop and eat there one day.  So yesterday we did.


It's a very typical village hotel cum restaurant cum épicerie (village shop), traditional decor probably not changed much for decades, apart from a coat of fresh paint, and run by a husband and wife team.  She does the front of house, he does the cooking.  Both very friendly and she speaks good English (which we can actually manage without but she was keen to be helpful).  I did wonder if maybe they had taken the place over recently as the paintwork seemed fresh even if the underlying fixtures and fittings seemed to date back several decades.  I loved the chairs and tables!

Although it was a Thursday, the menu du jour option was not available because it was a bank holiday, only à la carte, which was fine by us.  There was plenty of choice and the whole meal turned out to be delicious. 



Delicious starters (entrées).

A tasty main course (plat).

A fabulous dessert which was freshly made to order.


And here it is.  L'Auberge de Lilette.

We will definitely be going back.

I had to chuckle when I went to the loo (bathroom).  The fresh decoration had obviously not got that far and although it was perfectly clean, had obviously not been "refreshed" for a long time, probably decades.

I do wonder what some foreign visitors think of the toilets in France when they come from countries where they are generally spacious and spotless.  Here they are often very much the opposite.  I have frequently been obliged to use toilets that are not nice at all out of sheer desperation.  Often quite swish restaurants can have really horrible toilets - even more disconcerting when you see that they are also used by the kitchen staff - eek!

I hasten to point out that even though they were old fashioned, the toilets in this auberge were clean and tidy!

One of the biggest mysteries of French toilets is why there is often no hook in the ladies toilet where you can hang your bag.  The toilet floor is not the place you really want to put your bag........

In this toilet there was a charming hook for the purpose, probably dating back to the 1960's.  I seem to remember seeing things like this for sale in Woolworth's when I was a child (in the days when every small town in the UK had a Woolworth's and it's where you would go for absolutely everything from sliced ham to shoe polish and bathroom fittings!).

Many of the establishments around us have had serious upgrades in their toilet (bathroom) facilities in recent years, I am happy to report.  However, yesterday, I had one of those "desperate" moments and had to use the public facilities when we finally got to Chinon.  They were truly nasty, smelly and awful and the first cubicle door I opened had one of those no seat, crouch down only jobs.  Aaarghhh.....luckily the one next door with an actual toilet was vacant!

And, predictably, many of the restaurants in Chinon were in fact closed for the bank holiday!

22 May 2022

OLD STUFF AND THANK GOODNESS I GOT MY BLOG BACK.



Well thank goodness for that, I have my blog back!

As several people suggested, it seemed to be a signing in problem, Google, Windows or some other gremlin mucking about with my settings while my back was turned.  Well, it's sorted now and normal service will be resumed.  I am not a fan of single finger typing and find faffing about with pictures on my iPad way too fiddly.  Give me a laptop and a proper keyboard any day!

The brocante season is back in full swing and these are my finds from a couple of weeks ago.  6€ the lot!

The cake stand seems to have some age to it.  The stonewear pitcher is probably not that old but fits well with the rustic feel of the house.

The star of the show is the patterned jug.  I didn't spot it first time around but gave the lady's table a second glance on the way back to the car.  It was more or less hidden under a bunch of horrid plastic flowers so I picked it up, took the flowers out and thought it looked rather nice.

I then looked at the mark on the bottom which said "Gien" and thought she would probably want about 15€ for it at least.  I decided I would offer 10€ and see if the budgie bites.

When she said 2€ I didn't hesitate.  It's lovely.

19 May 2022

BLOGGER'S END?

For reasons I don’t understand, I can no longer access my blog, create a new post or read my reading list on my laptop, only on my iPad.

I haven’t been able to leave comments on other blogs using my iPad either for some time.

Anybody know what’s going on and how to fix it?

15 May 2022

A CATCH UP AND THAT'S ANOTHER WEEK GONE.

The lack of posts recently is in direct proportion to how busy I have been lately, managing Dad's needs from afar, mainly.  My brother stays in our UK house for half of each week in order to be on hand to deal with all the miscellaneous problems that arise and, of course, to visit him most days.

Monday.  Nick has been back in the UK for the last two weeks and Monday was his last full day there.

Having calculated that each return trip for both of us with the pets now costs around £750 we decided to travel back and forth individually by air which is much, much cheaper.  It also means that both houses are left empty for less time and we can spend more time with Dad overall, albeit only one of us at a time.  

On Monday afternoon Nick arrived at Dad's flat at 1.20 pm to remind him that he was going to get a phone call from the memory clinic.  This is the first step in assessing Dad's degree of dementia and ten minutes later the phone rang right on time.  The call lasted for over an hour and Nick described it as both hilarious and tragic.

Dad could count backwards from twenty but couldn't do simple sums.  For a man who was a talented  engineer and mathematician this is so sad.  He knew his date of birth and where he was born but didn't know where he lived, what day or even month it was.  He had a guess at February.  And so it went on.  

The interesting part is that when asked if he was happy and content he said yes.  If he had any problems he said no.  The nurse asked him about his health and well being and Dad reported no problems at all.  Nick intervened and explained about his medical issues and that he avoided any socialising or contact with other residents as much as possible, etc. etc.

This insight into his perspective on his own life was very illuminating.  Like the person told me a couple of weeks ago, they don't realise their quality of life is poor and could be better, it is what it is.

On Tuesday Nick travelled back to the UK.  As he was about to go through the barrier to check in all hell let loose and chaos ensued.  There was a bomb scare resulting from the discovery of an abandoned suitcase.

The whole airport was evacuated, planes were left circling for hours and not allowed to land.  Nick and hundreds of other passengers had to wait outside in the car park along with staff and flight crews while car loads of heavies arrived, armed police, ordinary police and, eventually, the bomb squad.

It was a false alarm.  Nick's flight was delayed but by only an hour and a half.  After picking him up from the airport we finally fell into bed at 1 am.

Wednesday morning, having had only a few hours sleep, we were up early.  ("At the crack of sparrow fart" as my mum would have said.)  Nick was playing golf and I had to get the cat to the vet in Loches for 8.30 am for a small procedure requiring a general anesthetic.  My plan was to meet a friend in town at 9.30 for coffee, then do some food shopping and maybe having a spot of lunch before collecting the cat "au debut de l'après-midi", which means as soon as the clinic reopens after their two hour lunch, at 2 pm.

Some things in France never change, it's all part of the charm of living here.


The vet scuppered my plans by telling me that I needed to bring a cheque to send with the biopsy to the lab.  

Rats!  The cheque book was back at the house, so instead of shopping I would have to drive all the way home and back again.  There are other things in France that never change either and one of them is cumbersome processes that they don't tell you about until the last minute.

On collecting the cat I was handed a parcel to take to the post office.  It seems it was up to me to post the biopsy tissue sample to the lab.  Oh, and the cheque wasn't needed after all.  The vet was proud to tell me that their internal processes had taken care of the payment.  I pay them and they pay the lab.  

Rats again!  I could have done my shopping and had a nice lunch after all.

Wednesday was a hot day, reaching 29°C in the afternoon.  On collecting the cat I set off home, deciding that I could call at the post office to post the biopsy to the lab on my way, the only problem being the heat.

The cat hates car journeys and makes a lot of noise, which becomes even louder if there is any other noise in the car, such as a radio, conversation, road noise, anything in fact, including the fan for the air conditioning.  Our journeys with the cat have to be done in total silence, the only person being allowed to make any noise at all being her and by jove she can do a lot of that.  

A cat still dopey from anesthetic can make a lot more noise than you would expect and this became even louder when the car's air conditioning came on.  She was clearly distressed so I had to turn it off.  We had to bake or I would die of earache and the cat would be distraught.  

There was more of a problem at the post office.  There is absolutely no shade in the car park there, so I had no choice but to take the cat basket into the post office with me.  Nobody batted an eyelid at the woman carrying a cat into the post office to hand over a parcel.  The assistant looked at the address on the parcel, gave me a sympathetic look and wished me "bon courage".  I didn't know how to say in French that the biopsy wasn't for me, it was for the cat.

The afternoon ended well.  News came that Dad's care is to be transferred to the on site care team where he lives, which will be a huge improvement and relief to us all.  Well, to me, Nick and my brother, the only three people who look after his needs.  

The care from the external care agency we have been using is shambolic and disorganised and we will be glad to see the back of them.  Getting his care moved has taken a good deal of pushing and shoving which at last has paid off.

Last weekend Nick and my brother installed a spy camera in Dad's flat after one or two strange inexplicable things had happened.

Wednesday evening I peeked at the spy camera about 10 pm.  We were bushed and ready to go to bed by then.  Dad was up and dressed and having his breakfast - it was 9 pm UK time.  The camera revealed that he had gone to bed about 5pm and got up again, presumably thinking it was morning.  His understanding of time, along with so many things, has left him.

I phoned him.

"Hello Dad, what are you up to?"

"I'm having my breakfast."

"Well it's nine o'clock in the evening not morning.  You should be in bed."

We saw on camera that he put the phone down on me, went back to the table, finished his bran flakes then shuffled off to bed, turning out the lights as he left the room. 

Thursday, Friday and Saturday whizzed by in a blur of activity, most of which trivial and not worthy of a mention here.  Except that keeping Daisy indoors has been a major challenge.  She soon recovered from the anesthetic and was not impressed by having to wear the cone.  This is essential if she is not to scratch the wound where the biopsy was taken but it has already been modified - a bit cut out so she can actually eat and drink from her bowl and a large split resulting from her crashing into furniture with some force now held together with sticky tape.

Today is Sunday and for some this is considered to be the last day of the previous week, for others the first day of the next week.  Daisy seems resigned to her confinement and is accepting the cone stoically if somewhat grudgingly, her repertoire of black looks cast in our direction in full use.  It will be a miracle if we get through the next week until the stitches come out unscathed.

Then, once the vet knows what the lump is, we then have to decide whether or not to have it removed which means going through the whole process all over again....

That's it for now..........

12 April 2022

UPS AND DOWNS

We had a lovely day out on Saturday.  Lunch in one of our favourite restaurants in Chinon with friends followed by wine tasting at one of our favourite wineries on their open weekend.



Tulips by the river in Chinon.

I was driving, Nick was doing the tasting, and with a carful of people my mobile was in my bag in the boot of the car, nestled amongst coats and wine boxes.  

Consequently I didn’t hear it ring just after 6pm French time. There was no voicemail message.

When we got home there was also a missed call on the landline from my brother at 6.20pm.

This way through the winery.

I phoned the number on my mobile and left a message to say I was returning their call.  It was the care agency's out of hours service.  I failed to connect but moments later I received a text.  "We have spoken to your brother and all is sorted."

This had all the hallmarks of a problem or emergency to do with Dad's teatime visit from the carer.  The one hour time difference meant this was all happening at 5pm UK time.  Alarm bells started ringing.

I spoke to my brother.

It seems that when the carer doing the teatime visit attempted to gain entry to the building using the security phone that calls Dad's flat, there was no answer.  Because he didn’t answer she couldn’t get in.

There are only a small number of reasons why Dad would not respond to a call on the security phone.  He could be out, which is very unlikely, or he could be in the bathroom, which is possible, or he could be unable to get to the phone because he is ill, unconscious or dead.  Or he could have gone to bed and been fast asleep.

There are other ways that a carer can gain access if the resident does not respond to the security phone.  To get into the building they can use the "call manager" button on the external keypad so that the onsite team who are there 24/7 can let them in.  Or they can use the security code for the keypad, which all the care agencies have.

Instead, the carer on Saturday teatime opted for flagging down a passing resident to let her in but then when she finally got upstairs to Dad's flat there was also no answer when she rang the door bell.  She phoned the agency for help and spoke to the person handling the out of hours service.

There is a key safe by the front door for the flat so that if Dad doesn't answer or let them in they can get in.  I gave the code for it to the agency when his care package was first arranged.

So the care agency have all of this information yet the carer on the day didn't have it.  A second text from the person on duty confirmed that she didn't have the codes in her paperwork either and therefore couldn't pass it on to the carer.  So she phoned me then my brother instead. She was "sorry for the inconvenience".

If you look out of your window, you will see a puff of smoke in the distance.  It will be the steam coming out of my ears.

All of this shows that, no matter how hard you try, systems that depend on other people doing their jobs properly will fail.

We might be in the middle of France, but there is no escape from the aggravation and worry that comes with looking after the needs of a very old person.  Even when you think things are going well, other people will inevitably let you down.

Luckily, on this occasion, my brother had not yet left our house, where he is living several days a week, to go home which is over an hour's drive away.  He popped round to the flat to find the carer had already left Dad's front door where she could get no reply and was on her way to her next client.  

Dad was fast asleep in bed.  It was 5.20pm, he'd had no tea and was blissfully snoring through all the drama.

This morning, I have spoken to the care agency and let them know that I am more than disappointed with the service.  They had all the information on file to allow the carer to get into Dad's flat and check he was ok, but the carer didn’t.  He could have been in need of an ambulance or dead.  FFS the carer didn't even have the gumption (or training) to pull one of the dozens of emergency cords that are all over the place either.  That would have alerted the 24/7 onsite team and they could have let her into the flat.

I feel duty bound to look for another care agency.  They might turn out to be no better but I don't see why I should reward this bunch of incompetents with my continued custom.  There have been too many mistakes and this is the one that could have been crucial.