14 May 2024

CONSTRUCTION, DESTRUCTION, PAPERWORK, IFFY WEATHER AND A RARE SIGHTING.


Nick returned from a scheduled visit to our UK house a little while ago.  While he was there he did a lot of gardening, replaced and repainted some damaged fence panels and replumbed the downstairs toilet.  He was kept very busy and the weather was mostly very good.

While he was away the weather here in France was mostly miserable!


While he was away I tackled some of these little blighters.  We had noticed that one of the bushes in our hedge had developed loops of webbing full of clusters of small green caterpillars.  Within days there were virtually no leaves left on the bush and the critters were spreading to the next one along of the same variety of plant.  In a rare interval between rain showers I hacked away all the affected branches, which was not a pleasant job, but too late to save the bushes I fear.

Our journeys to and from Limoges airport used to always be entirely uneventful but lately there have been numerous incidents.  I wrote last year about the wild boar that wandered into the road in front of us, which was after the journey where the tree fell into the road and before the (suspected) ambush.  This year has been just as exciting.  So far we have had the incident with the three cows in the road as we rounded a bend hotly followed by the one with the farmer attempting to recover three huge round bales of hay that had clearly fallen off his trailer minutes before.  This trip, when I went to fetch Nick from the airport, there was a car in the ditch and people all over the road looking at it.  It was, amazingly, the right way up and facing in the right direction, which is not normally how it turns out.  It looked for all the world as if someone had parked it there - usually they end up in the ditch upside down and pointing the wrong way!

Then, when I got to the airport, there was a thunder storm of biblical proportions.  As I pulled into the car park the heavens opened and unleashed a huge amount of rain, hail, thunder and lightning.  There was an enormous thunderclap and flash right overhead and I stayed in the car for a while, hoping the storm would end.  It didn't.  Well, not for a long time anyway.  I finally decided to make a run for it, arriving in "arrivals" like a drowned rat.  I found Nick (Limoges airport is not really big enough to actually lose anyone) and we stayed in the café for a while until the rain eased off.  The lightning had taken out the traffic lights and presumably everything else in the village.  

As we drove through Le Blanc on the way home the river was just inches below the level of the road.

Since Nick's return we have been preoccupied with completing our very first French tax return.  I shall write more about it later but believe me, it's a mammoth task.  We had guidance from a lady who does this kind of work for numerous bemused expats faced with the mountain of forms and without her help we would have been completely lost.  Apparently the very first tax return has to be on paper but subsequent ones online.  Something to look forward to!  This exercise has so far cost us about 50€ in printer ink!!


Frustratingly, the day we spent filling in and signing over and over the vast pile of forms, the weather was very pleasant.  With our paperwork finished and lulled into a false sense of security, we headed for the picnic shelter and finally got round to putting up our new fairly lights.


It was nice to be able to sit out until after dusk, to watch the swallows performing their merry dance followed by the bat formation team.  But it was not to last and after a couple of days the miserable, damp and grey weather has returned once again.  We headed off to Loches n the rain this morning to hand in our tax return at the tax office only to be met with a long queue of people waiting to be seen.  We gave up and shoved the well stuffed envelope in the letter box instead, denied the satisfaction of handing the weighty fruits of our labour to an actual person.


Not to be defeated by the miserable weather, this afternoon we headed north away from the rain showers and went for a walk along the "voie verte".  This is a converted railway track that runs from Descartes to Tournon and is well used by cyclists and walkers.  We frequently do bits of it with Hugo as in wet weather at least we don't all come home covered in mud.  Today we did the bit just north of Abilly but wherever you start along the track there are interesting features.


We passed the site of the old chocolate factory in Abilly, which burned down in 1927.


I'm always amazed at how many decent looking properties seem to be unused all over the region.
This one may of course be a holiday home and buzzing with life later in the year.



Flowering plants were enjoying the strange spring weather, even if we weren't.





Every few hundred metres along the voie verte there are old railway buildings, stations or signal houses that have been converted into homes.


The horrid clusters of green caterpillars were also at work.


 And these things are cropping up in every village.

We dodged the rain and got back home just in time.


The weather has been decidedly iffy for us but clearly our garden is loving it.




You can't beat a bit of colour in the garden to brighten any dull and rainy day.


And to round the evening off, we spent some time watching a HUGE wild boar, all by itself, foraging in the field behind the house.  We have never seen one so close before and it's hard to grasp how enormous they are.  About the size of one of our sofas I reckon!

1 May 2024

A VERY SCARY MOMENT


Inevitably we turned to Google for the cause behind my mystery health condition and one idea was that it might be an allergy to fumes caused by a wood burning fire.  

This sounded plausible as we had been burning the fires every day for months, often both of them.  This is the first long winter we have spent here with only a short trip back to the UK at Christmas. We had the chimneys for both fires swept recently, the living room one last November and the kitchen one (finally) in February.

So you would think we should be safe, wouldn’t you?

We stopped burning wood in March, heating the house instead with the gas central heating and a motley collection of electric heaters.  Then the other weekend we were having people round to dinner on what had been a damp, grey, cool and miserable spring day so we lit the living room fire.  It was nice to see it going again.  

Everyone congregated in the kitchen as usual and I thought I could smell burning.  I checked the oven but although it was switched on it was empty.  I went to check the fire in the living room and although it looked normal the room was filled with acrid fumes and there was a strong smell of burning metal.

Nick and the other guests piled into the room to investigate.  I flung open the two outside doors to try to let out the smoke and fumes.  The exit pipe on this fire comes out of the back forms an L-shaped bend and then goes up the chimney.  The whole of the lower structure was glowing red hot.

Nick opened the fire door and emptied a fire extinguisher into it, then buckets of water which put the fire out but the pipes were still red hot.

At the bottom of the L-shaped bend there is a small sump which seemed to be the source of the heat.  Nick removed all the wood from the fire to a metal bucket and chucked water as best he could into the fire back.  It stopped glowing and with things a little calmer we were able to relax and have dinner.

Once the guests had gone home we checked the fire and although the stove itself was now cool the pipes at the back were still very not.  Not glowing any more but too hot to touch. Something was still burning in there that we daren't leave and go to bed.

Nick fetched a garden sprayer from the barn and sprayed water into the back of the fire until the pipe was cool enough to handle. You can imagine the mess.  He managed to pull the stove away from the back wall far enough to get at the pipe and wrestle it out of its fixing into the back of the stove.

The sump at the bottom of the pipe had a thick coating of solidified ash and soot and this is what had caught fire.  The really scary part is that the fire had gone from normal to deadly in minutes.  When I think of the number of times we have left the fire, sometimes both of them, burning nicely to keep the house warm while we went out, leaving the dog and cat at home, what might have happened.  The cat could escape through her cat flap but the dog would have been trapped inside.

It seems that this sump is something that should be removed and cleaned out regularly, which we didn’t know.  We don’t think the man did it when he swept the chimney in November either.  Just by having the chimney swept annually doesn’t mean you are completely safe.

We have bought new parts to replace the old pipes but for now both wood burners are "in retirement" while we think about what we should do next winter.  The gas radiator system is a hotch potch of old, inefficient radiators of various vintages that are not all in the best position and are difficult to balance.  This central heating by itself is not sufficient to heat the house during the coldest part of the winter and is expensive to run.  Another option would be to go electric but replacing the existing radiators with electric panel heaters would require rewiring the whole house as there are already too few electric sockets in places where we need them.

The final solution would be to spend the colder months in our UK house which is much smaller and easier to keep warm. We shall see.

As well as the usual tidying up in the kitchen after a dinner party, and the washing up, we spent the next day tackling a huge mess in the living room due to the use of the fire extinguisher and all the water.  This is something I hope never to have to do again.

27 April 2024

JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN DOESN'T MEAN YOU SHOULD!


An awful lot of water has gone under the bridge, literally, since my last post which was, incredibly, six weeks ago, the longest gap ever between posts I think.
So much has happened that I hardly know where to start, so I will start at the beginning!


There was so much rain over the Easter weekend that several of the local rivers flooded.
Friends of ours live in the house right in the middle of this picture.
They were rescued by the pompiers in a small inflatable boat.
The water went back down just as quickly as it came up, leaving huge devastation behind in many of the surrounding villages.



An English couple opened an art gallery in an old garage building in Le Grand-Pressigny last year.
A few weeks ago they held an exhibition of his own sculptures, made from old metal, bones, stones and otherwise unwanted objects, creating fantastic pieces of art.
This was my favourite piece.


I was surprised to learn that the frilly "collar" is literally called a ruff.
It's the base of a deer's antler.


Yvonne is now fully settled in chez nous*.  She is a delightful, feisty and friendly cat and the doubt we had at first about being able to keep her is now gone.  The doubt was because we felt that she and Hugo would never get on well enough to enable us to take her on the long journey back the the UK if we wanted (or needed) to spend more time there.  They now get along perfectly fine.  She mostly ignores him and he is the perfect gentleman around her.  

So we thought the time had come to get her a passport.  An appointment was made with the vet but when we tried to put her in her cage she absolutely refused to go in.  This was odd because she has been carried in her cage several times before but on this occasion she was not having it.  It was war!!

She fought, hissed, growled, scratched and spat.  We almost got her in but she bashed the door open and burst out.  We finally caught up with her when she was hiding under the sofa.  We tipped it backwards and I pinned her to the floor but she had shed her collar so I thought "now what am I going to do?"  

We were all very distressed so I humbly phoned the vet to explain that we wouldn't make it that day.


Other cat owners suggested how we might overcome this problem and we started by getting a bigger cage so that it was not so easy for her to block the doorway by plumping herself up and putting the anchors down.  I left it in the bedroom with the top door open and the front door off and tempted her inside with something special.  A little dish of tuna - and not the cheap stuff either!

The idea was to make the cage the only place where she gets to eat this special treat and it worked.  She gingerly went in the first time, then shot out again onto the bed where she had a look on her face which said "if you think I'm falling for that one.........."!!

However, it worked.  After a few more tins of tuna we took her to the vet's where the young female vet skillfully coaxed her out of the cage, wrapped her in a fluffy blanket and injected her in the bottom before any of us knew it had happened.  She now has her own passport and we can take her with us to the UK.  How on earth the twelve hour drive will pan out is a worry for another day!


The weather has been quite bizarre.  The winter seems to have been endless, grey, cold, wet and miserable for weeks on end.  There has been an occasional day when the sun came out and we could sit outside for a while thinking spring had arrived.  Then the wintry weather returned.

On 14th April at the brocante at Azay-le Ferron it was so hot and sunny that I got sunburned!  We had a lovely lazy barbecue mid afternoon but after three days of glorious sunshine, winter returned again!


Brocantes tend to be held on the same weekend every year in each village and I remembered that at last year's event in Azay it was perishing cold!



The sunshine brought lots of people out and some of them in their lovely old cars.


We had been looking for some old fashioned lights for the kitchen and found these.
We got two for 6€ and after a good clean and rewiring they should do the job.


I definitely don't need any more cake stands but for 2€ I couldn't resist this one.
The serving dish was also 2€.


Since my last post I have made two trips back to the UK.

The first one was planned as one of us needs to go back to the UK house every so often to comply with our insurance and to keep an eye on the place.  While I was there I went to see an ENT (ear, nose and throat) specialist.

Back in January I woke up one morning with a thumping headache, a snuffly cold and awful tinnitus.  Nothing I have tried will shift it and the GP referred me to a specialist which in France is called an ONG (oreille, nez et gorge).  The soonest I could get an appointment was in six months time.  I looked online and could get an appointment with one privately (at huge expense) in Sheffield the next week.  As I was flying back to the UK anyway I decided to go for it in the hope of getting some relief but came away with more questions than answers.  A huge number of blood tests later I am still no clearer about what the cause of the problem is and I still have all the symptoms after twelve weeks.

Answers on a postcard, please.


We usually take Hugo with us to the airport and for a walk around the lake at Neuilly.


The second trip back to the UK was completely unplanned.  A broken tooth.
This tooth has broken twice before over the last five years - the first time on a prawn sandwich and the second on a fish finger sandwich.  Each time the dentist said it was fine, if it's causing no problem we can leave it.  This time the culprit was a piece of battered fish and with three of the four cusps of a back molar now gone I knew it was time to get serious.

As it happens, a friend had broken a tooth the week before and despite spending two days making phone calls and knocking on dentists' doors she was completely unable to get an appointment in France.  She had to go back to the UK to see her own usual dentist.  I already knew that finding a dentist in France is just as impossible as in the UK unless you are already registered with one so I decided not to waste time trying.  Thank goodness for Ryanair!

I have to wonder how people in France cope if they need a dentist urgently and can't find one.  Another friend said one of the Ukrainians that have settled locally after being displaced by the war had to go back to Ukraine to get dental treatment.  That really is desperate.


I left home at 5.30am to get my flight and at 3.00pm I came out of the dentist's surgery feeling pretty wobbly.  I'll spare you the gory details.

On the way home I called for some groceries and something easy to eat for dinner.  I spotted some tins of HP baked beans.  They came in packs of four at less than 50p a tin and with a sore and numb mouth were ideal for my supper.

I hadn't seen HP baked beans for decades although I do remember eating them as a child and teenager.  I had no idea that HP still made them.  It turns out that they are just as good as Heinz (IMHO).  So I decided to pack the three unopened tins to bring back with me.  I also spotted some tins of mushy peas in the cupboard so decided to pack those as well.  I also packed a small bag of rhubarb from the garden.  Cramming it all into my little bag took ages.

I had travelled with the minimum baggage - just one small bag that has to be tucked under the seat in front on the plane.  My bag met the stringent Ryaniar size requirements but was well stuffed.  As I got through the security lane I saw the tray containing my shoes and coat, and the second one containing my iPad and phone come towards me.  Then the third containing my well stuffed bag was directed to the other conveyor for inspection.  Drat!

When it came to my turn the lady with the explosives detector asked me to open my bag and I thought it must be because of the rhubarb.  "It's the rhubarb, isn't it?" I said weakly and she gave me one of those withering looks reserved for very daft people.

It turns out it was the beans.  To see someone wiping your tins of beans with an explosive detection wipe which then has to be disposed of carefully and correctly is an interesting experience.  I didn't know whether to laugh or cry and as she pushed the overflowing tray of stuff towards me I had the intense desire to become invisible.  As I walked away, wondering how I was going to get all this stuff back into my bag, the man next in the queue for inspection said "you got away with the rhubarb then!"  That was the moment I was reminded of the expression "just because you can doesn't mean you should"!

*As I wrote the last two paragraphs of this post Yvonne was sitting on the mouse mat with one paw across my wrist.  Numerous typos have had to be corrected.

14 March 2024

THINGS COME IN THREES

 

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.

12 March 2024

MOVING TO FRANCE the French health system

 

Unlike the UK NHS, health care in France is not free.  

Certain items are not free in the UK either, such as eye care, dental care and medications, except in circumstances due to one's age or financial situation.  Generally, GP appointments, hospital appointments, operations and all free in the UK.  They are not free in France, although there are exceptions for people with certain chronic conditions and those with a low income where the cost is effectively free.

(There are those that would argue that the NHS isn't actually free as people have no choice in paying National Insurance all their working lives in order to pay for it.  A similar system of Social Charges also exists in France.)

The French health system is essentially one where the government contributes part of the cost and it's up to the individual to pay the difference.

Once we had been in France for ninety days we were entitled to apply for a Carte Vitale.  This we did by presenting ourselves at the local office of CPAM, the Social Security service, in Tours.  We first went to ask for an appointment to do this.  At the appointment we had to present the usual set of documents including proof of identity, residence and income.  The Cartes Vitales arrived a few weeks later.  In the meantime we paid for all our health needs and could claim the money back from the UK.

The Carte Vitale is an actual credit card sized card which we now present at every appointment or at the pharmacy.  With this card the French government pay 70% of the cost of everything (but pass that cost back to the UK for its citizens) and it's up to the individual to pay the remaining 30% or take out an insurance to cover it.  This kind of insurance is called Mutuelle Assurance.

(Visitors to France and people on holiday will not have a Carte Vitale and pay the full amount.  In return they receive a claim form to send to the DWP for a refund or claim on their own travel  insurance.)

A consultation with a GP (Médecin Générale) costs around 25€.  With the Carte Vitale 70% of this will be refunded to the individual's bank account by the Government and the rest by the Mutelle Assurance.  People are not obliged to have a Carte Vitale and can pay the full cost of everything if they wish but costs can mount up.  Medications are surprisingly inexpensive and in fact often cost much less than the basic UK NHS prescription charge.  

There are dozens of insurance companies offering Mutuelle Assurance and choosing one can be complicated.  The interesting thing is that, unlike the provision of private health insurance in the UK,  existing medical conditions are not taken into account.  The annual or monthly premium seems to be determined by a person's age and location and no questions about medical history are asked.

One thing we really like about the French system is that having registered with a local GP we can get appointments within a very short time and see the same person each time.  This is much better than the situation in our part of the UK where the best we can hope for is a telephone consultation with someone we may never have seen or heard of before and may never again.  Getting an appointment face to face with an actual doctor in the UK, never mind one you may already know, can be very difficult.

One quirk of the Mutelle Assurance is that people can opt for the level of cover they wish.  It's not cheap and typically will cost a couple our age over £1,500 per year in order to have most things covered.  Whether or not this is value for money is a gamble as with all insurance.  If you never need to be hospitalised it probably isn't but if you do you can end up with a large bill if you don't have Mutelle. 

Another quirk is that health care providers can charge what they wish.  Many will have a set of fees that are in line with recommendations so that a person who has a Carte Vitale and Mutuelle will have little or nothing to pay.  However, some charge more so that Mutelle Assurance providers will offer a level of cover that is much more than the 30% deficit.  

One of the curious things is that the process of referral to a consultant is very different from the UK NHS system.  In the UK a GP will say he or she is referring you to the hospital and, although you might have a choice of hospital, an appointment is made for you and arrives via the post.  In France it's up to you to find a consultant or hospital and make the appointment for yourself.  Most of these appointments can be made using a website called Doctolib where most providers and their fees are listed.

One of the disappointments we have found is that once referred it can take a long time to get an appointment with a consultant or hospital.  It seems that the French system is oversubscribed just like the UK one.  Many people find it impossible to get registered with a dentist in France, just like in the UK.  However, everyone I know who uses the system is full of praise for it and from our experience it does feel very much like a private health system but without the extortionate cost of similar private health care in the UK.

9 March 2024

AN UPSETTING EXPERIENCE

This photo has nothing whatsoever to do with what happened.

It's been a funny old week chez nous.  We have dealt with numerous things that range from annoying to downright silly but something happened today that was quite unsettling.  Upsetting in fact (for me anyway).

We are on the lookout for some new lights for the kitchen and I went along to the huge barn that sells antiques/vintage stuff in Mairé.  My friend Alison came with me.

On the way there we encountered a bit of a kerfuffle on the road on the straight part of the route between Le Grand-Pressigny and Barrou.  A car had stopped and a young couple were trying to catch a dog that was running about loose in the road.

I have to say that we see loose dogs here in France much more often than we ever do in the UK.  All kinds of dogs from tiny fluffy lap dogs to huge guard dogs.  They seem to escape from their homes with amazing regularity.  It's unusual for a week to go by without encountering an escaped dog somewhere.

This dog was clearly a hunting dog with the usual brown, black and white colouring.  It was circling around in the road and whilst being friendly enough and happy to approach people was not going to be easy to catch.

Numerous cars stopped.  It's a long, flat and straight stretch of road between two forested areas and two villages and the one place where drivers can pick up speed and even overtake.  Not the best place for a loose dog.



I  found this picture of the dog posted on the Grand-Pressigny facebook page.

I had a spare lead in the car of the type that just slips over the dog's head but this dog, although friendly enough, was careering around and not willing to be put on a lead.  I doubt that hunting dogs ever get to be on a lead, or walked, or socialised.  In many ways it was surprising that it was so keen to be near so many humans.  At one point five cars had stopped to see if they could help and mainly to slow down the other drivers passing by.  Several of the drivers had dog treats that they tried to use to capture the dog but it sniffed then rejected all of them.

Eventually a lady said she would call her husband and he would come and get the dog and take it to the Mairie or the vet, which is apparently the usual thing to do.  However, it was now Saturday afternoon so I had no idea if that was actually a possibility.  With so many other people around and us being the only non-French speaking people we decided to leave them to it and the dog hopefully in safe hands.

An hour later, on our way back home and with no other vehicles around, the dog was still there.  We guessed that the attempts to capture it had failed and people had given up and gone on their way.

What to do, what to do?  Being short on ideas we thought why not contact the police.  Apart from the fact that the dog itself was in huge danger, there was the potential for a serious accident, especially come nightfall.  Even if we managed to catch it we didn't know what we would do with it.

We stopped outside the Gendarmerie at Le Grand-Pressigny.  To my amazement it is manned every day and by pressing the button and speaking via an intercom we were allowed into the police station to speak to an actual person.  I emphasised, in my best French, that it was a dangerous situation and hopefully it made a difference.  The young woman heard our story and said she would tell her colleague to go and investigate.  

That made me feel a lot better.  Dogs are not always treated very well in France (not always in the UK either) and especially hunting dogs.  This poor dog was so cute, so friendly, clearly lost and stressed and deserved to be looked after properly.  I sincerely hope that a friendly Gendarme managed to catch it, to take it to safety and that it has food, water and somewhere warm for the night, until its owner can be found.

4 March 2024

A WEEKEND OF TWO HALVES


On Saturday it rained and rained until early evening.
A beautiful sunset was reflected in the puddles.
Keeping the house warm was hard going with two log fires.


On Sunday it was dry but at only 6°C still very cold.
The brocante at Sepmes was busy, the first big one of the year, but we didn’t linger long.
We spent about an hour seeking out the sunshine when the clouds allowed.

We're ready now, for some real warmth and Spring.

1 March 2024

MOVING TO FRANCE removals and belongings.

For several years our house in France has had everything we need.  When we downsized in the UK in 2014 we moved to a much smaller house and most of the furniture we had was too big so everything came to France.  We then brought all the furniture from the little holiday home we had in the village as well!

Brexit.......

One of the difficulties caused by Brexit is that the days of being able to bring more or less anything and everything from the UK to France are now gone.  Year after year we would bring bits of furniture, tools, paint, plants and gardening equipment every time we came for a holiday.  Since Brexit that is no longer allowed.  Generally we are only allowed to bring the kind of personal items appropriate for a holiday and a limited value of other stuff.  Anything over and above that is subject to import charges.  

This is why many UK companies, especially smaller ones, no longer ship to France.  The paperwork required and duty on goods is often prohibitive.  Equally, anyone ordering goods from the UK is often obliged to pay a disproportionate amount of duty on goods that previously did not apply.

However....... 

Because we are actually making France our permanent residence we have a year from the start date of our visa during which we could bring any of our belongings, just like anyone would who was actually moving house (rather than coming to live in one they have had for years, like us!).

Consequently we had a good look at what we had in the UK that we might benefit from having in France and managed to fill the trailer with a variety of things.  A few tools, some hobby and craft stuff, a few pots and pans, bedding, bits of furniture and so on.  The tedious part was that we had to make an inventory for every item and give its value.  Most of it was stuff we had owned for some time and no longer had receipts for, but the information on the French government website states that a reasonable estimate of the value of used items is acceptable. We spent a lot of time writing a list of everything and its approximate value.

We took the opportunity to being extra pillows and duvets.  The issue with bedding is that French beds, pillows and duvets are a slightly different size to those we get in the UK.  The equivalent items in France vary by just enough that our existing sheets and duvet sets (that we brought from the UK years ago) do not fit them.  

So, in my very last trip with the car I brought a supply of replacement duvets and pillows so that when the old ones are past their best and need changing we won’t have to buy a whole lot of new bed linen as well.  

Next time……..grappling with the French health service.

27 February 2024

PYLONS AND HOLES


In the middle of December last year Enedis (the infrastructure division of EDF)  came and installed several new pylons along our road, one directly outside our house.

We think that the idea is to replace the hotch-potch of existing old pylons that litter the roadside and fields around us with a better integrated system, although that's just a guess based on where they have put the new ones.  None of the new ones are connected to live electricity as yet.



We were not too chuffed when in January one of the wires from "our" pylon broke away and dangled in mid-air, resting on our telephone wire.  We reported it to EDF but they didn't do anything about it until a storm caused the offending wire to take out our telephone line.  When Orange came to fix it they got straight onto EDF who immediately switched off our electricity supply - which wasn't necessary because the offending wire was not live!  

Nick phoned EDF and was transferred to an English speaking agent who found out what was going on.  So while he had his chance, Nick thought he might as well mention another problem.  The dangerous holes.

To erect the huge pylons Enedis had used a machine that made huge holes in the grass verge and these holes have not been repaired.  "So what" I can hear you thinking!




Out in the sticks of rural France the roads are not very busy and in remarkably good fettle but they are very narrow.  Definitely not wide enough for two cars to pass with all wheels on the tarmac.  Consequently the custom is for both vehicles, as they approach each other, to move over a bit and drive with two wheels on the grass verge.  It's a system that works perfectly well.

However, some of the holes left by Enedis are at least 50cm deep and not visible from the road.  It's perfectly possible that if a car wheel dropped into one of these holes the car would at best swerve a bit or at worst end up in the ditch.  This is what Nick pointed out to the English speaking agent a month ago.  Nothing has happened since and luckily no accidents - but it's only a matter of time.

Nick went along and marked the holes outside our house by putting a stake in each one so that drivers would avoid them.  At some point someone else has been along and put official metal poles next to one of them - of the kind used to indicate unsafe ground after roadworks.  We don't know who that was.

So.........yesterday I needed to go to the Mairie and thought I might as well mention the holes while I was there.  The lady on the desk was very interested and asked me to write a formal email including photos.  Sure enough, by 10.00am this morning none other than the Maire himself had been to inspect the holes and said he was extremely grateful for us pointing this out.  Sooner or later there is bound to be an accident and what we didn't realise is that the holes are not just along our bit of road, they go the whole way to the next hamlet, which increases the possibility of that sooner or later accident.

The Maire was not happy.  Very happy that we had pointed out the problem but extremely miffed with Enedis.  I felt bound to wonder if he had had run-ins with them before!

We are wondering how many days it will be before Enedis, having had their bottoms kicked by the local Maire, come out and fill in the holes.  Watch this space!

26 February 2024

CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR

Well, the day of our fibre installation came and went.  The engineer turned up two hours early but fortunately I had made the shifting of furniture out of the way my first job of the morning while Nick was out walking Hugo.

It did not go well.  First of all the engineer turned too sharply into our drive (which was widened last year) and dropped his back wheel into the ditch.  For some reason he took his ladder out of the van and placed it across the bucket attachment before he tried to drive the van out.  Luckily he managed to get enough grip with the remaining three wheels to drive it back onto terra firma.  Nick stood by to make sure he didn't do any damage to our new gates.

Then the engineer looked at where the unit was to be installed and immediately declared he couldn't do the job because he didn't have drill long enough to go through the wall.  He suggested we get an electrician to drill the hole and he will come back on Friday.

Considering that three quarters of the houses around us all have walls at least as thick as ours, and have fibre already, I find it hard to believe that he didn't have the right kind of drill.  Nick suggested several ways he could get the job done using a drill we have for our walls but he rejected all of them.

He made another appointment for Friday then drove off, almost dropping in the ditch again, with his ladder still perched across the bucket thing.

We look forward to Friday.  He phoned to confirm the time but we think he said it would be someone else.  We rather hope it is!  Watch this space!