Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Halloween and Scaring Guests Away!

Our neighbour's young son came around this afternoon to invite Nicole to go 'Trick or Treating' tonight. And we had packed away all the Halloween stuff into boxes and into the caves yesterday! Typical!!

So out they all came again, Nic dressed up as a Goth and a hoard of about 10 friends went round to a few houses in the village - with a parent in tow. Great fun had by all!!
Spring cleaning fever hit the sitting room floor today.

Whoever was the idiot that chose to lay white (with wisps of grey) tiles on the floor was obviously not the housewife who had to clean them!!

Well, where there is a will, there is a way - and Richard got out the dishwasher liquid. It is amazing what that will get off!!

We thought the tiles looked pretty white to begin with - well, no they weren't! Not judging by the dirty water we were left with.
Today we got rid of our 'difficult' guest in our apartment. A day early - there is a God!!

Guests have to be out by 10:00am, and by fluke we heard that her taxi was booked for midday - today. And she had paid until tomorrow morning.

Have you guessed it? Yes, the little old lady wanted to have a refund for the last day, did not want to pay for the cleaning and 'did not realise she had to pay for electricity and water!?' Isn't that funny....

With charming smiles on our faces, we pointed out that all this had been detailed in the original proposal letter (6 months ago), in the contract she signed (two months ago) and in the provisional facture we gave her when she arrived three weeks ago - and which she paid as required at that time!

Her poor 'helper'. It seems a company in Beziers sorts out getting disabled people around the country and provide a 'helper' for the duration of their stay. This nice lady had been instructed to get all the bedding washed and dried, and to clean the whole apartment - so that the little old lady could avoid paying the menage fee.

No chance!!

When the little old lady started on again about the fact that the apartment was NOT suitable for disabled people and therefore she should not have to pay.... the previous owner dived in and told her repeatedly in no uncertain terms, exactly what she had been told all along - that it is not classified for disabled people, as detailed in the original letter and the contract. Mme Daniel (the previous owner) has taken it very personally and was not going to let anything go! Especially since she had sent the actual dimensions for all the doorways etc to the old lady!

The helper explained to us that the Doctor had instructed the old lady that she had to have hospitalisation (because of her degree of disability) during her cure - which she refused to do.

Oh, well. Put it down to experience!
Tonight's music?

Michael Jackson - with the girls and I singing and dancing along in the lounge (I hope no one in the village can see us!!).

Whitney Houston - with the girls and I singing along very badly!

And then I just had to hear Dolly Parton's original version of 'I will Always Love You' - by far the best. She wrote it, and it is super to hear her sing it.
Then I thought I might as well listen to 'Joshua' and 'Coat of Many Colours', and there I was in tears again!

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Pain and Sadness

I ache all over and am in pain. And what is most galling is that I pay to get like this! Yes it was yoga night. Say no more.
I love music, specifically when there are words with it.

I listen to music in order to sing along. With no one else around of course.

I am deeply moved by music. It has the ability to cheer me up - and, in particular, to make me sad.

The words of a song are as important to me as the music. I enjoy a wide variety of music/songs but what unites them all is the quality of the lyrics. They have to tell a story, be written for a real reason.

It is holiday time in our house which means that instead of having to get up (6 days out of seven) at 5:50am, we can have lie-ins. The knock on effect of this is that we can actually stay up later than normal!!

I am in heaven. I get to sit up late into the night listening to music whilst working on the PC or reading. I am a multi-tasker......I sing along at the same time.

Tonight I have listened to Bob Dylan and Bette Midler.

Explained to the girls the political background in the sixties, and why Dylan was such a special songwriter.

And felt sad and cried as I sang along to 'I Think It's Going To Rain Today' from the Beaches album.

Some nights you just feel like, and need, a cry.

Another of the songs on the Beaches album, is 'Baby Mine'. LeeLee immediately said: Isn't this from Dumbo?! I have always thought this song was the worst thing Disney ever did to us children - it always makes us so sad!

Monday, 29 October 2007

Holidays and MSN

Wow! We all had lie-ins this morning..........until the phone rang. Some people are so inconsiderate - don't they know we are on holiday?!
After months of pleading and begging, we set one of the PCs up so that LeeLee can 'communicate' with all her friends who use messenger on MSN.

As you have probably gathered, I am serious about Internet usage and the risks (both electronic and to children) and so LeeLee knows that a month's trial is what she has whilst I monitor how secure or not the messengering system is. Unfortunately it is not particularly safe, but LeeLee is sensible and knows how to minimise the problems.

What does annoy me is - so many people start using these systems and are really sitting ducks! They do not understand how they work and therefore what security you should put in place.

All her friends use MSN so that was what LeeLee wanted. It took some long talks and explanations until she realised that messengering is available through other providers - for example Orange, which we have for e-mail and Internet access already.

All the youth-focused publicity pushes them towards MSN and Hotmail as if there is no 'cool' alternative.

Well LeeLee was told in no uncertain terms that we would not be loading any other provider's systems just so that she could have typed, real-time conversations with the friends she sees all day anyway at college! We have Orange set up (just about successfully) and no way was I risking it getting confused - we have a business to run from these PCs!!

Anyway, as suspected, all you need is an e-mail address, and you can use one set up with any provider - even though every screen in the set-up process directed you to request an MSN one!

Also, if you glossed over the small print, you would not notice that by signing up to messenger (free of course) you are agreeing that they can 'link' you to various specially selected web sites that they are SURE you will be very interested in! Every time LeeLee goes into messenger, an error message comes up saying that our security settings need to be reduced in order that things can proceed....Bollocks! No such thing!! If you close and ignore the error message, messenger still works fine - you just do not get swamped by all the links they want to set up to you. They are such shysters.

It has been 48 hours and we have received two unsolicited e-mails that have obviously latched onto one of her friends' contact lists - where LeeLee now appears as of two days ago. Not too bad I suppose given that our girls know not to open any such e-mails but to delete them immediately.

I know LeeLee is delighted to be able to sit for an hour each evening and have real-time typed conversations with her friends - and it is the holidays so I can vaguely understand the attraction. Particularly when she never has any credit on her mobile phone and she does not have to pay for messenger!

I did laugh last evening when she had 3 'conversations going with her French friends, and then her best friend in England came on line - she started to get stressed remembering which language she was meant to be typing in each conversation window!!

In our day, we sat and chatted one to one on the phone........

On her way up to bed, LeeLee mentioned that she liked the fact that she could 'talk' to a particular guy (that she rather fancies at college me thinks!) much more easily via messenger. You do not have to worry about looking a bit goofy, or wondering about your hair/makeup the whole time......and have more seconds to formulate what you want to say when you need to type it all in!!

Their typing speed improves - but their spelling deteriorates!! They get used to shortening all words until they become unintelligible.....

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Winter Has Arrived....

How do I know? Because in the Upex household:

1. LeeLee is now wearing two pairs of socks (at the same time!) each day.

2. I put on a t-shirt, leggings and socks - to go to bed. Even Richard puts on a t-shirt now!!

3. Nic is putting a fleece on over her strappy top - to go to school. She does not feel the cold as much as the rest of us!

4. The cat is seen in the house 20 hours out of 24. Before, it was 4 hours out of 24!

5. We all put something on our feet in order to go to the toilet - it has the coldest floor in the house!

6. Any excuse that we can find, we go out in the car on errands - and we both go too! The car has a good heater!!

7. When Richard and I go out in the car, the dog does not pester to come as well. She wants to stay by the fire!

8. I do not hear so many groans from the girls when I dish up home made soup for lunch.

9. I set the tumble drier to start running at about 4:00am - that way the bathroom is warm when the girls get up for college. Nothing is worse than having to undress and shower in icy conditions!

10. If I do not keep an eye on her, I find Nic has showered and got herself dressed for college the night before - and sleeps in the outfit. Then she does not have to strip off in the morning!

Post Halloween breakfast for the Trois Sorcières was chocolate cake and cream! What was sweet was that they had all been asleep by midnight - not the expected 'early hours of the morning'!

We do not have crisps, sweets or puddings in our normal day to day life in the Upex Household. So party time is a treat for us all - and we eat every single crisp, sweet and crumb of pudding within 24 hours. We are such deprived little piglets!

Normal diet and exercise resumes tomorrow.......

Saturday, 27 October 2007

Trois Sorcières

To celebrate the start of the Toussaint holidays, Nic decided to have a Halloween party. Why am I surprised?! The girls have one every year!

So out came all the decorations, I was given the 'menu' she had chosen and we were off! Trouble though taking pictures - it was all spooky and dark, so I had to use the flash....which meant it all looked stark and daytime!!

Oh well, you will get the idea......

With ....

....and without the flash!
Crispy fried skin to dunk into mashed brains and snot.
Chopped off fingers (still wearing their rings!) to dunk into blood.....
White chocolate fondue with marshmallows, boudoir biscuits and banana slices! Yummy!

Friday, 26 October 2007

Fly Fishing with an Accent

Richard had an appointment at the Rheumatologist today - who visits our local surgery complex once a week from the specialist centre in Montpellier.

Why is it that you end up chatting about the most unexpected topics when you visit any medical person in France?! There is always all the time in the world to talk.

The doctor congratulated Richard on his excellent French (!) and announced that he was taking lessons to improve his English.

Why? Because he travels the world fly fishing! Yes, fly fishing!?

Richard said: Oh, how interesting....... and the conversation carried on for 20 minutes!

It seems that he goes to America fishing a lot - and declared that he has trouble understanding them because they seem to speak some totally incomprehensible dialect over there. Richard thought it was probably because the people that like fly fishing tend to be a strange breed of man......

The doctor also mentioned that he was off to the west of Ireland next month - and Richard wished him good luck. If you want to hear unintelligible accents......

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Health and Vaccines

In England, your health records are held by your GP and you get notified when regular treatments are due, like vaccines and smear tests.

In France, until recently, it was the responsibility of the patient to keep all their health records and to ask their Medecin Traitment as and when things were due.

This is now changing - about eighteen months ago a new computerised record system was introduced. It will take time but in the future it will provide 'prompts' as in England - but not quite yet because back records are not being loaded.

So when I was at the Doctor's last week, I mentioned that I thought the girls were due some vaccines (I had checked on the Internet). Sure enough, he checked the schedule against their ages and wrote prescriptions.

I questioned why the youngest was not getting a BCG injection - and he explained that in France now this is only given to older children if they are in a high risk environment. An interesting change!

Then I queried one on LeeLee's prescription that was not on my list. He explained it was a new vaccine against the cause of Cervical Cancer - and LeeLee being aged seventeen now, was in the priority group. Incredible how things are moving on in medicine!

When I went to the pharmacist, I again asked if everything had been covered by the Doctor - Dr Veyrie (the pharmacist) also speaks excellent English so although we usually speak to him in French, we are able to revert to English for important things. I was very interested in the new vaccine because I had not heard about it before.

Then what did I see but this news article on the BBC site. The vaccine will be available from next September in the UK - but already there are 'groups' who are speaking out that it will encourage sexual promiscuity!? How sick and sad are some people - we have the chance to reduce the death rate of this cancer and they are trying to stir up things by attaching the words 'sexual promiscuity' because they know it will grab the headlines!

I am disconcerted that parents in the UK will decide whether their children can have the vaccine - daughters of fanatics who have narrow views on sex will inevitably miss out. I question whether this is right? Also we, the public, technically pay for any NHS cancer treatment provided (through our NI contributions and tax) and surely the money should go towards treating things we cannot prevent.
Pharmacists in France study for almost as long as Doctors and are qualified to diagnose and treat a wide range of health problems. Here it is usual for a person to visit the Pharmacist - who will refer them to a Doctor if the problem is outside their terms of reference. This does reduce the queues at the Doctor's!

Richard was given a prescription for shoe inserts by the Joint Specialist last week to correct the mis-alignment he has in his legs - and I have to say that he was very sceptical about what good these would actually do.

He turned up at the chemist and handed over his prescription - and was immediately referred to Dr Veyrie himself (the Senior man!). Dr Veyrie invited Richard upstairs to a working area above the chemist - which we did not realise existed! He then proceeded to carry out various measurements and calculations, using a wide range of machinery - Richard was astonished and amazed. At the end of it, Dr Veyrie explained that he actually makes the inserts himself - designed especially for Richard. It takes him about two weeks! Richard then goes back to have them fitted, tweaked to be totally accurate, and that's it........we are assured they will make a huge difference!

Richard came home chastened - never again will he dismiss a prescription so out of hand!

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

This and That

How come some days I have so much to say - and others, I look at a blank screen and think how boring our life must seem to people back in England. Nothing much happens here!
LeeLee went to school very aggrieved today.

Every other week starting today, her class are having to give up some of their free time for an extra English lesson. With frowns descending on our parental faces, we asked what exactly she had done to require extra English lessons?!

It seems though that these are compulsory - and set up to take advantage of a visiting American lady. The school felt it would be a great help for the students to hear a real English speaker in action.

A great idea in fact, but still a lot of grumbles from the class.......until they met her and found out that she was tall, blond, VERY pretty and only 23 years old. The boys in the class immediately declared that they REALLY needed extra English lessons and would go every week!!

Since 'Millie' did not speak any French, LeeLee then had to spend the whole lesson translating everything she said to the class. First though Millie asked everyone to introduce themselves in English. When it came to LeeLee's turn, she put on a french accent when she spoke English - and the boys looked very puzzled and said: how come they could understood LeeLee better than usual?! And, sadly, they were not joking....

Millie handed round pictures of herself at various ages as well as at her 'prom' - which prompted lots of hopeful questions (via LeeLee translating) as to whether the boy in the picture with her was her brother....
Went round to the apartment to stick the corner of the wallpaper back on.....only to find that it is in fact carpet that is on the wall up to waist height to prevent damage from knocks. The sooner we get in the apartment to renovate, the better!

We also heard that our 'guests' had declared to the Inspector that they wanted a refund so that they could move into a nearby studio, which would be MUCH BETTER than our which point the Inspector had laughed and said that he would love to be there when they saw the studio! They were in for a shock.....given it would be less than half the size of our apartment and too small to swing a cat, let alone manoeuvre a wheelchair whilst accommodating two people at the same time!

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Quel Baptême !

With nothing much to do, I investigated the fridge......and found two egg whites I had saved sometime this week. Can't be older than that (?!) so what shall I do with them? I know! Since I have two pudding-fixated girls, how about a did not last long though, I can tell you, when they came home!

The hole in the top 'appeared' when some little cherub wanted to check if the meringue was hard or not!

English friends were coming down last night to their house (that we look after) in Autignac. We got a call in the evening to say that their keys would not work, and could they borrow our set. Of course! So they arrived half an hour later, very fed up having just driven about 1000 miles in one day.....only to find they were locked out of their own house!

They came round again today for a cup of tea, so I decided to make some cookies. When our girls got home for lunch, I was very impressed - although their eyes kept looking that way, they never mentioned the cookies sitting on the table until Nick, Catherine and family left. Then it was....let us at them!!!


Today our apartment was being inspected by the Prefector. We turned up about twenty minutes early for the appointment, only to find that the Inspector, the Tourist Office lady and the previous owner were already in our apartment - where they were being complained to by our first 'guests'!

First they complained that the apartment was humid, and was worsening the old ladies serious medical condition. No it is not humid, said the Inspector - there is absolutely no trace of mould along the double glazed windows where it would be if it was humid! Also, a doctor provides a certificate stating anything that will exasperate a medical condition - which they would have been required to provide us with a copy of before signing the contract. Since they did not (and indeed admitted that they did not even have one!), the contract was legally binding.
Score 1 to us.

Then they said the apartment was damp, because a bit of wall paper was hanging off at the corner, at waist height - which it had not been the day they moved in because we have pictures to prove it! The charming Inspector said that it was not because of damp - just that 'somehow' it had obviously become slightly detached after they had moved in and that he was sure that (if it worried them) Monsieur would stick it back on.
Score 2 to us.

Then they complained that the electricity was far too expensive. The Inspector (we are starting to love him) said that electricity is expensive everywhere, and Lamalou is no different. Why have the heating on so high?!
Score 3 to us.

Then they complained that they should not have to pay for the apartment to be cleaned. The Inspector pointed out that it had been detailed in the contract they had signed several months ago, and detailed in the provisional bill that they had happily paid when they arrived.
Score 4 to us.

Then they complained that there was no air in the apartment. The Inspector said that that was hardly surprising since they had the heating turned up to maximum and no windows open.
Score 5 to us.

Then they said that it was too dangerous to have the door into the private courtyard left open. The Inspector said: Dangerous? In Lamalou?!
Score 6 to us.

Then they said that they could smell the drains. What drains? said our wonderful Inspector.
Score 7 to us.

Then they said that it was a scandal that the apartment was classified for disabled people when it was totally unsuitable - and that they did not see that they should have to pay AT ALL for the accommodation. The Inspector then informed them that at no point were they told that the apartment was certified for disabled people. As he went on to inform them - there is no accommodation in Lamalou certified for disabled people, and that in the whole of Herault, there are only a handful. And he knew because he was the ONLY certifying Inspector for the whole of Herault!!
Score 8 to us!!!

The previous owner was fit to be tied throughout this discussion, and the lady from the Tourist Office announced to us in a loud voice that there were always people who try to get out of paying!

Thank-god that the Inspector called today!

Thank-God we took Mme Daniel's advice and had already taken the money off these people when they first arrived - all except the electricity and water excess which we can take out of the deposit if they get funny!

Thank-God we decided to have the place certified by the Prefector - because if there is any dispute, the 'guest' has to direct their issues at the Prefector via the Tourist Office (not at the owner). And we are now confident that they know how to deal with difficult 'guests'!

At the suggestion of the Inspector, we finalised the paperwork in Mme Daniel's office - where the Trio said to Richard and I: 'Quel baptême! Bon courage!!' Oh very funny......

So I am happy to say our apartment is certified 'Deux Etoile - Meubles De Tourisme Tout Confort'. That is, provided you do not mind the humidity, the lack of air, the smell of drains......

Monday, 22 October 2007

Smooth, Soft and Nail-less ?

Had to be up early this morning anyway, so I dealt with the girls rather than Richard for a change. LeeLee and Nic both set their own alarms so that we just need to get up later to check that they are actually on the move!

I checked on LeeLee .....

... and found a grumpy LeeLee .... now what?!

Seems she got up when her alarm went off at 10 to 6, had her shower and painted the SA flag on her cheek (remember?). Trouble started when she went up to her room to get dressed - and Nic asked why she was up at 5:00am!

Seventeen years old and still not able able to set her alarm clock correctly?! I do wonder about her....

Up early because I had to go for blood tests - my doctor monitors me regularly because of our family history.

Lamalou is THE centre for anything medical and there is a specialist company in the main street that just does blood tests. Yes, all day and everyday, hundreds of people pass through their doors - just for blood tests. I got there for 9:00am and they had already been up and working for two hours!

Now I have been a blood donor since I was eighteen, and have always had problems - it takes ages because my blood does not want to leave my body!

But this place is amazing! In all, it took 5 minutes from start to finish, including giving my details when I arrived and paying at the end. Talk about experts - I filled 5 large test-tubes in under a minute!

When questioned, it seems they do not use the veins you can actually see in the crook of your arm (the ones that are really hard to see on me!). They 'feel' for the bigger ones hidden further in out of sight and stick the needle in there - and out pumps the red stuff. They are incredibly expert at what they do - but there again, that is all they do!

Spring cleaning hit the kitchen over the last two days. Yes, it was so bad it took two days!

Richard got the ladder out and tackled the top of the cupboards, and the extractor unit over the hob. How can it all become so encrusted? Nothing touched it until he finally tried the ultra-strong cleaner we use to get the tar off the inside of the fireplace glass!

I attacked the floor - on my knees. Whoever renovated this house was a cheapskate and had no idea what he was doing, that's all I can say.

The tiles on the floor are very cheap terracotta. He laid the tiles with a gap of about 1.5 inches between them all, and used standard cement instead of grout. Basically it absorbs all the dirt like a sponge and, because the cement is about 1 inch below the level of the tiles, the mop does not get close to it when we clean the floor normally.

So there I was, on my knees, with an old fashioned scrubbing brush and THREE litre bottles of neat bleach! My hands are wonderfully soft and smooth, with no fingerprints left. Are my finger nails going to fall off?!

The girls got home and asked why the house smelt like the Spectrum Swimming Pool in Guildford!

Have not been posting pictures for a while because everytime I do - the Internet link on the WIFI PC collapses. I HATE Orange!!!!

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Cycling and Painful Behinds

Richard must exercise regularly but this is difficult when he is not able to actually walk very far before his knee becomes too painful.

Today, though, he decided to try cycling again and see if (by keeping the weight off his knee) he could cope.

So after lunch, he and I deserted the girls to go out in the sunshine - when asked whether they wanted to join us, they looked rather aghast and said NO!

Unlike the girls, the dog did not get a choice. When informed she was going for a walk, she remained glued to her bed in front of the blazing fire! Not one to be beaten by a four-legged furry sausage, I persevered and finally got her moving, albeit reluctantly.

We had a great time - I walked briskly alongside Richard on his bike. The dog just dragged all four feet and would have muttered profanities behind us if she could have spoken.

On the way we stopped to speak to our friend Robert - who told us he was just going in for his siesta. Now that is the life down here!

He had been up early out shooting game birds with his bouncy, diffy, long legged spaniel. He mentioned that he only managed to shoot about three birds - of which one, the dog could not find at all. Turns out it had fallen into a tree! Even Uline could not retrieve that one!

We congratulated him on his prowess - but he disclaimed saying he was getting too old to be any good. His son was out the day before and shot 30+ whilst standing in the same place! Robert admitted that there had been a couple of hundred birds in the sky this morning - which made his count of three very embarrassing!

Richard thinks he will ache tomorrow. He certainly has a painful behind - it seems bicycle seats are not padded enough!

Saturday, 20 October 2007

All Over...

Oh well. It would have been too good to be true if we had won the rugby. But I do think it was a good game. England held their own and both teams were professional, played fair and respected the umpire and all his decisions....right or wrong.

A bit different to the France vs Argentina match. That was more like a brawl outside the clubs on Saturday night!
We should be proud of our team.
I am posting this at 1:20 in the afternoon of the next day - just as LeeLee emerges from her bedroom having slept right through from the evening before.

She watched the match with us and then went straight to bed - and, more unusually, straight to sleep. Sunday is the only day in the week when she does not go to lycée, and (bless!) is the only chance she gets for a lie in.

I well remember my Mum, very pointedly, hoovering outside our bedroom doors every Saturday and Sunday morning at 9:00 am - just because we were having a lie in, she saw no reason why she should change her housework schedules!

I always swore I would not do the same to my children........and I hate housework anyway!

Friday, 19 October 2007

Face Painting

Time to get the face paints out in La Sesquière again.

Everyone on the school bus said today they were SO impressed with the flags that I painted on the girls' faces after the English victory against France last weekend (Yes, Rugby not Agincourt!) that they would do the same if England win tomorrow - because they have no hope.

So our elder daughter said, with great bravado, that of course England would win - and if they don't, she would have the South African flag on her face.

We then had to spend all afternoon working out just what the SA flag is - and how on earth you paint it very small on a cheek!?

Seems it is made up of about 6 different colours.......why do I always get stuck with these difficult jobs?

Each child at college has a carnet which they must carry with them at all times - they are not allowed out of the gates without it!

It also contains special pages where issues that the teachers or the school want to bring to the parents' attention, are written. They are called 'mots' and whenever you get one, your parents have to sign that they have actually seen it. And the parents' signatures are checked against the centrally stored ones certified to actually be those of the parents of course! The college is not a fool!

Anyway, Nic got one. It said (roughly translated): Nicole must prepare her school bag with more vigour in future!

It seems she forgot to bring her text book - even though the instruction had been written on the blackboard AND left there for one hour!

So more vigour to be applied from Monday......

Thursday, 18 October 2007

English Tests and Knees

Nic had a test in English today - but won't know her results until next lesson. About what? I hear you ask. Well that is another story.....

Her English professeur is a young man, who not only likes sport but also knows how to keep students interested - the boys at least!

They have been studying a document in their English class. First they had to find the grammar mistakes, then prepare 'presentations' to the class about the topic and also to learn all the facts contained in the document for the test today.

The document was all about Jonny Wilkinson, Rugby and its origins. Rugby! said Nic after that first lesson two weeks ago. I mean, Rugby?! Why do I have to learn about rugby in English?!

So this morning as she ate her toast, we checked she knew how to spell Wilkinson........and where in England the town of Rugby (where the game was invented) is. We do like to help with homework!

Richard went for x-rays on his knee today in preparation for seeing the specialist next week - the viscose-injection specialist!

We did not realise just how many different x-rays you can take of a knee. It took absolutely ages - an x-ray specialist was called in especially for all but the most basic of x-rays.

We now know that both Richard's tibias are off line (one by 3% whilst the other is by 1%) which has meant his knee joints are wearing unevenly as a result of the arthritis. It was also confirmed that he has arthritis in both knees and one knee-cap (did not realise you could get it there!). Disappointing because we hoped it was only in the one knee.

The left knee (or is it his right?!) is so bad the only real solution is a replacement, but they want to leave this as long as possible. So it is a case of easing the awful pain - which means losing lots of weight, having viscose infected and exercising the joint, would you believe, without pushing the pain beyond what you can put up with.

So not a good day for Richard.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Weather and Warmth

Autumnal colours are appearing everywhere now - see the vines the other side of our valley? Up close, they are a mixture of gold, russet and even purple.

Winter is not that far away either. We love this weather forecast site which we have set up for Lamalou les bains - a nearby town.

It tells you how good (or BAD in our case !) it is going to be. Type in your town, then select from the Quick Look the Days (1-5) for example. Look at the graph at the bottom - it tells you the temperature and also the 'feel like' temperature.

For us, it says we will feel like it is minus 5 degrees this weekend!!

So, with such an excuse, what did Richard do today? He lit the fire of course!! The logs went on at lunchtime and then he let it die down gradually so that we would not be too hot during the night.

Half an hour after he lit it......
we had very content animals who declined to go out all day! The dog settled down in front of it on her bed, and the cat colonised Richard's chair.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Busy Day and a Forgetful Old Age

What do you mean - tell us about the room you cleaned today?! I have been busy.....elsewhere!

First we had an appointment to pick up keys for friends of ours (of their newly purchased studio apartment in Lamalou) at a local Immobilier.

Ticked that one off the 'to do' list.

Then I had a Doctor's appointment at lunchtime. Richard had booked it for me but the time looked odd, so he phoned up to check.....and it seems it is actually tomorrow.

OK, so the idea of me putting all our rendez-vous in a diary was a great idea, provided I put them in on the correct day! Added it to tomorrow's 'to do' list.....

Then I had a haircut booked at a friend's house in the village this afternoon. Decided to walk even though it was raining - getting wet does not kill you, honestly, kids!

Arrived there to find it is in fact tomorrow. So added that to tomorrow's 'to do' list as well......

Decided I had had a bad day and took out some beef steaks so that Richard could be in charge of dinner whilst I pondered keeping diaries up to date.

Door bell rang - with the gang of ladies picking me up for Yoga. Damn, forgot to put that in the diary!!!

So tomorrow is going to be another busy day for me, I'll have you know!
Even allowing for all the usual media hype and scare mongering, the situation at the moment in UK hospitals is starting to be truly frightening. If what you have already got, doesn't kill you, what you get whilst there - will!

When Richard's Mum went in to hospital for that last time two years ago, she was absolutely petrified of getting MRSA. No amount of reassurance helped, but the Winchester Hospital was superb and the care she received was second to none. Thank goodness it was not this month - she would have flatly refused to go in.

We came to France nearly six years ago and in that time Richard has had two operations in two different hospitals and LeeLee has had one.

The first time, Richard asked about the risk of MRSA, and the Senior anaesthetist he was talking to said that they had never had a case of MRSA at our local hospital, and they were doing their damnedest to make sure they never did!

When a patient is admitted, before they are allowed on a ward, they are showered/bathed and scrubbed from head to toe in an orange/brown iodine based disinfectant. And I do mean everything and everywhere - hair, nails, in the ears, etc. You come out looking like you have used a cheap and nasty artificial suntan!

Before they go down to a theatre, this is repeated. If they stay in, it is repeated at regular intervals, with their room/bed getting the same treatment whilst they are being de-germed.

The same happened when Richard was in the very fancy heart hospital in Montpellier.

Whether this is the reason they have been lucky so far, I do not know, but at least you feel they are making every effort to prevent these awful infections starting!

Monday, 15 October 2007

Can You Sell Medications On e-Bay?!

Yep, today was our day for spring cleaning the toilet 'room'.

I say room in order to be accurate. It is a fairly large room with the toilet in it. No sink, bath or shower. Just a toilet.

OK - and a large bookcase with lots of books on the shelves. But it seemed a waste of a good wall not to put a bookcase in there. We have THOUSANDS of books that need to go on shelves somewhere in the house!

And it has a cupboard that serves as our medicine cabinet.

Having managed to put off the dreaded cleaning until almost evening, I realised that I had deferred my shower this morning so that I could get dirty and sweaty (cleaning remember!) first and then have a shower. So I had to order to be clean myself (are you following this?).

So Richard and I (I do love company when I am being a 'housewife') opened the medicine cabinet and started going through everything.

Why do we have so many tablets with expiry dates BEFORE we moved to France?! And what on earth were they all for?! We cannot remember.

We now have a half-empty medicine cabinet with every strength paracetamol tablet ever manufactured, and enough Karvol 'blisters' to keep us breathing well for decades to come.

Can I sell them second hand?!

And why did I have three gallons of liquid for 'hand washing clothes' on top of the cabinet when I do not hand wash clothes EVER? If they do not go in the washing machine, they go in the bin in this house!

And the bookcase? Well the books have been dusted, the wooden shelves polished (and if you believe that, I have a hen's tooth to sell you ) and all the surplus books that have 'migrated' to the toilet - have been put back on their correct shelves in our backroom.

Funnily enough all these books that found a new home in the backroom were children's books - not Richard's or mine.......
Today was a sad but also a happy day for us and my Dad.

He is due to move to the Royal Hospital Chelsea (to be a Chelsea Pensioner!) when their new infirmary wing opens in Spring 2009.

Unfortunately it has become increasingly difficult for him to cope at home in his own bungalow, especially since our Mum died.

He finally made the difficult decision to move into a Care Home until Chelsea can take him, and today he said goodbye to their 'dream retirement home by the sea' on Hayling Island.

He was quite upbeat considering and realises it will be better for him.

What is wonderful (doesn't technology get everywhere!) is that we can e-mail him at the Home. They print the messages off and pass them on to the residents.

The girls each sent Grandad a message early this morning before setting off to school - and they were waiting for him when he arrived at the Home! He said they were the first e-mails he had ever received!

The girls were in tears when they heard how much their messages meant to him today. They are good kids.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

"Ça ira mieux la prochaine fois ! " I say.

I love the BBC! Look what Richard found whilst browsing their site:

If only we had found this page before Saturday's match!

Gloating aside, this site is great for improving your french, you can listen to actual people talking through the phrases and conversations, etc. Have a go!
We have decided to improve our housework schedule (all right - MY housework schedule!). That is - actually clean the house regularly rather than just before someone is coming to visit us!

So starting tomorrow, we will clean a room a day - and that means the downstairs at least should be clean each week.

I shall worry about the upstairs another year?!

I shall keep you up to date on progress - and on any skeletons we find........

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Evening at home?!

Popped out this morning, and every where we went, we saw hand made signs.........telling us that the local salle polyvalente had a big screen set up for 19:00 this evening for 'the match'.

That is - EVERY salle polyvalente in EVERY town we passed through! Those signs were not there last night.

We have it sussed for the match - as everyone wants to talk about the rugby (whether you are at the bank, the doctors or the shops), we just say that we think that France will win. If they do, we don't look like idiots. If they don't, we look smug as well as modest!

Overheard the girls chatting at lunch.

Nic was discussing her latest Occitan lesson and offering to teach LeeLee some of the language.

LeeLee informed her that she already knew all she would ever need to be able to say in Occitan and proceeded to spout unintelligible words. Richard (being a father!) asked hopefully if they all meant 'NO!'

Turns out they were all swear words!


Allez England!

....rang out from our terrace tonight over a suddenly silent and stunned village.

I was jumping up and down during the last 2 minutes of the game (did I hear someone say 'What game'?!), Richard was thumping the beam across the fireplace and Nic.....well she was yelling 'Come on France!!!' She's a changeling!

Immediately the phone rang. LeeLee is sleeping over at a friend's house tonight - and the problem is that they live in the middle of nowhere up a mountain side. Which means they get virtually no TV signal. Their little portable TV is ancient and seldom used.

Seems the Mum and Dad were out for the evening and so LeeLee decided to see what she could do to get the TV working.....

.... and miracle of miracles, she managed to see the last 20 minutes of the game!

Please note I put the picture for this post in the Occitan section.....and not at the beginning of this one!

LeeLee intends going to school on Monday with red crosses on her cheeks. Richard says he will refuse to pick her up at lunchtime if she does!

Friday, 12 October 2007

..... Knees & Toes, Knees & Toes

Richard went to see a 'joint' specialist today, a more up market one as well!

He saw a specialist eighteen months ago because after his wonderful hip operation - his knee gave up the ghost.

It seems he suffers from a very aggressive form of arthritis. One minute he has a perfect hip - within one year it is totally shot to pieces and needs immediate replacement!

Then the same happened with his knee - but the problem this time is, as everyone keeps telling him, he is really too young to have a knee replacement! With the hip, he was too young but at least a replacement lasts about 25 years before you have to have another, and a second one would probably last him to his grave. But a new knee only lasts 10 years and you can only have it done an absolute maximum of 3 times - and then you are really in trouble.

So the first specialist said he had to hang in there as long as possible, but that he could do a 'tidy-up' operation to try and trim away all the crumbling bits to even up the joint. Richard said 'yeah right' as he backed out the door super fast. As you have probably realised, Richard is not fond of hospitals.

One year on, the pain is getting worse and he cannot walk very far at all. At a recent party, two eighty+ ladies said they had both just had a series of injections that have made their arthritic knees 'just like new'! That was it - Richard was down to the doctor's the very next day....

The doctor said first we should get a second opinion on the knee and it seems you go 'up the tree' of specialists each time if you ask for another opinion!

Today Richard presented himself at the super-new, super-flash hospital at Boujan Sur Libron. Wow, was he impressed! The specialist had only a desk, a wifi laptop and two chairs in his massive office, and the desk was a single 'wing of stainless steel' - proper designer gear!

Unfortunately his opinion was also that a replacement it will have to be - but not until Richard is older. A 'tidy-up' op will not help his condition, but the series of injections will for a short while. They inject a special gel which pads out the joint and relieves some of the pressure - so helps relieve the pain.

Luckily Richard is OK about injections (especially when the alternative is going under the knife!) and he has an appointment already booked.......

Cost of the 'super specialist'? 90 € of which 80% will be refunded. Wow! That's expensive for France! I suppose they still have to pay for that desk......

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Fruit & Veg

Shopping today (the highlight of our week - a trip out!) took us to Les Provenc'Halles (on the way into Bedarieux) for our fruit and veg.

We eat a lot of fruit and veg, much to the girls' disgust, and always have done. Whoever says 'but my children won't eat it' are just not nasty-enough parents!

Although nowadays their 'oh no' when they see their dinner plates is just a habit. When LeeLee went back to England for a visit, she got back here yearning for some healthy options! She said she had had enough of chips with everything and wanted to see some 'green' on her plate!

Anyway, getting back to Les Halles - we love this place. It has such a selection of everything. How would you like to have a choice of 8 different types of pears, 10 of apples and 6 of grapes - all from your home country?!

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Criminals and The Cinema

LeeLee has five days of school trips this week associated with both literature and her Bac S. Yesterday her group went to the cinema to see a government film clarifying the French Criminal Justice System.

We all spent a happy hour late last night in tears of laughter as she described the experience. The bottle of champagne we had drunk might have been a contributory factor of course.....

Other than leaving them all with the impression that 90% of the criminals (Oops, sorry! I mean those innocent individuals totally misunderstood by society) in France are black, it managed to make them very cynical of the whole process.

The Judiciary representative explained that they were there to discover all the facts of a case whilst the Advocat representing the suspect was there to teach the potential criminal what to say in order to get off the charge. That was actually said on film!

It was not the height of cinematography either. Long, long minutes were spent where the camera focused on the backs of the prison officer and the suspect walking between different rooms in the prison, with no sound at all!

Three examples had us in stitches - it was voted the best comedy of the year by the students.

1. The Prostitute and the Electric Car
This lady was being charged with stealing a car. When asked to explain how come she was found in the car with the engine running, many kilometers away from where the owner had parked it, she gave an insight into her evening's activities:
"I pulled a client and took off all my clothes. Needing somewhere safe to store them whilst I was busy, I decided to put them on the back seat of this car that just happened to be there.
Because it was an electric car, I had to get in the driver's seat and start the engine, in order to then be able to get out and open the back door to put my clothes on the seat..........someone else must have stolen the car earlier that evening because I could not have stolen it - I do not have a driving licence! "

2. Bringing Out Your Feminine Side
A gentleman was charged with stealing jewellery from a department store. When asked what happened, he explained:
" When I saw all these lovely things on display, my feminine side took over and I just HAD to have those pretty things to wear to make me look good. You cannot be expected to control your feminine side when it takes over! "
When asked why he walked out without paying for these goods, he stated:
"No one in the shop told me I had to pay for them!"

3. Acting Lessons
The avocat is seen explaining to a suspect that the easiest way to 'get off' is to settle on a story that fits the facts whilst leaving you as the innocent party, not having any idea what the police are talking about. The suspect then tries out 'telling' his side of things, at which point the avocat steps in and says :
" No! More like this!" and proceeds to act out the role perfectly, including the ability to cry real tears.....

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Property Tycoons Expanding Their Empire

I am proud to announce that we are now 'two property' people so if we have a row, one of us has somewhere else to sleep rather than the spare room!

We feel a bit shell shocked. It does not seem real. That is probably because we have only been able to spend about half an hour in our new apartment since signing the final papers.

The reason? Because our first guests are moving in immediately for a stay of three weeks and 2 days!

Ah well, think of the money........we are!!

The final signing took a full two hours at the Notaires - going through all the documentation thoroughly and making sure that everyone understood everything.

Maitre Dominique Paule-Bugli is exceptionally good at her job! She even came across a clause special that had been included back in 1912, and not picked up during all the subsequent sales/purchases by the Notaires. Well, it is back in the documentation now and will infact be tied up even more legally in the coming months

Afterwards we went round to the apartment with the previous owner Mme Daniel and she kindly spent ages
going through her whole system from initial telephone enquiry to final settlement two months after a guest leaves. She is one canny businesswoman, quite ruthless at times - whilst looking like everyone's idea of a sweet Great Aunt.

I feel we have a lot to learn from her!

Virus Warning!!

We run virus checks on our two PCs every morning and between yesterday and today's checks - we have managed to pick up the Trojan virus.

Since (for a change!) I was the only person working on that PC all day, I cannot even blame the children - they are the usual culprits!

I only worked on this blog and some new advertising ones I am setting up, as well as e-mailed friends who I have already warned.

Therefore it might be an idea to run a virus checker on your PCs! I do not know if they get loaded up onto blogs?!

See my previous post about free virus checkers - they are worth their weight in gold!!

Monday, 8 October 2007

Successful Geek !

I want you all to click on the map above and be VERY impressed when it opens up in a new page LARGER THAN THE ORIGINAL !

What do you mean - so what?!

It has taken me months of frustration, and the uploading of almost one hundred photos, before I got this to work. And God help anyone who comes back to me and says they knew how to do it all along!

I have been on various blog-help sites and put up with some very supercilious Geeks who told me in no uncertain terms that I must FOLLOW THEIR INSTRUCTIONS TO THE LETTER YOU STUPID WOMAN! And all to no avail.

But I must mention one particular guy with a help site I came across in my travels - he was so helpful and pleasant/patient. Thank-you Ron Southern of:

So I am a happy successful Geek today! I just wish I knew what I had done differently to all the other times. Ah well, I just copy/paste the same code each time now, tweak it for the new photo I have uploaded and 'Bob's Your Uncle'.

Something came up today which showed us how out of touch we are with the world according to the UK. Did you realise there was a postal strike in England? Yes, I know we all read the headlines on the news websites but I kind of glossed over the reality of it.

Friends (hello Carol & John!) are in the process of buying a studio nearby in Lamalou. Because they are unable to come over here for the signing of the final papers, it is being done remotely.

Copies of the documentation and the proxy papers were sent to them and have been certified by a UK Lawyer as required - but there is no way they will get here in time through the usual channels with no 'post persons' working!
(by the way, what is the PC way of referring to post men and women now? Polite answers only on a postcard....)

Luckily DHS (Oops! I meant DHL) to the rescue - they must be raking it in at the moment !

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Sad geek.....

What did I do today, I hear you asking.

Lounged in the sun? Slept the afternoon away? Watched nature grow from the terrace?

No - I spent the day setting up and playing around with advertising web pages for our apartment in Lamalou.

I know I am sad but I enjoyed it! I remember now why I liked working in the IT industry!!

I know that by the time I 'retired' (after 17 years in the industry) I had reached the stage of having lots of gofers who did all the actual IT development for me, but it was fun getting back to playing with HTML code and outwitting the restrictions put on these blog-producing wizards!

I know I had no deadline to meet, so it was an unfair comparison.....

But I enjoyed today!

And no way am I letting you look at the pages I produced today! You will have to wait until they have been through their thorough user-testing phase first!!
The users will probably break the system anyway.....they always do.

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Allez les 'Red, White and Blues '!

And 'Allez les Bleus' !

Caught the end of the England vs Australia rugby match - wished we had seen it all!

Fitted in dinner and then settled down to watch France vs New Zealand - and started to wish we had not!!

We were on our feet yelling 'Stop them! Jump on them!' right up to the last second.....

....and beyond! Only Richard knows the rules of rugby in this house and three females were not impressed to find that play continues after the time is up until a 'change in play' happens!! What a stupid game!

Kids could not decide who to cheer for of course this evening. Would it be better or worse for us to meet France in the semi-final?

Now they are in an even worse dilemma - and have decreed that it does not matter because BOTH teams deserve to win!!


An orange weather alert and leaky roof yesterday.

Bright sunshine and 25 degrees in the shade today. So unexpected, that Richard and I went for a walk this afternoon with the dog. She was surprised, and conked out on the tiles when we got back!

I love the climate here!!