This morning early I got a text message from the doctor's surgery to check I was OK post-vaccination.
I told them I was fine with almost no noticeable reaction.
There are LOTS of beggars in Bordeaux, often outside the doors of the Catholic Churches, but also outside the supermarkets. Yesterday I scuttled to the local U supermarket in the morning. I generally say hallo to the beggars but I never have any money on me.
Then one day I saw a young man say to a beggar that he had no money but could he buy something for them. What a good idea, I thought. So I tried it with the lady outside our local supermarket.
"Yes please, a chicken." she said in her broken French.
"A CHICKEN ?"
She pointed to the pictures of bread on the door.
"You mean a chicken sandwich?"
"No, I have that at the house but I'd like a chicken."
I ought to explain that she was sat on the floor in the sun on a rather hot day and it was only about 10 am. I wouldn't want to sit there all day with a dead chicken, then take it home and eat it.
"A cooked chicken?"
In the bigger supermarkets you can get delicious rotisserie chickens, but not in our local U.
Anyway we went in and hunted. Pat found a smoked cooked chicken and got her that.
Later on we scuttled off to a bigger, more distant supermarket. There was a beggar outside.
"Forget it", I thought, "a chicken is enough for one day", but Pat was already in detailed negotiations.
"Some tomatoes, please. Little tomatoes."
"The very small ones? The cherry tomatoes?"
I can't explain why, but somehow that felt much more sensible than a chicken.
So my appointment to be vaccinated was for 17:48. In our local surgery there are two doctors and both were taking rendezvous, 8 minutes apart. I thought it highly unlikely that they could really vaccinate people in 8 minutes, all the admin included, so I didn't bust a gut to arrive on time. I was about 2 minutes late.
At the door the two eager young doctors were hovering. The one has a man-bun, the other shaves his head. I often wonder what would happen is you could average them. Anyway, I digress.
The one with the man-bun checked my name off his list and then took my Carte Vitale.
"We'll do the necessary, you'll have a short wait, the nurse will do the jab, then you'll need to wait here a while before going home."
"I thought you'd never be able to do a patient every eight minutes!"
"We're doing them every four."
They'd combined their list and created a kind of vaccination-line.
So while they did the necessary I sat in the little waiting area. After just a couple of minutes the nurse called me in.
"This side", I said, rolling up the sleeve of my tee-shirt.
"Oh, you're well-prepared in a tee-shirt!"
In went the injection in no time.
"Do you have Doliprane?"
"We have enough for a week."
The nurse laughed.
Out into the waiting area and I got my certificate of vaccination, entitled "Données télétransmises à l'Assurance Maladie". "We'll just keep you here a little while. Do you have Doliprane at home?"
"We have enough for a week!"
The doctor laughed.
I sat and read my book. Every so often the bald doctor would call a name and say "It's OK for us." and the person would go home. Soon it was my turn.
Pat's doctor told her to take paracetamol as a precaution, so she didn't until she developed flu-like symptoms.
My doctors didn't tell me to take it as a precaution, so, of course, I did.
There is now a Facebook group for people who live in our apartment complex - the Neighbours of the Gardens of the Ars - and it's a great way of keeping abreast of the various changes and so on.
The other day someone posted that they had found a smear of tobacco on the doorhandles of their front door, so they had looked on all the corridors to see if this was chance or design. Sore enough, a few other doors also had smears of tobacco. Maybe a signal left by burglars casing the joint?
About a day later they came home to find that someone had attempted to drill through the lock but had been interrupted so had not gained entry to the flat.
This morning at about 8:30 am there was some noise in the corridor outside. There are just three doors on our corridor. I popped my head out to look. The corridor was full of furniture and two young guys were busily getting it all to the lift.
"Ah, it's a house move?" (We almost never see the guy who lives in that flat)
"Yes, sorry about the noise"
"No, it's not a problem. It's just that some flats in other buildings here have been burgled."
"Well if that's the case we're taking everything!"
I later popped down to check the door of the apartment and found them hoovering the place.
I think it really was removal men.
It's quite hard to get to know people in these flats. We now know:
Bilel, Marie and their three boys.
Pablo and Gwenaëlle and their little one.
Alphonse the Samoyed and his owner.
The family who live above us, though we don't know their names.
The two students who share the other flat on our corridor.
Two guys who share the same name and with whom I promised to share a beer, but then covid came.
So, I thought, my official letter saying in big blue letters "VACCINEZ-VOUS" suggests I look for an appointment either with my doctor or another doctor to get the jab. I wonder what would happen if I looked on the doctolib website.
Doctolib is a website that enables you to find medical services and to book appointments. Under it's "Vaccination" tab there were various vaccination centres and doctors listed, but none had appointments to propose.
Strong demand means there's no dates available, but come back later as more dates will come online.
I went back at bedtime and saw that the nearest doctors' surgery had appointments for next Monday, and that a clinic in a part of town I didn't know could do Saturday morning. I looked at how to get to the clinic, but by the time I'd found a route those appointments had gone. So I booked myself in with the doctor down the road.
Then today my doctor phoned.
We can do you next Wednesday.
The Grand Theatre (somehow "The Big Theatre" just doesn't sound classy in English, does it) has just been evacuated by the forces of order.
"What?" you cry, and "Why?"
Well the most obvious effects of covid in France are on the cafés, restaurants and on the world of culture. Museums, cinemas, theatres, all have been closed now for something like a year ! So last week a group of show people decided to take matters into their own hands and occupy the Grand Theatre.
Until today, when they were removed by the police. They're now stood all over the tram rails discussing their next move, apparently.
When I last saw my doctor we arranged a date for vaccination. It's tomorrow at 13:20.
Then this morning a letter arrived from the health authorities telling me to get vaccinated. I thought "That's well-timed".
Until I just got a phone call telling me that vaccination is off. The doctor has no vaccine.
Get it all over in one foul sweep, that's what I say. Then, if you're careful crossing the road, you may not see another white coat till next year.
Anyway I went to get my eyes checked. My vision has improved since last year, apparently. The long sightedness of my advancing years is cancelling out the short-sightedness caused by my failing focusing muscles. The doctor examined the back of my eyes, too.
"These drops will sting and you won't be able to drive home."
"As long as I can walk and get on the tram."
My eyes were fine, I can carry on with the same glasses, I can carry on being indiscipline and forget to take them with me. Basically I can do almost whatever I like and my eyes will cope fine.
But when I left the ophthalmologist's, boy was I in trouble. I think the drops dilate your pupils because even with my dark glasses I was dazzled by everything.EVERYTHING!
I managed to make it across the road, I think the traffic all stopped for me, but when I got to Place Gambetta I couldn't tell the kerb from the path from the flower-bed. An hour of groping my way round the place and by the time I went for my first meeting of the day at 11:30 I could basically see OK.
So I thought I'd better go and see my doctor. She works just beyond the end of our line C tram but Google Maps helpfully suggested I switch to line 15 bus. This means standing at the bus stop wondering if the bus will come. It did.
She came into the waiting room.
What time's your appointment?
What about you?
9:15. So it was me first.
Any news on your colonoscopy?
Yup, I've had it and it was clear. Here's the report.
That's very good. Shall we do a blood test?
Had one. here it is.
(Reading it) that's all great. Did you have a covid test?
Yes, it was negative.
Let's do your bp.
Well yes, I came for that because at the hospital it was high. She gave me a look.
12/7. That's fine. You're eligible for vaccination, aren't you?
Well that's for you to decide.
So the upshot is that she's very pleased with me and I'm getting the jab on 23rd March.
My father lived all his life, except the last week, without a telephone.
In contrast I have accumulated :
STOP! It's TOO MUCH!
Here's the deal.
On 1 June I am leaving WhatsApp and Signal.
On 31 December 2025 at the latest I am leaving Facebook. (We use it for the church)
If you want to contact me send an email. I check my emails and keep my unread mail at 0.
If you need to contact me immediately send a text message.
If you need to speak to me use my mobile phone.
We occasionally need peanut butter but we don't like all brands. Some have added sugar, most have added oil. And let us not forget - you don't have to read the list of ingredients if there isn't one.
Well I have heard that you can just blend roasted peanuts until they become peanut butter.
So I tried. And it's fine. So we now have a jar of home-made peanut butter, made from peanuts.
Friends, knowing that we are due to retire in 2025 (there's still four whole years, people) often ask us if we have decided yet where we should live. Should we return to the UK or stay in France? Should we stay in Bordeaux or head out into the suburbs or even down to the Mediterranean?
We are hoping that God will make things clear before 2025, but meanwhile here's some factors that will shape our decision :
1) we're happy in this flat, but we don't own it and the rent is a lot. After retirement we might not be in a position to afford it BUT we could take in a student after changing my study back into a bedroom.
2) house prices in many parts of the UK are expensive. We do have the equity from our house saved up in French government schemes but it may not stretch to something in the heart of a UK city. We should, however, be able to afford something in a small town in North Wales, for example.
3) taxation is low for the low-paid in France. Essentially if we stay here we'll probably pay no income tax or poll tax. If we buy a place we'll pay property owners' tax, but that is not a vast amount. However you don't get free public transport.
4) taxation is high in the UK for the low-paid and rising. What will happen in the next few years is anyone's guess.
5) the health service is excellent in France, pretty good in England and OK in Wales. Some friends choose to live in England simply because the health service is better there.
6) we will need to watch closely what happens in the UK over the next few years.
At the hospital they had told me to do nothing on Wednesday and next to nothing on Thursday. Mrs Davey, ex-nurse, nevertheless authorized me to leave the flat to go and buy nice ground coffee from our friends at Cafeincup, and then to walk home as fast as I liked. I had to call at the pharmacy, too.
It was a beautiful day with wonderful light and the coffee is good.
I hurtled along the quays, pausing every now and then for yet another photo of the Pont de Pierre.
I had to be back by 11am for a wenibar, no winebar, no webinar on the misuse of power, given by the forthright Marcus Honeysett under the badge this time of Acts29. This was an excellent and direct talk followed by a question time. I very much appreciated the approach Marcus took and got quite upset because of the way we ape secular culture just now. It’s a nightmare.
When the recording is available I hope we can watch it with our leaders here and I’ll certainly give you a link to it.
Incidentally I almost typed Marcus’ approach, but this opens another, though smaller can of worms that has been bothering me since Christmas Day. The Queen pronounced Jesus’ as jeezussis. Has this changed? Was I always wrong? Is it one of those optional things now? I always understood that when s was followed by an apostrophe you made no change in pronunciation or perhaps you might harden the s.. So “Jesus’ disciples” is pronounced ‘jeezuss disciples’. And ‘Marcus’ approach’ would be ‘Markuss approach’. I am prepared to be wrong, especially when it comes to the Queen.
Someone congratulated me on knowing what I did thirty years ago when I left British Telecom and my job as a database administrator. I generally have an extremely bad memory and often think it's quite a blessing really! But I remember that weekend very well because I was leaving British Telecom to become an Assistant Pastor in North Wales.
The weather was atrocious on March 4th 1991 as I steered my little blue Fiat Uno up the borderlands road from Cardiff up to North Wales and the village of Hawarden (one says "harden"). The arrangement was to be that I would stay three years as Assistant Pastor, then leave and go elsewhere. Instead the Pastor, Peter Milsom, left after two years to go down to South Wales and continue ministry there, and I ended up staying in the church until 2005 before coming to Bordeaux.
So much has happened in those thirty years that it's really hard to know even how to sum them up, except to say that it has all been a great adventure and I'm so thankful for it all.
Friend Rory drove me to the hospital bright and early, I was admitted and shown to my room.
"Change into this - it opens at the back - and put these on your feet."
The nurse took my blood pressure (élevé) and tried to pop a canula in my arm (ça ne marche pas) then said they'd come and get me presently.
After a while two fine chaps came and took me to the pre-op room. On the way we argued about the rugby and the fact that Wales was sure to beat the French and win the grand slam (grand chelem, not to be confused with grande hlm, which means a large block of flats). The game probably won't be played anyway because the French team is currently a cluster of covid infections.
In the pre-op room they took my blood pressure (moins élevé), checked I hadn't forgotten my name or birthday then put in a canula (ça marche) and wired me up ready for ecg. They told me that someone was currently being done, then it would be my turn. Everyone checked my state of preparation and so on (when did you last eat, when did you last drink, have you taken your stuff, what has been the result).
At 9:00 the nurses wheeled me into the endoscopy room, I was wired up and positioned and they checked I had not forgotten my name and date of birth before being sending me off to sleep. "Don't ask me to count down from 100 to 1, please. It's too complicated in French." "You don't have to count at all. Just go to sleep and dream of bananas" they said.
I woke in a big room with lots of beds, slightly confused about where I was and how I got there, aware of having had pleasant dreams that I couldn't quite remember and feeling extremely refreshed! As for discomfort in the area under examination, there was nothing.
It was 9:45. "Bonjour", I said. Nurses came and checked I had not forgotten my name or date of birth. The endoscopist came up. "Est-ce que vous avez vu de belles choses?" I asked. "Tout c'est très bien passé. Y'a rien. Prochaine fois dans cinq ans."
I lay there enjoying the fact that the procedure was over and observing my falling blood pressure on the monitor behind me. "We'll take you down soon." "I'm in no rush!" It was true.
In due course my rugby loving friends came to wheel me back down to my room after checking that I had not forgotten my name or date of birth. The nurse appeared and checked whether I had forgotten my name or date of birth, then took my temperature and blood pressure. (élevé) "You should check that machine, it was lower upstairs". It's probably me then, said the nurse cheerfully.
"Get dressed, but easy does it, then you can come down for breakfast." Rory was waiting for me, but I still enjoyed my coffee, toasts with strawberry jam with pips in (first pips since Saturday), orange juice with pulp in (first pulp since Saturday), compote de pommes (first apples since Saturday) and chocolate wafers (first chocolate since Saturday). "The worst thing about all this is the diet beforehand" I told the nurse, "you really appreciate your fruit and veg". "Too true", she said.
"Now you do nothing today, nothing. Don't sign anything - it's not legally valid if you do, no diy, no ladders, nothing. And tomorrow do next to nothing." Then off to the office for my discharge sheet and my report.
The report said that I had prepared perfectly, they had examined everywhere and everything was normal. Next time in five years.
"M. Il faut un rendez-vous. Une prochaine fois on vous refuse." (Sir, you need an appointment. Next time we'll send you away."
There was a queue outside the laboratory, everyone wanting to get tested for covid. Some had symptoms "for two days". I had an appointment and a prescription from the doctor.
That meant that once I had filled in my form they called me in first.
"Lower the mask and lean your head against the seat."
I exposed my nostrils, leant back and thought of the lavender fields of Provence.
"There we are, all done. It's pre-operation? OK I'll mark it urgent"
From arriving at the end of the queue to leaving with my nose well and truly poked it took 12 minutes.
I walked home glad that little game was over and looking forward to a slap-up lunch of chicken and mashed potato with home-made yogurt and honey to follow.
On Saint David's Day of 1991, a Friday, I left the office at British Telecom in the very centre of Cardiff for the last time. I was also leaving a happy career as a database administrator that had begun in Hemel Hempstead in October 1980 when I joined Honeywell Information Systems in their Systems Centre. A couple of years there, then a year at Harlech Television, then the rest of my time at BT.
I still miss the office, the gang I worked with and my life in Cardiff. It was a great place to live and many of my family were nearby. I still have a misspelled name badge (Alan Dayey) and the name plate from my desk, though I think that came from Honeywell.