It’s that time of year again

This is the weekend of the village fair; generally most of us don’t particularly care for it, to be honest. And a lot of people we know actually leave the village until it’s over. All the traveling carny rides come in and set up on two out of the four main streets. It alternates between the sides of the village so that one side isn’t always stuck with it. This year it’s on our side.
 
On Tuesday, when I took Mom to the foot doctor she told me that “someone” had come by to tell her they were setting up something in front of her house. I was really annoyed because she hadn’t called me to come over to talk to them and she INSISTED that she had understood what they were doing.
 
Well, NOT! Yesterday afternoon the ride showed up and it is MASSIVE. They started to set it up so that she couldn’t even open her door wide enough to get outside! Luckily, JM argued with them and made them move it a couple of feet. However, once they set it all up, she STILL can barely get out of the house because the stairs of the house next door totally block there being a clear path.  On top of that, the stupid ride blocks the entire front of her house so it’s like she’s living inside a dungeon with no light coming inside at all.
 
The carnies who set it up lied and said the mayor had approved it; but JM called the mayor and he did no such thing. To be honest, if there is an emergency, I don’t think an ambulance could even get a guerney inside to help her.
 
I’m outraged. I wonder if any of the people who run these rides have elderly parents that they have to care for? I went out to take some pictures and I heard them making nasty comments about me. But the hell with them; I have to worry about my mother not their damned ride.
Ciao for now.
The anti-fair curmudgeon!

Doctoring

Our local GP is on vacation. I knew he was going on vacation, but thought he would be gone this week and next. Mom needed to get her prescriptions renewed, which entails a doctor’s visit once every three months, as there are no over the phone refills here. Our doc thinks, and I agree with him, that seeing your doctor four times a year when you’re on regular medication is not a burden.

However, having discovered that he was on vacation last week and this week, I realized that NEXT week, when Mom’s prescriptions run out, his office will be a zoo. My guess is there will be a minimum of a two-hour wait every morning next week, and there are no evening appointments until 7 pm or so. Since he always runs late, that means 8 or 9 pm, which is just too late for us.

So, since Mom doesn’t have any current problems, I figured we could go and see the replacement doctor.

There is a service that doctors can use, where mostly Baby Doctors (the ones just out of medical school) can work as little or as much as they want and take over for doctors who are going on holiday. It’s really a great system. They keep the same office hours, handle emergencies and are just there to take up the slack. What was interesting for me was knowing that there would be very few patients in the waiting room, as most people would rather wait for their regular doc to return.

As it turned out, there was an article in this morning’s newspaper about the fact that in the next few years, our department is going to have a major doctor crisis. The average age of doctor’s in the Aude is higher than in many other areas, so many of them are going to retire. Young doctors don’t want to set up rural practices, because they make less money, work harder and are farther away from the “big city.” It’s going to be a problem.

I was mentioning this to Mom in the car and somehow it turned into an anti-Obama health care rant. I’m not proud of myself, but I lost it. I mean, there I was, driving her to a doctor’s appointment where almost ALL of her care is covered 100% by French social security because of chronic illnesses, and she is complaining about health care reform in the U.S. On top of that, although we do have a supplemental policy here to cover the small portion of her bills that are not paid 100%,  the social security portion of her care is FREE this year, because her income was too low for her to be required to pay a premium.

When I started explaining all of this to her, she admitted that she didn’t really know what was in the U.S. Healthcare Reform package. So why was she against it? She has no idea, but FAUX says it’s bad, so it must be. By the time we got to the doctor’s office, she did actually admit that she didn’t want people like JM and me to die in the streets because we weren’t insured, and she did remember that her insurance company had denied her late husband’s chemo therapy as being unnecessary, then approved it AFTER he was dead.

I apologized for getting so worked up, but honestly, I couldn’t believe she would have the nerve to complain. I asked her if she liked her healthcare here and she admitted she loves it. I sure wish I could get her to think more often!

When we got to see the doctor, Mom’s blood pressure was pretty high. I had to explain to the doc that I thought that was my fault and told her why. Then we discussed the American situation a bit. As usual when I tell anyone here about the way things are in the States, they kind of stare at me in disbelief. I think I scared her, because she’s going to visit her sister in Canada next week and was worried about what would happen to her if she had a car accident or something. I reassured her that Canada was NOT the States, and she could rest easy.

It turned out to be a lot more interesting a visit than I had imagined.

Ciao for now,

Randy

Volcano!

Poor Iceland; it really hasn’t been their year.

One of the things I haven’t missed about living in Los Angeles is the ever-present worry about “the Big One.” I know that there are small earthquakes in our region, but they probably wouldn’t even be noticed on a typical California day.

So, instead, what do I have to worry about? Volcanic ash! To be honest, I doubt it will get to our area, or if it does, by the time it does, there won’t be much of it. But who thinks about that as a possible problem?

With air traffic in all of northern Europe affected, it has made us all realize that Mother Nature does not have much of a sense of humor. Imagine if the Iceland volcano continues to erupt, or even erupts to Krakatoa levels, what that could mean!

We so take for granted our modern existence that we forget how quickly everything could change. We know about global warming, but do we really FEEL what major climate changes will mean? Perhaps something like this will bring home to us the reality of life on Earth and help us to make important changes to fix things while we can. Even though this is not caused by us, we should really look at the things we HAVE caused and try to change our ways.

Are you all using your re-usable cloth bags when you shop? Do you recycle? Turn off excess electrical appliances? Use less plastic? I know you do; but maybe you can each convince one more of your friends that they should start doing these things as well.

Off my soapbox now.

Ciao for now.

Randy

This is crazy!

I know it, but I can’t stop myself. I’m actually researching SUN HATS online!!!

The temperature hasn’t been above 0 C (32 F) in days, and I’m worried about the summer! Really, I’m worried about keeping cool in the summer, so I was looking at those hats that have cooling beads inside them. You soak them in water and they’re supposed to keep you cool for hours.

We’re never satisfied, are we? Everyone is complaining about the snow and cold right now, but in a few short months, they’ll be saying it’s too hot. And, to be fair, I’ll probably be amongst them.

I think the thing I really mind most about the weather we’re having, to be honest, is that it makes walking a lot more difficult. I am NOT the world’s most graceful person, as I’ve often said. So, whenever there is any ice outside, I keep worrying so much about slipping and falling that I have trouble walking like a normal person. I DID finally break down and order strap on cleats to wear next year (I’m assuming I won’t have any more use for them this year!), hoping that will help me to at least feel more secure.

I am also going to toss out my hopelessly useless Moon Boots. I mean, really, what is the point of selling SNOW boots that aren’t waterproof? Why would you NEED them if it wasn’t snowing, which is, you know, FROZEN WATER! At any rate, by the time we get back from walking the dogs, especially after the snow has gotten all slushy, I have ice cold, wet feet. I think it’s some kind of communist plot; it’s the only explanation.

I even bought some waterproofing spray that did no good whatsoever. So, the Moon Boots are going to have to go.

But I’m still thinking about that sun hat…

Ciao for now.

Randy

Don’t Know

How this is going to play out, but we are under Orange Alert for snow and ice! Hey, what was I writing last week about Spring?  I guess anyone can be wrong.

I do remember some of the worse storms we ever had when I was growing up were spring storms, so I guess this is in line with tradition. Still, it’s a tradition I could do without.

I do love snow, but I feel that this winter we have had enough and I am now good and ready for spring. I guess there’s always the chance that it won’t be as bad as they are warning us about; it was apparently very, very heavy in the Vosges and other regions where it struck yesterday and earlier today.

So, think lovely, warm springtime thoughts and keep your fingers crossed!  I will do the same for all of you, no matter where you are.

Ciao for now.

Randy

Our Toulouse Adventure

In December we made an appointment with an eye specialist in Toulouse for my mother. Her corneas are badly scarred and we want to see what, if anything, they can do for her. The consultant only sees patients on Tuesday mornings, so this meant getting up at 5:30 to we could all be ready in time to leave at around 7:15.

What a mess!  The weather was raining and, worse, blowing, like crazy. Beanie does not have a good profile in a high wind, so driving her in those conditions is sometimes a bit challenging. The autoroute between Pamiers and where you connect to the main autoroute to Toulouse is the worst. The winds come right across the highway hard and fast. Strangely, there is talk of putting a new airport there, and I really wonder about the wisdom of that, even though it will be way more convenient than Blaignac for us.

We got to Toulouse in the middle of rush hour (I’d forgotten how horrible that is) and finally got to the hospital to discover that there’s major construction going on (tram line extension directly to the hospital and a new wing being built.) Unless you have a special pass (that we didn’t know we needed in advance) you can’t drive onto the hospital campus; there is NO parking at all for anyone other than employees.

A sympathetic security guard let me drop Mom and JM off at the right building (apparently very rare to find one who will do that without the pass) and I had to drive through a horrid maze to find my way out again. Then, I had to drive through a section of Toulouse I’ve never been to and try to find parking. Obviously all the nearby businesses have signs up to prevent you from parking there. I did manage to find a McDonald’s about 10 minutes away and figured, “what the hell” and just left the car there and walked back to the hospital. I wasn’t wearing enough clothes because I had no idea I would have to walk that far so by the time I got to the right building I was frozen.

I got to the right place, found JM and Mom only to discover that the DOCTOR WASN’T THERE!!!! They had “sent” letters to the patients, but apparently almost none of us received them! A lot of the other patients had come from far away like we had and no one was amused.

The upshot is that we made an appointment for the end of March with a doctor who sees people in the afternoons so we can avoid this little game again. I was really annoyed at myself because yesterday I had thought that I should call to make sure everything was all right, but I got distracted and didn’t do it. I’ll call next time for sure.

On top of that, I really needed to go to the bathroom so thought we could buy something at McDonald’s and I could use their bathroom. NO! They aren’t open for breakfast, so I had to drive all the way back home hoping we didn’t get stuck in any more traffic. I don’t like to use the restroom on the autoroute because they don’t have seats on the toilets and I can’t stand sitting directly on the cold porcelain. I tend to reserve that little experience only for times of true necessity with no other choice.

Anyway, we did make it home safely and while we were walking the dogs it started to snow, so things could have been worse.

Ciao for now.

Randy

The Strangest Thing EVER!!!

We were just out walking the dogs. It’s in the mid-40s, so not too, too cold; the sky is overcast but no rain, it’s not windy.

We had let the dogs do their usual thing and had just collected them to finish our walk and come back. Suddenly, out of nowhere there was a massive blast of wind. It was so powerful that JM and I had trouble standing against it. It was super loud, like a freight train and the weirdest part of all was that it was blowing hot air like you would encounter in July or August! It lasted for 30 or 40 seconds, then simply stopped.

There was no funnel cloud, so I don’t think it was anything like a tornado. No particularly strong winds are in the forecast either.

Clearly, if you’re like me and JM, you start going towards relatively far-fetched kinds of explanations. Me being the anxious type, my first thought was that it was the leading edge of a nuclear blast or an explosion. However, there wasn’t any type of noise like that other than the sound of the wind itself. JM’s first thought was that a cloaked alien ship had landed in the empty field where we were standing. We couldn’t see it, because it was, well, cloaked!

We came home and no one in the village seems to have noticed a thing. I just hope we’re not radioactive.

Ciao for now and may you have a Joyful, alien-free Christmas!

Randy

Dangerous Surfing In France

It’s all about the internet, of course, and the really, really fine print in the contract.

Now that so many people are choosing to use smartphones and netbooks for most of their internet access, they are tempted by the exciting offers of the various telephone companies. Unlimited internet via 3G sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, although the TIME you are online isn’t limited, the amount of bandwidth IS limited! Also, since we’re all one happy European family now, most people don’t hesitate to use their phones and net services when they cross the border into Spain or Belgium.  They soon discover the error of their ways.

Yesterday the big story was about a man living in Northern France near the Belgian border. He signed up for an account with Orange in August. His first bill for for 45,000€ for one month of access!! The gag is that much of that cost was for “roaming”charges in Belgium. Only he hadn’t set foot in Belgium. How could it have happened? Well, apparently when you are on the border between two networks, your phone automatically picks the best network. Because of his location, that network was often the Belgian network! This is apparently a big problem for everyone in similar circumstances, because most people never bother to look to see which network their phone is using.

Today, a host of other cases are making the news. Many, many people are discovering these horrible, abusive invoices from their service providers. And they are not all uniformed consumers; a lot of them are people who think they understand what they’re signing. But clearly this is not the case.

I am sure that this will have to be addressed, as you can’t have so many individuals finding themselves in massive debt to a phone company without some action being taken. I don’t know where it will go, but I’m watching. And I’m also feeling very relieved that smelled a rat when I renewed my cell phone service and decided not to go for any “extras!”

Ciao for now.

Randy

Not this weekend!!!!

The rain that we so badly need has arrived (not much for us so far) and it is gray and Octobery. And I don’t mind, really. However, this weekend is the agricultural fair at Espezel! We look forward to that all year and I cannot imagine that it will be much fun if it’s raining!

I’m not sure which will be worse: wandering through the streets trying to look at what people are selling while juggling an umbrella, being hit in the face by OTHER peoples’ umbrellas, getting wet feet or wandering up to the livestock tents in a field of mud. To be honest, none of that sounds like a thrill a minute.

So, for once I’m going to hope for NO RAIN, at least on Saturday and Sunday. I also think it would be very sad for the seller’s who probably count on making a lot of money next weekend. Do you go or do you not go? I have to admit if it was me, I would be torn.

Ciao for now.

Randy

Nosy Neighbors and Why We Need Them

JM spoke to my MIL yesterday. She told him that Papa had gone out to get the papers Sunday morning (they live in Paris) and she suddenly realized he had been gone for a long time. She was starting to worry (okay, worry is what she does best, but still) when he finally appeared, all white-faced.

It turns out that there were some roadworks on the street where he buys the newspaper and he slipped in the mud. This caused him to fall into a trench in the road. He’s almost 80 and was unable to get out on his own, so yelled for help. Three people passed by and not one of them would help him! They were all “too busy!”  Imagine; an 80-year-old man is stuck in a trench but you are “too busy” to stop to help him or even call the police to get him out????

Eventually, with great effort, he managed to escape his prison, and is luckily doing okay, but things could have been much, much worse.

While we were still recovering from the shock of this news, we read a story in this morning’s paper that was more horrifying. An elderly man in a Parisian suburb was recently found dead of natural causes. Judging from the letters in his overflowing mailbox and an expired yogurt in his refrigerator, he had been dead for TWO YEARS!!! All of his bills were paid by direct debit, so there were no unpaid bills to make people suspicious. The only reason anyone checked on him was because there was a “bad odor” coming from his apartment.

The management company for the apartment building says that the “responsibility” is shared, and I suppose that’s true. But shouldn’t the mailman at least have thought there was something odd about a mailbox that hadn’t been emptied in two years?? Was he so unlikeable that even his family (in Portugal) didn’t wonder where he was?

In the same article it mentions a woman in another Paris suburb who was found dead after six months in her apartment. Again, no one had thought to check on her.

I can tell you that this could not happen here in the Possum Kingdom. If one of the neighbors has their shutters closed and they are not known to have gone away, someone will check on them.

Now, when we were moving here, my Parisian MIL said she didn’t like villages because “everyone knows your business.” I have to say that is precisely WHY I like living in a village. I like the idea that if I’m not out and about, someone is going to notice and worry about me.

Sure, both of those people would still probably be dead, but at least someone would have gone to see. And, certainly, my FIL would not have had to lie in a muddy ditch worried that he was going to die there.

Bless my nosy neighbors.

Ciao for now.

Randy