31st October 2010

Now I've heard everything. Doctors in France are to offer medical services via webcam or instant messenger! A government decree authorising the online consultations has been published in the Journal Officiel. Health Minister Rosalyne Bachelot believes online surgeries will offer much needed support for rural areas where there is a shortage of doctors. Patients would log in to a secure website where a doctor will ask them a series of questions.
But it seems some doctors have their doubts. One doctor in Brittany told Le Telegramme that, although medical advice has long been given to known patients over the phone, that is not a consultation. No indeed. He explained that a consultation isn't just an exchange of information, it requires a physical exam. Well yes. You need to listen to a patient's breathing, for instance, without which an incorrect diagnosis is likely. I'd have thought there were other dangers too. I have found that French doctors don't recognise my English first name as feminine, so what's next? My being diagnosed with prostate problems?
And Him indoors? Don't ask. He says he's just waiting for the time when all medical consultations are over the phone: If you've got a bad leg, press 1; if you've got something unmentionable, press 2......
Enough said.

24th October 2010

Chaos theory reigns supreme. Take England. Please! We had arranged an early-morning hotel wake-up call for the Tuesday morning so that we could pick up our daughter at Heathrow. So, we were now 3 in the hotel room, she on crutches following breaking her foot. After a tiring day dealing with funeral agents, we were in a deep sleep when, you guessed it, the phone jangled at 04.30! 'Your early morning call, madame'. No! That was yesterday. 'It's on our system, madam'. After sorting that out, the following night loud bells again woke us. I blinked at the clock: 02.00h. Unbelievably, a fire alarm. Struggled out into the cold. The fact I had forgotten to pack my nightdress in the rush to leave home did not help! No fire wardens, no-one at all to help, nor to tell us when it was safe to go back in. Finally got back to sleep, when loud bells again woke us at 06.00h. On enquiry at reception, the under-manager had arrived for duty, heard about the fire alarm and was testing the system! I could almost hear Sybil shouting 'Basil, Basil...!' and Manuel 'Mr. Fawlty, eet iz only a drill'. Later, after the funeral, our sorry group returned to the hotel, feeling despondent, only to be met by a riotous wedding party and loud, jarring drumbeats all night.
After all that, the French strikes are almost a relief....

17th October 2010

Why do others make life so difficult for ordinary people? First, the anti-terrorist brigade - otherwise known as English customs -confiscate simple things in our luggage like the memorial candles for my late brother. I told them I'd just returned from the funeral, but 'he was only doing his job'. Yes, I know, it's the terrorists of this world I should be complaining about, but it's still hard. Some things in your luggage are simply too private and personal to be bandied about for the whole world to see.
Then, what happens when we're finally back in la belle France? Rioters on the streets, waving placards, throwing tear gas. Oil refineries shut down, so there's a real threat of running out of petrol - a worry for those of us living in rural areas where the car is an absolute necessity. Forgive me for thinking we're back in 1789. And what grave concern are all these Frenchmen protesting about? The perfectly reasonable and mild suggestion from Sarkozy of moving the retirement age from 60 to 62.
What's up with everyone? Life is difficult enough and ordinary people like us just want to be left alone to get on with our lives. Is that too much to ask?

10th October 2010

We are in England, returning to France tomorrow. Life is so strange: one minute you're going about your normal routine, then one phone call can turn everything upside down. My last remaining brother died suddenly and I was the only one to arrange the funeral, so over the last 7 days I've run the full gamut of funeral directors, coroner's courts and solicitors. But throughout it all, individuals have been so kind and thoughtful.
My head's in a whirl, so I'm glad I haven't been doing the driving. My head loses all its spatial awareness when approaching a traffic island on the 'wrong' side of the road. But all traffic rules these days are crazy anyway. A woman driver in Perigueux had to pull her car inches past a red traffic light to allow an ambulance with flashing lights to get past. It was just the sort of situation where a policeman would have assessed and understood the situation, but a mechanical GATSO camera? Yes: it flashed and she was issued with a ticket. Pay or else.
This past week has convinced me.
Please can we have more people and fewer machines!

3rd October 2010

Ever wondered what the French earn? The subject is a definite no no in France. It's more outrageous here to ask what someone earns than asking about their sex life! Currently 7.8 million French live below the poverty level of 949 euros p.m., with half of those living on less than 773 euros p.m. Actual poverty levels are worked out by calculating 60% of the average French wage. In 2008, this median figure was 19,000 euros p.a.
Him indoors said How Much?? But he's always pleading poverty, and says government statisticians have never asked him what he earns here. I remember only too well when we were in the UK. The bank manager said "we have a policy here Mr.......: you're supposed to put some money IN occasionally!" And even here in France, when he visited the chiropracter and the doctor said "this is going to hurt", Him indoors replied "why, are you about to give me the bill?"I know - you've heard some of his jokes before. But what can I do? I tried to emigrate away from them, but they're still with me!
The bottom line: apart from houses, wine and sunshine, France is expensive. Expats won't get benefit credits here, so don't make the move unless your monthly income is at least the above poverty levels.....Him indoors now knows.