07 March 2013


What's really going on here these days? Well, we blog about the weather all the time, because it's been so long since we had really nice days. It is a little depressing. But the weather will probably improve soon.

What's going on with our neighbors is even more depressing, in some ways. First, there has been some controversy over the undergrounding of our electric lines and the installation of a ground-level transformer unit for the hamlet to replace the one that's currently on a pole out by the pond.

A tangle of vines

When the electric company asked our neighbors — the ones who spend 10 months of the year in Blois and just the two summer months in Saint-Aignan — about locating the transformer unit on their land, they had a fit. (That's how the mayor described it.) They said they didn't see why the transformer unit should be on their property because they don't even really live here. Never mind that the electric radiators in their house across the road stay on all winter long!

Anyway, there's been conflict and we've been kind of caught in the middle. The upshot is that the transformer is going to be located on our property. That's not a big problem, but the whole situation has been a little tense. The neighbors aren't happy, the electric company isn't happy, and... well, enough said, for now. We'll see how it plays out.

The hamlet in the distance

Meanwhile, our other neighbor, the one who suffers from MS (I think that's what he has), is failing now. When we arrived here 10 years ago, he was still able to drive and basically take care of himself. Then for years, we didn't see much of him at all. He lives alone.

He has a lot of help. There are aides ménagères — women who cook and clean for him — there every day. We see their cars, and we have had conversations with some of them. There are also several aides soignantes — nurses or paramedics — who come by every day, and there is one man who drives a big Mercedes and carries a black satchel, leading us to assume he is a doctor, who comes to the neighbor's house five days a week at noon nowadays.

The problem since Christmas is that the neighbor man keeps falling. He wears a device that looks like a wristwatch with a button on it he can press to call for help when he falls or otherwise needs assistance. He has given our phone number to the emergency service that takes his calls. The emergency service has called us half a dozen times now to ask if we can go help the man get back up off the floor. We've done so and don't mind, but it is really not a good situation.

We've had two such calls this week. One evening (my birthday), the call came and Walt and I went over there. The neighbor was sprawled on the cold tile floor in the doorway between his kitchen and living room, basically naked and completely unable to move. All he had on was a thick sweater jacket — no pants or anything else. We were able to pick him up and get him settled in a dining-room chair.

The next day (yesterday), the woman who came in to spend the morning over there called at about 8:30. Walt was out walking Callie. The woman said the neighbor had fallen again and she needed help, if I could come over. I said sure. It turned out the neighbor had fallen a second time soon after we left him the evening before and had spent the whole night sprawled on the dining room floor (cold, hard tile), wearing just that sweater jacket. He was cold and stiff and said he was in pain as the woman and I helped him up and got him settled in a big recliner (a hospital chair of some kind).

Firewood out in the vineyard — whose it is, I don't know

So it's a bad situation. Walt and I of course have no training, so we are willing but not qualified. He's heavy and it's not easy to get him up off the floor (I don't have the strength I used to have). I don't think the man is going to be able to live there alone much longer, even with all the helpers he has. Twice this winter his fuel oil has run out and he's spent days and nights with no heat, it turns out.

I don't know. Maybe he'll pull through another time, once the weather improves, and he'll be able to stay in his house rather than be re-located to an assisted-living facility of some kind. He'll be 71 years old next month, he told me the other day. He has a couple of daughters who live in Paris and another down in the Avignon area. They come to see him two or three times a year for a few days. I don't know if they are aware of the gravity of their father's situation.

So there. We blog about cooking and photography and walking the dog and the weather, but now you know more about what is going on around the hamlet. I have some food pictures — the birthday duck and beans, etc. — but I'll spare you.


  1. Happy belated Birthday from all of us.

    It is very very nice of you to help a neighbor in need. Agreed however that the situation is not healthy.

    Hopefully a solution can be found for a dignified next chapter for the man.

  2. Oh dear, it's not a nice situation for the poor man or for you, having to deal with his falls. It's very kind of you but it must be sressful, wondering what you are going to find each time you go round.

    It does sound like the time is right for him to go into a home of some kind, where he would be safer.

    I dread the time when this happens to one of us - don't we all - and 71 is quite young to be in such a state. He's only ten years older than I am.

  3. Oh Ken, this is so sad...thank goodness that you and Walt have been around to help.
    It's time for his family to place him in an elderly hospice for needed care.
    I would hate to think of the outcome if no one is available to help, especially since you and Walt will be traveling soon.

  4. the poor man should not be living alone.....the children should be doing more....it is really hard to get someone up off the floor....I know y'all are quite willing to help, but it is asking a bit much to continue over an extended period of time...obviously he needs to be in a place where there r people around 24/7.....seriously, call in the children....they should be handling this

  5. Oh dear Ken, not a good situation for you and Walt, like you say, you don't mind doing it but it isn't fair to your neighbour to be in this situation, maybe he hasn't the funds to go into assisted accommodation but I would have thought with MS or something similar he would have had some sort of option, but I guess as long as you are willing to do it they will let you, you guys take care and don't overdo it - Roz

  6. Melinda, we don't know the children and don't know how to contact them. But we can certainly talk to the care-givers, and we can go to the mayor if the situation doesn't seem to be improving.

    Roz, thanks. There was a lot of activity over there today, with some familiar cars and also some new ones. It's hard to decide when to get involved. Or is it interfering?

    Jean, the man is only seven years older than I am...


  7. Virginia, I was going to say that yes, I will be traveling soon. I'll talk to the people who can make as difference before I leave.

    H. Peter, I agree completely.

  8. Well done you two... neighbours are needed... none of us knows when or why we'll need help from people living nearby.

    But as Virginia says... you'll be travelling soon... the people that are really responsible for him need to make sure his relatives are ready to respond...

  9. Ken

    I was going to suggest that you speak with the mayor. May be she knows or has the contact number of one of his daughters.

    BTW: I wanted to send you the following on the night of your birthday ( it was already the 6th in Mareuil):


  10. I hope the increased activity at your neighbors means that the fellow is being moved to a safer place-it's time.

    It's frightening what can happen to us at any age, you are kind to help but you can't prevent the consequences of his falls.

  11. I know few people with MS, much younger than this gentleman. How sad for him to live by himself. I hope a permanent decision about his life will be made very soon as he definitively needs 24 hour care.

  12. Hi Ken, Your neighbor's children need to be informed of his condition. He should be the one to inform them, but if he can't or won't, then someone else needs to. You cannot be expected to be permanently on call. What you are doing is very nice, but he's gone beyond the kind of help you can offer. He needs constant help, as in assisted living, which, unfortunately, is not easy to find in France, nor as comfortable as in the States.
    If he doesn't want to contact his kids, he might not want anyone else to contact them, either. In that case, someone needs to contact the D.D.A.S. You could, but really one of the professionals that comes by all the time should do it.
    It's sad. Your hamlet is so tiny; it's a shame to think you'd be losing another inhabitant.

  13. Oh, my. I read this this morning and it saddened me so, that I couldn't even comment. My mom (who is 88) lives alone, but in my same area, and she is still in amazing health, but... she does fall. It panics both of us. I can't imagine this poor man's emotions and mental state after dealing with these recent falls.

    You two are such kind and good men. I mean that so sincerely. It is so, so good of you to be there for him-- but, of course, this is past what a neighbor can take care of. Please keep us posted on this.

    Whatever happened with that other neighbor... wasn't there an older woman who was living alone and having problems?

  14. He's rather young to be having that much trouble and obviously needs to have 24-hour care. Good thing yo don't live in the US; his family would probably be suing you for going over to help him.

  15. Another solution would be to hire someone to live with him--or is that not done in France?

  16. Hi Ellen, two of the neighbor's daughters were here visiting him last week. The part-time housekeeper told me that their visit was one of the reasons he was so exhausted and fell twice this week.

    Chris, I don't know the answer to your question. I can only hope that the man is getting good care, and it seems that he is. I'm sure somebody will soon make a decision about his living arrangements.

    Judy, three of our neighbors, all in their 90s, have died over the past 10 years. Now another neighbor, 92, is pretty much a shut-in. Her daughter, who like me is 64, lives with her and she also has care-givers who come in nearly every day. People in France live to a very old age, and this is part of the process.

  17. Starman, that could happen here too, from what I've been told. I'm having to re-think my involvement in the whole situation.

  18. Just now reading your and your neighbor's predicament. Growing elderly and suffering the consequences is not easy to acknowledge - especially those of us that see the future and this is what is possible for us, too.
    Having you and Walt for neighbors must be a blessing to his family. I'm hoping that a good solution has been achieved because of all of the activity you have reported. He needs more help than you and Walt can provide.

  19. Thank you for helping that man. Isn't it sad? So isolated and so in need of help. You and Walt are good, but it's clear your neighbor needs much more support--assisted living sounds like a good idea. Take care.


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