30 June 2022
29 June 2022
28 June 2022
27 June 2022
26 June 2022
On another subject, we're having a lot of trouble with our internet connection right now. It started yesterday morning. When I turned on my computer, it wasn't connected to the internet. I restarted the router and it connected, but then the television froze. I think that's because it too was connected to the internet and it froze when the connnection was interrupted. I had to restart the decoder box by doing a hard reset. This morning it did the same thing. Yesterday afternoon the connection was dropped too. This morning, including right at this moment, the DSL is again dsconnected.
25 June 2022
There are two reasons for so much new development. One is the presence of the Zooparc de Beaval just a few minutes farther south. Annually, hundreds of thousands (maybe a million) visit the zoo to see its white tigers, manatees, exotic birds, and, especially, its giant pandas from China. All those people — whole families, including countless children of course — need places to buy groceries and eat breakfast and lunch. And they need parking, since I'm sure nearly 100% of them arrive by car. There are at least three new hotels nearby, and another one under construction. More and more houses and apartments around the town are being turned into vacation rentals (gîtes ruraux, Air Bnbs, etc.) You should see the miles-long traffic backups across the area on fine weekend days in summer and during school holidays year-round.
I certainly don't like the traffic, but it's not heavy 365 days a year the way it was in the San Francisco Bay Area. But I do like the bread and pastries from Cassy's (made and baked on site, they say) and, especially, the fresh produce at Terre Y Fruits. It seems to be very well managed, with reasonable prices and beautiful fruits and vegetables that seem to be carefully carefully maintained so you seldom see anything in the store that looks like it's past its prime. Above is a photo of some of the priduce I bought there yesterday morning — apricots, plums, cherries, etc. I also got delicious tomatoes and two of the most perfect avocados I've ever seen, along with a big head of local lettuce of a type (salade multifeuilles) I'd never seen before.
Meanwhile, we're having a rainy weekend with high temperatures in the upper 60s in ºF (between 15 and 20 in ºC). It definitely feels chilly. That brief idea about getting some kind of air-conditioning in the house seems like a distant dream. Or nightmare.
24 June 2022
As for the Citroën [see-tro-'ehn], I was planning to take it in for service about now. The last time it was serviced was a year ago. At the time, its odometer read 100,400 kilometers. Right now, the odometer shows 102,400. That means we've driven it two thousand kilometers (1,200 miles) in 12 months — an average of 100 miles a month. In fact, I've only put 12,000 miles (20,000 kilometres) since I bought it seven years ago. At the end of my career in the SF Bay area, I was driving 100 miles a day just to get to work and back from our house in San Francisco to my job in Silicon Valley.
Above is a picture of my Peugeot 206 that I took this morning. To me it still looks and drives like a new car. I think it's the best car I've ever owned, and certainly the one I've owned the longest (19 years). It has nearly 200,0000 kilometers (120,000 miles) on it. It's almost 22 years old. I put as many kilometers on the Peugeot annually as I put on the Citroën. With fuel prices what they are right now, it's just as well.
Over the course of my life I've owned five new cars: a 1973 Opel, a 1984 Subaru, a 1990 VW Jetta, and two VW Passats (1993 and 1996 models). I've also owned a used 1966 Ford Fairlane and a used 1973 Renault 4L. Only the 1990 Jetta (and possibly the 1973 Renault) was more fun to drive than the Peugeot, which still looks like a new car. Just above is a photo of the other French car I've owned, a Renault 4 that looks like the one I had in Paris in 1981-82. The much larger and more comfortable 2007 Citroën C4 is almost 15 years old already, but you'd never know it. I bought the Peugeot and Citroën, both used, here in Saint-Aignan.
23 June 2022
Bertie the black cat turned 16 in May. He's been living here for 12 of those years. He's half Siamese, we think, and an accomplished hunter. He's missing a couple of fangs and has had various injuries over the years, but he seems to be in good health, basically. Of him, his vet says in French: Il est cool. He spends more and more time in the house these days, and less time outdoors prowling — especially at night, when we usually are able to shut him in. Bertie was born here in the Saint-Aignan area, and his first family was made up of himself, a small dog and two British friends of ours. They left him with us when they moved back to the United Kingdom in 2010.
Tasha and Bertie get along swimmingly. They eat together, drink out of the water bowl together, sometimes take naps together, and generally just hang out together peacefully. It's a nice situation, and a nice atmosphere. In the first photo above, Tasha is watching Walt intently to see if he might be ready to give her her lunch. The the second photo, I said her name and she immediately turned her head toward me to see what I was up to.
22 June 2022
The first time I ever saw a hoopoe was in 2008 on the île d'Oléron, just off the French Atlantic coast not far north of Bordeaux. I wrote about it here (two linked posts). We knew there were hoopoes around the vineyard this year because we've been hearing their distinctive poo-opp-poo call in the distance. I didn't expect to see one so close to the house.
P.S. France has been experiencing a large number of hailstorms this month. Hailstones the size of ping-pong balls or even tennis balls have fallen all around Saint-Aignan, — as close as 10 miles north in the town of Contres. We have been spared. We got more than an inch of rain over the past two or three days, but no hail.
21 June 2022
20 June 2022
The 18-hour over-nighter in the ER at Romo was not exactly restful. Then I spent a few nights sleeping on our guest bed, just wrapped in a sheet. It's not an uncomfortable bed, but it's not the one I'm used to. And the heat! I'm not somebody who enjoys hot weather. And I'm not much bothered by cold weather. We keep the house at 18.5ºC (about 65ºF) during heating season and I find that comfortable. It's a lot hotter than that in here now, even with all the windows and doors open. So last night I really crashed. I'm happy to have done so.
19 June 2022
There was no news yesterday from the tile contractor. I guess I don't expect any, unless he sends us a bill for the garden shed work. We're glad the shed has been shored up and maybe now it won't fall down. The cracks in the walls don't matter, since we've never seen evidence of any water inside the shed after it has rained. Maybe we'll get some cement and patch the cracks ourselves, just for esthetic reasons.
I keep thinking about that emergency room at the hospital in Romorantin. The space where I spent about 18 hours on a gurney was not exactly a room. It was kind of a passageway with a door on each end, and a sink, a wall of shelves, and quite a few cabinets on one side. There was a lot of traffic through the space. When I first got there, there was a man on a gurney on the far side of the room from me. He basically slept, snoring loudly, all the time. And then a woman was brought in. My bed was pushed back to make room, and portable screens were set up to give each of us a modicum of privacy. The woman who was brought in had suffered a very bad fall at home, I gathered, eavesdropping shamelessly. I had nothing else to do. She screamed in pain every time she moved or one of the nurses tried to move her. She pleaded with the nurses — aidez-moi, aidez-moi — in a weak and squeaky voice. I could only imagine how old she was and what she looked like.
Then three young gendarmes came into the room and questioned her. How did you fall? She said she didn't know. Did you jump? No, she said. Did your husband push you? No again. I was beginning to understand that she had fallen out of a window, not down a flight of stairs. When she said she had fallen out of her bedroom window as she was washing it, they told she was wrong. You weren't in the bedroom. You were in the débarras (a room used as a storage or "junk" room) one floor up from your bedroom. We found a spray bottle of window-cleaner and a cleaning rag up there, and the window was open. I imagine it was what we call a French door. So how did you fall? Maybe I had a malaise, the woman said, almost sobbing. Had you been drinking alcohol? A little bit, she said. They ended their interrogation there.
Half an hour or so later, a couple of nurses came in to help the woman relieve herself. She again screamed in pain. And the nurses started interrogating her too, asking her pretty much the same questions the gandarmes had asked. When I told Walt about that, he said that maybe the nurses were working with the police to see if the woman's story was consistent — and because they seemed to suspect foul play. After that, a man wearing medical whites with SAMU Médecin (emergency squad doctor) printed on the back of the shirt, came in. He told the woman she had a cracked lumbar vertebrae and was why she was in such pain. He also questioned her about how she had been injured. You know, you fell from a third-floor window, a distance of 6 meters (20 feet) to the ground. Luckily you seem to have landed on your back and not on your head. Otherwise, you'd be dead now. At that point the woman was given a sedative and seemed to go to sleep. The screen separating us was re-positioned slightly and I could see the woman's head and face. She was younger and less frail-looking than I had imagined — maybe 50 years old with short, graying hair and an unwrinkled face.
The next morning, the man on the other side of her had disappeared and I hadn't even noticed. A doctor showed up to talk to me. He concluded that I was ready to be released. He handed me a prescription form for some drugs to take during my recovery. He advised me to go see an allergist and get tested. A nurse came over and took out the catheter though which I had been receiving some kind of medication intravenously. At the same time, I was talking to Walt on a cell phone that another nurse had let me use to call home for my ride. We were speaking English, of course, but the nurse interrupted and asked me if my friend was going to come pick me up. She smiled and said to me: Press down here because otherwise it's going to ring! That's what I heard, so I pressed a button on the phone I was holding in my hand. No, she said, and burst out laughing, pointing at a gauze pad on the back of my hand that she was holding in place. I laughed too, having understood. She hadn't said sonner (the French word for "to ring") but saigner (French for "to bleed"). A few minutes later I was outside waiting for Walt to arrive, and he and Tasha drove up about 10 minutes later. It was all like a dream.
P.S. The woman in the space next to me was given a Covid test at some point in all this. I asked a nurse if I could be tested too. No, she said, we're running short of tests and only giving them to people who are going to hospitalized after leaving the ER.
18 June 2022
I also just snapped this photo showing why the deck needs renovating. The underside of the structure needs to be
scraped or sand-blasted and probably painted. The deck edge needs some kind of treatment to prevent moss
and algae from growing on it when the weather turns rainy. You can't see them here,
but quite a few of the tiles on the deck are cracked and loose.
17 June 2022
16 June 2022
I wasn't here to do anything about those plants, at least not soon enough, and Walt was busy with other things too. Preparing food for my return was one task. Tuesday morning I had bought carrots, cucumbers, and beets for salads, but I wasn't here to peel, grate, and dice them on Wednesday. So Walt did it. Predictions had indicated that the really hot weather wouldn't start until today. Already this morning I have some kind of heat rash on my arms, and I just noticed that it is present on my legs as well. It itches.
Where was I? Well, in the emergeny room at the hospital in Romorantin, that's where. I had to spend the night, and that was the first time I've ever had to spend the night in the hospital. On Tuesday, I had taken Natasha out for her afternoon walk. Outside it was hot, or at least very warm, and the sun was blazing hot in a clear blue sky. I didn't walk for long — maybe 30 minutes — and I took a route that kept me and the dog under shade trees as much as possible. But even before I got back home at 5:00, I noticed some swelling in the left side of my face, near my mouth. I got home, had a glass a water, and told Walt what was going on. He said he was starting to see it. Over the next hour, the swelling continued to spread across the lower part of my face. My lips were puffy and tender.
By about 6:30, I realized I had to call for help. What if my throat starting swelling closed? Or my nasal passages, or my tongue? I called an emergency number for the little hospital in Saint-Aignan, which doesn't have an actual emergency room. The woman who answered the phone asked me to describe my symptoms. When she heard what I had to say, she told me she was going to transfer my call to a doctor at the local fire department's SAMU (Service d'Aide Médicale Urgente) — what I call a rescue squad. The doctor picked up in a minute or two, and asked me to describe my symptoms for him.
He especially wanted to know my age and whether I was having any difficulty breathing. He said he was sending out paramedics who would examine me. A few minutes later we started hearing the siren of an approaching rescue vehicle. When it arrived here, a nurse was one of the four men on board. He started checking my vital signs. The whole crew was astonished and impressed with how swollen my face was. One man started laughing every time he looked at me. He apologized, and I told him I realized that I looked like a freak or some kind of clown. I laughed with him because it was all good-natured.
The paramedics strapped me to the gurney, turned on the air-conditioning, tooted the siren a couple of times, and off we went. Nobody could tell me whether I'd need to spend the night over there or not. I didn't have anything with me except my French national health insurance card, and the prescription form from my doctor's office listing the pills I take regularly. No wallet, no money. I was dressed in shorts, a t-shirt, and sandals. I should have taken a cell phone with me, but that idea got lost in the shuffle. We headed toward the east, rocking and rattling, siren blaring at every intersection, and cooled by AC.
Here's what I looked like. I had snapped a selfie just before the paramedics got here.
15 June 2022
14 June 2022
13 June 2022
The photo above reminded me of my photo of the same scene (below),
taken from a slightly different angle, that I posted last week.
So the big white blob you see in the brasserie's photo (in the middle of the image) and in my photo (on the right side)
turns out to be the floodlit fronton or "pediment" of the building where the French Cour de Cassation sits
(daytime photo below). It's not the moon and it's not the dome of the Institut...
12 June 2022
11 June 2022
A bistrot is only open for lunch and dinner. It's menu is much more limited, often featuring daily specials. Bistro(t)s are smaller and have modest kitchens serving modest cuisine. They sell more wine than beer, and they strive to provide rapid service to customers. Bistrot food is more like food you might make at home. (The English-language spell-checker flags bistrot as an error, but in French it can be spelled with or without the final T. Either way the pronunciation is the same.)
A café, the article says, is an establishment where you go to enjoy a hot or cold beverage and spend time in conversation with friends. Cafés serve some food, including sandwiches, salads, and omelets. but it's more like snacks than full-blown meals. The article pointed out that some famous places in Paris that are called cafés are actually brasseries...
10 June 2022
the boulevard St-Germain and the rue de Cluny in the Quartier Latin where I've had dinners
a few times when staying overnight in Paris in advance of flying out to the U.S. the next day.
So yesterday I told Walt I had decided to go to the bank early next week and ask to have payment stopped on that check, which has not been cashed or deposited by the contractor. Then we'd start looking for somebody else to do the job. And we'd have use of the deck this summer. We would be able to put the patio furniture back out there, as well as some potted plants and a cabinet we use for storing pots, gardening tools, and other odds and ends. For far too long all that stuff has been cluttering up our garage.
This morning I did some quick and dirty research on the internet to see what steps I'd have to take in order to have payment on the check stopped. It appears to be impossible. The only justification for stopping payment (y faire opposition) on a French check is if it has been stolen or lost. In that case, if somebody sends the check through fraudulently, the bank will give you the money back and pursue whoever cashed it. I think I've understood that right. I still have to go the bank and ask for confirmation.
At the same time, I read on the internet that in France a check is valid and will be honored by the bank until a total of one year and one week has passed after the date it was written. Therefore, I believe that the check we sent the contractor 18 months ago is now null and void. Again, I have to get confirmation from the bank. If it really is no longer valid, we are free to start looking for a different contractor.
09 June 2022
08 June 2022
It's raining in Saint-Aignan this morning, and at least one weather site is predicting that we'll get a lot more rain over the course of the day. Hurray. Maybe I'll be found planting my collard patch tomorrow.
07 June 2022
I took them on the same day, five hours apart.
The Roman governors of Gaul and the earliest kings of France lived on the Île de la Cité in this complex, called le palais du roi. King Louis IX, known as saint Louis, lived here in the 13th century and had the Sainte-Chapelle built in a courtyard of the palace. The complex was turned into the palais de justice (the law courts) at the time of the 1789 Revolution.