We had a call from Jan last Sunday to let us know that the trees we had asked him to buy for us in Belgium were available, and we picked them up on Monday afternoon. Pictured here, temporarily held in the terrace (about three feet above the ground level at this point) whilst waiting for the rain to stop are, left to right, cooking apple, nectarine and walnut. We also have three willow whips which I shall put into the ground before they are used for something I may come to regret!
The first job now was to work out where to put them. The walnut could grow to be quite large – the label says 12m in height, the books say 10m spread (and little, if anything, can grow in its shade as the roots and leaves contain substances that will stop many things growing) – so careful thought was given to where it should be placed. By placing the walnut at the bottom of the slope adjacent to the top of the ramp, the lower branches should be at waist- to eye-level when seen from the top of the ramp, and there is nothing in the area covered by its potential spread that can be harmed by its presence. The large cooking apple tree is planted south of the cherry tree to continue the layout of the orchard, and the nectarine has taken the nice sunny, sheltered position that was briefly occupied by the effing greenhouse which, you will recall, I never wanted in the first place. I just hope it can withstand a stiff breeze better than the effing greenhouse did! Finally, the willow whips have been unceremoniously implicated into the soil (one near the pond and the other two in the wild area) and left to get on with it, along with an indeterminate number of wild flower seeds – not like the sunflowers in my area which will be cosseted beyond belief – NOT.My general view is that plants have an enormously strong survival drive, and thus should be able to stand up to whatever the weather throws at them. That may explain why none of my broad bean plants survived the onset of winter! In any event, we have also planted out sweetcorn, broad beans, pumpkins and sunflowers whilst it was dry! That was Tuesday. Tuesday night was frosty but, fortunately, everything looked as expected on Wednesday.
Good news! Wednesday morning, dear sweet post lady brought the attestation from CPAM! We are now, effective from 14th April, officially affiliated to the state health system. The long wait is finally over.
We travelled up to Montluçon on Thursday for my appointment with the anaesthetist. The waiting room was not full, and we were seen within twenty minutes of the appointed time, which I regard as very acceptable. The anaesthetist (or as they, worryingly, like to call themselves here – anaesthetist/resuscitator) asked a few questions just to confirm what I had written on the form, transcribed much of it to another, similar, form and pumped my arm up for a blood pressure test. She then told me I had to produce various blood test reports before turning up for the operation. I could either arrange these myself through a lab of my choosing or use the lab in the clinic. I chose the latter as, although I have previous experience of blood tests through the lab in St Eloy-les-Mines, I didn’t see the point in arranging for a technician to visit when I could do it there and then.
The young woman in the lab reception who took down my details made a couple of errors and got into a state with the address and telephone number. I don’t think it was my French, as the woman sat beside her pointed out what she had done wrong.
I don’t have a blood group card. That meant I had to have two extra lots of blood taken and produce two means of identification with photograph, full name and date of birth, so they can issue one. I carry my passport and my UK driving licence with me all the time, so that was not a problem. What was a problem was a combination of two things:
- My Passport and D/L showed my birth date as 14th June, the form produced by the office had it as 4th. No problem, correct and print a new form
- My Passport and D/L showed my forenames as Keith Edgar, the form produced by the office had my forename as Keith. This gave rise to an entertaining couple of minutes when I explained that Edgar is a second forename – no, not Keith-Edgar as in Jean-Pierre, but two distinct forenames. If a form asks for forename(s) it gets both, if it asks for forename it gets just Keith. As an aside, when we initially opened our bank accounts here, the manager asked how we should like to see our names shown on our debit cards. I indicated no preference, but Clare said she didn’t want Jacqueline Channing as everyone knows her as Clare, so could she have J Clare Channing. When they came, Clare’s is shown as J-Clare Channing, mine as K-Edgar Channing. Perhaps he thinks that is how we do it in the United Kingdom.
Nonetheless, the blood samples were duly taken – eight vials in all – we paid the anaesthetist’s receptionist for the interview (28€ for five minutes). The test results, invoices for the blood tests, which totalled 85€ and my blood group card arrived on Saturday.
Oh yes! Lest I forget – I have another form to sign before they will do the operation. I have to sign to say that I have read and understood the two-page document telling me all about anaesthesia and its potential risks, and that I consent to it anyway. Of course I have, and of course I do – who do they think I am, Ivander bleedin’ Holyfield?
I can’t wait to get this over and done with!
The weather all week has been quite variable – some cool but sunny, some frost, some heavy rain and even some hail. Yesterday (Saturday) afternoon we went to Montluçon for a couple of minor purchases. We took the MX-5 to give her an outing and ended up driving back with the roof down (and my hat on my head to prevent the nasty, evil, vicious, spiteful Sun God from taking another shot at killing me). It actually felt very warm – even at 90Kph, ant it was after 6pm. Having said that, half way home it clouded over, there was rain close by, and we were feeling the wind from the rain, so the wisdom of going topless was called into question.
Next Sunday will be quite hectic. The annual St. George’s celebration is taking place in St Maigner. This year the festivities will take the form of an historical reenactment of life in the village under Napoleon III. The date chosen is 1860, which means it is well within the lifetime of our house which, you will recall from last year, we believe to have been built somewhere around 1800 and certainly before 1830. It was the time of the war in Mexico to which a lot of men were being drafted, and the early stages of mechanisation of farm work. I shall be interested to see how some of the artefacts compare with the old ploughs etc that we have on our property here. The event starts at about 9am and continues well into the evening.
Also next Sunday, Tania is planning to visit so she can be here when I go in for my operation on Monday 28th; and there is the small matter of the Bahrain Grand Prix which I obviously can’t trust to be run properly unless I am watching it!
As an afterthought – following last week’s mention of the crazed tit, we did some research and it seems that the bird sees its own reflection and attacks it. I have two problems with that:
- Why does it jump, in some cases by over two feet, to attack its reflection, when its reflection is at its own level?
- Why does closing heavy curtains, which would enhance its reflection, cause it to stop – always, reliably and without fail?
The clever people tell us it is attacking its own reflection. We can observe birds’ behaviour and, where we see repeated patterns, we can make assumptions and draw inferences about causes and motivations. I doubt, though, whether any human, after countless aeons of civilisation have robbed us of practically every primitive instinct, can possibly state with authority what motivates a small creature to do anything beyond the most basic actions.
After, afterthought – the blighter just started doing it with the heavy curtain closed. Shows how much I know!
Have a good week.
À la prochaine