Thursday, 29 December 2011


There obviously is no code of honour among the French roofing fraternity.

I got terribly excited this morning when I heard hammering and male voices coming from the Belgian's roof. Could it be Pascale, returned from a fortnight of festive frolicking, determined to make the Belgian's roof an accomplishment of 2011?

Alas no. When I went out to check my post box, I recognised the johnny-come-lately roofers who only yesterday finished a repair to the house across the square. The Belgian has obviously decided enough is enough. Poor Pascale.

According to Michelle (the toothless one-eyed cadger with a speech impediment) Pascale has been in the grip of la grippe for the last 2 weeks. I tend to take most things Michelle says (when I can decipher them) with a pinch of salt as it's usually a meandering prelude to trying to borrow money from me; however... In this instance, when I think back to the horrendous weather, and the poor little Frenchman being lashed by torrential rain trying to nail down laths and insulation in the teeth of a fierce gale, I wouldn't be surprised if she is right.

Will the Belgian's roof ever get finished? Will Pascale ever get his scaffold back? Will anyone notice if I sneak out under cover of darkness and collect the old laths and off-cuts for kindling?

Twitch Twitch!!

Wednesday, 28 December 2011


My name is Michaela Paine, and I am a nosy neighbour.

Now, the Belgian that lives round the corner is having his roof done. I know this to be true because sometime in early November a man arrived and put up a scaffolding. He also removed a significant number of old slates, covered the roof with a blue tarpaulin then disappeared.

In the following week, the lady next door had her ENTIRE roof replaced. For an idea of the scale of this job, see left. It took the roofers a week. Granted there were four of them and they had cherry pickers; but they started at 8:00h and worked through til 18:00h being careful to observe the mandatory 2 hour lunch break in the middle of the day
(photo credit Nick Terrett)

Exactly WHY she, at the age of 93 has decided to have her roof done now is another mystery. My dear friends the Halls-Holmsens are particularly curious as she owns a bit of land that backs onto their property that she has hitherto refused to sell them...

The Belgian's roofer is called Pascale. Whenever I pass comment with any of my other neighbours about the spectacularly sedate pace at which work is progressing on the Belgian's roof, I get a conversational rap across the knuckles and told how sympathique he is, and how amazingly good at his job. I'm not passing comment on his skill, how could I? I'm yet to see any of his actual work.

Mid December, just as the weather changed from temperate and sunny to very wet and windy, the blue tarpaulin came down. Poor Pascale spent a few horrendous days up on the roof, which now looks like this. I felt so sorry for him, I took him out a hot cup of coffee and a biscuit; and then he buggered off again for Christmas. It doesn't take Hercule Poirot to work out that his priorities are not with the Belgian's roof.

I've nothing against the Belgian (except when he parks his bloody huge car practically inside my front window) but I think if he spent a little more time in the Haute Vienne and less time in the land of Stella Artois his roof would be done by now. That said, when my roof needs doing, I won't be asking Pascale.

The reason I'm telling you this is that the Belgian has just re-appeared. Pascale has not.

Twitch twitch twitchetty twitch!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011


There have been dramas. There has two days spent doing nothing but washing baby clothes and hanging curtains(me); and painting walls and ceilings (the Tall One). This allocation of tasks has nothing to do with gender stereotyping and everything to do with body size and mental application.

However, having been told that my amniotic fluid is disastrously low and my placenta is looking dangerously old on the Monday, I arrive, suitcase in hand expecting to be induced on the Wednesday only to be sent home again.

Subsequent scans reveal that my fluid levels are fine and that my ancient placenta has rejuvenated itself. We're ruling out Botox on the grounds that if my placenta decided to slip off for a spa weekend it would have to take the baby with it and that I would definitely notice. Everyone's a bit mystified but it means I'm given a get-out-of-hospital-free card that is valid until my due date; now agreed to be the 14th January.

I KNOW that my baby is fine. Obviously given that I have no medical experience and no previous experience of childbirth they're not about to take the chance that I'm right; and in their shoes I'd probably do the same. But watch this space. When the time is right, I'll be able to say:


Sunday, 11 December 2011


A conversation with a Nina W's teenage daughter* lead me to ponder on the following:



Two very different things entirely but both fairly terrifying for a teenager. As you get older the fear of the former (hopefully) recedes and the latter for some becomes much sought after.

Oddly, the word DUFFER is not a term used to describe someone who causes either of the above conditions, rather someone who is perceived to be a bit of a pillock.

It should be pointed out that just because someone is a bit of a pillock doesn't mean they won't duff you up or get you up the duff. However, the word "Duffer" is seldom used outside of Enid Blyton books so unless you're planning a Famous Five re-enactment event, confusion is unlikely to occur. Luckily.

*Just to clarify, Millie is not to my knowledge up the duff. Although she did get duffed up at school. That's what you get for using words of more than one syllable in front of people with fewer than the average quota of functioning brain cells.

Millie needn't worry. When she and her fabulous bohemian friends are in the vanguard of a new and exciting 2020s arts explosion, the violent thickos will still be struggling with the meaning of the word 'imbecile'.

Friday, 9 December 2011


I know I said no more knocking off of plaster, but I couldn't hep it! It came away in my hand!

When you discover this:

it makes you curious to know whether it could be turned into something like this.

So you do a bit of this

until you get this.

Then you either have to wait until Paul is free to do the same kind of pointing job he did on the second picture, or you have to read the chapter in the DIY book on pointing and have a go yourself.

This (below) is too much and will require you to either escalate the plaster removal to the entire wall and window surround or stop immediately and read the chapter on 'amateur plastering and the gentle art of botching it'


Tuesday, 6 December 2011

The Good, The Bad and the Partially Diabetic

A while ago, Paul Hipp, a friend from across the big pond wrote a satirical song about the world healthcare rankings and America's position therein (No. 37).

Check it out HERE

From this I learned that Britain is ranked #18 and FRANCE is ranked #1. Not sure that in this post-Bush era this still stands but I'm certainly getting a huge amount of attention from the healthcare professionals here.


There's a routine test over here where you go in starving, they take some blood, give you a glass of glucose-laden, radio-active poison then make you wait an hour on the hardest chairs outside of a monastery. Then they take more blood, make you wait ANOTHER hour, take yet MORE blood before releasing you into the autumnal morning; cold and nauseous, with a very sore arse.

On one of the tests, I'm .4 of a gram over what they expect so immediately I'm packed off to Diabetic School with the unhealthy and the clinically obese, where I'm given lectures on how to eat and exercise properly. The only thing that prevents me from chewing my own arm off is the fact that it is all in French. Big thanks to the Tall One for sitting through it with me and giving a convincing impression of someone who is at least half awake.

They prescribe me an apparatus for testing my blood, and I am yet to see a result that is even vaguely worrying. It's not like the British Justice system. I am diabetic until proven innocent.


The same SAGE FEMME (midwife) who packs me off to Diabtetic School for .4 of a gram also tuts and huffs about my baby being small. BAD lady. He's NOT small. He's fine.


Madame Huffy-Tutty Pants books me in for more echograhie (scans) and gives me a prescription for a private midwife to visit me CHEZ MOI twice a week. This is amazing on so many levels.

i) Someone is paid to spend up to 2 hours per week with me obsessing about my baby.

ii) We listen to his heart for a full 30 minutes at a time. I even get a print-out.

iii) I don't have to travel to Limoges for the privilege.

iv) As my attestation for my Carte Vitale has come through, I don't have to pay a thing. €90 per visit. Woo hoo!

v) The Tall One found me a midwife who not only speaks a bit of English, but also trained in the UK and KNOWS THE NHS SYSTEM. Together we deduce that the reason Mme HTP thinks he is small is because they have my dates out by at least a week. The French count the start of your pregnancy from conception. The English from the first day of your last period. 2 weeks difference.

vi) This fabulous lady is also my personal admin terrier. It transpires that even though my attestation has come through, because I don't have a piece of paper confirming my pregnancy from CPAM I'm not officially pregnant. She is on the phone to them, sorting out their bureaucratic asses.

So there you have it. Whether I am diabetic or not, whether or not he is small (he's bloody not), the good far outweighs the bad. Hurrah for France. Number 1 healthcare system in the world.