Au revoir For The Summer

Many thanks to all my lovely followers for all your ‘likes’, comments and support this year. I’m afraid biking and visitors and other summer activities have overtaken us and so I’m going to say cheerio until the autumn.

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Hoping your summer is all the fun of the fair!

 

Saint Amand de Coly

Saint Amand de Coly is a beautiful little village in the heart of the black Perigord, in the Dordogne. You can find it approximately twenty kilometres from Sarlat and about ten kilometres from Montignac. The outstanding feature is the abbey, built during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and now under renovation. I’m not much into churches but this building had an amazing feeling when I walked in. The sheer size of it combined with a lack of the usual paintings and statues, the adornment of cobwebs, the smell of damp, the infiltration of a few pigeons and the musty silence has given it a kind of abandoned but magical feeling which I loved. We couldn’t walk all the way in due to the renovations, but stood at the barrier and just soaked up the ‘enormous silence’. That was until the pigeons came to life and started cooing. I’ve never heard anything quite like it! There were a maximum of about five birds but the echoes of their song was incredible, amplified in the hollowness it filled the entire abbey. I was mesmerized by it and wished I’d brought my camera which has a video function. Two days later we went back to try and record them but they weren’t quite as vocal that day. Hopefully you’ll get a little of the feeling from the video I did make.

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Four Ducati visitors

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Hoping you can read French

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Steps so smooth and worn by hundreds of feet over hundreds of years

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Two of the choir

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Possibly many of you would be more interested in the history of this lovely building than the sound of the pigeons!

 

 

Colonoscopy & Endoscopy in France

I was trundling along back in March this year, in my usual nonchalant and happy go lucky way when life suddenly made me sit down with a thump. About ten days earlier I’d done one of those home screening tests for bowel cancer and now I’d received a letter telling me my result was positive! Shit! I felt very weak and watery for a few minutes, and then as many of us would do I Googled as much info as I could. For a start a positive test didn’t mean I had cancer, it only meant that blood cells were present, and these could be caused by a number of things. Besides, the statistics said that nine out of ten people who test positive don’t have bowel cancer. Hmmm … but what if I’m unlucky number ten! You can’t discount it completely can you.

I shot off to my doctor who said I needed an appointment with the Gastro consultant, and I’d have to have a colonoscopy, and they would do it under general anaesthetic. Hell! I’ve never had a general anaesthetic, and quite dreaded the thought. I told my Doc that I felt as fit as a flea and as healthy as a horse, and I didn’t have a single solitary symptom that was on Google’s ‘Symptoms of bowel cancer’ list. My Doc smiled at me and said ‘Don’t worry,’ as she gave me a letter for the Gastro man. You jest, don’t worry! How can I not? I could be unlucky Number 10!

I made the appointment with the consultant which I couldn’t get until May 9th. A two month wait. Two more months of wondering. At this point I had a stern talk with myself and said: ‘Jude, you can either go into meltdown with worry, or you can live each day and put this thing in the freezer of your mind.’ I chose to live each day as normal, which I have to say took a huge amount of mental strength and determination. I had to stop my mind going off down wild tracks with visualisations of chemo therapy and whether I’d wear a wig or a scarf when I had no hair. I even wondered if I should write some message to be read out at my funeral. How crazy is the mind when there is fear. I’ve been reading a wonderful ‘Mindfulness’ blog nearly every day for the last few years, it’s taught me to observe my thoughts, and analyse them, and live for the now. It’s helped me to stop them short when they take off to undesirable places.

There’s probably one thing worse than facing hospital tests and procedures, and that’s going through the process in French when your French is pretty awful. I can speak a fair bit, but find it extremely hard to understand when people speak to me. And even when I ask them to speak slowly, sometimes I still get lost. A friend with good French came to the appointment with me, although I did manage to answer all the questions which pleased me greatly. The consultant confirmed that I would have a colonoscopy and also an endoscopy (camera into the stomach). He said that it was important to check out the stomach because problems in the stomach could cause blood cells to be passed through to the colon and be picked up by the screening test. Crumbs! I was going to have two ‘oscopies! Next however I had to have an appointment with the anaesthetist, and after that my date for the procedure would be June 3rd.

It was just a week ago Friday that I had to go in. The procedure was preceded by a three-day low residue diet which wasn’t too bad. Then came the worst part of the entire event. On the evening before the day of the procedure at 7pm I had to drink a cup of something called Citrafleet (the ‘clean-you-out’ medicine’) which is number one on the list of the worlds most vile drinks. Pour a sachet of white powder into cup of cold water and watch it bubble, leave it five minutes, then come back and find the cup is now warm! Possibly radioactive I’m thinking – but it’s not glowing so maybe I’m all right. Drink the festering gloop as fast as you can whilst holding your nose and then let nothing else pass your lips for an hour. Then for the next two hours drink two litres of water. Me who can’t get through a whole can of coke! It was singularly the most awful experience I ever remember in my life. Bloating, freezing cold, stinking headache,walking round and round the room trying to get the water to seep through the system. A bit like trying to pour water down a blocked drain. The foul gloop did work eventually but no sleep was to be had that night due to regular ‘visitations’.

At 04.30am joy of joys, I had to take my second dose of the devil’s draught and then drink another litre of water in half an hour. I really was absolutely dreading it. I did down the medicine, and was working my way through the first half-litre bottle of water, with my entire system screaming ‘no more!’ I gallantly gave it my best shot but was only part way through the water when I suddenly got that nasty little signal … the one that tells you that without any shadow of a doubt you are about to be violently sick. The one that says RUN! And I did, and all my efforts went down the toilet. Well bugger! What now? The second medicine probably hadn’t even had time to work! I’d probably have to do the whole thing again. How wretched would that be. I lay around, feeling half dead, until 06.30, then showered and got ready to go. We had to leave for the hospital at 06.45. But I was still feeling sick and needing the toilet, and we had a good forty-five minute drive to the hospital. Nightmare! I shoved a toilet roll in my pocket and a washing-up bowl in the car and prayed.

Thankfully we made it to the hospital without me having to use the bowl or leap out of the car and dive into the bushes. At reception they said it was not unusual to have been sick. Thank heavens, the procedure could go ahead. I went through the system which was incredibly professional and well-organised, with very kind staff, and without a single second of discomfort. I was all done and dusted and back on the ward by 10.00am. No pains and no discomfort. I was then offered some food and drink. Drink!!! Aargh! I never want to see water, or any bloody liquid ever again I told my hubby, who promptly drank my coffee for me. I have got over my liquid-aversion since then.

The final good news came when my consultant came around about 12.30. I did not have cancer, in fact I had a perfect colon – I’m sure you wanted to know that second bit. What I did have was a bacterial infection in the stomach. They took a sample during the endoscopy and it would be tested to see which particular bacteria it was. The results would be sent to my Doc who would give me some appropriate antibiotics. Great news!

The greatest lesson that came out of this for me was the observing of my mind. Mindfulness. Live now, live this minute, don’t waste today worrying about tomorrow, worrying about what might be. I achieved a great deal more control over my thoughts during those three months. I enjoyed good company, sunshine, sitting by the river, and of course getting out on the bike. A little while ago I found a great quote by Virgil. It seemed to fit perfectly with a photo clipped from the video as I followed my hubby past our local dinosaur facsimile.

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Death twitches my ear. Live, he says, I am coming!

Virgil

If anyone else is about to go through this process in France and would like more info then please feel free to email me :) 

Dangerous Dogs

Last August I faced a situation which was quite terrifying, probably made more frightening due to us living in an isolated spot in the woods with no one in shouting distance. I was at home alone, my hubby, Bob, had gone to the village in the car, it was a warm day and the front door was wide open as usual, and I was in the kitchen. I heard a noise and looked out of the window but couldn’t see anything, then I stepped into the kitchen doorway. Suddenly, out of the living room to my right, came two dogs. I shouted in surprise, one dog continued on out of the front door but the larger one turned on me. I found out later (from the owner) that the dogs were American Staffordshire terriers. I’ve never encountered an animal showing such naked aggression. It looked like a complete pscho. The eyes were blank and it was barking and snarling with unbelievable menace. The closest weapon I had to hand was the kitchen broom which I grabbed and thrust at it while yelling ‘ALLEZ!’ It immediately attacked the broom which still bears its teeth marks. It was at this point that I wondered if I was going to come out of this alive, probably the most frightening moment of my life. As it was the dog suddenly let go and ran after its comrade. I slammed the door shut, only to hear thumps and scraping noises as the the dogs leaped at the door! They definitely wanted a piece of me.

At this point I decided I wanted some evidence of what was happening and grabbed my camera. I took some shots from the kitchen window which was easy because as soon as I opened the window they came flying down the path, desperate to get to me. I was shaking at this point and almost unable to think properly. Wobbly photos!

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One worry was the thought of Bob arriving back. I needed to stop him getting out of the car. This was easy because we have a balcony which I could wave to him from as he came up the drive. I went onto the balcony. The dogs heard me and tore around leaping and barking underneath. When Bob arrived I signalled for him to wind the window down and shouted for him to stay in the car. The dogs immediately transferred their attention to the car, biting at the tyres and jumping at the passenger door.

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What on earth were we to do? I decided the only option was to phone the pompiers (the fire department in France deals with just about everything from accidents, to heart attacks, to the removal of hornet’s nests!). I phoned the emergency number and stumbled through the situation with my very poor French. It worked because within about eight minutes a car arrived with blue lights and two pompiers. We conversed through their window while the dogs attempted to shred their tyres! The guys made some phone calls and pretty soon more pompiers arrived followed by two men from the Marie. Now we had four vehicles in the drive, nine pompiers in total (one we were told was a vet), and the men from the Marie all locked in their cars! I supervised from the balcony.

A plan was made (lots of shouting between car windows) to lure the dogs into the garage where they could be contained. This required me to go downstairs into the garage which is accessible from the office, open the garage door, and then leg it back to the office. As soon as I’d done this the dogs went into the garage and someone nipped out of a car and shut them in. Three pompiers (one who was the vet) then went in covered in protective gear, carrying poles with loops, while the others, in what looked like riot gear, set up a net in front of the door in case the dogs escaped. At this point I was thinking about my hubby’s new, shiny, red, Ducati motorcycle which was in the garage. He’d had it for about three weeks. Visions of it being knocked over and scraped by dog claws! Fortunately all went surprisingly calmly and after a few minutes the dogs were brought out on the poles and put into two separate cages. I wasn’t allowed to take pics of the pompiers.

So what was the outcome? We were told that when taken to the local vet and given time to calm down the dogs were deemed not aggressive enough to destroy. The owner was found and they were returned to him. We found this quite unbelievable, especially as on the very same day, earlier in the morning, the same dogs had bitten a man working in his garden and terrorised another couple who had to shut themselves inside their house. Both incidents were reported to the Marie. The man who was bitten had to go to the doctor, and the owner had to pay for his treatment.

We were most unhappy with the outcome. I was nervous every time I went into the garden, and in actual fact still am to some degree. For a long time if I went and sat outside I made sure I had the garden rake within reach. What if they came back? We decided to go to the Gendarmerie and make a report, if nothing else we wanted it on record. The man we saw was pleased that we’d come in. He told us about the two other incidents and informed us that he was going to see the owner of the dogs that afternoon. He would be inspecting the dog pen, demanding a padlock on the pen gate, informing the owner that he had to come and see us and apologize, and pay for the claw-mark damage to our car door. He also had to have papers for this breed of dog. Our statement would go on file.

The owner did come to see us. He wasn’t focused on apologies, but spent most of the time throwing his hands in the air in apparent disbelief at his dogs’ behavior. At home they were models of love and affection. He couldn’t understand it. His children adored them. But he hadn’t seen nine pompiers reluctant to get out of their cars! He hadn’t seen his dog on the other end of my broom!

We had interesting comments from friends in other countries after this story went on Facebook. One of my best friends was a dog-catcher in Canada for many years, then there was a relative in Australia, plus friends in the UK – all said if the situation had happened in their country the dogs would have been destroyed. For sure if they’d attacked an elderly person or a child the outcome could have been far worse, and it does still worry me that they’re just a few miles down the road. I just hope the owner keeps the gate padlocked.

I’ve Given up a German for an Italian!

I can’t believe it but I’ve recently put Gandalf (my lovely 2007 BMW F800ST) up for sale and taken over my hubby’s much older Ducati – now dubbed ‘Dezmo’ because he has a Desmodromic valve control systemI’m not very mechanical but I did find this little video interesting. Last autumn the BMW had a battery problem which took a while to sort out, in the meantime, not wanting to be bikeless, I started riding my hubby’s 1998 Ducati ST2. He had bought his much newer Ducati 848 last summer, loves it to bits and rides it all the time. I took the ST2 out a few times and started to fall in love with it. It’s very hard to describe the difference between it and the BMW because transferring the sensations and feelings into technical words, for me, is nigh-on impossible. The basics are that I feel more at one with Dezmo and he seems to take corners with very little assistance from me – if that’s possible!

He has a more forward, sporty, riding position which feels natural and comfortable, and lastly there’s the sound. The sound is something else. Better than Beethoven. A symphony for the soul. An infectious, throaty, deep-down sexy rumble that permeates every pore – well he is Italian. Is it all too much for a woman of sixty-plus I ask myself? I think not, I think he’ll keep me young!

We have a very small garage – or maybe too many bikes? So I suggested to my hubby that we sell up and buy that place in the distance. I just love the pointy hats on the turrets, and I’m sure there’s got to be an enormous garage! 

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château de Marzac, near Tursac, Dordogne