Searching for water

When we had our borehole dug, I wished at the time I had filmed the professional dowser who told us where the water was. Well, a French newspaper, “La Nouvelle Republique” has just published a short video of the self-same chap. Even if you don’t understand French, it’s still a fascinating watch. These are the exact techniques he used to find our water source – which, by the way, is still going strong.

You can see the video here:

Tonight’s din-din

…was almost completely free. Roast venison from the property, (Yes. We ate Bambi. Get over it.) roast potatoes, roast parsnips, and peas. All from the garden. Even the elderberry wine is ours. The only things purchased were a couple of juniper berries, and a bit of cornflour in the gravy.Roast venison

“Ah, but what about the costs of cooking this dinner?” I hear you ask.

Pretty much zero as well. Cooked on the kitchen woodstove.

And a very tasty dinner it was too.


It’s that time of year again. Harvesting sundry fruit and vegetables has been keeping us somewhat busy of late. Unfortunately we did not have a chance to eat any pears this year; the hornets scoffed the lot. We did however manage to collect some pears from the Aged FIL’s garden. They’re not very nice to eat, so instead we’ve turned them into 15 litres of perry.

What about apples? Yes, we have those. Once the hornets had eaten all the pears, they turned their attention to the apple tree, so I harvested the lot. It’s only a small tree, so there were about twenty apples – but they are good. Obviously there weren’t enough to make any cider. But we went to see a retired farmer nearby. He has an orchard which he’s not really bothering about any more, so we came home with around 130kg of apples (there are more bags out of camera shot on the left…)Bags of apples
Nearly six hours of processing later, we had 75 litres of apple juice in a barrel, ready to be turned into cider. (I did a quick stock-take, and we do have enough bottles to contain it all – friends tend to bring us their empties for some strange reason.)

And whilst on the subject of fruit, this is only the second time in six years that LSS has managed to grow some watermelons. We have three; this is the largest at nearly 10kg: watermelon
Raspberries, blackberries and sloes have already been collected and frozen. And now the chestnuts are starting to fall. Everything is at least a month early this year.

LSS has also been busy processing the vast crop of tomatoes we have this season. So far she has produced 30 litres of tomato soup for the winter. Not to mention the numerous pots of canned tomatoes, and frozen stuffed tomatoes. It’s a good thing we now have the use of an additional freezer.

Oh, I didn’t tell you about that. No, we didn’t buy another freezer. We’re now using the one at the Aged FIL’s house. You see, he’s no longer there. He’s been in Orleans hospital since July, and has been gradually rising to the top of the waiting lists of several retirement homes. In fact, a couple of weeks ago he reached position number one on the list of a place called a USLD in Romorantin. (This French abbreviation means something like “long-term care home”. It’s a sort of hybrid between a retirement home and a hospital.) However, no sooner had the USLD telephoned LSS to say that they now had a room free, than the Aged FIL developed bronchitis, and the hospital refused to discharge him. He’s now due to enter the USLD on Monday, but even this is looking unlikely as he is now apparently suffering from an excess of sodium and is somewhat dehydrated. (Yes, he is in a French hospital).

So, to avoid any spoilage, we have been gradually clearing out the food storage cupboards in the Aged FIL’s kitchen, and using the additional space in his freezer.

Today’s food processing involves peaches. Lots of peaches. For the first time, the little peach tree outside the kitchen has produced a bumper crop. So LSS will be making jam, and peaches in syrup. I shall then try my hand at making mebos (dried peach fruit roll).

And as for the house renovation progress, LSS’s office area has been completed except for the painting. For all the ceilings in the barn, I actually used laminate flooring boards. Why? Three reasons:
a) I don’t like plasterboard; installing this on your own is not easy.
b) These boards actually weigh less than plasterboard.
c) They’re cheaper than plasterboard.

There’s a layer of glass fibre insulation between these boards and the rafters. As the ceiling in this area will be painted, I filled in the tiny gaps and screw-heads with caulk. (The wall on the right has been re-plastered since this photo was taken).Office ceiling
After this area had been completed, I decided to purchase a pneumatic nail gun. This proved to be a much easier way to fix the laminate boards, and the tiny brads are almost invisible. The rest of the barn ceilings were completed in this manner, and will not be painted:Laminate ceiling
The upper level – which consists of the future bedroom and spare room – has also been constructed. This is the floor of what will be the future spare room: spare room flooring
And in addition to the usual chores like cutting firewood, I have now started laying the remainder of the travertine tiles in the barn, with the goal of getting this finished before the end of October. travertine

So there you are. Now you know as much as I do.


LSS again visited La Source, where she had a meeting with the Social Services officer of the Geriatric Department. Officialdom has now finally agreed that the Aged FIL can no longer receive the appropriate level of care at home; and when (actually more likely IF) he recovers sufficiently, he will be moved into an EHPAD (French nursing home for the elderly).

If he refuses this (which, knowing him, is highly likely), the necessary steps will be taken to have him declared incompetent, and LSS will then have the final say. However, his condition has not improved much since he was admitted; and the doctors have told LSS to prepare herself for the worst. “It could be weeks, or just a few months,” they said.


LSS heard back from the lawyers regarding the “medical malpractice” affair with the Aged FIL. “Yes, everything is in order. However, in order to proceed further, we need signed witness statements from Seven Vestal Virgins, countersigned by the President.”

No, not really. But in other words, they cannot proceed without any written witness statements. LSS is trying to trace the chap who was in the bed next to the Aged FIL when the “incident” occurred. But is not having much luck.

In the afternoon LSS went back to Orleans La Source. The Aged FIL has now been transferred to the Geriatric unit, and has had the scheduled X-Ray for his broken arm. Apparently when he was last at this hospital, he discharged himself; even though they wanted to keep him there to make sure his arm was starting to heal.

Well, they’re keeping him now. For a while, anyway.


Just after lunch, the hospital called LSS. “The Aged FIL has been repaired. So we’re sending him back home.”

“What, already!” exclaimed LSS. “Are you sure? The Home Nursing Service asked me to tell you that he will not be able to get the amount of specialised care he needs at home; therefore he should either stay in hospital until he’s completely better, or he needs to be referred to a retirement home catering for patients with special needs.”

“That is unacceptable,” said the hospital staff member. “He’ll be better off at home. His family should be looking after him, not us. So we’re sending him back now. Goodbye.”

Um, his family should be looking after him? What? That means LSS. Is she medically trained to operate lève-malades/change catheters/bed-sore bandages/nappies? No.

Gosh this hospital is good: curing someone of all their complaints within 24 hours! If you know anybody who’s ill, I strongly recommend that you send them to La Source in Orleans. Even Lourdes* is not as effective.
(/end sarcasm).

When the head of the Home Nursing Service was made aware that the Aged FIL had returned home, she telephoned the hospital herself. Unfortunately she received an ear-bashing instead of any assistance.

I suspect that tomorrow, or the day after, LSS will receive a telephone call from one of the carers, along the lines of “The Aged FIL is having <insert random problem here> again. Call the doctor quick!”
To which the reply will be “Unfortunately the local doctor is now on holiday. And there is no locum.” (True on both counts)

So the fire brigade will need to be called, to send an ambulance, to take him to hospital. Rinse and repeat.

Health Service? Don’t make me laugh.
We are considering selling the film rights to this story.

*A French town reputedly known for apparent miraculous healings


A further update to the previous update’s update: Yesterday La Source sent the Aged FIL back with his arm in a sling. We’ve now had 24 hours of peace and quiet. There was a major meeting at the Aged FIL’s house containing most of the Management staff of the carer’s association, and the Management staff of the Home Nursing association. In brief, they said “Aged FIL, it would be better for you – in fact it would be better all round – if you went into a special-care retirement home. Just for a short while, you understand, until your condition has improved.”
His answer was very simple, and consisted of one word.

During this twenty-four-hours-of-down-time, LSS discovered that the Aged FIL’s house insurance policy just so happens to include a thing called “Legal Cover”.

“I wonder if?” LSS mused.

So she rang the number provided, spoke to the lawyers, and explained the situation. “Oh yes,” they said, to the background sounds of ringing cash-registers. “What you’ve described to us about your father’s treatment amounts to what we call in the legal profession, ‘Medical malpractice’. Don’t worry about a thing. Send us all the documents and we’ll take care of it. We’ll send an RL (Registered Letter) to Monsieur HHH (Hospital Head Honcho), and then discuss CC (Compensation Claims). After all, caring for the Aged FIL is now going to be a lot more expensive, non?
Marvellous. {Please understand, I’m summarizing here.}

Well, this evening, as we were putting our feet up and pouring a well-earned glass of Martin’s Wallop home-brew, the phone rang. It was the carer at the Aged FIL.

“He’s having trouble breathing, you need to call the doctor.” Yes, yes, all well and good. But the time happens to be 18h40. The doctor works office hours.

And, guess what?

Correct. There’s no reply from the doctor’s telephone number. LSS abandoned her half-finished glass of Martin’s Wallop finest home-brew (accept no imitations), and went next door to see what was what.

I eyed her half-full glass speculatively, but decided that discretion was the better part of valour, so left it alone.

The ambulance was called (i.e. LSS called the emergency services, which is the fire brigade, which sends an ambulance)… and the Aged FIL will shortly be whisked off to the hospital. Which hospital? Well, the one the fire brigade here normally uses, of course.

And which one would that be?

Answers on a postcard to… no, I’ll save you the bother. Romorantin.

I wonder if they’ll break his other arm this time.

NEWSFLASH…. LSS put her foot down. And to everyone’s surprise, asked if the ambulance staff could take him to La Source in Orleans instead. “Oh,” they sighed. “Well, I suppose we could make an exception. Just this once.”

Stay tuned for more exciting developments…


Oh yes, I meant to add this last time. It’s a photo of the Aged FIL’s upper arm. You can see the marks left by fingers. Not very pretty I’m afraid:

And the Aged FIL is now on his way back from Romorantin’s X-Ray department.

As seems to be fairly common these days, someone returns from a hospital in a worse condition than when they went in.

The result of the X-Rays?

He has a fractured upper arm. That’s the French National Health Service for you.

So LSS arranged for another ambulance, and today he has been taken to La Source, Orleans. Let’s see what damage this medical centre does. By the way, the prognosis for fractures in the elderly is not good…


Today’s post can be summarised as a health report update.

So the onset of warmer weather has had its customary effect on the Aged FIL. He’s constantly complaining that he’s cold. So the carers turn up the output of the electric heaters. (His electricity bill is over €300 per month, not kidding. EDF management have now placed an order for individual Bentleys as company cars). At the same time, he’s in bed; wearing a t-shirt, and cardigan. The bed-cover is a duvet, and because of his complaints of chilliness, the carers lovingly cover him with a blanket as well.

Now with an outside temperature well over 30 degrees during the day, you can gather that it’s been somewhat hot. Of course, despite the carers’ best efforts, the Aged FIL doesn’t drink much in the way of liquid. So the inevitable happened; overheating. The Monday-morning carer found the Aged FIL unresponsive and drenched in sweat. He had also vomited copiously during the night, and inhaled some of the fluid. So an ambulance was called, and the Aged FIL was carted off to Romorantin hospital where he was diagnosed with a lung infection.


The head of the home nursing service called the hospital to brief them on the situation. Pay attention, now. You’ll need to remember this information later. She informed them of the following: In summary, the patient has spent 6 years in bed. He does not have bedsores because he has a special electric air-pump mattress and daily leg massages. There is also a machine called a verticalisateur; a hydraulic lifting mechanism to lift him out of bed; you cannot simply grab an elderly person by the arm and pull them upright. Well, you can. But you shouldn’t. Because it damages the person being lifted, leaving them covered with bruises. Especially if the person is on blood-thinning medicine. The patient has a daily medical wash, and is also attended to three times a day by a carer whose duties include feeding him, and changing nappies.


When LSS visited the Aged FIL in hospital a couple of days later, she was surprised to discover he was in an ordinary hospital bed. No special mattress or verticalisateurs in sight.

One week later, LSS received a telephone call saying that the Aged FIL was being discharged. She was requested to organise an ambulance to bring him home. (This is not done by the hospital; ambulances here are privately owned and organised individually. Excluding, of course, incidents like road accidents or life-threatening emergencies, in which case the Emergency Services’ brightly-painted vehicles with flashing lights and sirens are used).

The ambulance was arranged, but on the day of discharge LSS received yet another telephone call. The attending doctor had discovered that the Aged FIL still had an elevated temperature, and had decided to keep him in hospital for a few more days.

Upon the next visit to the Aged FIL, LSS discovered that he was now reclining on an air mattress, and one foot was heavily bandaged. Now, what does this tell you? Were you paying attention earlier? Stop reading here, and think for a minute. What could possibly be wrong with the Aged FIL’s foot?

Another week went by. Then the hospital telephoned LSS to say the Aged FIL was being discharged, and an ambulance would need to be organised. Again. However, this time there was a difference. “By the way,” the nurse said, “we don’t quite understand why, but the Aged FIL has a very bruised arm. Just thought you’d like to know. Oh, and he’s also constipated.”

Once again, what does this tell you? Stop reading here, and think for a minute. What possible reason could there be for the Aged FIL to have a bruised arm?

Fill in the blanks:
The Aged FIL has a bandaged foot because he has developed ___ _____.
The Aged FIL has a very bruised arm because a _________ was not used to lift him out of bed.

Correct. The two answers are: bed sores, and verticalisateur.

Now, did you notice a particular word which the nurse mentioned? I’ll remind you. Constipated. Now what does a hospital do if someone is constipated? Well, one of the options is to give the patient a medicine to … um … UN-constipate them. And in some instances this can take a few hours to work.

Can you see where this is going?

So, the Aged FIL was back at home in bed soon after lunchtime. At around 6 p.m. the carer arrived to give him dinner. Unfortunately, the laxative medicine had now taken effect. Copiously. And the carer was unable to help single-handedly as used to be the case. You see, the Aged FIL was usually assisted to a sitting position so that the sling of the verticalisateur could be used to lift him out of bed. But as soon as the carer touched the Aged FIL’s arm, he yelled his head off in pain. Not only that, due to the bedsores on his foot, he can no longer support any of his weight on his feet. So in order to change his nappy/clothes/bedclothes (all of which were, shall we say, contaminated) the carer had to call for assistance.

To cut a long story short, the local doctor has now visited, in conjunction with the head carer, and the head of the home nursing service. The verticalisateur is no longer fit for purpose. Instead it will need to be replaced by another hydraulic machine called a “lève malade“. This is a contraption primarily used for paralysed patients, consisting of a sling which is attached to an engine-hoist type device. It hasn’t arrived yet, but I looked it up. You can see an example here:

The disadvantage of this is that there will now be TWO carers required to look after the Aged FIL at every mealtime, with the resultant doubling of cost. There goes the remainder of the Aged FIL’s pension money and savings. Well, I suppose you can’t take it with you.

Regarding the constipation, the hospital doctor had prescribed a course of “home enema kits”. There was a general consensus of opinion that these are NOT going to be used due to the resulting fallout. (Pun partially intended).

The doctor examined the exceedingly painful bruised arm, and suspects a fracture. So guess what? On Monday, LSS has had to arrange for …

… an ambulance, to take him to …

the hospital at Romorantin, for an X-Ray.

Watch this space.