Monday, 31 August 2009

Off into the sunrise

Well, we are now back home. My efforts at writing draft blog entries while away dwindled as the workload increased and my reserves depleted. However, sometimes it is better to wait a little while before committing stories to print and I have lots of things saved up in my head! However, tonight, with the third lot of washing about to start and the thought of work tomorrow I have no energy but will finish with a picture of the house taken yesterday morning as the sun rose and we were leaving to head north!

Saturday, 15 August 2009

A belated post 3. the first week

We have been here a week now and I no longer know what day of the week it is! After the rain on Sunday the temperature has steadily increased and today it was 38 degrees (and probably hotter in the direct sun). We have spent a week trying to get on with work in the house. Warren appeared on Monday with his small digger and dug up the drive to install the pipe work for the water and electricity. By the end of the week he had dug out the soggy earth around the house and laid two layers of drainage (with the aid of his assistant Alexandro, an unemployed painter and decorator who will do just about anything for 80 Euros a day in cash!) By Thursday the drive was back to normal and we are hoping for rain to test out the drains. Looking at the storm clouds on the horizon Ian thinks it will rain tonight but I am not convinced.
On Thursday we invited our neighbours round for dinner. This time last year we sat on a concrete slab and ate lunch in the dining room. This year we were able to prepare a meal for friends, sleep in our bedroom, shower in our temporary shower and flush our temporary toilet (into the field somewhere). It was just great to sit there and hear the cicadas and the owls. We also realised just how fantastic the sky is at night. We can see Venus from our room and the stars are amazing when uncontaminated by light pollution!
Talking of contamination our neighbours half a mile away kept us awake last night with a party! Here we are in the middle of nowhere and you realise that sound carries for miles without buildings to block its passage.
Today we got back to modern life by going to Bordeaux to visit various DIY shops for more urgent supplies and also to visit IKEA. We had meatballs for lunch and it was just like being in Croydon except the toilets were dirtier and the coffee was stronger!

Sunday, 9 August 2009

A belated post 2.... arriving

After a long drive we arrived at the house just after dark, unpacked, made the bed and fell asleep. It was humid and we were both a little over tired by the time we laid down and so it was a bit of a restless night. In the early hours the lightning flashes woke us up, followed quite shortly afterwards by thunder and heavy rain. I tried to go back to sleep but Ian was awake and leaped out of bed. I don’t know how long he was away for but he was stark naked, wandering around with only his wellington boots and a torch. When he finally came back to bed he was playing with his phone.
“What are you doing?” I moaned.
“just been down to the cellar... took a video of the water pouring in through the walls”
Despite the new guttering the damp problem has still not been solved!
Today it has rained all day but the forecast is more promising! (Even the sunflowers didn’t bother to wake up today!)

(actually the didn't wake up for the entire three weeks as they are ripe and now drooped over and turning black in anticipation of being harvested)

Saturday, 8 August 2009

A belated post.. the journey down

The journey down to the house was not entirely uneventful. The roads were busy (for France) and although there were no traffic jams the services were full and finding a parking spot was difficult. We stopped for lunch in the ‘baise de somme’ which is in the middle of a nature reserve. There were very few parking spots and the only place we could park was on the grass. We set up our picnic in a place that didn’t smell quite so strongly of p*ss as everywhere else.
When it came time to leave Ian cautiously reversed the van out and went to exit just as Mr Frenchman in a Mercedes pulled in. There then followed scenes reminiscent of the standoff at the OK Corralle, with Mr Mercedes refusing to reverse or go up on the grass, the cars behind refusing to reverse back and Ian getting more and more grumpy! After a few minutes Mr Mercedes very reluctantly pulled over and we were able to leave. As I attempted to get in the van Mrs Mercedes said something to me to the effect of ‘it is a one way’ and ‘you stupid English’. Well, it wasn’t a one-way and Ian was now at the end of his fuse and decided to get out and have a row with Mr Mercedes, convincing him that although English his knowledge of French swearwords was indeed fluent.
Eventually I managed to drag Ian away, avoiding an International incident, and we continued South.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Normal service will be resumed shortly

Not sure whether I will get to do much blogging over the next three weeks as Ian has a gruelling programme of work planned and our internet access is restricted to logging in to the neighbours wireless network. We are off on Saturday morning and I need to pack!

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

More b*ll*cks about Lupus

Related to my post yesterday, there is now talk that Michael Jackson had lupus. Actually this isn't so far fetched and could go some way to explaining his wearing of the glove to cover his hand, his occasional wheelchair use, the umbrella to keep off the sun and maybe even his dependence on pain killers, if that proves to be the case. Initially I felt a little disappointed that he had not been open about this during his life but then when I read this quote from his 'friend', Dr Deepak Chopra

"if children have experienced either physical or verbal, mental, emotional or sexual abuse, then 20,30 years later they can develop these autoimmune disorders such as lupus"

..I was more sympathetic. No wonder he never felt able to be honest about it if this was the kind of cr*p he was being told! There is a link between symptoms and stress, as stress affects the immune system, but this is far from straightforward. Of course there is no reason why people who have been abused shouldn't get lupus but as far as I can see there is no reliable evidence that suggests that they are more vulnerable to it! I have never been abused and I don't drink diet coke but I still have an auto-immune disease.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Seeing red

Chairman Bill has been blogging recently about conspiracy theories, medical quackery and pseudo science. It reminded me of a post I read the other day on a forum that is designed to give information to residents and guests staying in the region around the land. This post appeared under the title 'Food and Wine' and was a tirade against the artificial sweetener aspartame, copied by all accounts from an American website. The title of the post was 'sweet poison' and basically went on to blame every medical complaint known to man on the use of this particular substance. I found most of it vaguely amusing until I got to this part.

"In the keynote address by the EPA, it was announced that in the United States in 2001 there is an epidemic of multiple sclerosis and systemic lupus. It was difficult to determine exactly what toxin was causing this to be rampant. I stood up and said that I was there to lecture on exactly that subject. I will explain why Aspartame is so dangerous: When the temperature of this sweetener exceeds 86 degrees F, the wood alcohol in ASPARTAME converts to formaldehyde and then to formic acid, which in turn causes metabolic acidosis.. Formic acid is the poison found in the sting of fire ants. The methanol toxicity mimics, among other conditions, multiple sclerosis and systemic lupus. Systemic lupus has become almost as rampant as multiple sclerosis, especially with Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi drinkers.

The victim usually does not know that the Aspartame is the culprit. He or she continues its use; irritating the lupus to such a degree that it may become a life-threatening condition. We have seen patients with systemic lupus become asymptotic, once taken off diet sodas."
Well, as one of the writer's so called 'victims' of a disease very similar to lupus I can say that it is this kind of unhelpful b*llocks that really p*sses off people with lupus and other auto-immune diseases. Auto-immune diseases are not caused by a toxin but by the body's immune system malfunctioning and starting to attack and destroy healthy cells. The exact mechanisms are still a little unknown but there is definitely a genetic component. And.. yes.. there are more people being diagnosed with all these diseases but this is not due to artificial sweetener but to the fact that more doctors know about auto-immune diseases and diagnosis is easier (and there are many more treatments available). My grandmother (who lived until she was 98) would get a rash on her face in the sun. This was almost certainly lupus but when she was young no one knew what it was and so she was never diagnosed. My own illness was only identified in 1976 so before then the numbers of cases were obviously limited.

Auto-immune disorders are characterised by flares and remissions and so if anyone did feel 'cured' after stopping the diet coke then I would guess that it was most likely due to a natural remission or placebo!

I can only hope that no one with lupus is stupid enough to believe that cr*p and stop their medication in order to try the aspartame free cure! If it was really that easy to cure lupus don't you think we would all have done it by now!

I would like to conclude my moan by saying that personally, I have never really seen the point of artificial sweeteners myself and never drink coke or fizzy drinks unless they contain alcohol (now there is a proven poison!)

On a totally different note, Ian got an email from his agency today telling him that it was company policy that if he became ill with swine flu he must stay off work until he is better. Now as the only way you can be sure that you have swine flu and not the more common illness of man flu, is to have a blood test, and these are not being carried out routinely this seems to be an order that is impossible to enforce! (Of course man-flu would require a week off work anyway!)

Monday, 3 August 2009

A working holiday

Our three week trip to France is approaching fast and we are planning, packing, and organising to make sure that we have enough tools and materials to do all the work that Ian has planned. Ian always thinks we will do more than we actually manage, but even if we just do half the things on this trip then we will have worked hard! This time last year all we had was a concrete base and now we are plumbing, wiring, insulating and building walls, so we are moving forward. We are meeting Warren on Monday. Warren is an English chap with a digger who is going to dig the hole for our septic tank and various other trenches and drains. He arrives first thing Monday morning.

One thing that I did last year was to contact the head of the school of occupational therapy in Bordeaux. It was a long shot and something I wasn't even sure that I wanted to pursue as my plan was to be a full time llama farmer and bed and breakfast landlady. Anyway, my first approaches were warmly welcomed and to cut a long story short, when we are away this time I am taking a trip to Bordeaux to meet her and her colleagues and to consider the possibility of some sessional work! The winters there are long and cold and I will need something to do!