A New Chapter Begins

I`m not sure where to start this month. Looking at my note pad where I jot things down to give me prompts each month there is very little on it. Except one very BIG thing right at the end & that is why my head is not really functioning as it should today! The big thing & the reason for this month’s title, is the birth of a very special little boy, our first grandson, Ethan Douglas! He has taken us all a little by surprise as I was not expecting to be writing about this until next month, but he was born on Sunday 27th April after a very anxious & stressful weekend of waiting! Susie’s waters broke early on Friday morning but she did not have any contractions& so was eventually admitted to hospital on Saturday & then had an accelerated labour started on Sunday lunchtime. In the end Ethan put in an appearance very quickly after that (poor Susie only got paracetamol & codeine as painkillers as things happened so fast!)& he is perfect in every way! As a midwife & RSCN myself, I know far too much & so spent a very stressful weekend waiting for text messages on progress(or non progress as it happened) & when the phone went so quickly after labour had truly started I immediately thought the worst! Sometimes being so far away at times like this is no fun at all! However, all is fine, mum & baby are wonderful & my son is looking like a real “Papa Poule” already :) It really is a new chapter for us…grandparents...wow who would have thought it?? I have never ever been a person to go gaga over babies (I worked with them for far too long for that) but I must admit we have both been very emotional this weekend & I am dying to get on a plane & hold him in my arms now! The flights are booked for a fortnights time…the first chance I have to get away & as I say I can’t wait! Welcome to the world Ethan Douglas Phillips :)

Now then what else has happened this month then? We have seen Easter come & go & as usual it was a damp squib of a holiday really. It always amazes me how little the French celebrate Easter. If it wasn’t for the displays of beautiful chocolate eggs & creations in the patisserie windows it would not really be very noticeable at all. The schools here, being in the final holiday zone, have just started their “spring” holiday so apart from Easter Monday, which is a French Jour Ferie, they haven’t had any holiday corresponding to the actual religious festival at all. We did try to have a bit of an outing over the actual Easter weekend, on the Sunday, but it was cold, damp & nothing was open. so it wasn’t really successful! We ended up at La Chaise Dieu, a beautiful village not far from here, which is dominated by its massive church & monastery & finally managed to find somewhere open so we could get a coffee to warm up a bit! Oh & the church was open too thank goodness, so I did get a chance to say a little prayer at last (I miss going to church over Easter) so all was not entirely lost!

We have been quite busy with the gite & B&B this month…at last! Our first gite visitors of the year were a wonderful couple who just loved every minute of being here in the peace & quiet of the countryside. They were so sweet & arrived at our door the night before they left bearing gifts of a beautiful bouquet of flowers for me & a bottle of whiskey for Geoff. They also left the gite sparklingly clean & tidy...a wonderful start to our season. They were followed by a nice little family who are moving to Issoire in June. The bloke is an officer in the Army & is being transferred here so they all went off to a sort of introduction day to meet people, see their new house & have a general look at the town on the first day of their stay. They then used the rest of their stay to look at schools for their 3 small children & find out about various activities & clubs that Issoire has to offer. They departed very happy bunnies as they really liked Issoire & the area & can’t wait to leave Marseille now. I was not so sure the mum & dad would be so delighted to discover the bucket of garden snails that their kids managed to collect just before they got in the car though! I had visions of slimy trails all over the back seat & windows as the said snails made a bid for freedom on their journey home! Our 3rd gite inhabitants have just left today after having spent 3 very full days walking. They have also loved every minute of it even if it was a bit cold & rainy for most of their stay. They are used to it they said! We have had some B&B visitors too during the month & so have been kept quite busy. It has gone from being vey quiet, to full on in the space of a few days really. I am once again in full washing & ironing mode now you will be glad to hear!

On the down side, we have also this month seen one of my good fiends here being diagnosed with breast cancer which was a bit of a shock. However the prognosis is very good & in typical French health care style, she has already had all her tests & scans, had her surgery done on Monday & is now back home. They don’t hang around here at all! She is now recovering at home & is to start the next stage of treatment soon. I can’t help but compare her treatment with recent experiences of health care in the UK where my brother has had surgery for prostate cancer & I have to say that if I had a choice I would choose French health care every time. I know that you do have to pay here, but frankly the standard of care, advice given & follow up care is second to none & I am sorry to say I could not say that about care in the NHS these days.

We really have not done much on the social scene this month…we have been a bit too busy for that I’m pleased to say! However we did manage to go to another of our friend Liliane`s soirees last weekend. It was about a forthcoming exhibition which is being arranged to highlight the experiences of local people here in the Great War & which will tell the stories of the soldiers who went to fight in the trenches. I took along some of the embroidered postcards which my grandfather sent home from France, when he was fighting here in the First World War & everyone was really interested in them…so much so that I agreed to them being part of the exhibition. The soiree took place in the new “soon to be opened” restaurant/bar/multiservice facility in our commune village of St Etienne sur Usson & this was a great chance to see it at last. It does look really swish & is much bigger than we had thought. There is a family coming from Bordeaux to live here & run it & it will open in June. I do hope they make a go of it…they have the contract to supply the lunchtime meals for the school in the village so that should help. It will be great to have somewhere to send our guests which is “only up the road” at last, not to mention being able to get bread & bits & bobs of groceries there too. Roll on June I say :)

And so its on into May then...the month which in France has many bank holidays starting with the Mayday holiday tomorrow. For the first time ever, because of the mild Spring weather (which incidentally has now turned into rain), I have my muguet (Lily of the Valley) in full bloom ready to make into the traditional posies to give to friends tomorrow. We have another busy month ahead as many folk are taking “ponts” due to the fact that a lot of the bank holidays fall on a Thursday & so by taking a “pont” day on the Friday they can get a nice long weekend. Its good for our business I can tell you but the employers are not so happy!! We love May :)