A Not So Joyful July

July has been very hectic & most of it has passed in a blur. As you might ascertain from the title of this post, not all of the things that have happened have been good ones either…but there have been moments of happiness too thank goodness.

I’ll start off with a happy event. The exhibition of my paintings got off to a good start with the vernissage being well attended & my speech (both in French & English as requested) went down well. The paintings look very good in their little tower room & I had a lot of people telling me how nice my daubings were which also made me happy. This theme has continued, judging from the lovely comments in my livre d`or…but as yet I still have not sold anything. Hey ho…there is still another month to go!

I was just starting to work out when I could go & help to “man” the exhibition when the phone rang & my world took a sharp nosedive as my brother told me that my mother, who had been in hospital for 5 weeks following a fall, but who had seemed to be making progress towards getting home again, had taken a sudden turn for the worse, & was not expected to survive the night. She did…but died early on the morning of July 10th. She was 92 years old & in some ways it was a relief as it was becoming more & more difficult for my brother to cope with her at home & neither of them would contemplate a nursing home for her. But it was still a bit of a shock & a great sadness. I had to make some rapid adjustments to the diary -fortunately we had no B&B commitments for that week & all other enquiries were declined, as I booked flights to take me to the UK. We struggled to find someone to look after the animals at such short notice, but eventually it all came together, with some good friends agreeing to do this & some other friends agreeing to welcome our next lot of gite visitors for us on the Saturday. I flew back on the Monday morning & spent some time with my brother Alan, who had been my mother’s carer for most of his adult life, & who as you can imagine, was feeling a bit lost. I spent a few days cleaning & sorting out the house for him before the rest of the family (including Geoff) arrived for the funeral on the Thursday. The funeral went very well.I chose some hymns she loved & being in “our” church where she & my family had worshipped when we lived there, made it all feel very personal. The church was full & everyone sang (good Methodists you see!) which is just what she would have wanted as she sang all her life, having been in operatic societies & a soloist too. There were some lovely touches which I appreciated very much...the organist playing something from the Mikado as people filed in (she loved G&S), the ladies from the sisterhood (of which she was a very active member for many years) singing the hymn she used to sing, as a solo, at each meeting, the church being full of flowers(she loved flowers), the opportunity to recite a poem for her(she had sent me to speech & drama lessons for many years), my daughter reading from a bible my mother had given her, the service being taken by a lifelong family friend whose mother sang along with my mother in the G&S society, & of course the many friends who came to support us all. So despite the sadness we all were feeling, I think we gave her a good send off in the end & I like to think she was hovering, joining in with the hymns too :)

This unexpected trip to the UK was bittersweet in a way too as I had the opportunity to meet up with some very good friends who I have not seen for a long time. I spent a great afternoon with one friend catching up with lots of family news & had a lovely meet up with my “old” nursing & ex flat mate friends, which was wonderful. Geoff & I also took the chance to go over to Carlisle to look at the house Hazel & Phil are in the process of buying -subject to survey of course!! This was an unexpected treat as we’d only seen photos so far. Another bonus was a whole family meet up for lunch one day – it gets more & more difficult to get both of our children in the same place at the same time these days - & of course another chance to see & cuddle our lovely grandson, Ethan. I got to see the sea on several occasions too…something I miss living in the middle of France…& of course to eat a Minchella ice cream on one of my visits to the seafront at South Shields. That is not to be missed! So, all was not doom & gloom by any means.

I stayed in the UK for a few days after the funeral & with the help of another brother, cleared out my mother’s wardrobes, as I knew Alan would not be able to do this task. Again it was a bittersweet job…the clothes meaning nothing - although we did find the outfit she wore to my wedding, complete with hat & shoes! We will have been married 36 years in September! But it was all the little things she had squirreled away for many years that tugged at the heartstrings at times. And of course, there were all the family photos. I love researching our family history & it was great to be able to put faces to the names on the family tree. I was pleased I’d had gone through the photos a long time ago with my mother (before the Alzheimers took hold of her memory) & together we had written names on the back of the photos which enabled us to identify a lot of the family members. Fascinating stuff.

I returned home & was at last able to catch up with the lovely young Dutch couple who were staying in the gite. I also came back to some pretty awful weather…torrential rain which lasted almost a week. Not good for us or our visitors really but they seemed happy enough. There was also more bad news here in Chabanol. Our holiday home neighbour, Monsieur L, had died whilst I was away. He had arrived a week or so before I left, all on his own & was not a well man. His wife (who normally comes with him) is very ill too & had not wanted him to be here on his own…something I agreed with wholeheartedly, as he was diabetic, had heart & lung problems & now had leg ulcers too! At her request, Geoff & I had been paying him regular visits to keep an eye on him, since his arrival, Geoff had sorted out doctor & nurse visits, & we had done some shopping for him etc. However, whilst we were both in the UK, he had taken a turn for the worse. The other neighbours called an ambulance & he died in hospital. And so it was that yesterday, we found ourselves at yet another funeral…not a happy state of affairs really.

Ok, enough with the dismalness! I need to cheer up a little so a few more bits & pieces of “normal” Chabanol life. Geoff has been glued to the TV as per usual watching the Tour de France & we particularly enjoyed the early stages in Yorkshire & the N of England. It was great to see (if fleetingly) lots of places we know well as it passed through familiar territory. Our kids went to watch of course, & we spent one whole afternoon waiting for them to tell us where exactly they were (bad reception on their phones of course) & then to have the TV coverage go to an advertising break just as the cyclists entered the village where they were watching! Typical!

With all the stormy & rainy weather we have had recently it was no surprise really when we lost our internet & phone line earlier in the month. It is frustrating living here sometimes…especially when we lose bookings because of problems like this. Geoff was very annoyed & stressed too, as he had lots of translation & revision work to do at that point in time & the deadlines were very short. However after a couple of calls to good old Orange, & a visit to their shop in Issoire we got a replacement Livebox & all is well again now.

Despite all the upheaval of having to go back to the UK we have still managed to fit in quite a few visitors. The international theme of this year continues & we have had guests from Holland & Belgium & now have an English family in residence in the gite at the moment I think we are faring better than a lot of people around here as we keep hearing & seeing reports in the local paper of catastrophic drops in tourist numbers here this year. One of our Dutch friends who owns a camp site, had one week in July where he had absolutely no campers at all – something which had never happened before in the many years he has lived here. So we are crossing our fingers that our luck continues into August…& that the flipping weather improves too!

Thanks Catherine. Still feeling a bit down at times but we have been quite busy which all helps I think :)

Really sorry to hear about your mum. Sounds like you have had a tough old time of it. Hope things get better soon xx