Monday, 25 June 2007

Grease, Fete and Cheers

I've been diabetic now for over 42 years and please don't let me hear you pause to think ooh I'm really sorry to read that because, that is a typical French response. Why am I sharing this with you? Well, it's not for the sympathy vote, please let me reassure you but I have during my lifetime visited doctors and hospitals let's say more than most. One of the most positive things I have found since living in France is they do have an incredible health service. It would be very easy to criticise the UK system but this I feel serves little purpose. The system functions in the UK and is a relatively free paperless exercise. By comparison you have to contribute to the system here and each visit 'chez le Docteur' costs circa 25 Euros! Of course you claim it back via your 'carte vitale' and medical insurance but you physically have to put your hand into your pocket and pay for the service. So let me share with you a classic experience.

Now I have mentioned my dearest mother-in-law previously, way back in 1999 I had to visit the Doctor with my son and my mother-in-law. The doctor was a child specialist so she felt she had to escort me. This was the first time I had visited a medical specialist in France. The Doc did his thing checked my boys ears and fiddled about as they do and then towards the end of the visit my mother-in-law turned to me and tapped her bottom. What a strange gesture I thought and it never dawned on me that she was intimating that I had to pay the Doctor. I'd never had to pay my GP in the UK so this was completely foreign to me. She then coughed and repeated the tapping gesture and I shrugged my shoulders and asked what was the issue. I must point out that my French at this point was not particularly fluent. Chris are you gong to pay the Doctor my mother-in-law enquired, in an embarrassed like manner? I felt for my wallet and realised that I had left it in the car, upon trying to explain this there was all sorts of commotion and as I left the room to fetch it my mother-in-law paid the fee! Boy was she uptight that I had forgotten to pick up my wallet, so much to say that I was reminded for several years about this insignificant little incident even though I reimbursed her upon returning to the car. On the flip side I always carry a few Euros with me these days. This was a simple alien incident for me - I'd never had to pay a doctor directly so it was the furthest thing from my mind.

All things are smooth on the medical front here but it also helps when you know people within the system. You get to know who is good and who is not so good. Plus if you know someone who's senior things move just that little bit quicker. Like all things it's not what you know but who you know that makes the world go around. But generally things move quick here by comparison to my medical experience of the UK.

So what's been happening since my last post? Well...

Thursday was the June the 21st and the first official day of summer. Yippee I hear you cry...

Here summer is, how shall I put it... Crowded! The tourists arrive and the beaches become mayhem but hey that's just the way it is and don't forget it can take up to 3 hours to get back from the beach when normally it takes 20 mins. We're in the south of France and its normal during the summer. Thursday was also the Fete de Musique. Party party... We went to the town centre and it was throbbing lots of bands playing, lots and lots of people and a nice atmosphere. Depending upon where you go in the town you can listen to different types of music. Jazz, Acoustic Folk, Hip Hop, Garage, Pop, Classical you name it you can find it with dancers, traditional, modern it is a party that is celebrated all over France on the 21st June. Well worth a long weekend visit just for the party. It happens in every town and most villages at some point over a weekend.

Friday evening was Le fete de l'ecole - boy that was a very smoky evening as I was helping to cook on the BBQ. We must have sizzled 2000 Sausages and Merquez. After seeing all the grease fuel the BBQ it didn't do much to muster up my appetite. Most off putting although the 3 glasses of chilled rosé was most welcomed - cheers :o)

The weekend was warm. Cool Saturday morning, which was great for the 96km bike ride up the back-side of Arboras (a local climb to an observatory - excuse my french!) followed by lunch in town and a some what chilled out afternoon. Sunday was not so good as I had come down with Tonsillitis - ugh. Distinct advantage of knowing your GP really well in France; being able to call him, describe the symptoms and having a pharmacist as a wife who can interpret the telephone diagnosis - antibiotics at 9.30 Sunday morning delivered to the bedside.

Next post I promise to detail how the heat really cooks ones brain in the Micro Climate of Montpellier - bonsoir