French Country

My life in France is not what I expected.


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My new doctor


I don’t know. Maybe it’s these cold, dark, wintry days that are getting to me, making me wonder why I left my little people’s republic of Northern California (these deportation orders! My friends would be hiding their cleaning ladies in the basement, if California had basements…) to move to a place that can be by turns ossified in its bureaucracy or ossified in its self-serving excuse du jour (take that, artisan français). Surely there was a third option, maybe Amsterdam or Barcelona. Then something happens. Maybe the sun comes out. It may not shine exactly but it will give us a nice rosy glow, so flattering to my crepey skin. Or maybe I finally, possibly, have found my doctor.

Medical care here is generally excellent. I, however, am the patient from hell. I don’t get my blood work, don’t take my medicine. I’m constantly losing the same 5 pounds. It’s all so boring. I once had a boyfriend who skipped a blood test, the one that would have detected his colon cancer in time to save his life. You’d think I’d have learned, but no. Back in the States, every so often I’d have a Douglas LaPlante Memorial Colonoscopy. Now I’m over it. 

I found this smart but easygoing doctor who has seen my type before and has learned to roll with it. I like her but I don’t know, doctors, medicine, so dull.

And Then. I’ll spare you the tacky details but suddenly I needed an ENT guy right away. I didn’t dare call my doctor. She’d ask about that blood test she ordered two months ago. So I made M. Wonderful find a doctor in the neighborhood who speaks English and could see me at once. I don’t know how he puts up with me. But off I went, to the usual Paris doctor’s office in a stunning antique-filled converted apartment. Even the examining table was an antique.  No clerks, no front desk. I was greeted by the doctor, this tiny, skinny woman in black leather everything, I think, apart from a mohair sweater and the ropes of pearls that keep her anchored to the ground. No white coat. Her Pomeranian sleeps next to her desk.

She found the problem and fixed it, just like that. Then, right after she answered her own phone and complained to me about the patient who called — not in detail, just a general, casual, “I hate the French,” — she let me know that she advertises one specialty but has five and if I wanted, she could be my regular doctor. Well, I was hooked. The Pomeranian, the diamonds and cubic zirconia peeking through the mohair and pearls, this is my kind of doctor. And where but France, maybe where but Paris, could I find someone as eccentric as she is competent? And a French francophobe, to boot, maybe worse than me. I’m going to love this. I may even follow her advice.


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The paneling crack’d???


No, that would have been Agatha Christie’s first draft. She wound up doing much better. I’m the one with the cracked paneling.

These panels are original to the house. They didn’t have kiln drying 150 years ago, so there would not have been the problem we face now, dealing with shrinkage for years after we build/trim whatever. Plus, in 150 years you would think the wood would be whatever size it was going to be, kiln dried or not.

I think this is happening for a couple of reasons. First, the house is now pretty weathertight. The leaks are few and are being found and sealed. So when it rains, inside the house it doesn’t feel that different. That is the good news. The other news is that for various reasons, when I leave for a few days, the heat goes down but never off. My pipes don’t freeze. Mildew inside and spalling outside are over. But I think the air inside the house must be drier than it has ever been. I’m not sure but that’s all I can figure.

Well, no, maybe it’s this. There is no insulation behind the panels. They lie flat against the stone, at least I’m pretty sure they do. So maybe the wood is caught between the consistent dry warmth of the interior and the changeable heat and humidity outside.

The contractor says he’ll run around with caulk and touch-up paint to make all this invisible. I don’t know. Even if he actually follows through, cracking panels could be an ongoing phenomenon.


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Jacques Report

An idle dog is the Devil’s workshop. Yesterday I got too busy to take Jacques for his daily walk, some 45 minutes to and from what passes in Paris for a dog park. It doesn’t tire him out but he gets a change of scene and a little socializing. It beats jumping around in front of the TV set. But I had work to do and plans for the evening, plus the weather is awful right now, so no walk. When I caught him chomping on my yarn, did I take the hint and move everything to a table? No, silly me, I just said “No, Jacques,” and went back to whatever. Then I went out.

Look what I came home to. My nice, eco-friendly bamboo knitting needle, chewed. It catches the yarn, now. I’ll try taping over the divot but I have a feeling it’s time for a new pair of needles. He didn’t touch the yarn again, all credit for that. Maybe it was because he sniffed the lasagna takeout container in the recycle bag, which he then ripped open. Poor thing. Even plastic tastes better than his kibble.

I could argue that the lesson is to take him to the park every day, rain or shine, snow, sleet, hail, etc., but really I think the lesson is, spend more time at the house.