Wednesday, 25 April 2012


Have just read about a lovely 15th century church in Somerset, the bells would chime every quarter hour as well as on the hour. It seems that incomers were not too happy with the quarter hour chimes and made complaints to the local council and asked that they be turned off between 11pm and 7am. A reasonable request but it seems that it is not possible to turn the chimes off at night so the bells are now silent.

 All day and all night.

 You get used to hearing about Nimbys in England, a bit like those townies who move to the countryside then complain about cockerels crowing or cows mooing or sheep bleating or even tractors on the road.

 I didn’t think that they had Nimby's in rural France.

 It seems they do.

 How would ‘not in my back yard’ translate - ‘pas dans ma cour’ no – it doesn’t work.

As we are now in a new house in a new location we take different routes to different shops. We spotted a lot of groundwork being done just outside of town and wondered what was being done.

 Over the weeks we saw a beautiful large barnlike structure being erected with the most beautiful wooden frame. Maybe a new sports –hall or a ‘cathedral', it is far too big for a regular barn. Hmm what could it be?

 We watched the roof go on then the walls with huge ‘door’ openings. Still no idea what is could be.

 The grounds outside have now been tarmaced and posts have been placed at the far end of the site.

 Then, one day, talking to a friend we have found out what is going on.

 On the edge of the town, in another direction, there is a Sawmill and timber yard.

 The business has been family run for 3 generations.

 Around 40 years ago the landowner next door got permission to build houses on his land and a small estate was constructed. The residents knew that the Sawmill was next door and they weren’t bothered, after all it was there first and the machinery was only used certain hours.

 One of the, now elderly, residents decided to sell up and move into a retirement home, the house was sold and everything seemed fine until the new owner decided to complain to the maire about the noise from the sawmill.

 The proprietor was advised that he must reduce the noise of his machinery and the hours of use were also restricted.

 Over the past few years he did all he could to comply to the maire’s requests.

 The resident continued the complaint and now the Sawmill has had to move, every last splinter I think, hence the new site that we have seen being built.

 So the Nimby won. And the Nimby is French.

I expect he will complain when another housing estate is built behind him.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

This is something I should have posted around my adventure!!

Isn’t it strange how things, (life) revolves?

Little TJ was recovering incredibly well. He was in the HDU (High Dependecy Unit) after spending so many weeks in ITU (Intensive Care Unit), the little chap was doing very well and the powers that be were now talking about care for ‘when he is home.’ Such good news!

But, for every positive there seems to have been a negative.

My dear mum was in hospital.

My brother went to see her on a Sunday morning as usual, and he found the door locked, milk, bread and potatoes in the porch. It was during the very cold weather in February. Mum had given him a key, it was the wrong one! He knocked on the neighbours door and gained access to mums house through the back garden and proceeded in breaking down the back door.

He found mum laying on the floor in her living room. Now, our mother, being an indomitable lady, said ‘hello’ when she saw her son. My brother was expecting the worse, and as you can imagine he was shocked, surprised and all those other emotions because he did not expect anything from the person he found lying on the floor, he was expecting the ‘worse’.

The ambulance service was called and they arrived within 20 mins. Mum had all the necessary checks done. She was cold but not hypothermic. She had soiled herself and the female paramedic helped clean her up. An e.c.g. etc. was done and cups of tea made. Mum seemed to be ok, but naughty woman, she was not wearing her alarm.
Later Sunday evening her alarm was tripped. My brother again went to mums house and found her in the hallway. Again the ambulance service was called and mum was taken to her local hospital.

Now this dear lady was 90 years old, she has been very well and has all her ‘marbles’, but her legs give her problems. She cannot get about as she used to and her weight has increased too much. She has cellulitis in one of her legs and that was the problem. Her leg gave away and she did not have the strength to get up!
So she was in hospital, being looked after by some wonderful nurses and on very high dosage of antibiotics for her leg. According to my older sister she was also not taking any nonsense from the nurses – good girl! “

Since this posting, my lovely mum has recovered and is now at home. She has had the usual agencies in helping her for a short while.

I gave her a call once I arrived home from my ‘trip’. (my sister was there)

Me “hello Mum, how are you?”

Mum “I’m fine, did you know I was in hospital for 10 days whilst you were away?”

Me “Er, mum, you were out of the hospital before I went away”

Mum “Was I? (she calls to my sister and asks ‘wasn’t she away when I was in hospital?’ – no mum!) Oh yes of course you were here”

Bless my darling mum, she is fine of course and has since made 91 years!

But our dear little TJ… there are still problems. He has in the last week had a tracheostomy to help with his breathing.

It seems that at the back of his throat, a place that we all take for granted, does not function properly. This is due to the fact that the back of his throat is so extremely relaxed that it just does not work. I suppose the only way to explain is that the swallowing and breathing can become ‘confused’ and fluid that is produced naturally will go into the lungs instead of the gullet which eventually causes congestion and infection.

His mum has raised this concern about his throat over the past few years and it has been ignored by the professionals, at last she has had confirmation of her suspicions.

For nourishment he is being tube fed through his bowel as his stomach is too sensitive.

This little chap has had a lot of invasive surgery over the past few months and is still in for a long haul at Kings. We are not sure when he will be home with his family but what we do know is that our daughter will be having to learn even more new procedures to look after her son and will have to find suitable accommodation for his needs once he is discharged from the hospital.

She is one strong woman.

Our trip - Part 2

After our jaunt to the Caribbean we returned to our lovely hosts and after a little chilling out, I (we) decided on our next outing. Himself was not giving a lot of input at all, just going where he was taken, a bit like a puppy I suppose.

I eventually found a B&B on the Pacific coast that did not seem to be surrounded by too many ‘touristy’ places.

Our trip was, again, by bus but unbeknown to us the road (tarmac) petered out after around 45mins and became a rocky dirt road. What fun! We had almost three hours of being bumped, rattled and shaken before we reached our destination. I am sure we both lost at least an inch in height by the time we arrived in Quepos. We noticed a distinct difference between the east and west coast. The further west we went the drier and dustier it was.

The mountains (big hills?) seemed to be denuded of trees. There were obvious terraces where plantations had, no doubt, been flourishing. On these hills there were cattle grazing, mainly Brahman which are obviously used to the heat and bred for a supply of beef! We noticed a distinct lack of trees!

When we were fairly close to our destination we passed many pineapple plantations, and as we dropped closer to sea level we noticed other plantations in the distance, we just could not work out what the trees were! Eventually we came to a tarmac road! Hurrah, smooth travel again. We were soon going through these other mysterious plantations. There they were, miles, and miles of palm trees bearing fruits for palm oil; amazing to see. The only time I have heard of palm oil is its use is in a certain soap, how my knowledge has grown!

On arrival at Quepos we found a taxi and gave the driver directions to our accommodation which, unbelievably, is in Londres.

The B&B I had booked is run by an American who is into all things green and organic and on our arrival we were greeted like old friends with all embracing hugs and kisses.

Our first day was just chilling out, I think that the very dry journey took it out of himself, meanwhile I went into Quepos on an ancient bus with Elena and took in the sights sounds and smells of the place. Elena went off and did ‘her thing’ whilst I wandered around, looked into shops bought a couple of things and eventually found my host who had also made her purchases including a pussycat from a local ‘american run’ cat charity. Great fun smuggling a cat on the bus coming back – livestock is not allowed, phew, we got away with it!

The following day we were introduced to another American who had settled many years before and was in the process of replanting a mountainside after it had been used by ranchers and completely stripped of foliage. We were very impressed at what he had achieved over the last few years. His garden is amazing and he is gradually replacing some of his temporary plantings with permanent plantings. Some species of plants need a very long time to get established and he is not rushing the process. Now there is a guy to applaud! We stopped off at a place where chicharrones were prepared along with yucca, delicious!

We enjoyed our stay on the Pacific coast. We met some lovely people, both Costa Ricans and Americans, maybe we will visit that area again!

Our last couple of days were with our hosts. Lovely people that we have known for, well, not a long while, you know, the sort of people that you just ‘click’ with. It was so good to see them and their new environment and, hopefully we will do the visit again in the near future.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Our trip - Part 1

We did it!

Yes, we took our trip –an amazing experience for the both of us.

The last time my man flew was 1970, and that was a very short flight from Gatwick to St Helier, Jersey, when the airport was just a tin shed and runway!

I have made short flights, France to UK and back, and also a flight to Turkey so was not too phased by the airports etc. Himself though, he could not believe the changes. Poor man, stuck in the past – well he has now been thrust into the present and being pushed towards the future. But in spite of being out of his comfort zone he coped with it all.

Our flight was due to leave Nantes airport at 7.35 am so we left home nice and early, needed to be there 3 hours before flight, according to instructions, there was no-one there, not a soul, the airport was an empty shell so we thought until we saw another couple wandering about wondering where to go.

Eventually some staff arrived and we were told that our flight desk staff would not be around for another 2 hours, unbelievable!

Our journey from Nantes took us to Madrid, it was amazing to fly down the west coast of France and see Arcachon and the Dune de Pilat from above. The Pyrenees were amazing. We loved it!

From Madrid we had a direct flight to our eventual destination. And what a destination! I had been wanting to take this trip for a long time and, yes my planning was a bit haphazard as I was not sure what to expect.

We arrived in San Jose just after 4pm and navigated our way through the airport and eventually picked up our cases and went outside to find our dear friend.

What clamorous sounds greeted us: men offering to help with our baggage, find us a taxi, the hooting of cars and shouts of people. Thank heavens for those who know the ropes, otherwise we would have been totally lost.

We took a long tortuous route around mountains in the fading light to reach our friends home. I am glad I didn’t see it all on that first journey.

The following day was taken with catching up on news and absorbing the whole atmosphere of the place. The views were amazing, the plants and colours were a feast for the eyes, and the sounds were so unusual from the birds and the insects.

We had a look around San Jose, found the central Market – amazing place, shame there isn’t one like it locally! The buildings in San Jose were a mix of the old Spanish colonial, 60’s, 70’s and thoroughly modern. There are small squares where you can just sit and relax and ‘people watch’. Street vendors are on most of the corners selling veg and fruit, and I have never seen so many shoe shops in one place.

We arranged for a day trip on a tourist bus to see Poas volcano, a coffee plantation, Sarchi where they make ox carts and Grecia (Greece) to see the metal church.

Our mini-bus had only 7 of us plus guide and driver. Now this was fun, slowly making our way up the side of the volcano, travelling though the most amazing scenery and eventually rainforest. And, yes, it was raining! We arrived at Poas and made our way up to the summit, buying plastic ponchos for protection as it was so wet. We could smell the sulphur but it wasn’t too strong. When we reached the viewpoint we could not see a thing! The whole place was shrouded in a heavy mist, we were so disappointed as the day looked so promising.

Our next stop was the coffee plantation, 12000 hectares in all. There was so much that we did not know about coffee, the fact that it takes 4 years before you can plant the young bush out, it doesn’t get its first pruning until it is 20 years old and that it lives for up to 80 years. All beans must be hand picked as they ripen at different times, the drying process is started in the sun (mornings only) then finished in a large dryer. Something that is taken for granted is complicated to achieve! After the tour of the coffee plantation we had a delicious lunch then back on the mini-bus and then to our next destination of Sarchi. At one time the only form of transport in Costa Rica was the ox cart. Sarchi has many artisans where they make ox carts in many sizes – from tiny ornaments to the largest ox cart in latin America. The workshop we went to still has the original buildings and water operated machinery with wheels and belts working away. I think that the Health & Safety lobby in Europe would have a fit and take the whole lot down!

Our last visit was to Grecia to see the metal church which was shipped, in pieces, from Belgium to Grecia in the 1890’s. It is a beautiful, well respected and looked after structure.

I had a look online for somewhere to go and stay on the Caribbean side and eventually found a nice place to stay in the town of Cahuita. We had a four hour jouney by bus going over mountains (again) and through a rainforest. We had a ‘p’ stop at Limon and then continued on our way through banana plantations on our right and the sea on our left. The bus had the windows open and I kept getting the odd ‘whiff’ of a certain substance. Hmm, what could that be….

Our ‘cabina’ was basic, could sleep 7 people all in one room, it had the usual facilities and a small kitchen with table and chairs. Everything one would need for a short stay. We explored the town, unmade roads though.

We were just a 2 minute walk from the National Park which stretched many kilometres bordering the sea. A beautiful, quiet haven and we only saw a couple of butterflies, lizards and one yellow snake. There was a path to follow – no straying in the jungle! It was free but we could have had a guide for ‘megabucks’ so decided against that. There was a large group of European tourists with their cameras doing the Park and blocking the pathway. A bit of a nuisance but hey ho, it is a free world.

The restaurants were excellent offering a good choice of Caribbean food. Would recommend it all.

Only downer on those couple of days was that it decided to rain, and rain, and rain….

And so back on the bus, picking up the ‘whiff’ of ‘spliff’ en route and back to San Jose.