Good Morning all – and apologies for the lack of posts recently. Ms Raccoon has had a few problems of her own to sort out, leaving little enough time to put the world to rights…
All the furniture left here on Friday; fortunately I had the wit to sell a large sofa to the new owners that would never have fitted into the new house, so I had somewhere to sleep!
You wouldn’t think it possible to lose your glasses in a totally empty house, but without Mr G to helpfully point them out to me – I did. I felt round every barren surface, checked every room through bleary eyes three times over – and nothing. Eventually I remembered that ‘somewhere’ in the car, I had buried another pair, so started the laborious business of unpacking a closely packed vehicle and carefully feeling for a pair of glasses, eventually had success. Voila! Once on the end of my nose, they revealed themselves to be a broken pair of Mr G’s ‘workshop’ glasses – better than nothing! I stumbled back into the house, and this time I could see, on the only other item in the house apart from the sofa – my grey glasses sitting on top of my grey laptop…
Old age sucks. Those travelling in a vehicle across France this week will be reassured to know that I can now see the front of my car again – not the front of yours, mind you, so caution is still advised…I shall be driving back to England on Wednesday.
On the last day of October, Friday 31st, I had phoned my bank, in France to advise them of my new address. HSBC. The Bank that makes it easy to move between countries? They’ve already sent me a bunch of flowers and £100 for leaving me stranded in East German as a result of not doing what they said they were going to do; and £150 but no flowers, for totally cocking up the opening of a new account in England…this time they really excelled themselves.
I had packed the contact details for my branch in Bordeaux, so phoned the only advertised number – in Paris. A voice came on the line – in English! Wow! Why didn’t they tell me that at any time in the past seven years? – and said if I preferred to conduct my business in English, press button 3. So I did. I explained to the lovely young lady my change of address, she gave me the usual HSBC mantra about being happy to be of assistance and was there anything else she could do for me today? – and we parted company, another job ticked off on my list.
The following day, Saturday, was a bank holiday here. Which meant that everybody had to be given the day off on the Monday instead. Which meant that the Monday, when they normally wouldn’t have worked anyway was transferred to the Tuesday. Since the following Tuesday (tomorrow) was also a bank holiday, and they don’t work on Monday’s – you can see where this is going, can’t you? Yep, three quarters of France takes a 10 day skiing holiday between the 1st and 12th of November and only loses 4 days pay……they call it ‘Le Pont’.
Except for La Poste. On the Monday morning they delivered a recorded delivery letter – two pages of dense French legalise. It seemed that under the law of 26th November da dum, da dum (all French laws are expressed in terms of the date passed) – they had closed my bank account and ‘in two months time’ would be pleased to transfer any balance to whichever account I nominated – in the meantime I was not to issue any more cheques or use my debit card which were to be returned to them…
Argggh! Panic stations! My first thought was that I had been the victim of fraud and someone had managed to clean out my account – one facet of French life that comes as an unwelcome surprise to ex-pats is that you don’t get threatening letters from your bank manager if you become overdrawn, nor are the subject of swingeing charges – your account is instantly, without warning, closed down, and you cannot get an account with any other bank for five years. I assumed that was what had happened to me.
Telephone calls to Paris only elicited the answer that they would get my personal manager in Bordeaux to phone me – when she came back from Le Pont! Not good enough. Many arguments with the call centre later, got me on the phone to ‘another’ personal manager who naturally had no authority to tell me what was in my account, nor to reverse this decision. I was beside myself – how was I to get myself across France if I couldn’t even buy petrol?
Eventually, I got on the phone to HSBC in Jersey who have the advantage of having bi-lingual French/English managers and begged for their help. They couldn’t reverse this action either, nor peer into my account (HSBC France is unique in being a ‘sealed system’) – but they were exceptionally helpful. They opened a new Euro account for me so that the house sale proceeds could go into it, transferred some Sterling so I could operate whilst in France – and finally got me to read them the letter from my personal manager in Bordeaux.
Ha! said the lovely man in Jersey – the law of 26th November not the law of 9th September? “You haven’t done anything wrong. The law of 26th is a voluntary closure – they think you want to close the account”…so much for the comprehension of the English speaking help line…if I was ‘properly French’ I would have a copy of the Napoleonic Code in my house, and would have been able to look it up myself – still can’t do anything about it until Ms LaPorte comes back from her skiing holiday, when I shall break her bloody neck if she hasn’t already done so herself.
Last Wednesday, my new plumbing system had decided it didn’t like all this stress, and had come to a full stop – necessitating a trip to the Doctor. “I should send you for a scan tomorrow and see your consultant in Bordeaux – but you’re not going to go are you?” he said. “Nope” said I. “Just had a scan in England and they’ve promised me the results by Friday – and the removal men arrive tomorrow”. Bless his heart – he treated me against his better judgement, on a promise that if the result of the scan in England showed any sign of a blockage, I would cancel the sale (as if!) and go straight to hospital in Bordeaux.
That unwelcome bit of stress this week, paled into insignificance beside the result of that scan. The English hospital had e-mailed me wanting to bring forward my appointment with them. This is not what you want to hear. Naturally, they couldn’t tell me ‘why’ on the phone, but wanted access to my previous lung x-rays. It’s that ‘Oh Gawd’ moment….
Eventually, by Friday, when I’d explained exactly why I had to stay in France until next Wednesday, they relented – and with removal men working round me – told me that, whilst the pelvic scan was clear, they have found another tumour in my lung. I’m not altogether surprised, I’ve been very out of breath and tired recently, so knew something was wrong. They want to do a biopsy as soon as I get to England to establish whether it is the Leiomyosarcoma back for a third time, or merely a harmless benign tumour…if it is my old foe Leo, I shall be taking off for East Germany, Dresden to be exact, for laser treatment on it – it’s only 9cm right now – and what’s 9cm to a woman like me? – I’ve already seen off a 156cm one and a 50 something one, and Professor Rolfe manages to see off anything smaller than 10cm without invasive surgery.
I’m not panicking yet – but right now, I just want to get to England, lay my head on Mr G’s shoulder, and sleep – for a week, at least.
I haven’t given in yet – but all things considered, whether I will write anything in the next few weeks, and if so what – is debatable. Mr G has booked a table at a wonderful riverside restaurant for what I am told is a magnificent traditional English Sunday lunch this Sunday, and that is as far ahead as I am looking right now.
On the other hand, I may wake up tomorrow and decide to tell you about the Giant Prawn – who knows?
Colour me unpredictable. And as defiant as ever. (And can anyone tell me what “I’m allergic to the scanner contrast fluid, you dick-heads” is, in Dresden dialect? I may need to know…)
Sheeeeeeeesh, this week is nearly over.
Edited by Anna to clarify: Dork here means mm not cm……please take all measurements to mean mm not cm – things aren’t that bad!