Aarrgghh, or how I coped with the power cut.

Last night there was a big storm. This morning we have no power. I didn’t actually notice till we went downstairs and tried to switch the computer on to phone hubs. Nothing. I checked the main fuse box like a good girl scout then proceeded in the futile exercise of going round the house flicking random light switches until I was satisfied. I hollered out the window to a passing neighbour and he confirmed that it was not just me but the whole village. Damn. I don’t know when we lost power but my little computer had been plugged in overnight so has a little juice left in it. Unfortunately my phone wasn’t and it is only on half. Hubs called my mobile, having been unable to get through to the land line, which runs through the PC, and we swapped tales of woe. I informed him of our power out and he broke the news that he was crippled. I went into panic mode till he expanded on this information. He has a bad back. I’m sure it is very sore, but I think crippled is a little excessive. He has had an achy back since we were in Antwerp, I’m sure that 8 hrs. train travel a 13 hr. flight and very little sleep since then haven’t helped the situation. He is able to hobble around and I’m sure in the land of chiropractors and over the counter self medication all will soon be mended. He is feeling very sorry for himself today as it’s his first day off and he is confined to the apartment (I’m pretty sure the hangover isn’t helping him feel great either….). I said I’d try and call him later, but that all depends on the power situation…..
So what to do with no power for the day? Rather luckily we had already planned an outing for the day to ‘Jim & Jump’ in Le Mans. An indoor torture arena for adults. Alternatively known as an indoor soft play centre. It’s a wonderful and horrific place, full of netted trampolines vast padded climbing ranges, enormous slides and lots and lots of overexcited over excited children having one last fling before the start of school again tomorrow. For the adults it provided WIFI and, much more importantly today, coffee. The worst part of a power cut for me so far has been the inability to have my morning coffee, and anyone who knows me will appreciate what a serious situation that is.
So after depositing shoes, waving goodbye to Moo amidst the brightly coloured plastic paraphernalia and ordering coffee I sat down and got ready to browse the internet for a couple of hours. Except that today their WIFI is not working. Foiled again. Still at least I have now had coffee so my balance is almost restored. Hopefully by the time we get get home the power will be restored too.
It’s at times like these I realise how dependant I am on the internet. The prospect of not being able to e-mail or skype leaves me shuddering. It also makes me realise how many things I should have written down the old fashioned way rather than filed electronically, how many people I would be unable to contact with no access to my computer is quite alarming. So of course the first thing I will do when we have electricity again is print out all my contacts and make sure I have all the information I might need on hard copy. Yeah, course it is.
Meanwhile I sit surreptitiously feeding sandwiches to Moo that were smuggled past the ‘it is strictly forbidden to bring your own food’ signs, whist trying to avoid the gaze of the yellow shirted commandants , sorry staff, patrolling the perimeter. And as I type away waiting for the battery to run dry, surrounded by hyper screaming bouncy children, I wonder what on earth I’m going to do if the power is still out when we get home. And when I am actually going to be able to post what I have written. But at least for now I have coffee.

P.S. Thankfully by the time we got home full power had been restored, Hubs called and told me his back was feeling a little better and I had a mammoth phone-call with a very good friend. Success.

A Bientôt.

That was the week…..

Departure day started with a frantic dash round the shops in the morning to try and find a new Lap-top bag for Hubs as he had realised that now he has a big wheelie case, a secondary wheelie bag was not the best of ideas. With that particular mission accomplished, and a new pair of canvas steel toe caps that somehow made it into the basket, it was home for lunch, a quick play then a return visit to Le Mans deposit hubs at the station and take Moo for her traditional ‘Daddy’s gone away’ Happy meal. The indoor play area was thankfully quiet, but with enough small people for her to have playmates. The drive home was starting to get a little on the sad side, but once again mother nature pulled one out of the bag for me. Well two actually. The heavy grey storm clouds parted for just long enough to provide my favourite meteorological phenomenon, an astonishingly bright double rainbow.
Less than 24hrs. Later, by the power of web cam, we were being treated to a virtual guided tour of hubs new digs on Taipa island and I have to say I’m impressed. Given that the view from the hotel window in Antwerp was a decrepit ‘white’ brick wall, I can only say this is a vast improvement. On one side, across a long bridge connecting the islands, you can see the shimmering outlines of the casinos of Macau , and on the other side , across the water, is mainland China, and if you can put a mental block on the gun turrets – to discourage any attempts at illegal immigration – it looks quite beautiful. I can’t wait to see it with my own eyes. 7 weeks and counting.
It’s sometimes hard to concentrate on the present when all of your thoughts are dominated by the future.
But here and now it was time to get on with the rest of our week. The weather has been awful this week, so we have been confined to barracks for most of it, trying to come up with time filling activities that would keep us both relatively sane. When Moo decided that one of her Barbie dolls really needed a ninja suit, I dusted off the sewing machine and rose to the occasion. Then of course Moo came to the conclusion that she herself was in dire need of a ninja suit, so I pulled out a some large bits of spare fabric, and a ninja suit she had. Although I’m not entirely sure that the ninja chiefs would entirely approve of the floral patchwork pattern, but you never know It might catch on.
We had a break from the rain on Saturday Morning and I took full advantage and insisted that we get out for a walk. The destination was to be the plage. It has been months since we have been to the lake, and I hadn’t realised how much I had missed it’s stillness and beauty. It was still cold and windy, but the sun made a brief appearance and watching the light dance on the rippling surface of the water lightened my heart and my mood considerably. The weather started to turn once more so we headed back home for a cosy afternoon and a roast dinner. We spoke to Hubs and learned that his ‘house mate’ had arrived, and although jet-lagged and bleary eyed, he was taking him out to show him the sights, and the bars, of the island. Whilst my heart longs to be with him, (my head does not envy the inevitable hangover they will have in the morning), I am also slowly learning to appreciate much more what is around me now, and enjoy it, rather than wishing I was somewhere else.
A bientot.

As a P.S. to this post, I knew I should have posted this before I went to sleep on Saturday, (see the following post for the reason), but that will just have to go on the list with all the other things I knew I should have done!

Cat-tastrophe, part 2

Sunday began a lot earlier than planned when Moo decided that 5.30 was the perfect time to get up for breakfast, I thought you were only supposed to get weird jet-lag when you crossed time zones, not borders. By 7 am she had conked out again so I went back to be hoping to do the same, but it was not to be, so I went down stairs to have a bit of quality time with Chimney, just in case. To my utter confusion she was nowhere to be found. I knew she had to be here somewhere, but I searched the house for over an hour and couldn’t find her anywhere. I knew she couldn’t have gone very far as she could barely raise her head last night but I just didn’t know where else to look. I decided to give up for 10 minutes have a coffee and finish sorting out the washing from our week away. As I reached into my case not only did I find my nice big scarf, but curled up inside it was the cat. Thankful that I had found her and she was still alive I took her to the sofa and did the cruellest and kindest thing by administering her next injection. I have never given a cat an injection before, but guided by the advice of my neighbour the deed was done. I’m sure if she’d had a bit more energy she would have scratched me to ribbons, but as it was she gave a half-hearted wriggle then stopped moving entirely. I had a momentary panic until she started moving again, but my relief did not last long she crawled back on her cushion and fell once more into a fitful and obviously quite painful slumber. I sat with her and stroked her pitifully scrawny frame until Moo had re-emerged from her bed and requested ‘second breakfast’. With the family up and fed I rang the vet and tried my best to explain the problem, I was told I could bring her in after lunch so I went next door to pick up the cat carrier that they had offered to lend. Lunch was quite a sombre affair with none of us really in the mood for humour, but hubs and trying to jolly along so Moo would not get upset when it was time for me to go. To be honest though, in that direct and refreshing way that children have, she was dealing with it far better than either of the grown-ups. I put off leaving for as long as I could as I felt certain by now that I was taking Chimney to her final appointment and as I walked out the door I felt like Madame le Guillotine.

The drive to the vet’s was awful. The cat was in obvious distress and started retching and squealing at the pain it caused her, she has entirely lost her meow as a result of the lumps in her throat so the noises she was making sounded very odd and most un-catlike, and it was all I could do not to burst into tears. When I got there the place looked deserted and I tried all the doors and found them locked. I pulled out my mobile to call them and realised it was a futile gesture as I had still no credit, (now is not the time for a rant at the total inadequacy of the French pay as you go mobile system, but I can assure you that time will come soon), so I jumped back in the car and headed for the town square and the nearest payphone. Again I was thwarted as it was a ‘calling card only’ booth, and with it being a Sunday, there was nowhere open to buy a card, Grrrr. I didn’t really know what to do so I headed back to the vets to see if any of the doors had miraculously unlocked in my absence, and to my utter joy it turns out they had. The vet on duty had been called out, (or had snuck out the back for a crafty ciggie perhaps), and although she had only been gone for about 10 minutes it just happened to be the 10 minutes I had been trying to get in. At last Chimney was seen. I explained what had happened, with the aid of a note from my neighbour and the vet’s notes from the previous morning, as the cat was examined and although my French is not really up to a standard yet where I understand veterinary terminology I understood enough to know that the cats condition was extremely serious, she was close to death, and would have to be taken in immediately for tests to see if anything could be done. I said a swift au revoir to Chimney and headed back home in tears, to await the vet’s phone call the following day.

Monday passed in a bit of a blur, we had to go out shopping to pick up some bits for hubs, but I was distracted vague and spent most of the day checking my mobile and willing it to ring. It was late afternoon when it finally did and I spoke to the nurse who, thankfully, had enough English to explain Chimney had made it through the night and had managed a small amount to eat but that I must come to the clinic to discuss the situation as soon as possible. The tone of her voice and her words made me once again fear the worst. I dropped off Hubs and Moo and raced to the vets with such a dread in my heart fearing what I may have to ask them to do. As I arrived there seemed to be a kerfuffle in the back and staff were running in all directions so I took my seat and waited as patiently as I could. The kerfuffle turned out to be a rather delirious cow who had not been well disposed to someone trying to give her a sedative and was causing quite a stir with the very young new vet at the practice. Had I not been so down hearted the whole situation would have been rather amusing. The senior vet arrived on the scene and order was restored and he was soon back the business of domestic creatures. The couple in front of me were seen and it emerged that they were here to say a final farewell to their beloved hound. Their grief was raw and painful to witness, my dread at being the next to hear that particular news increased tenfold and when I was called into the vet’s office I was so prepared not to cry when she told me that there was nothing that could be done, that I was quite literally dumbstruck when she gave me the news that my dear little cat should be right as rain in a few short weeks. I had to ask her to repeat herself to ensure I had understood her correctly, but it was true. She had managed to get a cut or two on her gums and they had become infected and ulcerated, which is why she couldn’t eat, then the infection had spread to her throat and stomach. The vets had managed to clean the ulcers and give her a boost of antibiotics and vitamins, and with a further 10 day course of antibiotics all should be well. I nervously asked about FIV as that was the first vets initial thought, but although it can produce very similar symptoms, she had been tested and was all clear. We went through her after care and the vet took a moment to praise Hubs action of feeding her pate and milk the previous evening stating that it had probably saved her life, and then we were told we could go home. I have never been so happy to write a cheque. It was an evening of celebration in our house as we were all so utterly amazed and relieved to have our cat back with us.

I’ve never really been a ‘cat person’ and having one as a pet never featured on my ‘to-do’ list. Chimney’s arrival in our household was a little out of the blue for us and it wasn’t the easiest of relationships, and there have been many times when I would have gladly seen the back of her. But after the last few days I can well and truly say she is one of the family.

It wasn’t till after Moo was in bed and Hubs and I were sitting together with a glass of wine that I suddenly remembered what was happening tomorrow. With all the drama and worry I had put to the back of my mind the fact that tomorrow afternoon I was taking Hubs to the train station so he could go to the airport and get on a plane that would take him to Macau for the next 6 months.
A Bientot.

Cat – tastrophe, part 1

We arrived home on Saturday evening tired but happy, knowing that although the house was clean, it was going to be extremely cold for at least a couple of hours till we had the chance to warm it up again, but we had jumpers and we were all prepared for that. We were not in the least bit prepared for what else we found when we got into the house. After struggling all the bags through the door and switching on lights I noticed Chimney coming very gingerly downstairs. It was good to see her as she had been a little off colour on the Thursday before I left, but had seemed to pick up after a long sleep and a hearty meal on Saturday and then she disappeared off through the window to wherever it is she disappears off too ,and I didn’t see her again before we left on Sunday morning, but that is nothing too strange. Our neighbours look after Chimney when we go off on our travels making sure she is fed and watered when she re-appears form her night time adventures, and there have never been any problems. Then I saw the note taped to the living room door. It stated that our poor little cat has been extremely ill, and they were so concerned that they had taken her to the vets. They had tried to call me that morning but couldn’t get through, thanks to me using up all my credit on futile phone calls to rail companies the previous afternoon. I went straight next door, consumed by guilt, to find out what had happened. It turns out that little Chimney had been missing till Friday evening when the neighbours had found her curled up in their house. It wasn’t till she tried to get up that they realised something was wrong as she could barely move her head, let alone her body. They tried to give her a drink and some food, but to no avail, and made her as comfortable as they could for the night. By the morning they were in no doubt that she needed to go to the Vet and off they went. The vet examined her and finding her close to starvation with a soaring temperature and lumps covering the inside of her mouth and throat, gave her an injection of anti-biotics and a vitamin shot. They wanted to keep her in and do a blood test as the vet suspected FIV (feline AIDS) but the neighbours did not feel they could do that without us knowing so brought her home with another injection for the morning, and that’s where we walked in.
We made her comfortable and did a bit of internet scouring to check her symptoms against what the vet had said. It did not look at all good for poor little Chim. FIV is manageable, but incurable, cats can live for years with FIV on vast amounts of medication and a strict indoor only policy. However by the time the symptoms manifest in growths and sores it is usually to late to do anything to make the cat’s life anything approaching pain free or bearable. I don’t think either of us realised just how much she had instigated herself in our clan until that moment when we had to agree that if the diagnosis were positive then the right thing to do would be to have her put to sleep. I cannot imagine a life for Chimney constantly dosed up on medication and being forced to stay inside for the rest of her life. She has been an outdoor cat since the day the vet gave her the all clear after her first op, and the thought of seeing her scratching at the windows and longing to climb a tree was too much to bear. As I put Moo to bed hubs had one last try with a spoonful of soft pate and some milk, and she managed to keep a tiny bit down, but not nearly enough.
Sleep did not come easy that night, but at least tomorrow she was going back to the vet’s.
A Bientot.

The best laid plans….

“They don’t want you to travel”
This above is a quote from a man that my mother and I encountered about 20 years ago whilst abandoned at Snow Hill train station Near Birmingham. We were on our way to the rag market and for some unknown reason the train took us to Snow Hill instead of New Street and we all had to get off at the as yet unmanned station and wait. We were left there for around an hour with no information or hope of rescue. The man had obviously reached the end of his tether and proceeded to tell anyone who would listen that it was a worldwide government conspiracy to make it so difficult to get anywhere that people would prefer to stay at home. It was all rather Kafkaesque as we nervously laughed off his diatribe.
Over the ensuing years and many thousands of miles I have covered I have come to believe that he was absolutely correct and a man ahead of his time.
There are not many times when our travel arrangements have proceeded smoothly and this weekend was to prove no exception. We were all due to travel back together on Saturday afternoon form Antwerp to Paris, from Paris to Le Mans. Sorted. Moo and I had tickets booked in advance and Hubs’ work had organised for him to go back on the same trains as us. Lovely. Then on Monday there was a terrible accident just outside of Brussels
and whilst not directly on the Thalys lines, the services were of course going to be affected. We contacted the train company and they assured us that all services would be running ‘normally’ by the weekend. By Thursday this was quite apparently not going to be the case and Hubs’ work decided to change his route home in order to avoid the delay. This of course meant we were now booked on different trains arriving at Le Mans hours apart. I had a word at Antwerp station on the way through and they assured me that changing our tickets should not be a problem and I should bring them tomorrow and all would be well.
All was however not well. The chap took one look at the tickets, cleared his throat and pronounced my fate. Ask anyone who has spent any time in Belgium and they will tell you that when a Belgian includes the word ‘normally’ in any sentence, nothing good will come of it.
He – “Normally this would not be a problem” my heart sank, “ but these tickets were issued in France, so they can only be refunded in France”
Me – “ Eh?”
He – “ You cannot get a refund in Belgium”
Me – “ But the service starts in Belgium and it will not get me to Paris in time to get my connection, so I need to change my tickets”
He – “Yes, I can see that is a problem”
Me – “Any idea what I should do to solve this problem?”
He – “Normally you should call Thalys and they will help you, but they are very busy as a lot of people have these problems at the moment.”
Me – “Do you have a phone number for them?”
He – “Yes I do, here it is”
Me – “Thank you”
He – “But that is the number for Thalys Belgium and they cannot give you a refund, you will have to call Thalys France”
Me – “Do you have a number for Thalys France?”
He – “No. Have a great day”
A few fraught phone calls later I was no further on and rapidly running out of phone credit, so I decided to head back to the hotel and tackle the problem on-line which is probably what I should have done in the first place. With a few hastily exchanged e-mails booking references were collated, websites negotiated, tickets cancelled and a refund secured. Now all I had to do was book our tickets from Lille to Le Mans. Once again we were finally all on the same train, different carriages, but at least the same train. How we were getting to Lille. I had no idea, apparently Hub’s work were sorting that bit out. And sort it out they did, with all thanks going to the wonderful Nadia from the production office.
The evening progressed with a nice meal and some champagne to celebrate the end of ‘part 1’ of the contract. In the morning we had a frantic flurry around the room to ensure that all was packed and tidied away, headed out for a leisurely coffee and returned to hotel reception to find Daniel, a company driver waiting to whisk us all to Lille. Thank you Dragone, and thank you Nadia. We boarded our train and Moo had fun running up and down to ‘visit daddy’ in the other carriage, until a kindly member of train staff saw our predicament and placed us all together at a table near the buffet car. Lovely. Time to relax, enjoy the coffee and the scenery and look forward to getting home.
‘They’ may not want us to travel, but I’m darned if I’m going to let ‘Them’ stop me!
A bientot.

Bendy people and braids

Thursday was the day we were scheduled to go and see, in the words of Moo, “the bendy people”. Yes it was off to the Alphacam studios in Lint to see the acrobats and divers that make up the cast of ‘The House of Dancing Water’, the show that hubs has been rehearsing for the last lifetime or so. For those of you who don’t know I think I should make it clear that Hubs is not one of ‘the bendy people’, but the senior automation programmer for the show ( in layman’s terms – flinging the bendys around at vast heights and speeds with the aid of computers motors, and winches). We visit as often as we can when we are in Belgium as not only does it give Moo a much clearer picture of what her father does when he is away from home all this time, (as you can see my description above, although relatively accurate, is not terribly technical), but also because a fair proportion of the bendys are quite a pretty distraction for mummy to look at. The company are so welcoming and are always pleased to see us and make us feel part of the ‘Dragone family’. It’s wonderful for me as I still get a taste of the lifestyle without having to be directly involved in proceedings, thus avoiding the inevitable bits of unpleasantness that occur. I also get to look at bendy people in swimwear, did I already mention that? I’m not allowed to say too much about what goes on inside the studios as it’s all very hush-hush till the show opens but if you want a small taster I can recommend looking at this web page ‘house of dancing water preview’
After an hour or so Moo got a little bored of watching people being propelled towards the roof on bungee cords at a heart stopping 8 metres per second, and the lure of shopping became to much for her, so we said a fond farewell to our friends (for about 7 weeks anyway) and headed back to town. The only purchase Moo was interested in was a ‘Hannah Montana hair braiding machine’ that she had spotted earlier in the week, so off for a brief stop in town before heading back to the hotel for a spot of coiffage. Up until now Moo has shown little interest in her hair , and would run screaming at the sight of a hairbrush preferring to sport the ‘stig of the dump/scarecrow’ look, so anything that might give me a slim chance at getting near her with a comb has got to be a good thing. Her fascination with Hannah Montana has a curious beginning, She has never seen her on TV, never heard her sing and has no Idea really who she is other than a face on a pair of pyjamas. She got the PJ’s from her Nana at Christmas, a killer combination of black, pink and glitter was enough to woo any small girlie, and as she has just started trying to read by herself it was not long before she had a name to go with the face. And it was not long again before she decided to model her hair on the famous Disney star’s PJ portrait. When Hubs spotted a Moo sized Hannah Montana back print leather jacket in C&A, he just couldn’t resist, and now just about everything that is branded is fair game, and she still hasn’t seen her on TV. Lord help me when she does. So it was back to the room with a braider and a box of beads. I’m not sure if my braiding skills are quite up to the standard shown on the packaging, but with a little practice…..
Hubs had an unexpected early finish and arrived back amidst bead chaos, and began to pack while we finished off the hairdressing. It is a big pack for hubs this time as he is leaving Belgium for good this weekend. His rehearsals are over, although the bendys continue there till April, he get a couple of days off then flies to Macau to prepare the casino theatre for the arrival and final creation of the show. I’m fairly certain that after 14 months he will be glad to see the back of Antwerp and this hotel room in particular, and I know for sure that he can’t wait to get to Macau and start programming what will be the biggest show of the year. But most of all he just wants to spend a few days at home, in his own bed, even if it is just to remind himself what it looks like before his next 6 months away.
A bientot.

an Olympic hangover cure

Wednesday morning was indeed marked by a rather dull ache in the temples, although not quite as bad as I had been expecting. I waved hubs off to work and made a swift route back under the still warm duvet. Sadly Moo’s late night did not interrupt her morning schedule and I was soon up and about again dealing with breakfast. One of the nice things about staying here is that the hotel room is equipped with a TV that has a few English channels including the quite marvellous BBC2 with it’s schedule of half term morning kids programmes. Say no more. I managed to drag myself into some kind of reasonable state by mid morning and was able to assist Moo in her crafting of a ‘thank-you for the ice cream’ card for her beloved Pete. Awww. After a quick consultation with the swimming pool schedule and a much needed caffeine fix we headed out for another dip. After the pool it was the park and before we knew it it was tea-time, and time for a bit of winter Olympics. Moo is quite taken with the Olympics and the vast array of new sports on show to her. I don’t know about you, but I tend to forget the fact that this is the first time she has ever seen any of these wonderful and sometimes bizarre sports, For her the idea of winter sports is the odd snowman build with a bit of sledging and a few snowballs thrown in for good measure, so to witness downhill skiing, ice dancing and snowboarding in quick succession was something of a sensory overload. Within about half an hour she had decided, once she had verified that these were in fact real people and it was not some kind of camera trickery, that she wanted to be a skater, a skier and a snowboarder. However the biggest gasp of the evening came with the highlights of the luge. “Mummy look what those crazy people are doing! That’s the most exciting thing I’ve ever seen.” When she saw the luge pairs the decibel levels had the windows rattling. I love that she is getting so excited about these things, but I fear I may end up being a big disappointment to her as when daddy came in from work she stated without even a hint of doubt that “ When I get bigger I’m going to learn how to do the luge. And mummy’s going to do it with me”. Oh heavens I think my headache is coming back.
A bientot.