Fiona Alderman with more news from the Dordogne

A Letter from France – Fifi’s Story .


There is a great piece of publicity displayed at the local Mairie at the moment . It is recruiting for doctors in rural France.However, it shows to my amusement, a very poor photo of “Dr House” and also the actor in “ Grey’s Anatomy”. I can’t remember his name for the moment as I am not a great follower of the series. However I thought it was a funny way to publicize the wanted theme!

Apparently they have great difficulty in getting doctors here as they are poorly paid for very long hours in often pretty inaccesible places . The last one we had , didn’t stay long either. She had already worked in Puerto Rica and many other countries in difficulty, but couldn’t stand the pace here! She was so nervous and I felt worse after seeing her.

It is also a curious business with the opticians in France, nobody wants to train as one either it seems. In the UK, we go for an eye test and also get our prescription for spectacles or even contact lenses, all done in one place . N’est ce pas? Not here you don’t. It is two completely different things . Firstly you have to make a “rendezvous” with the  “opthalmologue” the specialist and that has normally about 6 months to maybe even a year’s waiting list? Then you go with your precious prescription to the optician’s who will fill it for you ! We have had such a problem with Barry who has developed a cataract and will need an operation but to get an appointment sooner as the eye degenerates? Not easy . Luckily we know someone, the Director of the hospital in Brive, who likes a large glass of Leffe beer at the café of an evening , who recommended another specialist . I wrote to him , and we have a “rendezvous” next week ! Some things move very quickly here is the gist of my story whereas some things take forever . “ Demain demain”. 

Alix and the tomatoes. 

flowrsPeople do often help each other out in small communities,  and it is no different here . I know a lovely lady , Alix, and she has a “potager” a little garden plot, down in Le Barry . She is out in all weathers digging and planting, and often pops in to give us some fresh produce . This last week it was tomatoes, and what a difference they are to shop ones! Much sweeter.She never stays long and even when offered a cup of tea as thanks she always rushes off , no doubt to help someone else . We got some artichokes from another friend one time, a typically French affair that are a nightmare to prepare. We unfortunately don’t like them, but we can’t lose face under a strict Frenchwoman’s culinary skill . They call artichokes “le repas des pauvres” a poorman’s meal , where you are left with more on the plate after you have finished!

We are very lucky to have a service to help each other with The Red Cross in the village. It has a Vestiboutique for second hand clothes, household goods and books, plus a facility every two weeks to distribute food in the form of pasta, tinned foods, all the basics that we often run short of at the end of the month when things are tight ! This is a great service and much needed as unemployment is high and everything seems to be getting more expensive.

We try to be good neighbours and over the years we have seen some good ones and some not so good . Our closest one is Monsieur Lacombe , a retired plumber, who has been a lifesaver here on a few occasions with fixing leaking sinks and toilets! He always refuses money except on one occasion when we bought a new water boiler , a hefty thing, that needed two strong men to carry it upstairs to the bathroom . He did accept something that day I believe, because he installed it too for us . If that had been a “proper job” it would have cost hundreds of euros even by the hour !

He came by last night to ask if Barry could copy some photos for him. He had a fire in his house, nearly 10 years ago, and lost a great deal of his posessions. He came across his wedding photograph though , by chance, and wanted to have a copy for his family .  He always thanks us for phoning so quickly the fire service, the night of the fire, as he wasn’t there at the time and he would have lost a great deal more if we hadn’t spotted it.  So, a debt of thanks all round!

the third ageThe Third Age. 

The French call old age the third age “la troisième age “ a slightly nicer term to” les Seniors.” From the age of 50 now, we are deemed as seniors which does not please me too much . I was recently at the local job centre , called “Pôle Emploi” in Sarlat with a whole group of us seniors . All pretty smartly dressed I noticed and all carrying official looking paperwork ? I didn’t bring any except my CV. We were called in for a routine check on what we had been doing to find a job ie not easy in this climate .  We were to discuss informally with our “advisor” what was / wasn’t available to us . On a huge screen we looked at different aids to our return to employment . What a minefield!  From an ADR- Aide differentielle de reclassement, to a CPP – Confirmer son projet professionel and a CUI – contrat unique d’insertion , already I had a headache!  We were given a dossier to take home to read and complete, but once again it is paperwork and a lot of it is hugely unnecessary. I am still trying to make head to tail of it and shall be continuing this story again I feel .
I think I had a bad senior moment myself recently. I was asked how many years I had been teaching dance? I actually had to think about it, but it has been for over 30 years , probably 33 years in fact . Where does the time go ? I remember vividly  my classes in London and even some of the choreography I did then , but I certainly can’t remember what I did two weeks ago ! 

 And the last word goes to ? 

the last word9To Mo. This is our gorgeous French cat who came as last of a litter of four to her mummy Fifi. We laughed about the “eeny meeny miny mo” nursery rhyme but the name Mo stuck . In French she is also “le dernier mot” or the last word . Well, she is literally the last one now, as just in the last week in Salignac we have had a ghastly culling of stray cats and we have lost two subsequently . There has been a proliferation of errant cats and so measures were taken in the form of large cages put up in certain areas of the village to try and trap these poor animals . An official paper was put into our letterboxes to tell us to keep our pets in if necessary for a whole week whilst this was to be done . Not easy to keep them in either . If the cats weren’t tattooed or microchipped they would be sent to the SPA . Animal Protection , for adoption . if they were ill they would be put down . I don’t know if ours were trapped or not but it is perhaps a coincidence ? I was obviously upset and had to go to the Mairie to find out something . All I got was a morality story of being responsible for your pets ! I know another lady , Maria Louisa, who is in her late 80’s, and lives alone with all her cats . Maybe she has about 20. She has them for company and looks after them the best she can . She lives for them, literally, as she has no family.

She fell recently and was in hospital . During this time the Mairie and the SPA agreed to take away all or most of these cats . I am not certain that they didn’t have the proper authoritisation from her ?

To finish with my rant, here is a lovely French phrase “faire une connerrie” to do something stupid . The connerie bit is nothing to do with Mr Sean Connery! However the name is funny . That’s all for now.
Shall catch you next month for another Fifi story.
Vive La France et Vive L’Ecosse.
Fiona Alderman . Salignac Eyvigues in the Dordogne – France . October 2013 .
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Fiona Alderman: A Letter from France - Fifi's story

This section: Fiona Alderman blogging from The Salignac Foundation France

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Avatar of PatByrne Publisher of Pat's Guide to Glasgow West End; the community guide to the West End of Glasgow. Fiction and non-fiction writer.

2 responses to “Fiona Alderman with more news from the Dordogne”

  1. lorna scobie says:

    Hi Fiona, what a lovely find so enjoyed your blog.Xxx
    We were friends in the Chip. Remind Barry I worked in newspapers used to stay in No car drive.Hope you are both well. Lorna Scobiex

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