All the stuff you never knew you needed to know about life in rural France.....and all the stuff the books and magazines won't tell you.

Monday, 24 August 2009

You know who your friends are....and your fiends

Male Muscovy DuckImage via Wikipedia
We have been having problems on the health front, still unresolved, but it has been very comforting to have support from the kind people who left comments on the blog, the family worldwide and local friends.
I have noticed once again that, in terms of people actually within physical reach, it is those with their own worries, health problems and/or lack of dosh who are the people on the telephone asking what they can do and then doing it. The expat crowd, so busy gossiping about any and everyone, are, as always, evident by their absence.
It's all too close to write about current happenings, but the last time the man in my life had a bad attack the reactions of those around were decidedly interesting.
His Turkish builder, who had not worked for him for years, was on the scene at the hospital with his crew nearly every day once he got past the nurses by slipping up the backstairs to the ward. Amazingly enough, they checked their patients so irregularly that they had no idea that he even had visitors, let alone how many! It was thanks to him that I discovered that TMIML had not been eating. Paralysed, with the resulting problems in swallowing, pureed food was served, but there was no one to help him eat it, so the cartons came and went untouched for days until the Turks discovered what was going on and not only told me, but brought home made soup made by their wives and helped him drink it. Why didn't I know? Because we live miles from the hospital, and visiting hours were rigid...afternoons I was not there at feeding time. Lucky the Turks were resourceful. They were there at all hours. Undetected by the staff.
Friends offered help with transport, even Didier who is so nervous in modern road conditions that he drives at about 30 kilometres an hour and then only on local roads.
A young cousin from Belgium dropped everything and came down to help at a moment's notice, staying until we managed to spring TMIML from hospital as soon as he was fit to move. Looking back on it, the wheelchair dash with five doctors in pursuit was funny, but not at the time!

Then, of course, there were the others.
Mother, who has never liked him, heard the news and decided to have palpitations, thus swinging attention to herself and, with luck, loading me with guilt for upsetting her. No chance on the latter, I've known her too long, and as to the former, I firmly believe that her success in reaching her late nineties is solely due to her resolute egoism.
An expat estate agent rang to ask would the house be going on the market when he died. The reply was not encouraging to her ambitions. I am still astonished in hindsight that someone could do such a thing.
The plumber who had not finished the work and so had not been fully paid decided to come and claim the outstanding amount to avoid complications.
'What complications?'
'When he dies.'
Another flea in the ear.
Then there was the expat couple who were going up to town and offered a lift to the hospital. If I paid for the petrol...which gave them a free trip to the DIY store and the status of benefactors! People who could have done with the money were the most difficult to persuade to take any for their expenses. I had to resort to shoving notes into the glove compartment.
People I rarely saw appeared on my return from hospital in the evenings, to take a glass of wine and enquire about progress. Two of them managed to articulate what seemed to be on the general expat mind.
'If he dies, you'll be quite well placed, won't you?'
'How much tax exemption will you get on the estate?'
Luckily after a few days the Belgian cousin arrived and firmly disposed of any further callers.

However, the icing on the cake was the duck stealer. Coming home one evening, I discovered that I had a number of ducks missing. Fed up and furious, I went straight to his lair, found them and let them out, waddling down the road after me back to home and safety.
I saw him the next morning, looking for the ducks in his yard and told him not to worry, they were with me.
'Well,' he said 'I didn't think you would be needing so many in the circumstances.'
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  1. I cannot quite believe the behaviour of some of the people mentioned here. I cannot grasp the shameful tactlessness! I mean! Well, really. I certainly hope you're not in for a rough ride and life returns to normal soon!

  2. I am sorry you are going through a difficult time right now, and may it all go well. As for the creeps you mention, the best thing to do is blow them off. Some people are just plain awful. Meanwhile, best wishes from me.

  3. Liz of the North and mrwriteon, I could not believe these people either. If I had been less exhausted I would have sent them packing much more effectively. The cousin was in full vigour...he sorted them out tout de suite!
    There is something about the expat world here that I don't understand...I never met people like this when I was in the U.K., so where is the woodwork extensive enough to house them all?
    Luckily, there are such good people about that these creeps can be left to soak in their own sour's just when I get upset that their behaviour returns to haunt me.

    Thanks for your kind wishes...

    All is not well, but his treatment has so far been exemplary, so, in the light of past experience, I can't exactly relax, but I feel more confident.

  4. Lis,sorry for mispelling. Didn't mean to be discourteous, just so tired.

  5. Hi, thanks for popping over to my blog.

    I'm sorry to hear of your woes. People really are extraordinary at times - good and bad. Hope things get better soon.

    P.S. "Mother . . . heard the news and decided to have palpitations, thus swinging attention to herself and, with luck, loading me with guilt for upsetting her."

    For a moment I thought you were writing about my mother! In my mother's universe it's all about her: for example, she managed to get "toothache" at my wedding in France and had everyone running around looking for a dentist on the morning of the marriage. Every family event she somehow manages to become the centre of attention, but not in a good way.

    It's water off a duck's back nowadays for me; although, in your case, that's if you can find your stolen ducks!

  6. Wishing you all the best in the "good fight". I know of what you speak of that strange segment of the expat community.

    It's almost like they live in some bizarre fantasy land, where they can say or do anything- ie "open mouth insert foot".

    I just Do NOT understand the vast expanse of thoughtlessness that resides in some individuals. It's as if the word "empathy" was never in any of their dictionaries.

    As for the French "entrepreneurial spirit" vis a vis your estate agent, plumber and duck thief, shoe them away and put it down to cultural insanity and an obviously massive genetic dose of French insensitivity bestowed on them by their parents.

    As for your "fellow expats" smile (try not to grind your teeth- it's bad for you) and remember Karma time - because what goes around, comes around.

    Get some rest and take care of yourself. Soon, everything will be fine and as before it'll turn out well.


    ps/ obviously you are stuck with your mother... but the good news is: You didn't turn out like that!!

  7. I'm so sorry to hear that you are going through such a difficult time. I hope things improve very soon.

    I'm not really surprised at some of the responses from your ex-pat community...they have a tendency to be self-centred. I've done a lot of helping out in the past with various ex-pats,expecting and receiving nothing in return. In fact one ex-pat still owes me a tidy sum of money...that was 7 years ago..very unlikely to get it now.

    And I am not the least surprised at the kindness of the Turks in your life...this is just how they are...the majority of them anyway.

  8. Dumdad....good lord, my mother is not unique!Could we put them together, do you think? They would be so occupied competing with each other that we might all get some peace!
    Your post on Sheppey really took me back!
    As to ducks, I know where to go first...what gets me is his blase attitude...a bit like some you win, some you lose....
    truestarr, thank you. I do try to disregard all that, just that when things get stressful it rises to the surface. Fascinating how their minds always seem to turn round money.
    Ayak, we have similar experiences. The Turks have been one of the best parts of living in France! The British expat community should be the object of a sociological study!

  9. Fly: I am with you and Dumdad on the subject of mothers. Can't say too much as "mes parents" are too IT literate...

    I am glad that Mr. Fly is being treated better this time. It seems that when times are hard everything and everybody does come out of the woodwork. The thing is to hold on to the good stuff and not the bad (although that can be hard to do at stressful times). One "friend" has really got under my skin this year as she has said some quite unpleasant things to me but hey, ho, as Eddie Izzard says...when people say (or do) negative things..."They are not happy with themselves". Q.E.D.

    You sound as if you have got some good support from those who count. The Turks sound lovely...Egyptians, on the whole, are very similar.

    Good luck with everything! Hxx :)

  10. Hadriana's Treasures, thank you. I think you're right about people coming out of the woodwork. My father told me never to admit a weakness or people would seize onto it and try to pull you down and I used to think he was very cynical, but recent experience makes me think that he had a point.
    I'm sure you and Eddie Izard are right, but I just wish they would keep their inner unhappiness to themselves!

  11. I am truly speechless (this I can assure you does not happen often) & tried to think of some of our neighbours acting like this..and just can't! What absolutely shocking behaviour...I feel for you that you had to encounter such blithering from people who should be supporting you! I can tell you for one thing though, if you lived anywhere in the environs of the two expats located at La Maison M-J you can be assured you would have been helped in any way humanly/animally possible!! Keep hope alive :) ...and bonne chance!

  12. L.R.M-J, perhaps I should not have mentioned them, but their behaviour was such a contrast to that of people without pretensions who just plunged in and helped to keep things running when I was having real problems, and also, I suppose, I was feeling tired,edgy and grumpy enough that I wasn't in a mood to be particularly tactful!
    I certainly wasn't expecting that when I opened the door...I thought they had come to ask for the latest update rather than a preview of the will.
    Looks as though we should be moving house in your direction if we want to escape this lot! Thank you very much for your kind wishes...I relayed them to TMIML and he is very touched.
    Isn't it just a pity that people who don't know him can have more compassion than some of the people who do?

  13. A general thank you for all the support and kind wishes.
    Mr Fly, as I think I shall rebaptise him,- thank you HT - seems to have turned the corner and I am convinced that all the encouragement we have both received plays a part in his recovery.

  14. I know exactly what you mean, Fly. This "friend" really upset me. I've known her twenty years and she comes along in her Jag and runs me down (not literally - emotionally it felt like it!). Needless to say she is not on my Christmas card list now and forever.

    I'll continue to wear my heart on my sleeve because that is how I am. It is hard to ignore them especially when one is feeling very down. Utters very bad swear word (in any language). I allowed myself to watch Almodovar's "Volver" last night and so enjoyed it. It was like being amongst very good friends.

    Two very good friends rang me up lately and commiserated - it is like balm to the soul. Happy to commiserate and send you UK goodies any time. :)

  15. HT, thanks for reminding me of's on my list to see, so when things settle down, I will.
    Don't know what gets into people, sometimes....