Thursday, 15 October 2015

Hanging the washing out

We all used to do it. Now, maybe not so many of us do.

My grandmother had a stunning double decker washing line, with a pulley system that required strength and skill to operate. My job was to follow her down the garden and help position the two clothes props.

I am sure I have mentioned that hanging the washing out is special here, in past posts, but I don't think have properly recorded my wash day musings before .....until today. 

Years ago, when our family rented a house in  Provence, I realised I loved hanging out the washing.

The reasons being: 

we were on holiday, and there was never much washing, as it was always too hot to wear many clothes, so it was never a chore;

I never hung anything out " at home"...too wet, too cold, too busy working ridiculous hours during the day, so washing had to be done at night etc. etc;


the view from the washing line at the rented holiday house, was stunning.

So, when we bought our house in France, I was thrilled to find that the huge monstrosity of a 4 wired washing line, behind the house, offered stunning views over the village and to the distant Pyrenees. I have refused all offers to replace my old fashioned washing wires with one of those new fangled whirly things.

The novelty value of hanging washing out has long gone. However, I rarely hang it out without thinking of my grandmother's highly engineered set up, and I always marvel at the beautiful view. 

In the summer, when it is really hot, it is possible to hang out sheets, and take them off the line as soon as you have finished hanging them. Sometimes it is too hot to hang things out and I might seek a volunteer to do it, or wait until it is cooler.

Hanging the washing out in the autumn is just lovely. I have just put a couple of machine loads on the lines, and decided the time was right to blog about it !

As I leave the house by the back door, I look up to the washing line, and the forest behind the house.

I walk up a set of steps and turn to my right and admire the view. 

The virginia creeper is turning red against the ivy covered wall below me.

I step on a carpet of wild thyme, that  sends wafts of beautiful herby scent upwards.

The story book  pine forest is to my right as I peg out the clothes, the terrace where we sit and watch the grandchildren play boules is in front of me.

The pegs are carefully stored in a now, fading peg bag, made for me by Sharon who I used to work with at the hospital in Halifax. So I always give her a thought too, and then I wander back into the house......job done, and with such pleasure.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Examen normal

I need to start this post with stating that I cannot envisage life with out our amazing NHS.

The NHS saved my life 3 years ago, and continues to keeps its careful eyes on me. I have been lucky enough to experience the NHS at its very best, where it leaps into action, saving lives, providing absolutely, the best treatment and care, and doing it brilliantly.

I will always defend it, always wanting the concept of equality of service, available to everyone, free at the point of delivery....always, always.

In this post I want to describe how I have recently experienced the health system in France.

On Tuesday this week, I visited a local GP in our village. I had been experiencing some pain in my side as it hadn't disappeared after a few days of ibuprofen/paracetamol treatment. I am very anxious about pain, after my cancer experience, and had started to lose sleep, imagining the worst. My cancer was an aggressive strain, and I know I am lucky to be alive. The thought of its return is never too far from my mind.

So, at 5.15pm on Tuesday, I saw the GP. I did have to wait in her no appointments surgery for quite a while, but I saw her, on the day I decided I needed to see a Dr.

I spent half an hour with her, talking, being listened to, being examined and then discussing with her, what it might be. As far as she was concerned there was no question that I needed blood tests, an X ray and a scan to check things out, due to my cancer history.

The next morning, a local nurse came to my house, before breakfast, to take the blood. I was informed that I would get the results the following morning, by priority mail. I did, and they indicated there was no problem.

I had to telephone the hospital to arrange the X ray and scan, which I was able to do for the following day.

At 5.00pm, 48 hours after seeing the GP, I was called into the X ray dept, 15 minutes later I was led into the scan department by the Dr who discussed the X ray results with me, as she set up the scanning equipment. 20 minutes later, I left the scan department having been told there was no problem. No cancer, no unexplained masses.......a bit of ageing of the bones possibly, but most importantly, the scan had showed up nothing of any significance.

I left the hospital an hour after arriving, 49 hours after having first seen the GP, holding a copy of my X ray, a copy of my scan and a copy of the Consultant's report on the scan.

I have to add that I also carried with me the receipt for the bill I had just paid. I have an interesting collection of receipts and bills now..... 23 euros for the GP consultation, 8 euros for the nurse's visit, 38 euros for the lab work on the blood tests and 176 euros for the X ray, the scan and the Consultant's time.

The stack of bills

I can claim most of that back through the European Health card system, but to be honest, it feels like the best 200+ euros I've ever spent. Within 48 hours, any panic I had felt, was gone.

The pain.....probably nerve damage from my surgery and from chemo...possibly some scar tissue......all of which can be coped with, and medicated for if required.

The outcome would have been the same in the UK. I do not have cancer.....but it would have taken considerably longer to calm my nerves. I actually haven't had a scan in the UK since I ended my chemotherapy, two and a half years ago. When I have questioned this, the response has always been that there is no need, if there seems to be no problem. Reassurance scans are not something that our beloved NHS is fond of. 

So....panic over, normal sleep patterns resumed. 

I am not saying this is better than the NHS. It is different, and I do not know how it works. I know that there are schemes to ensure that people who earn less do not have to pay, and that those who earn more, pay for "top up " insurance. They do not hand over piles of cash when they received their bills from each stage of the process. They hand over their insurance details.

What I cannot fathom, is how it works so efficiently.

How can I get a Drs appointment on the evening that I decide I want one ? How can I have a nurse come to my house 15 hours after it is determined I need a blood test ? How can I get a scan appointment within 24 hours ? How can I be called for my scan appointment at exactly the time I booked ? How can I get the results immediately, and take away the hard copy evidence of my " examen normal " ?

This was a good experience. I can go to my next NHS check up armed with  a scan, a report and a stack of blood test results indicating "all is well ".

I really don't know how I feel about all of this. I want the values of the NHS, the principles of the NHS, the quality of the care provided by the NHS.......but I also want the speed and efficiency that I have experienced here in France.