Of Covid-Christmas, weddings & babies, health, those damn pensions again, literary agents & novels, hot water and Morocco…
And a very merry upcoming Yule to you all. I do hope most of you can spend it with family and/or friends, but if not, don’t forget the marvels of Facebook video, Skype, Zoom and any of those techie solutions now coming into their own with Covid banishing us to our living rooms.
I myself will be skyping and/or Facebook-video’ing my sons, partners and attendant bumps where they will be sitting at different points in Ballarat while my Mon Amour and I are in Montpellier. The idea initially was to hie us to Montpellier because at least it was somewhere different and quite close to Mon Amour’s little Tourbes, spend a couple of nights in a rented apartment and gorge ourselves on something amazing in a flash restaurant. Sadly, all restaurants, flash or not, are now closed until late January, Covid being what it is. But we are going to Montpellier – with a collection of videos, candles, and musical instruments – and will cook for ourselves, dammit. This is despite a local resident reporting that this lovely town currently looks like something from the apocalypse, with overtones of the Marie Celeste. Oh well. Best we can do.
At least Skype will let me see how my grandchild is coming along. Round about basketball- sized, I imagine, due as he is in April. Will I be able to get back to Oz for this and the wedding#2, also due in April? Who knows. Planning ahead is not something Covid will allow us to do, as you know.
France is asking families nicely to keep numbers down at Christmas mealtime. I suspect they feel they have to ask, rather than decree, since families here come in several generations (next door’s celebrations will definitely include three of them) and each can be quite large. French people are highly family-oriented, so the new rules include special dispensation for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, so you can be out and about after the prevailing curfew of 8pm. But not on New Year’s Eve. There will be no smooching in streets on December 31-January 1, and I assume we will all watch the fireworks on the telly.
By Christmas, my stitches should be less scratchy and sore. There, that got your attention!
This, in fact, is what delayed the newsletter: the operation on a small but threatening splodge on my chest on Friday. The French health system being what it is, there’s been less than a month between the initial visit to the doctor, the one to the dermatologist and then to the surgeon, to the actual operation. There was a Covid test beforehand, which I expect is common practice most places by now. So, at least on Wednesday I was Covid-free.
(‘A splodge’ roughly translates as ‘une tache’ in French, so I have taken to referring to my ‘Taches Australiennes’, since they have been acquired as a result of my misspent youth under the Australian sun. Weren’t we silly.)
I had actually been hoping this op would be done under a general anaesthetic. When I had a similar splodge on my leg three years ago, it was operated on under local anaesthetic, so I got to watch everything, including when an artery was nicked and blood spurted as if from a feeble water-pistol until the surgeon worked out how to plug it. I imagined a similar accident might get me in the eye this time, and also there was also the point (I thought this salient) that my chest is a lot closer to my heart that my leg. But no, it was a local again. I was told to turn my head away (good idea) and then my face was covered by that blue flimsy stuff, which (I thought to myself) would at least soak up any accidental spurts.
(I should point out that my humour gets a little black at times like these, and all the more so with the seriousness of the operation. I was totally hilarious for the hysterectomy some time ago.)
Anyway, all went well. I heard no gasps of dismay to my right at chest level; only the mechanical purring of some new-fangled cutting device that surgeons apparently use nowadays. Afterwards, he was trying to tell me something that I missed the meaning of simply because I didn’t know what ‘soutient-gorge’ means. Luckily, I actually thought of the self-same issue, but then discovered that my surgeon had never heard of the term ‘brassière.’ So there you are – we may have borrowed the term from the French, but it doesn’t mean the same at all in the language it came from. There ensued a little confusion at around that point. There was a pause of some seconds while we stared at each other and wondered where to go from there. We were both trying to describe what we meant. He himself is from Rumania, and normally good at French and not bad at English, but at a bit at a loss at this moment. He was trying to explain that I had to protect the stitches, pointing out that I should be trying to ensure things don’t stretch. And pop, I suppose. He said, ‘because it is heavy’, then looked stricken. ‘It is quite heavy, isn’t it?’ I let him off the hook and agreed that it was. After all, he’d been just there.
So, all is well. It is a very minor thing and quite easily laughed at, unlike the operations of others I know of, to whom I send especial best wishes for their recovery. You know who you are.
Pretty soon, I will be able to scurry about Mon Amour’s house in the usual Covid make-work way, not having to gently bear my boob about like the tender puppy it currently is. I’ve discovered that my little-used push-up bra is just the ticket for this kind of thing. Bear it in mind should you ever have a similar need. I also find looking down is quite startling.
There will be more gardening, for example. I am a gardener now, some of you might be astonished to know. Way, way back in the olden days (around February) I declared my wish to turn an especially tangled part of the garden de Mon Amour into small herbs-and-flowers plot. While I was away trapped in isolation in Australia for three and a half months, Mon Amour and various others cleared the plot; it WAS supposed to provide me with a lot of exercise and leave me with a Zena-like physique, but I could hardly object. Not at that distance. Anyway, upon my return, there it was, with a cute little fence around it and everything.
Various herbs and flowers have been planted now, and I have only killed some of them. Some have popped up a little too early and may be due for a shock as winter proceeds. However, after endless nagging about the absolute necessity of a greenhouse, we have got one. We can dismantle it for Summer. I had been planning to make one myself, but I have to admit this way is not only easier but cheaper. This area is subject to winds which are so frequent and strong then all have names denoting which point of the compass they are coming from…so we have tied the greenhouse down with stout rope and string.
I did get to do some inventing, however, though not quite of an architectural kind. The plot itself is flat, just below the terrace, but on one side there is what was (and will be again) a rockery. This means that in order to zip up the window flaps in a high wind (see above) and possibly rain, you have to do some unpleasant teetering. But not any more! For inside I have constructed flaps of bubble-wrap affixed with duct tape (along the bottom) and Velcro (sides and top). I so rock! Thus, my various still-living herbs, flowers and now my little mandarin tree are protected against frost and other cold weather, and snow should we ever see any again.
Inside the house, there is a little nursery of basil (yet to show itself) and – I swear the online site I consulted recommended this – some rose seeds placed for 10-12 weeks in the fridge. Honestly. We’ll see.
In the meantime, I have been seeking as usual the services of an agent. You’ll recall one had leapt at the chance to represent me, and then said actually he was too busy to make promises. So I’ve sent requests out to quite a few, though it’s a long wait. Sometimes forever, since they don’t always think it is incumbent on them to say ‘no thanks’ or even ‘we’ve received your email.’
One day, I was musing about who to approach next, when it struck me that I needn’t stick with anglos. Surfing idly around the net, I eventually fell across a Dutch agent, who normally looks after foreign rights, which is basically about foreign publishers who might like your book enough to have it translated for other markets. So I sent her my Victorian novel, and she got back pretty quickly, seemed to be interested in the other ms as well, so I sent her that as well. Who knows what will happen next – but the notion of a Dutch agent is pretty cool in itself.
Most of you will know about the Victorian novel, which is out there, has a traditional publisher, and always available online and can be ordered from any bookshop. I prepared this video earlier, which some of you may not have seen yet. I realise it’s probably too late to tout it as a Christmas present, but, hey, it’s the holiday season. You’ll need something to read…. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkHUIyED8nM
As for the Vietnam-based novel (set during the 60s war), I think it’s close to ready, though I did meet someone the other day whose own, self-published, book (Waltzing with the Dragons, by Julliette Mai Triozon) talks of her own childhood in Saigon (hey! That’s where I was!) in hectic days when she was actually expelled from the same convent school I was sent to. Omg. Now I feel boring. However, it’s fascinating to have another viewpoint, so very up close and personal, so I’m looking forward to reading it.
Further down the track will be the novel about the vicar in Ballarat in the first half of the 20th century. Probably not surprisingly, I’ve come to realise that I should expand on a few elements, not the least being the Spanish Flu epidemic. For very obvious reasons. And another thing – since this is a book about social change – I really want to weave in the plight of Aboriginals who were living as strangers in their own land. I’m beginning to collect sources and ideas.
Aside from writing issues, gardening issues, and Les taches Australiennes, there has also been the continuing story of our Australian pensions still being beyond reach for those of us resident in France. As you know, the lack of a social security agreement between Australia and France means we can’t apply from here, despite what you’d imagine would be our rights after all that time in Oz, not to mention our need. Not to mention the agreements that exist between Australia and 31 other countries worldwide, including 21 in the EU. As usual, we are writing off to all and sundry, and have put up a petition to parliament.
Here of course, is a special request to all of you who are Australian to sign it, and get all of your Australian friends and family to sign it….by December 30, which is when it closes. You might have to be dogged about it. Reports are that the site can mistake perfectly normal human beings for bots, and of course the all-important confirmatory email can leap into your junk folder. If it seems to be taking a while, that’s where it’ll be. Technology. Pfft.
Here it is! https://www.aph.gov.au/petition_list?id=EN2117
In good news regarding this campaign, however, polite yet frequent nagging has gained us a reply from the new ambassador, who promises a report in the new year. No idea if this will be good or bad news of course, but I think it would be as well to point out to her and the otherwise apparently bored government departments that this is not an issue we can drop. Ever. Especially since it is now joined by another: apparently French and other foreigners don’t really understand the idea behind Australian Super, which is as Australians all know already taxed, and tend (distressingly) to tax it all over again. The ambassador also mentioned they’ve been looking at this, too.
Incremental, but steps nonetheless. My Super is due to reduce to about $0 in about four years. That’s what I’m living on. Just saying. Well, more or less. I am getting a tiny rent temporarily for my tiny house, until my tenant moves into her own new house.
Last but not least in my list of news is the arrival of the plumber chez Mon Amour on Monday. It has been some weeks since we had a functioning hot water system, and have had to do a lot of scuffling next door to borrow their shower. In some sort of comment on the universe and the First World in it, I am embarrassed or amused to say that until the rain started to fall we had also been forced to climb into the hot tub to make up for the lack of shower water. Nowadays, it’s back to boiling the kettle for the sink and the facecloth, or the quick shuffle next door in the fluffy slippers.
Yeah, I know!
Some will have been hanging out for more news of the lovely Marian, my friend who is marooned in Morocco. Life is a little slow there, where she and her Own Amour spend most of their time in their rented house on the beach and some of their time visiting his relations in the desert. Photos are mostly of sand, tall palms and long straight roads. Marian, who normally splits her time between Australia and France (with teaching jobs in various other spots of the world) now knows that she has problems with immunity, and decided firmly that being marooned in pretty-safe Morocco was vastly preferable to being surrounded by virus in France and (at the time months ago this was the case) Australia. Now of, course, Australia is mostly clear, but is being particularly unhelpful in getting its marooned – numbering not the declared 30,000-odd but from 50,000 to 200,000 – back home.
Life on the beach is reasonably idyllic if a little slow for a Melbourne girl, and interest is added by the strollings past of groups of camels, donkeys, cows and goats. Marian has sourced some rather expensive jars of Vegemite, and managed recently to make a very tiny pavlova in her very tiny oven. There are many dates for sticky-date pudding.
The other day she went to sea with her Own Amour and some fishermen, a time spent mostly feeling bilous and seasick. Apparently, the local term for that is being ‘caught by the monkey’. There were sardines caught, which I gather she enjoyed more than the biggish swells.
My own observation is that wifi is better at the beach than it was in the desert, since Marian spends almost as much time as I do making pithy comments on Facebook.
For the next newsletter, I will demand an actual adventure for us all to be going on with.
I wish everyone a very happy Christmas and New Year, even if it’s a quiet one.
Judy Crozier xxx