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Recently discovered a world I once knew.

We have just recently been reconnected to the internet after 3 week hiatus at home.  On 6th August we experienced the most violent storm we’ve witnessed here in France, this was the last of a 3 night storm fest.  We’d become complacent over the years and had forgotten to make sure that the modem was unplugged or at least protected by a safety cut out adapter.  On the night in question, as we sat in bed reading, the house was shaken by a couple of terrifying claps of thunder and of course there would have been lightening along with that.  We didn’t lose power and carried on reading for a while whilst waiting for the storm to abate.  After about an hour we drifted off to sleep.

The next morning we had no internet, and we established that the modem was kaput!  I think at that point I felt rather anxious and lost.  We knew that we could go and connect at my daughters, but it’s not the same as having ready access whenever we wanted it.  Over the next few days, whilst we waited for the expensive replacement modem, we fell into an hourly or two hourly habit and began to discover a world that doesn’t revolve around Facebook, Twitter and other web pages of choice.  I also found myself playing a few moves in my many Scrabble games and then coming home.

The modem arrived a few anxious days later, and with much swearing and frustration we found we were still unable to connect.   We had several very tedious and frustrating calls with our internet provider Nordnet who were as helpful as the proverbial chocolate fire-guard.  I find it incredibly frustrating when faced with this type of French lack of  customer service, as my French is not good enough for me to kick arse.  I am known for my arse kicking and have found my assertiveness very useful over the years, here I cannot use it and I get quite despondent.  So, with them not coming forward  with a solution and us not knowing what to do next, we contacted an English IT man and over a few days had conversations with him, and he in turn conversations with Nordnet.  Still no joy.  Eventually he had to come here, talk to Nordnet, whilst they and he made adjustments to various signals.  Internet was restored, but my life had changed.

Meanwhile during this 3 week hiatus,  thankfully sunny and warm weeks, we spent a lot of time reading in the garden and just enjoying the space created by the internet dearth.  I had to work hard to remember how long it had been since I’d not had internet at home.  I think I first had it in 1998/9.  Of course back then it was dial up, so I wasn’t connected for long, and I certainly didn’t spend hours playing Scrabble and chatting to virtual friends.  I think I began to spend longer on the net from around 2004, and then became a member of a Poultry Forum just before getting chickens and then a French forum just before moving to France, a few years later along came Facebook and my life had changed forever.

I really appreciate all that I have had, and all the people I have “met” virtually, and I know that Facebook (and subsequently Scrabble) has given me many things I wouldn’t have without them.  However, Facebook has also given us stuff we’d rather have not had, there is also a negative side to Facebook.  Over the past 3 weeks I have really come to recognise how addictive it is and I have made some decisions about how I will use the internet in the future.

I am incredibly relieved I don’t use or own a Smart phone.  I know how easily I could become addicted to always being connected.   I was half  listening to a piece on Radio 4 this morning about Smart phone addiction, and from what I could make out, people are actually going to get help to break their addiction.

So, today is Sunday, and I have been here on and off.  My intention for the next week is to not be here during the day and wait until after dinner.  I know for most people this is probably their norm,  I don’t often do norm.   So, if you don’t see me, you know why.  I have rediscovered reading, and have read 6 books whilst I’ve been waiting.  I can feel a book addiction coming on though!

I am also feeling a little lost as I have now finished blogging Dad’s letter home from his German POW camp Letters from Stalag VIIIB  At the moment it’s in the process of being published as an Ebook with some extra’s.  I am looking forward to that being completed, but now find myself wondering how to fill the gap.

Anyway, back to my book.

a bientot.

 

Eye’s Wide Open in LFP #5

JM with what could be a victory salute replacing the  chimney pot.

JM with what could be a victory salute replacing the chimney pot.

2011

In March 2011, we again found that Scrote’s dogs were disturbing us, at night and during the day.  We allowed several weeks to pass before telling him that they we causing us disturbance.  We wrote to him in early April 2011, and they have since been quieter.  We write to him, though we could just as easily make another complaint at the gendarmerie.  We are not happy to waste their time, and hope that Scrote will address the issue without us going further.  We noted that Scrote suggested that we were complaining that they bark perpetually, we were not.  We were complaining about being disturbed at night, and since some of those nights, Scrote is not there to control them, we were left to suffer the disturbance.  It would appear that after our letter in early April, Scrote changed how he managed them, and there have been hardly any disturbances since then.

Marking heading into the Asylum

Mark heading into the Asylum

It was several months before we had all we needed to put the gate on our new entrance.  I was so pleased once we were able to do that. Each time Scrote drove past he nearly ricked his neck trying to look in.  The new gate still wasn’t obscure enough, so we found an obscuring heather product and it does what we wanted.  He has to walk past now if he wants to look in and once our mixed hedging has reached a good height, he won’t be able to do that either.

In his anger, when things haven’t gone his way, he often does something else in an attempt to provoke.   May 2011 was very warm; we began to suffer from the smell of poultry shit from his backyard.  When we moved here in 2006, there was a static pigeon loft in situ.  In or around 2008 his mother died, and he moved his poultry to his back garden from her house which was being sold.  We had already checked with the maire’s secretary and been shown the regulation which covers this issue.  The pigeon loft had been there at least 5 years, probably a lot longer, and the pile of shit beneath it was a pile! It had never ever been cleaned as far as we could see. There are more than 60 birds in his back yard. Chickens, pigeons and ducks (there may have been rabbits, as he has bred rabbits in the past), the smell means we had become unable to use the North facing terrace at the back of the house where we would be cooler and more comfortable in summer months. Ducks are particularly smelly.   It’s just as well that we had the wall built, as we now spend our summers over in the corner beneath the walnut tree. This is as far as we can get from the smell.

Scrote suggests in a letter from his advocat after hearing of our complaint, it’s impossible that they smell because they are checked regularly by a vet!   Some of his chickens and pigeons may be of exhibition quality, and may have been checked by a vet.  This will not stop them from shitting, and chicken shit and duckshit smells.  At that time we had 12 chickens, they were not exhibition birds, and their shit will be of similar quality we are sure, to those of Scrote.  They smell.  They are well cared for and their accommodation is cleaned periodically.  They are over 70 metres from us and our neighbours; therefore the smell is not a disturbance to others.  Scrote’s chickens are on our boundary and directly next to our house, our garden and our kitchen.  We were unable to open the windows at the back of the house in the evenings, to refresh the upstairs during very hot weather, the smell would permeate.  We wrote to D.D.A.S.S. (Environmental Health) they did not respond to us, but wrote to our Maire.   A month or so later we receive a copy of a letter which had been from the Maire telling Scrote to remove or kill his poultry by the 15th August 2011, nothing changed.  When we made this complaint, it hadn’t occurred to us that the large fly population would in somewhat be down to the poultry numbers in his backyard.

We had been harassed and bullied by Scrote for over 3 years.  At times we have felt emotionally exhausted by his harassment, accusations and false claims. If it weren’t for the fact that we had both trained and practiced as psychiatric nurses and psychotherapists in the UK, we would both probably be taking anti depressants to help us cope.   As it is, we have somehow managed to analyse what was happening and keep each other sane (to a degree!).  We make sure we only ever act within the law and never to his persistent provocation.  Therefore, when Scrote increases his harassment, as he does from time to time, we step back and do not respond as far as possible.

For several months during 2011, each time he passed our house and approached the small bend in the road, he tooted his horn 3 times.  He goes out and back about 5 times per day, so this happened about 10 times per day, equalling 30 hoots.  Most times it would make me jump, as it’s normally quite quiet here.  I am quite a jumpy person anyway, so this was not good for my mental health.   So, he had a new weapon.  This went on for several months and I think only stopped after we’d been called to the gendarmerie to answer a complaint from him!  His complaint was that we were still emptying water into his system (we weren’t) and that our hedge (which we were waiting to be cut) was obscuring his view as he rounded the bend in the tiny, hardly used hamlet road.  It’s only him who is having problems with it, no one else feels the need to hoot three times.   We explained this to Mme Gendarme who as usual looked like she was on side and sighed with us.  Soon after this visit, the hooting stopped and life settled into something that had become a dream.  Peace!

2012

Our life has become amazingly tranquil.   No noise, no barking dogs, it’s as if he doesn’t exist and we are very happy with that.   In Feb, out of the blue, we received a notice from the Tribunal d’Instance that a court hearing would take place in March.  For several hours we thought we were being taken to court by him and couldn’t work out what for.  It was only later when our neighbour’s brother came round that we understood that it was US taking him to court.  It appears that D.D.A.S.S had proceeded further since nothing had changed from 15th August last year.   The hearing didn’t go ahead until May, and further evidence was asked for.  In September we attended a hearing, still no result but we could see the process was proceeding (at a snail’s pace) and saw Scrote digging himself a hole with the chairman of the panel.  The chairman was not taken in by Scrote’s antics and it was decided that an hussier would be sent round to see what was happening next door.  Nothing happened for months and over winter, the chickens, ducks and pigeons remained on site and in close proximity to our house.

2013

In or around April this year, I noticed someone was parked in our parking space across from the house.  It was our advocat and she headed off round to Scrote’s.  We could hear his voice and that of another male in the back garden.  We asked our friend to call that afternoon and ask our advocat if there was any progress (as in all this,  no one communicates, no one writes and lets you know what is happening).  She says that the “judge” was there and agrees that the regulation is being contravened and that he must clean up and move the poultry.

In May, Mme Gendarme  is at the gate having  just left a meeting with Scrote.  She asks if we would come for an audience (interview) at the gendarmerie next week.  Apparently there is a list of complaints from our neighbour…..sigh.  I can’t imagine what the problem is now…..and am past caring.  I am amazed that our gendarmes walk around looking rather menacing (they are a part of the military) with their boots, suits and guns, and yet they can do nothing about this time waster.  A few days later we attend with our friend who speaks some English.  Here is the list of complaints.

1. We have a dog that barks all the time and keeps him awake!

2. We lit a bonfire that caused embers to fall in his garden.

3. Mark climbed a tree, intruded onto his land, stood on his roof to take a photo of the shite next door.

4. We have sheep and 20 chickens who could escape onto the road and who are too close to his house.

5. 3 times per month we have a party and the music is very loud and wakes him.
I think that’s all…..

We don’t have a dog.  We have a dog that comes to visit a couple of times a week during the day.  The dog barks at Scrote on the odd occasion Scrote walks past the house in the road. The dog barks for about 30 seconds.  The lighting of the damp bonfire failed, it is over 30 metres from his garden.  Some embers from paper sacking may well have landed in his garden.  Mark is 65 and last climbed a tree when he was in his teens!  Scrote has not heard of zoom lenses.  Yes, I have 3 sheep, and 6 chickens Ouessants .  They’re all housed over 50 metres away from his garden and free range during the day. Sometimes when Mark is enjoying a doing bit of modelling (he makes military models) in his bunker, he plays loud music….during the evening.  I am surprised Scrote can hear it since he must have deafened himself with the loud radio playing in his car when he came home late at night and drove across our garden before the wall was in place.

We suspect these complaints are his response to the visit from the judge and possibly another court hearing that we have no knowledge of.  We think it is coming much closer to him having to move the poultry.  Despite several phone calls and promises of emails, nothing comes back from our advocat.  No surprises for us nowadays.

During our audience at the gendarmerie, we discovered we cannot accuse him of moral harassment, despite this being so.  It is a law that covers employees and work place bullying apparently and we can provide no proof of harassment.

So, here we are in June, nearly 2 years after writing to D.D.A.S.S about the awful smell.  We are on the brink of writing to them again, since they probably have more clout with the law than we seem to.  Summer proper hasn’t quite made it to our part of La France Profonde yet, so for now the smell n’exist pas.  As I said at the beginning of this blog, having read the story of Hobos in France, our problems seem like nothing, a mere flea on a pile of merde.  I am happy now to write to D.D.A.S.S and then move on.  5 years of this is more than enough and what we have now is peace and quiet with the odd run up to the gendarmerie to answer fictitious complaints.  We can cope with that.  We really do believe we’ve now got the upper hand and that he realises we cannot be walked over.

This is the end of this negative aspect of our lives here.  I hope not to add another post unless there is something positive to report.

Now perhaps you’ll understand why a closed gate is very important 😀

Altruism or is it?

I was going to write something about altruism, and thought I’d better check the definition.  Having checked,  I have discovered that’s not what I want to write about.  So, I have to find another way express what I want to say. Maybe I want to dig around a little in unselfish acts, or charitable behaviour or kindness.   I guess those words are less precise, but they are what I mean.

I inherited a small amount of money a couple of months ago.   Now, even that sentence is relative.  What is small to me may not be small to others.   In my family of origin, it’s actually large.  However, in my husband’s family, and in our experience as a couple, it’s small.

Anyhow, I inherited a sum of money, and had been waiting for some time to be in a position to loan a small amount to help others.  So, not giving, but lending.   I’d read about Kiva and had been interested yet not in a financial position to lend.    I felt really good being able to do this finally, and lent about $120 spread over 4 people.  In fact, it’s very little, but it’s something.

I invited friends to look, and was surprised (I am naive) that some were somewhat cynical.  I agree, it’s possible some of the money may line the pockets of the money lenders, it’s quite possible.  I also know that when I give to charity, for instance the recent Horn of Africa appeal, that possibly some of my money will not make it to where it should. But, it doesn’t stop me. Why does it stop others?

At various times during my working life, I have made monthly charitable donations, and now I am not able to do this.
So I am pleased now to be helping others in some way.

There is a news item today about funding to charities in UK being reduced or withdrawn.

One of the interviewee’s said that during economic decline, many of the charities are in greater demand. Relate, for instance, will see higher demand from couples coping with job losses and the consequent strain on married and family life.

I should acknowledge, I am observing all this from my safe place, behind the gate, outside The Asylum….and I am very happy to be doing that at this time. So, for now….please let me know what you think stops people giving, apart from not having enough themselves.

Thanks for reading and please make sure you close the gate on your way out.

Kathy the Sane

Musings from Outside the Asylum

Douglas Adams, in his book, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy describes an inside out house and it’s owner,  John “Wonko The Sane” Watson.

He lives in an inside-out house overlooking the Pacific Ocean. That is, to visit you park on the carpet. There’s a sign on the wall that reads, “Come Outside.” He considers the rest of the world to be “The Asylum,” because it seemed to him that any civilization that had so far lost its head as to need to include a set of detailed instructions for use in a package of toothpicks was no longer a civilization in which he could live and stay sane.

Wonko knows more about the dolphins than any other human being alive.

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Wonko+the+sane

Mark, my husband is the reader in this house of the Hitchhiker books and insisted that once we had completed putting our boundaries in place and hanging our gate, he would be putting a sign on the inside of the gate  saying, “The Asylum”.  I have to say, I was unhappy for quite a while about this, as I couldn’t quite get my head around it, not being a Hitchhikers fan (books that is).

Eventually, I realised that he was determined to do this, and he spent months looking for and not finding, small brass letters.  He looked both here in France and over in the UK. Thankfully, on a day trip into Poitiers, he found some small, wooden letters and this felt slightly more subtle for me.

I hope this goes some way towards explaining the name of the blog.  We, according to Douglas Adams, Mark and Wonko the Sane, live outside the asylum….it is apparently,  a nice place to be.

I don’t know what will be written here….but I felt I wanted to do something, to blog something aside from using Facebook and the limited blog I am doing with Dad’s letters home from his prison of war camp in WW2.  That blog will end of course, and I think I may feel bereft.  It got me to thinking I might quite enjoy my own blog, after years of avoiding other people’s (for which I now humbly apologise).  I think I got caught up in Facebook, Scrabble, a slow internet connection and lots of other distractions.  I feel that life has settled more now, and we have a faster internet connection, a whole 2.6mgs (yes, I can hear all those sharp intakes of breath, it is very, very fast, NOT).

I search for and found my old MySpace musings today.  This is now called a blog, I am sure it wasn’t back when I started in 2007.  Anyhow…to aid continuity, I shall link somewhere to that (once I can work out how) and to Dad’s blog. Life has been interesting, in the Chinese sense, and yet I feel we’re approaching a much calmer period.  We won’t be holding our breath though, so I suggest you don’t either.

Off now to work out how this works, add some links and maybe a photo or two.

KathytheSane (I have had many years of therapy, so feel I can call myself this, tongue in cheek).  It reminds me, back in 1997, I was travelling home from a therapy weekend, my mother had picked me up in her car.  Her question to me, “Kathy, when will you be cured?”……(I am so used to adding smileys on forums, I am wondering how to show my feelings about this question.)  Anyhow, that was then, this is now and I do believe I am reasonably sane.