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More Menopause! sheesh

There Won’t Be Blood: Suzanne Moore on the menopause


The lack of information around the menopause is one of the things that has shocked me most. It is a mystery to many well-informed women. The perimenopause, for instance, is an all-purpose diagnosis for all kinds of ills. Many women are told they are “peri” with no idea what this means. Erratic bleeding, insomnia, itching, vaginal dryness, memory lapse and vasomotor disturbance are just a few of the symptoms that could make you “peri”. You are post-menopausal when you haven’t had a period for over a year.

The lack of definition bothered me. The female body can be a mess, so I simply decided to have it – the menopause – one cold November weekend a few years ago. I took to my bed, decided that my time was over and nested in a cloud of self-pity. By the Monday I was bored and went out and saw a great gig. These are a good menopausal activity, as they occur in dark spaces and no one cares if you perspire.

But I am not surprised so many women end up utterly depressed. If the menopause is seen as basically a disease, as lack, then women’s bodily chemistry must be rebalanced with hormone replacement therapy or antidepressants.

When you shut the gate could you waft it back and forth to create a draft please.


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.


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!


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.


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 😀

Eyes Wide Open in LFP #4

I expect you’d like to see the completed wall.  We were very happy to see it.

BBQ with friends for Quatorze.  The garden now a space to use rather than to be abused in.

BBQ with friends for Quatorze. The garden now a space to use rather than to be abused in.

Our builders made a lovely job of it and sadly, for many months of the year we need to store our wood against it, as during the disputed placing of the wall, we also lost a small piece of land we’d been using for wood storage.

With no central heating, we burn at least this much each winter.

With no central heating, we burn at least this much each winter.

The end of September 2010, saw the beginning of the roof refurbishment.  Immediately Scrote complained that a small part of a crawl ladder was overhanging his property and preventing the access to his yard by the lorry due the following day.  Our very patient roofer changed this ladder for a shorter ladder in readiness for the fictional lorry due the next day.  We believe our roofer visited Scrote twice to secure access to the land at the back of the house, and after a few weeks,  we understood that Scrote had agreed.

The offending crawl ladder.

The offending crawl ladder.

In October 2010, we had an appointment with our advocat, and we learned for the first time, that we were emptying used water onto Scrote’s land.  We, with our limited French, had believed the water complaint in his previous muddled letters had been about the downpipe for rainwater from the roof.  We always knew that this would be resolved once the new roof was built and new gutters and downpipes fitted.  We were very shocked to discover that we’d been using this water system, and upon returning home, immediately re-routed the washing machine outflow, and stopped using the sink in the utility room.   This is a system he set up when he lived here, and the water outflow from the utility room where we put the washing machine, drains into his fosse system, rather than ours.  There is no way we would have known that.   We were later dismayed to understand that he continued to accuse us of this.

In November 2010, when the roofers took access for their scaffold (with permission from Scrote); Mark took the opportunity to finish closing and securing the window.   Scrote had again complained that this was still not secure or obscure.  As Mark was pouring cement into the shuttering on the outside of the window cavity, Scrote came home, started to harangue Mark and took photos. We decide it is impossible to complete this piece of work, if Scrote accuses Mark of trespass.  This was the 2nd time he had prevented Mark from completing the work, and complained about 4 times about the window.  In fact, Scrote complained to the Gendarmes regarding this, and we were invited to attend to make a statement regarding this.   Once again, we could sense the frustration of gendarmes who have to follow up on yet another absurd complaint from  Scrote, adding further to their collection of photographs taken by him.  We understand that there is no law in France to prevent people from wasting the gendarme’s time. A year or so later, when at the gendarmes for another petty complaint, we asked why there wasn’t a law against wasting police time, our favourite lady gendarme replied, “En France c’est un sport!”.

The roof took 4 months to complete, due to bad weather and an injury to our chief roofer.  It was completed at the end of January 2011, and the scaffold was removed at this time.  5 months later we received yet another copy of a letter advocat to advocat where Scrote accuses our roofers of leaving  rubble on his land.  Why wait 5 months?  How can one tell from the photos what is building rubble and what is Scrote’s mess?  In the photo, there is a chimney pot lying on the ground.  This chimney pot, we suspect, is meant to represent the chimney pot removed by JM whilst dismantling the old chimney.  The chimney pot that JM removed never rested on the ground.  It was placed in our grenier, for safe keeping, and later was mounted by JM onto our working chimney (at our request) as we had lost one during the installation of our wood burner in 2008.   We have a photograph of this event, as it was the final part of a very long process somewhat like a topping off ceremony.

Eyes Wide Open in LFP #2

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Our 1000 litres of oil purchased in mid November lasted until mid-Feb, it was a shock to discover we’d run out.  No heating apart from the open fire (in a massive room) and no hot water.  We order more (only 600 euros for 1000 litres back then) and that lasted us until the warmer weather.  I’m not sure, but around the then exchange rate began to impact on our monthly income which came from UK as needed converting to euros, it had already begun to drop from the 1.47 we enjoyed when we first arrived.  I think we still had a little money behind us, and we were managing okay.

2007 was almost uneventful.   We had many visitors that first summer, for several weeks the house was like a hotel, and we enjoyed sharing our piece of France with our friends.  We shared the driveway with our neighbour, it’s a right of way, and he used it to go in and out of his gated small yard at the front.  When we met him, he had one dog, she was free in the yard and happy when we turned up and came to the gate to be stroked.  We had a meal with our neighbour, and he had a couple of meals with us.  He was helpful to a degree and we had permission to borrow his trailer and he lent us use of his rotivator.   He was rather odd, but then it’s a different culture and we tend to be pretty laid back and make large allowances for things having worked in psychiatry.  We wanted to get on, he was not far away and we didn’t want to change France, just live here.  We always spoke French when talking to him and anyone French.  We were courteous and respectful and didn’t hoist a St Georges flag and complain about how these foreigners lived.  We appreciated that we were different, and did things differently and that doesn’t mean our way is right.

From this point on, our neighbour will be known as Scrote.  This of course is not his real name but is how we refer to him.

Scrote, aged approx 64 when we first met him.  Small and thin, body of a boy, long grey hair in a ponytail, roll up always in the corner of his mouth, glasses.  If you can remember the character Catweazle from the 70’s, this is who he reminds me of, although I have looked on the internet at pictures of Catweazle and this is an insult to him, as Scrote is meaner and scruffier looking.


I am reminded of George East and his stories of René Ribe (René the fox) in his books Mill on the Flea.  The story I am about to tell is darker, much darker and there is very little humour to share.  In 2007  Scrote owns a horse, a donkey , many sheep and has a pigeon loft at the back of the house, (his garden is close to our kitchen) and a dog.  He has 2 very old tractors, a couple of very old wrecks (cars) on his 3 fields across the main road and various old farm implements rusting away.


It’s quite possible that in this year he acquired (rescued he told us) another dog.  What he was rescuing her from we have never worked out, as she remained chained up in his yard for as long as I knew her.  A few months later she’d had puppies, I think he kept 6 of the 10 she gave birth to (he drowned the others) and sold the puppies keeping one, another female.  The barking of the dogs was becoming an issue and we told him so one evening.  He made excuses, told us dogs bark and they were probably barking at people passing by (this is a no through road, and it’s rare for people to pass by, especially at 2am!).  The barking didn’t appear to be addressed, and being quiet and non confrontational types, we did nothing about it for several months before we were persuaded to go the gendarme and make a formal complaint.  In fact it was more than a year before we did this.  We’d made several trips and had spoken with the maire’s secretary, who had been very sympathetic, and appeared to understand our problem.   She gave us a leaflet “Bruit de voisinage” and wished us luck.  In England, you wouldn’t dream of going to the police about a matter that seems so trivial, yet here in France, it’s the way to resolve issues that cannot be resolved amicably.  We felt quite anxious doing this, it’s so hard understanding a different culture and a different language and I was still very reliant on Mark’s French which is 10x better than mine.

Our first complaint made, we sit back and await the result. And we wait and we wait.  Little noticeable difference could be discerned.  We bought a bark buster which should work, and I am convinced it doesn’t.   The barking dog’s debacle came to head in late 2011, when we were being disturbed at 2-3am each morning and I believe what we were hearing was the original dog whimpering and yelping as she was dying.  The original and other 2 dogs have never been walked, have always been confined in the small yard and the dog who we believed was dying had been chained up on a shortish chain for over a year, she had little view from where she was chained and we believe she died a very depressed and unhappy dog.  Just before she died (we think) we made a 2nd complaint, this time I think he was fined for possibly a 2nd time, and we have had no problem with barking dogs since.  It’s amazing how quiet things are and I cannot believe we put up with the barking for 2 years.

In October we were coming up to the 2 year time limit that had been placed on the 5000€ (that I had so generously renegotiated) put aside to deal with the dispute regarding the slip of land.  We’d had nothing from our neighbour, and were looking forward to receiving the 5000€.  Looking back we can see that our relationship had changed over the 18 months, it was a much cooler relationship now.  As we found our feet here, there was less for him to “help” with, and we know from a much later conversation with some English neighbours that once he sees you can do stuff, sometimes better than he can, he backs off having nothing to boost his ego with.

With 3 weeks to go to the deadline for the money, our neighbour informs Mark (informally whilst Mark is chopping wood near the shared driveway) that he has arranged for a surveyor (geometre) to come tomorrow (yes, we don’t need any notice to deal with some French legal stuff, oh no!).  Mark thinks he understood that this was the case and I was pretty angry that we hadn’t been given a few days notice to arrange for some help from someone who speaks both languages.  On that note, we went out for the day (we might be non confrontational, but we’re not to be walked over either).   A week or so later we received a very angry letter from him, telling us how rude we were and that we should have been here for the time that he’d arranged and as we’d been so disrespectful he was now going to take the piece of land that was his, and that we were to block up the window (that he’d added when he lived here and was looking out onto what was his piece of land).  It was a bit of an angry rant, and it was the start (or the more obvious start) to the legal wrangles that continue to this day.  Over the previous 6 months or so, we’d begun to understand more about the sale of this house, and that no one locally would have purchased it with our neighbour in situ next door.  We also learned that no one in the village talks to him, he has fallen out with the local chasse and is basically persona non grata.  In later years we learn more, but for now we’re beginning to see that we gave up working with mentally ill people only to find ourselves sharing a rather difficult personality disordered neighbour.  We had already realised that the bitterness left from his divorce, and the loss of this house was what he was playing out with us.  With no physical boundary between our house and him, it was easy for him (with the shared right of way) to continue to feel some ownership of this house.

We had several meetings at the Notaire’s office, and at the final meeting had told him that we didn’t want to purchase the small piece of land from him.  We’d said we’d always known it was his and since it wasn’t very big, we didn’t really need it.  This was not the outcome he’d been aiming for, I think he’d wanted money.  He was placed on the back foot at this point.  He’d already been humiliated  (if that is possible) by the notaire pointing out all the letters that had been written to him prior to the sale of the house which he’d ignored.  So, when we say “Non” and keep your strip of land, he gathers up his dossier and storms out of the office.

That evening he appeared at our front door carrying some stakes and a hand axe (rather threatening) and proceeded to stream off in French.  He has always chosen to assume we understand far more French than we do, and has never slowed down for us despite frequent requests to do so.  I invited him in to discuss more calmly but he stomped off around to the back of the house and proceeded to drive in stakes showing us where the boundary should be.  I am afraid at this point I lost it somewhat, and had to restrain myself,  shut the door and ignore him.  He’d driven in stakes rather generously and had taken the line through the middle of our bathroom window, a gross exaggeration of the real boundary.   It was times like this that we felt much bullied, and late at night, if I heard a noise that was unfamiliar I got concerned that it was him breaking in or something.  That he own two guns was (and still is sometimes) a worry for me.

As this was going on, I’d been taking advice about the money being held from a very good virtual friend (she knows who she is).  Her understanding of legal French made a massive difference to us then and at other times and I always be so grateful for her help.  I often offered to pay her and she said we couldn’t afford her.  Lucky us.  The notaire held onto the money whilst our neighbour was being noisy and threatening, throughout Oct, Nov, Dec and on into March as I recall.  It was only thanks to a letter drafted by our virtual friend that the notaire found himself being forced to release money that was rightfully ours.  It was an interesting visit to his office that day.  He was obviously quite rattled, and yet trying to save face, insisting that he was very busy, his normally emptyish desk strewn with “important” dossiers.  Imagine though, had I not opened my big mouth, we’d have been walking away with 10K not 5!

From then until now, we have refused to talk to Scrote, and I ignore him if I see him which is probably worse for him than me shouting and swearing at him.  There is nothing worse than not existing or being shunned.  We’d done our best, we’d always spoken in French and yet we were wasting our time.

Musings of the day.

Passivity and stress.

Running fantasy conversations around in your head, thinking I wish I had said this or that, can cause stress, and interrupted sleep. Saying what you want to say can cause a relationship to flounder, break down or move on to more real interactions. Being passive when faced with possible conflict can leave you feeling impotent, and the longer this continues can lead to a reactive depression.
Being true to you is risky. Saying how you feel, and saying what you want may mean you lose “friends” and some people may judge you; frequently without the full facts. You have 2 choices, you can either listen to the judgements and let these introjects run your life, or you can give yourself permission to know that it’s okay for you to have needs, for you not to discount your needs whilst trying to keep others happy. Others can find their own ways of being happy.
Do we know this already? Do we know that it isn’t our responsibility to protect others from our feelings? I suspect we do and yet I suspect we all at some point decide not to share, not to speak out and be passive. Of course, there are circumstances I am sure where saying/doing nothing challenging is important. However, when it becomes your main way of relating, you’re not being good to yourself.
Several times this year I have made my needs overt and have risked losing relationships/friendships. One relationship has gone adrift and one is where it was despite the anger at the time. I have lost sleep and am no longer. It’s important for me to know my needs are as important as anyone else’s.

Potager, you’re fired!

I have realised, after much struggling (possibly with the critical introjects mentioned above) that I don’t enjoy much about vegetable gardening. I am writing this with arms and legs stinging from stinging nettles I have been pulling up. For some people, being out there, pulling up weeds and talking to their vegetables is where they find peace and tranquillity. I don’t! I love harvesting the produce and watching it growing, and I hate weeding. The weeds this year, with the hot weather and then the tons of rain have overwhelmed me. I’ve been very good, pulling them up carefully by the roots so they don’t grow back….yes they do.
Back in the old days, when women knew their place, I am sure I would have been in the kitchen awaiting garden produce, produced by the man of the house, who’d bring it in proudly for me to transform into wonderful food. What happens here is, I grow it, weed it, harvest it and cook it. I also know that here in rural France, I see women and men out tending to the potager, and that their home grown food is a very important part of their diet. I also know that there are many, many people who’d give anything to have this piece of land to grow vegetables on, and that really does push my guilt buttons. However, I really do need to cut myself some slack and let myself say how I feel and say what I want.
So, my plan is to ask our lovely, younger French neighbours, who can already access it from their garden, if they’d like to use it for themselves. I’d ask to be able to help myself to the odd veggie or two, but otherwise it can be for their use. I hope they say yes, otherwise my guilt buttons will be struggling to remain unpushed (yes, I know, it’s not a word, and I will use words that are not words).
Thanks for dropping by, and as always, please close the gate as you leave.

Kathy the sane.