Tuesday, 23 April 2013

A demonstration in support of Stafford Hospital ...

During my lifetime I’ve only taken part in a handful of demonstrations or marches. Mostly they’ve been to do with education, although I have been tempted to attend marches in support of the miners, and against the poll tax and war in Iraq.

On Saturday I joined over 40,000 other people for a march from Stafford town centre to support Stafford Hospital. Now if you’ve been listening to the news, reading a newspaper or even tuning into parliament, you will have heard about Stafford Hospital. It is currently in administration having been judged to be clinically and financially unviable. There was a period up to about 2007 where the hospital, for a number of reasons, failed to give good quality care, leading to the needless deaths of many patients. Relatives complained about the appalling treatment of loved ones and have fought for justice. These relatives have been vindicated by the public inquiry and subsequent report as the tales of the lack of care and abuse were truly shocking. I believe this to be by the few rather than the many.

I must say that we have always been a very healthy family (I am touching some wood as I type!)  and any care we've required has been first class. Rhiannon and Tom were born there in 1986 and 1990.

There are now plans to remove all acute services, including maternity, from Stafford to Wolverhampton, Stoke or Burton-on-Trent, all about 20 miles away. Already A&E is closed overnight as the hospital found it difficult to recruit suitable staff, during and following the inquiry. This is punishing local people further, and for patients without transport it will make it very difficult to attend appointments or if hospitalized to receive visitors. The irony is that each of these other hospitals is already overcrowded!

Over the coming years, as we pull our military bases out of Germany, over one thousand military personnel and their families will be housed in Stafford Garrison – formerly RAF Stafford.

Feeling in the town and surrounding areas is running high, as was evidenced by the march and demonstration. There are a great many caring people who have spent their lives caring for people through their work in the NHS.  It wasn’t a political demonstration; all parties are in agreement that a county town, the size of Stafford, needs a hospital with acute services. The town needs the jobs that the hospital provides, and we all need to move on from what has happened in the past and look to a future.

Stafford today, but will it happen to your town tomorrow?

I’m hoping that people power will prevail…

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Taking a short holiday...

... to Rue, in Normandy with forty Y8 pupils.

This will be our sixth visit and every one has been a real success thanks to the organisational skills of my friend and colleague, Corrie.

The centre without children...

You'll have to wait until I get back to see some pics showing the storm after the calm.

 Wish me luck….

Monday, 8 April 2013

Marguerita Chère...

We’ve just returned from the déchetterie at Le Grand-Pressigny. We finally feel that we have 'arrived'! The man who oversees the place approached us, shook our hands and said "Le Petit-Pressigny"? This means he not only remembered us, but also remembered where we lived!
Our first visit there in February of 2010 bordered on farce. We arrived with a large trailer nearly packed to the gunnels with hedge and tree cuttings. Not a problem as the skips are large. The problem was that we had committed the cardinal sin of not bagging the waste for speedier disposal!

The trailer.
Luckily we had a couple of large boxes also destined for the skip. We spent a frantic half an hour filling the boxes and tipping the contents into the skip while the man looked on tutting and a queue of cars built up behind us. We could imagine him rolling his eyes and saying "les Anglais".
Today he struck up a conversation about Marguerita Chere who we thought he said lived in Le Petit-Pressigny, and asked whether we knew her. We thought for a while and said that we didn't. He looked bemused, returned to his buddies who turned to look at us.
It suddenly dawned that he was talking about Margaret Thatcher so we told him that we understood and he nodded gravely.
The news of Lady Thatcher's passing had reached this little corner of France...

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Where have the days gone?

The last week has been spent gardening (when the weather has been OK) and catching up on marking and lesson preparation (in the rain).
Yesterday we needed a break, so after a morning in the garden we headed off to the Maison du Parc. Since it was bitterly cold we took a very brisk walk past the Chateau du Bouchet to the Etang de la Mer Rouge.

How many herons can you spot in this photograph?
Back at the Maison du Parc we headed into the café for some crepes – raspberry with caramelised sugar for me and chocolate, pear and almond for Tim. We had intended to share half of each although I found Tim’s far too sweet and stuck to mine.  
Photographs?  No, we were hungry!
We then headed off to Chatillion to the Brico to buy a merlin. When we last bought our firewood we bought 50cm logs. As only some of them fit into the wood-burner we (read Tim) needed to cut and split others. Tim tells me we’ve got a good one, and at 56 Euros I certainly hope so! He wondered whether you’d all like to see a photograph, but my guess is that only the male of the species might – or am I resorting to stereotypes?
Finally we ended up in Le Breuil aux Gittons for a delicious supper with our friends John and Maureen. We were to be special guests at the launch of their new and beautifully decorated upstairs terrace room. John broke out the pink champagne but we refrained from smashing the bottle against the wall. The room contains a wonderful surprise, but for now, and breaking the habit of a lifetime, I'm saying nothing. But, I can guarantee that if you get to see it you'll enjoy the surprise...

Friday, 5 April 2013

That ruddy shelduck...

*** Thanks to Tim Ford from Aigronne Valley Wildlife  for sorting out my sloppy identification and pointing out the difference between a ruddy duck and a ruddy shelduck.
Apologies to Tim B for not listening when he clearly told me that it was a ruddy shelduck! ***
We wandered around the old farm buildings at Chenonceau and were entertained by the ducks around the duck pond.

There were some beautiful mandarin ducks posing on the rocks.
It was great fun to watch the ruddy shelduck chase the bar headed goose.This happened not just once, but four times in the few minutes we stood to watch. The ruddy shelduck would chase the goose to the far end of the pond, at which point the goose would 'give the duck the slip', paddle back to the shallows and climb on to the nesting area. This would be spotted by the ruddy shelduck who would paddle like mad back to the nesting area. It would then make a honking noise to chase the goose back to the far end of the pond. The whole game of chase would start again!

Simple things and all that...

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Hanging my head in shame...

Yesterday Tim picked up an email from Rhiannon. Very simply, the email had as the  subject "taking out of date to a whole new level". The text read “Mum should hang her head in shame”.
Rather worried he opened up the attached photograph…

My excuse is that I have a large fridge and the Cookeen is only ever used by Tim, on Shrove Tuesday. It’s funny really because over the years we have been four or five for pancakes, as the children would be eager to share the tradition with us. This year we were down to two!
Since September Rhiannon has been living at home whilst her new home undergoing renovations.  She is a fridge fiend, meticulously searching out and throwing away anything past it’s ‘use-by’ dates, but even she missed this one!
If you are someone who has ever eaten at my table, worry not. I ALWAYS check before I feed friends.
Now family …

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

A flying visit, but without the flight ...

Our friends are now back in Holland following their flying visit to Le Pré Vert. Actually, after travelling a total of 1800 km by car to spend three nights and two full days with us, I think they wish they had flown!
On Monday we decided on a visit to the Château de Chenonceau. We first met nearly 22 years ago at Le Moulin Fort,  a camp site just along the river Cher from the château, when our children were small. The visit was to bring back memories of happy times.

Gaynor with Sally and Erna.
More about the château and especially the stunning floral arrangements to follow. The best shots are on Tim's camera ...