Les poissons en France

Friday, September 30, 2016

A Difficult Summer

My health issues seem to have taken most of the summer from me.  After the emergency hernia operation, then the bout of pneumonia, I am now recovering from a second hernia op which became necessary after the first one was repaired!  As a result, I've not done much since the middle of July and all Sue seems to have done is water in an attempt to keep the garden going.  However the drought continues.  We have had about 2 showers and 1 day of light rain in this period.  The forecast for tomorrow is stormy showers but we don't hold our breath; we might get it or we might not, or it might be in the next valley but not ours!  Then it is set to continue sunny and temperatures in the 20's till at least the middle of October.  As a result Sue is selectively watering and we will have to wait to see what plants have been lost.  Lots of gardeners we talk to are considering changes to their planting in view of the apparent hotter, drier summers we are now experiencing.
We always struggle as we have very little soil before we hit rock, and the soil has no body to it and so doesn't retain any moisture.  Sue has been building compost heaps for the past 2 years and now has started to use the results.
Not withstanding these difficulties, Sue continues to work in the garden for next year.  She has been lifting old Irises and replanting them with the addition of the compost.
The irises are interspersed with purple tulips so, provided they aren't eaten, or washed out by storms, we hope to have a good splash of colour in the Spring.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Opening the Garden

You may be interested in the attached report which we received from Michael Moat, the national organiser of the open garden scheme in France. He recently went to Chamonix in the Alps to see the workings first hand of the charity "A Chacun son Everest" which Open Gardens supports. The charity has an activity centre there where kids who have/or are in remission from cancer go for a weeks course. They are not accompanied by their parents and the idea is that through activities, such as climbing, they can achieve more than they ever thought possible. They discover that they need not be defined by their cancer but actually in almost all respects they are just like other kids.

We did find opening the garden quite stressful but how could you not do it again next year when you read how beneficial the week is to those young people living with cancer. Of course I empathise  but above all I detest the idea that having cancer is the predominant thing in my life. I push it to the farthest recesses of my mind, have to, too much gardening to do. However my latest blood test shows that my cancer marker has halved yet again and at 17.9 is well below the accepted norm of 31.

A Chacun son Everest has been the principle beneficiary of donations since we first started Open Gardens/Jardins Ouverts (OG/JO) in 2013. In fact, for the first two years, it was the only beneficiary.
Total donated/
Total des dons
Somme octroyée
2013 300€ A Chacun Son Everest 300€
2014 2500€ A Chacun son Everest 2500€
2015 7750€ A Chacun son Everest
Quelque chose en plus

Le Rire Médecin


Le Dauphin Corse





A Chacun son Everest
Other charities yet to be decided

Autres associations caritatives à determiner


 A quick comparison of the figures reveals a remarkable increase in year-on-year donations, which reflects the rapid growth of OG/JO during this time. In fact each year, the amounts given to charities have increased substantially beyond our targets. For example, it was not thought possible that in 2015, we would be in a position of adopting other charities; this was forecast to happen in 2016 or 2017 but the fact that the income far exceeded our expectations allowed us to do so. The success of the 2016 season will give us a similar flexibility. That said, A Chacun son Everest (ACSE), because of its very nature, will continue to be the prime recipient of your generosity.

The conseil has consistently been completely transparent in its giving policy and will continue to do so in the future. However, for those people who have only recently joined us, it is worthy of repetition. Our ultimate target is to donate 100% of the money received “at the gate”, i.e. all monies we take in plant sales, refreshments and ticket sales. The way we hope to achieve this is by attracting sponsorship and, although this is a longer term goal, we are cautiously optimistic that this is realistic.

Regarding our giving policy, we also wish to continue to give to those charities to whom we have already given, providing we feel that the donation has been well used. This will enable these organisations better to plan for the future. As our income increases, we also wish to expand the number of charities we help and we are always keen to hear of local and other charities that you feel are worthy of consideration. Please do not hesitate to contact us should this be the case.
 As part of this transparency, it has always been our intention to bring our participants closer to the workings of our main beneficiary (ACSE) and the best way for this to be achieved was by a visit to their headquarters to see the charity in action. Consequently, on Friday 25 August, I had the pleasure to spend time with the staff and young people of this wonderful organisation.
 The first thing to say about ACSE is that it’s a very professionally organised concern. Dr Christine Janin, the founder, is very focused and single-minded but you don’t get to climb Mount Everest (a feat she successfully achieved 26 years ago and added Mont Blanc 2 years ago) by adopting a “Shall I, shan’t I” attitude. I like people who are direct and I liked Christine from the start. If her answer is “no”, it is not dressed up with unnecessary delicacies; I felt immediately “at home”.
 The building, a former outdoor centre, was renovated in 2001 and in June this year, a new Yoga room was added, targeted mainly at the women recovering from breast cancer. Although all of our previous information has been around children with cancer, it should be said that ACSE has also been offering courses to women for 5 years.
 As Marie (Christine’s niece) showed me round, I was struck by how the fact that the premises were spotless. When I arrived, the young people were in the mountains and due to return later that afternoon for the final ceremony – an event I had been invited to attend. As I walked round, it quickly became obvious that this was a “loved” venue: relaxation rooms, discussion rooms, lounge, refectory and dormitories – everything was immaculate and reflected the staff’s care and pride in the building and its setting.

Of particular interest to me was the climbing wall…..no, that doesn’t do it justice. This isn’t just a climbing wall; this is the mother, father and grandparents of a climbing wall and demands the appropriate superlatives. Where other climbing walls are Ben Nevis, this is Everest and K2 combined. It was huge, had approximately 20 stations and Marie explained that it was the envy of everyone, including the professional climbing wall people in Chamonix itself.
 I was keen to talk about the young people and their ability (or otherwise) to talk freely about their fears, their hopes and other sentiments. Christine told me that communication was rarely a problem and that seldom did they have any restrictions or barriers to talking about their cancer. Discussions with the young people are an integral part of their stay in Chamonix and usually take place in the evenings after the day’s activities and evening meal are completed. She also told me that they are more open to personal admissions than their counterparts who come here following their treatment for breast cancer. Parents are strictly forbidden, even to the point that the journey to Chamonix is arranged with and by a series of volunteers. The reason is both clear and understandable – it is essential that the young people are physically and emotionally distant from their parents in order to allow them to be as honest as possible when talking about themselves and, furthermore, to do so, without the interruption from well-meaning parents.
 The final ceremony, which takes place at the end of each week’s course, is, quite simply, a lovely event. After a debriefing session of the week’s events, each young person is called to the front and asked a series of questions (what was the best bit? what have you learnt? etc) and finally, in response to the question of “and what are you” from Christine, comes the universal response “Champion!” They each receive their diploma with their own photo and a large poster of ACSE. The atmosphere is wonderful – what struck me most was the obvious rapport between the young people themselves and the young people and staff. There is a great spirit of egalitarianism, something I feel is sadly lacking in many institutions dealing with young people.
 It is difficult to describe how I felt, watching all of these 16 participants, knowing that they had all been through the stages of having cancer and being treated for it. I expected that this would be an emotional experience for me, in terms of considerable sadness and yet it was an enormously positive experience. When I looked round the room, all I could see were smiles and all I heard was laughter. Just before the group was due to break up, Christine explained that the work was possible because of the support they received from their supporters around the country. She then invited me to say a few words to the young people as the representative of one of these supporters. It is difficult to know what to say in such situations but I relied on the adage that instructs us to say little but say what you mean. I told them that I was delighted, proud and honoured to be there and that the one word I would carry away with me was “formidable”. This word has, if my French is correct, slightly different meanings in English and French. In French, it means “tremendous” or “wonderful”. In English, there is an added meaning of strength, fortitude and bravery and, as I sat facing a group of 16 young people, all of whom had faced the horror of cancer, all I could feel was admiration for their courage and I felt I needed to tell them so.
 Later on, I managed to grab another few minutes with Christine, who explained that each course cost 3000€ per young person and that their age ranges from 7 to 25. They accept children in remission from all types of cancer and that they are referred by doctors from all over France. Her hopes for the future are that they can offer more courses and have more staff. On behalf of OG/JO, I told her that we will continue to do our best to help her achieve these objectives.
 Those of you who have been to Chamonix, will know that your first view of Mont Blanc is some distance from Chamonix itself but it dominates the skyline …..and just about everything else for that matter. This is a serious mountain (4809m) and the permanent snow and glaciers are omnipresent. You just can’t get away from it. Without wishing to appear contrived, it did occur to me that Mont Blanc’s permanent dominance of Chamonix and its surroundings is remarkably similar to, and has a lot in common with, the constant presence of cancer in these children’s lives. You can shut your eyes, you can turn your head away or you can go to sleep but as soon as your eyes are open, as soon as you turn your eyes back or once you’ve woken up, it’s still there. It’s just too big, too overbearing and all-pervading to shut out of your life.
 Cancer seems to pervade our lives today. It’s almost inevitable that everyone will have/have had a friend, relative or loved one touched by cancer to a greater or lesser extent. It is tragic when this happens during advanced years but for this to happen to children so young is many times worse and words are insufficient to convey the injustice of it.
 Will I go back? Yes, certainly, if I can do so without disrupting the work of ACSE. I want to know more and I’m sure you do too, because the more we know, the closer we are linked, attached and bound up with this wonderful project.
 À bientôt!
President Open Gardens/Jardins Ouverts

A Chacun Son Everest Website
Facebook Page
Open Gardens/Jardins Ouverts Website

Saturday, September 03, 2016


Sorry there have been few posts recently. There are times when you feel life is conspiring against you. Well the last 6 weeks have been like that for me. It started with John's emergency operation and seems to have continued. As close  family will know his bronchitis was confirmed as pneumonia on Tuesday when he eventually had the xray requested by our doctor the Thursday before. His temperatures were very high last weekend and we spent all last weekend and the early part of this week sponging him down, changing the soaking bed linen or wrapping him up to keep him warm. Lack of sleep for both of us took it's toll. The 2 different antibiotics have now taken effect and he is much better (no fever) but he has to have a second course of both antibiotics and a blood test next Wednesday.

Despite this grotty week everything has a silver lining. All our neighbours have been more than supportive. When we went to the doctor on Monday the first thing he did was tell us off for not calling him over the weekend. We are still in English mode where the last thing you do is call the doctor at weekends!! I went to the pharmacy to collect the medication and they were immediately concerned about John. I had an appointment at the hairdressers but called in to explain that I had to sort John's medication immediately, no problem get here when you can was the response. Yesterday we met "Gabriel" the nurse in the pharmacy (it's our second home) and just asked him to keep calling as injections have to continue. OK he says "keeps my bank balance going". We feel so lucky to have found this corner of rural life where individuals matter and the pace of life is slow enough to have time to express it. Call us old fashioned but it enhances our lives enormously.

In addition to my nursing duties I have been watering the garden for 4 hours each day. I know I am mad but it hurts to waste all the work earlier in the year and watch everything shrivel up. We have had over 2 months of temperatures in the thirties with one shower. The forecast is for it to continue for another fortnight at least. I normally like watering I find it a zen experience, but not at present it is a chore. Of course not having my assistant makes a big difference. He couldn't lift a watering can for a month and now he hasn't the strength to do so. However I am including some photos of the parts of the garden that I have managed to salvage before they go the way of all flesh. By the way, fortunately I cancelled " opening the garden" on the 10th September because of the weather but that was before the added complication of John's health.
We live by the maxim that all things will pass, the good and the bad, so hopefully our next post will be a bit more positive.