July: The Little Family is back (for better or for worse)! Good news / bad news ?

Some news from The Little Family who is now firmly rooted in July, warmth, sunshine, early mornings (when possible), sometimes late nights if there is something from the summer music and theatre festivals on TV, fruits, vegetables like courgettesaubergines, tomatoes, peaches, apricots, nectarines, soon melons…

And soon the Great House Scouring Party on the 21st of July, the day Anne-Fleur celebrates her birthday. As you know she will be 57 and cannot remember it because she sees such discrepancy “between her age and what she feels inside” – so she told me.

Add to this the Fête nationale (we never call it Bastille Day in France) on the 14th, Anne-Fleur’s saint day on the 26th (Sainte Anne), and you may imagine what an eventful month we are living!

And we already went – no, this is not true – I went through three events this week: one good, one less good, and another that does not concern us/me directly, but that I wish to mention.


There has been a leak for months in the loo. It was nothing important, nevertheless the noise was irritating and we were wasting water. The plumber had been ready to intervene since February but the finance administrator had given no green light for laziness, carelessness, and slackness. In the end all these were remedied and the plumber came at the beginning of the week. It took him ten minutes and a piece of black plastic to mend the leak. He has been working for us for some time now as he is the famous boiler man as well. In fact, he is the boss of a little enterprise nearby; he comes from time to time to do an odd job and overlook what his employees have been doing.

So, this job done, he stayed for a few moments, on the little terrace of the kitchen, talking to me. And then came the genuine kind word that was THE revelation for me! “Do you remember the first time I went? You were really ill then. You looked… You looked… Well, you looked badly ill. Now, you look…” Trailing voice. I get an appraising glance. “You look normal.”

YES! For a non-professional like Dr Quack or social workers or, even, the Socializing/Shopping Lady, I look normal. I told this to a friend who said that there had never been a moment that I was not normal. If I was disabled, it was by illness, stress and strain. If I still was slightly disabled, it was as a consequence of the stress and strain. But at no time I was or am mentally handicapped or disabled.

Hooray! I am normal!


 BUT… Why is there always a “but”?

The Socializing/Shopping Lady is not as interested as she was before by The Little Family. She thinks that we are difficult patients. We do not want to “socialize”. We spend our time in books, classical music, magazines, quiet occupations that we may lead alone, and this is definitely not normal. We should be going out more. Why don’t I create some “social link” with The Girls going shopping with them? Why don’t we go to the gym together? Why don’t we have activities outside the house together?

I told her that we had always found our happiness in reading, writing, listening to music, not in moving much, and not in doing the activities offered by the associations of The Village. That we were Townees. That we liked quiet. And that, plainly speaking, I was very, very happy to be left in perfect solitude, three hours a week, at home, while she was taking The Girls shopping. She watched me with a look of incomprehension, commiseration, and disdain. I was saying that I could be happy without The Girls. This is heretic when you are a parent or a sibling of handicapped people. They must be the Light of your Life.

Therefore, she leaves us more and more into other hands: she is on holidays, she cannot come for such or such reasons, she is not available, etc. It seems that after some unpleasant fluctuations, we have a rather permanent Stand-In Lady who started this afternoon. As I did not know who and how she would be, I decided to go shopping with The Girls to test our Substitute Lady.

She was nice to The Girls, polite with me, and helped me, although she was clearly dejected not to  decide to which supermarket we were going, not to have to push the trolley (Anne-Fleur’s task), not to make the menus (I had made them and then the shopping list accordingly), not to choose what to buy (ditto the shopping list plus the calculator to keep an eye over the spending).

Coming back, while she was driving, she asked me: “But who is the mentally handicapped person? YOU are the one, aren’t you?” I was utterly dismayed.

Boom! Live with Down Syndrome people and YOU are the mentally handicapped one! Now I have to think very, very hard at what the plumber said. And I have to use the méthode Coué“Je suis normale, je suis normale, je suis normale…”

No, truly: I am laughing.


The third event happened on Thursday night.

There were semi-finals in the European Football Cup and France was playing Germany. France won the World Football Cup in 1998 with a team that was called “Black, Blanc, Beur“, which means that there were Black, of Arab origin, and White players. This had a very positive, if not lasting, effect on French society. We understood that we could be united, together, do something, and win. There was no question of skin colour or creed anymore. We were together.

Since then, there was the financial and economic crisis, the rise of the Extreme Right (Front National), the Arab Spring, DAESH, ISIS, Syria, Iraq, terrorism, attacks, racism again. Meanwhile the French team behaved like spoiled children, money came in, new generations came, and we did not even play one match in the World Cup on South Africa, on a whim. The French players went to the stadium but refused to get off the bus. We left the competition far, far before the semi-finals, at the very beginning of the competition! It has now taken years to build another team and we were not too sure of it!

Slowly, this year that France is host to the European Championship, the new French team went up, up up, match after match. Until we played Germany yesterday. It was in Marseilles, which is a difficult town with lots of problems with racism and violence. We were not too confident in a French victory and we were already congratulating ourselves that we had been so far!

And we won!

I am not much interested in sports, even less in football. The Girls do not understand the game. We watched a film against racism on another channel. When it was over, I turned to Channel 1 and we saw the French players being applauded and applauding the supporters in the stadium. I understood that we had won. It was confirmed: 2 for France and 0 for Germany. But what was beautiful was this new “Black, Blanc, Beur” team and the usually oh so racist public sharing a moment of collusion and of joy. Tomorrow – that is Saturday evening – France will play Portugal in the final. We may well lose. I hope not. It would be wonderful to live another complicity moment between the team and the country. This would soothe the rise of racism, the horror of the difference, the fear of the refugee, the idea of a Frexit. I long for another time like the one that followed the victory of 1998.

And I want to thank England. There were different teams representing the UK, England represented England. While the English were playing in Marseilles, and after, as they left the competition rather early, English supporters created and built a “synthetic” stadium in one of the multiracial, difficult, and violent suburbs of Marseilles. This will allow youths of different origins to come and play together.

The UK voted for Brexit. But who says that all British are racists? Thank you, England. Thank you, UK. This is the way we like you.

8 thoughts on “July: The Little Family is back (for better or for worse)! Good news / bad news ?

  1. Those were two interesting experiences for you! Incidentally, how do you say “mentally handicapped” in French? It’s not a term we use in NZ. The phrase in use when I was young was “intellectually handicapped” but nowadays the customary term is “people with intellectual disability”.

    Depression wouldn’t be classed as intellectual disability, but as a form of mental illness. That’s why I was puzzled when you referred in an earlier post to the possibility of your being described as “mentally handicapped” (or, as I read it, having an “intellectual disability”) in order to get more assistance.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Mentally handicapped” is handicapé(e) mental(e)” or person with a mental handicap (“personne qui a un handicap mental”); it is the opposite of physically handicapped person (“personne avec un handicap physique”): Down Syndrome is a mental handicap in France. Depression would be certainly classified by specialists or even common MDs as a kind of psychiatric disease/illness. But it is referred as belonging to the general category of mental handicap. Psychiatric illness would be even more frightening for people: the common synonym is “fou” (mad) and conveys the idea of mental asylums. God forbids, I am ever classified like that: The Girls would be immediately taken from the house and from me and directed to the next specialized centre for mentally handicapped while I would be sent to a psychiatric asylum!
      The whole idea is totally crazy. I had a burnout and a severe depression as a consequence of Mother’s death, changing life, caring for The Girls, lots of stress and strain – a complete upheaval. I was exhausted, worn out. I came out of this deep pit. I have now more medications for the physical side-effects of the medications for depression (heart, breathing, blood pressure, stomach ulcer, etc.). And when I am taking back control of our life together and search for means to get assistance, the only solution that is suggested is to be classified as “mentally handicapped” because of past burnout and depression, as opposed to “physically handicapped”. Absurd.
      The Socializing/Shopping Ladies are local ladies from the countryside without work and without diplomas, who have left school rather early, gone to factories and were unemployed when the local factories closed. As the local population was ageing, the authorities had the brilliant idea to give the unemployed a formation to become official carers with a diploma (one tear formation). They are given a quick coat of paint about different matters and employ a vocabulary they do not understand. Their great joy is to go for walks or drives or shopping with old people without having to clean or to “work”. And the people for whom they care are all seen as kinds of morons.
      They do not understand that everybody in the family has always fought for giving The Girls an autonomy. They think they should be helped in absolutely everything.
      They probably have snatched bribes of conversations concerning me as well and have concluded by themselves that I am not quite normal.
      It is true that according to the average man or woman of the street of villages around, we may appear as not normal at all: too many books, too much writing, no common interests, too big a house and grounds, etc. I could say they are mentally deficient as well…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah, that explains it. The difference isn’t in the language, but in the way various types of disability or illness are tied together by the Red Tape!

        And living in the country makes this so much more difficult. As I think you once said, in Paris you would be considered perfectly normal, depressed or not.

        On a different note, your blog has made it very clear to me just how rusty I am when it comes to French. But it’s coming back slowly, as a result of reading some of your Facebook posts in French (and watching those violent TV programmes). 🙂


      2. Well as far as socialisation goes, it would be easier in Paris because we would meet people wit the same tastes and we would have opportunities to go to a concert, a museum, an exhibition, a bookshop or a library. Our townee habits would be inconspicuous. So I would not pass as weird, bizarre, etc. And I would feel happier. It is difficult to find someone here with whom to talk of Henry James, for instance; the Shopping Ladies do not know anything about him and do not understand why I would spend an afternoon reading one of his books. It is the same with The Girls and their tastes that are modelled upon mine or our family’s before.
        Tssssss! Watching violent French programnes…. 😉 But if your French is only rusty, it will come back easily. I know now that if post something in French on my Facebook page, someone reads it! Ah! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello, Marina! I should be blogging but I do not have much time. Eldest Girl had a fit one morning at the beginning of August. It may have been epilepsy. We don’t know. Our doctor prescribed a scanner test and an appointment with a neurologist but staff is on holidays and patient are as numerous as during the other months in little towns in France. Therefore she shall not be seen to before this September at best. She had two other almost fainting fits and falls last week. She is confused and sometimes lost in her own house. It looks like the early stages of senile dementia to me. I am very worried, scared and exhausted.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh dear, Camille. I was worried there was something going on. It’s so stressful that you have to wait so long to get an opinion, and so unfair. I assume you have no friends or family who can lend a hand. It’s awful to be alone. I’m having the most horrendous summer myself, with various business and family issues, otherwise I could come and Girl-sit! You must keep your courage and look after yourself. I know it’s easy to say, but just keep putting one foot in front of the other until a gleam appears on the horizon. I sending you positive energy and virtual hugs, and if there is anything you wish to discuss, feel free to contact me on my email, athensletters@gmail.com. 🌹🌹🌹

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank you, Marina. A first preliminary diagnosis confirms that it should be an early form of Alzheimer bur she needs to go through various tests and to have an appointment with a neurologist. Fortunately, we have far removed cousins (and aged cousins in between 70 and 80) very close to home. Their house is at the other end of the hamlet and we can visit each others walking to and fro. Annie has health difficulties but Jean-Michel is either doing light shopping (like bread or other small things) or driving me shopping when he goes as well. Then he stops a while at home: there is something easy in family relationships: some things belong to a common background or are taken for granted and do not need to be explained. Our British friends should be coming soon and staying for three weeks. I dread winter time when everybody will go back to their main abode of course. Then I shall be very lonely indeed.
        But, as you say,one step at a time and, as another friend says, baby steps! Thank you for your email address. Mine is camilledefleurville1@gmail.com
        I am sorry for your own horrendous summer. If there is anything I can to to help or comfort, please, let me know.
        Hugs gratefully accepted and returned! 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s