Well, I did it again... even though it is so much fun to live in Brittany

Well, I had to do it again. Sometimes I get so upset about things I cannot change... I start feeling like Don Quixote and I do fight windmills! How stupid of me. I should realize I'm no longer in my teens!

One thing I can say though without sounding too emotional nor delirious nor outrageous... I hate hunting. Well, maybe I'm still too emotional!

You see, I simply love wildlife very much.

I started following deer and boar tracks when I was much younger down South. I even learnt how to pick up a viper safely. (Always a great experience! I loved to show off a lot when I was a teenager.)

Since we now live in a remote place in Brittany where wildlife is flourishing, it’s a dream come true.

Last summer while we were eating lunch, we spotted a very familiar bird on a fir tree: a beautiful honey buzzard.
Ten years ago, we had spent almost one whole summer month with one couple.
It was a very enjoyable experience because when it gets warmer, we are plagued with wasps and hornets.
But during the whole summer, whenever we were eating in the garden, the buzzards would stand on a branch right above our table. They dived on every wasp that dared get near us. It was such an enchanting summer that we still call it called ‘The honey buzzard summer’.

Before the hunting season, rabbits and hares are quite «friendly» especially when they are young. Friendly but cautious. We wouldn’t dream to try to tame them though. (We never feed them.) They run in the garden and around the house especially in the morning and at dusk. When there is too much noise, they run for cover into the moor or one of the flowerbeds.

Hares are gigantic animals. I love to see them run around tiptoeing and yet so fast.

Then there are quite a few foxes and  a couple of badgers. They come up very close to the house. Sometimes it gets eerie at night when foxes start hunting in our garden. I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to the screams of their preys. (But that’s ok. They hunt to survive.)

We also live around hawks and from time to time, some magnificent sea eagles. Crows too, which nest in holes in the cliff below our house. Every species has its own territory where they fly around to catch mice and small birds.

We have witnessed incredible battles between hawks and crows. And sometimes magpies join them. Incredible fights up in the air above us.

Of course the moors are filled with small birds, migratory species with bewitching songs, all day long. Not to mention the everpresent ringdoves.

Usually the black-headed gulls and the herring gulls keep to the beach below. Sometimes, when the tide is high, they fly over the house, drifting along, carried by the airstreams. They are real chatterboxes. But it’s nice because they belong to the seaside. And we live by the sea after all.

Once a year, on the day flying ants are born (usually late on a summer afternoon), the gulls invade our space.
The ants come flying up from the ground and are snatched at right away by hungry gulls. It’s quite a noisy event. It’s even a little bit frightening. You sort of end up feeling sorry for the ants even though there will be so many survivors anyway... Usually, one lonely gull will spot them and her shrieks will entice tens of gulls. Their cruel ballet will last till sunset.

And at night, of course, we have bats all over the place. They fly so fast by you that sometimes you only feel them fluttering around without actually seeing them. They are extremely friendly and I do not understand why people are so afraid of them.

I shall never forget a brief and lovely encounter with bats which had decided to settle down for the day between the picture window and its shutter.

They were sound asleep, forming a weird and furry cluster behind the glass. I felt so sorry to wake them up but I really needed to open the shutters. They woke up, very surprised indeed.- I was so excited to see them for real. I even managed to take a few pictures in full daylight... Then they flew away and hid in the shady trees.

They keep coming back at dawn but they are careful to remain hidden in the roller shutter.  They love the space there. And at dusk, they fly away for the night. And it is such a lovely time!

You’d think that living in a faraway place would be boring. It never is. Even now that the children are grown-ups and I spend so much time all by myself...

Two years ago, we shared our garden (and fields) with a young wild boar... Popeye didn’t like very much the way his lawn turned out... (Boars tend to literally plow their surroundings!) But we never complained. The hunting society would have organized a battue. Then the boar moved away and Popeye felt suddenly relieved, should I say, happier.

Last week, while we were checking the few apricots the birds had left us, Popeye froze. Two does were peacefully walking by, less than ten meters away from us. A big first in our life at Les Tertres.

Now do you understand better why I hate hunting?

*Good Luck, and Good Night*


French? Did you say 'French'? - All about Bastille Day 2011

Starting quite early in July, Paris becomes a huge barracks. And nobody ever wonders why. Of course, we all know about Bastille Day and its gigantic army parade.

What are we wondering about? I’m using «we». Maybe I should use «some of us» even if the «some of us» group is growing fast now.

French people love the army parade. If they don’t get to be on the Champs Elysées in Paris, they will be stuck in front of their tv set all morning long to watch the parade.

The same way they will stay glued to their tv set whenever there is a royal wedding (even though we tend to be very fond of our Republic) and more than anything else, when the Tour de France (the famous cycle race) gets to Paris on its final stretch.

Lately there has been a sickening debate or should I say, vicious attacks against someone who was bold enough to say aloud what thousands of people think and are afraid to talk about.

France is entering a difficult patch.

2012 will be our presidential and legislative elections year.

Some sort of unofficial election campaign has already started. Some political parties have already chosen their candidate. Some are on their way to get through primaries, a little bit like in the States. Less impressive since there are so many political parties in France.

A woman called Eva Joly has been chosen (elected) as the official candidate to the Europe Ecology/Green Party.

Two days ago, she declared that we should cancel the army parade and replace it with a parade including people who work for the state and NGOs. They would symbolically represent the French Republic that they are serving well and anonymously.

She added that if we still needed a military parade, we should have it instead on November 11th or May 8th.

I’d like to say a few words about Eva Joly. She was born in Norway. She became French 40 years ago after arriving in France, fifty years ago. Of course she has a dual nationality, which in total agreement with European laws.

She has been one of the most reputable judges in France, in charge of financial crimes (often linked to the financing of political parties). Right now she’s one of the Green Party deputies at the European Parliament.

As soon as she uttered the «unthinkable», cancelling the army parade, she was under attack from left to right (down to far-right) for one reason and one reason only: She is not French. Oh really?

We are back to the stinking quagmire about what it means to be French. On Bastille Day of all days.

Please read the Marseillaise so many French people refuse to sing nowadays because besides being filled with violence, it does explicitely say: «What! Foreign cohorts would make the law in our homes... To arms, citizens. Let’s march, let’s march!  That a tainted blood Water our furrows.» This may have been relevant in 1792 since it was written for a revolutionary army. Is it relevant today when so many French people are  said to have «tainted blood» since they were not born in France?

So Ms Joly who has been lawfully elected and represents France at the European Parliament belongs to those «foreign cohorts» whose «tainted blood» should «water our furrows».

In 1968, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, born in France but a German citizen, was deported from France because he was one of the beloved leaders of the student revolution. This is why lots of (French) young people started wearing a button that said: «Me too, I am a German Jew.»

Nowadays, who would sport a button claiming: «I am French even though I was not born in France»?

I know. It’s easy to give lessons.

Lately one of my bad second degree joke about English soldiers in Dunkirk hurt quite a few British readers. (I’ll write a post about it!)

But today, let’s go back to Bastille Day which was the reason why xenophobia swept through our newspapers, radio talks, tv shows, etc.

Ms Joly says and I totally agree with her that if we need an army parade, we should choose November 11th. My faithful readers already know what November 11th has meant to my family.

I know, Armistice Day is supposed to mean peace. But if we need to honor the French army which is now totally professional , why don’t we switch to November 11th?

And why don’t we stop inviting foreign heads of state to our military parades, not because they are foreigners but because they are tyrants and dictators (Baschar el-Assad or Ali Bongo, for example)?

This year, at the last minute due to heavy loss in Afghanistan, our leaders decided to dedicate this  parade to French soldiers at war in faraway lands, especially in Afghanistan.

All I know though is that whenever I think about our 14th of July huge army parade, it smacks of dictatorships (old and present).

Back to Bastille Day again. How bizarre that we chose the 14th of July as our national holiday.

Why not June 27th? One of the most pivotal and peaceful event in our bloody past in 1789: The Tennis Court Oath. The day when French citizens became (almost) equal.

Why not the 26th of August? The day when the last article of our famed «Déclaration des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen» was voted? This Declaration that has inspired so much freedom in the world.

I really wonder why our ancestors chose the day when a prison was taken over by a riotous crowd (yes, I know, they were to become our revolutionary heroes) to free seven prisoners, mostly if not all of them noblemen, jailed because they had run up debts...

The day when the prison governor and the guards were murdered after surrendering under a flag of truce...

Well, somebody probably had good reasons to choose Bastille Day. But for me and many people like me, all we hear that day is some terrible war rumble.

By the way, have you ever read or listened to «Le Chant du Départ»? It was written in 1794... another revolutionary song. It became our national anthem during the Great War. A few French presidents tried to reinstate it. But «La Marseillaise» won, once and for all.

What do I worry so much about? I am so lucky after all. I was born French in France.

*Good Luck, and Good Night*


Bastille Day (July 14th) - So much sun and so much fun in Northern Brittany

Whoever claimed that Northern Brittany is cold, rainy and dreary, even in July, missed a lot today.

Whenever the day starts out very foggy, it’s always a good sign. When clearing away, the fog will bring either a perfectly sunny day or a lot of rain.

Considering the drought Brittany is going through right now, Popeye and I, we thought that a little bit of rain would be welcome... This was a well-meaning thought. A noble thought.

Because actually, we were very much wishing for a very sunny day since the 14th of July «week-end» will only last four days and we badly needed four sunny days to enjoy a little bit of rest.

It’s always easier to feel better when it’s sunny outside, isn’t it?

Well anyway, we were very selfishly craving warm and sunny weather...

And sunny it was! It will rain tomorrow... probably.

After doing thousands of things that needed to be done, I finally convinced Popeye it was just about time to get down to the beach. The tide was coming in. I wanted to take a walk on the beach. Not on the beach because I’ve been taking walks on the beach all year long. I wanted to take a walk and go swimming. It looked like a perfect day for swimming.

Imagine. A perfect day for swimming... in Northern Brittany... on the 14th of July!

Popeye had definitely set his mind against swimming. He was not wearing his swimming trunks! OK. The wind was a northern wind, a little bit chilly, especially on the beach.

I started to walk barefeet on the sand. Then I walked right into the sea... up to my ankles, then up to my knees. The water was deliciously warm...

I loved it so much that our walk didn’t last long. Popeye volunteered to wait for me on the dry sand... and watch over my clothes and beach towel.

There was no way to entice him to come along and have his first summery swim! (He said that next time, he would bring his diving suit... which is something he’s done more than once, believe me!)

It was a wonderful experience... Can you believe that I had not been able to swim for the longest time? (Due to this stupid boating accident, more than a year ago in May.)

I had taken our small waterproof camera along probably because I felt that I might need a proof to convince some friends who don’t like Brittany at all that it is possible to swim in the Channel, late in the afternoon!

The water was so warm that it felt almost tepid. No kidding!

And I discovered that I could swim again. Really swim! No pain... not even the smallest discomfort.

I was so elated! So many dark clouds over my head lately and now I could swim again!

And I could take pictures just for fun...


Don’t you wish you had spent the 14 juillet (Bastille Day) in Northern Brittany on a beach called «Les Vallées» («The Valleys»)?

Hope you had a wonderful day too!

*Good Luck, and Good Night*


Paris - On Monday - Francis Bacon and a Ballet at Opéra Bastille

I love ballet. I always have.

Popeye kind of hates ballet which means that I always have to go to ballet performances on my own.

I usually end up very frustrated because (almost) every time I come back from the Opera (usually Garnier) very excited and bubbly, I meet my dear husband’s eyes totally filled with incomprehension even though I’m trying to share my passion with him!

I love ballet. He does not like it at all.

But in the end, it doesn’t matter very much because life would be boring if we liked exactly the same things.

On Monday morning, a friend called me to let me know that she had one extra ticket for a very contemporary ballet about Francis Bacon’s work at Bastille Opera, that very night.

“How about coming along?” she said.

I went berserk because I wanted so much to go to this ballet... and I would not be alone!

I knew it would be very modern. No ballet skirts. No fancy costumes. No extraordinary stage setting.

The choreography and the music itself were totally inspired by Bacon’s work... so filled with violence and where the human body ends up distorted to no limits.

(I love Bacon’s paintings but I know I could never, ever live with one of them in my home...)

So I was very, very eager to see how Wayne McGregor, a renowned British choreographer, had translated Bacon’s work into a ballet.

And I loved it from the beginning to the end (almost).

I did have a hard time loving as much the last part called “Dispelling the Fears” mainly because the very discordant music (to my ears) put me under a lot of stress... which is how I more or less end up feeling whenever I go see paintings by Bacon. So, yes, well done, Mr. McGregor!

When you watch a very classical ballet, there are many things that prevent you to fully comprehend the fantastic work of the dancers behind the entrechats or the pas de deux. The music, the corps de ballet, the costumes, the stage setting.

Of course, you end up enthralled because a ballet can be so magical and dazzling. I remember being dumbfounded while watching Rudolf Nureyev’s absolutely incredible entrechats (leaps even). (Live on stage, of course! Lucky me.)

I know that ballet is one of the hardest artistic disciplines ever. It takes a lot of work from a very early age.

A dancer has to sacrifice almost everything to reach up to the top of his/her art while experiencing a lot of physical pain. And then he/she offers you moments of pure beauty and joy as if dancing was so easy and natural.

The ballet called “L’anatomie de la sensation” (“The Anatomy of Sensation”) was ballet dancing to its ultimate perfection.

The dancers were the dancing stars of the Opéra de Paris. Beautiful and extremely talented young people. Wayne McGregor made them perform to the limits of their virtuosity.

Every part of "L'anatomie de la sensation" (all nine of them) became total physical and emotional gifts to us.

Physical gifts because the dancers’ performance was totally brilliant. They all accomplished what had been asked of them - they did go to the limits of their skills and sometimes even beyond (unbelievable).

Since there were almost no costumes, the muscular strength was there to be seen, so amazing. And from time to time, some very unusual moves helped us understand better what an excellent dancer is all about.

Emotional gifts because every step, every move, every interaction between the dancers awakened emotions in our hearts, passions even... without a story to back up the ballet. Feelings, fleeting memories of Bacon’s paintings...

That night, we all left the Opéra with sparkling eyes and very wonderful and unforgettable memories.

Do I need to tell you that there was a standing ovation?

*Good Luck, and Good Night*


Yes, it's me again! Ready to fight another dubious battle but...


It took me one month to get over something that I would qualify as being bad news.

No, cancer is not back. At least, I hope it is not.

In a blog about Marrakesh, I briefly mentioned that the reason why we had gone there was because I had been diagnosed with a rare genetic disease and that I was bound to loose my eyesight pretty fast.

In July 2001, I woke up on a very nice summer morning. I opened my eyes. (Don’t you open your eyes when waking up?) Everything looked blurry. I tried to blink the blurry feeling away several times to no avail. Still blurry. A few drops of eye lotion in each eye thinking it might be a bad case of an allergy to pollution (I was spending a few days in Paris)...

I only had one solution left... I took a cab and got an emergency appointment at the American Hospital with one of the best retina specialists in the world who happened to be there in-between France and the States.

We talked for a few minutes and then she sent me to get an angiography done across the hall. The radiologist was very nice and kind but he looked quite shocked as far as my blurry vision could tell.

Back to the ophthalmologist’s office, she had me sit down... and then she asked me to look, one eye at a time, at a picture she had above her desk. Actually not at the picture but at the frame. Kind of weird but I did it anyway.

Well, well, well... if I had not been so nervous (nice euphemism), I would have laughed because this was becoming so ridiculous... The frame was not straight at all. It looked a lot like a very choppy sea to my very startled mind. It could have been very poetic.

But usually picture frames are not meant to look like rough seas.  At least hers wasn’t because as soon as I expressed my surprise (ok, let’s say shock), she said to me: “You are quite young to suffer from such an sudden onset of what we will definitely call Wet AMD. I’m very sorry for you. Things are going to get worse and worse. Etc. Etc. And you’ll be partially blind in less than two months.”

She added that since the onset had been very brutal, “my” Wet Macular Degeneration (she kindly dropped the “age-related” stuff) was genetic. And there was nothing to be done about it.

To make the story short, at the time, Swee’ Pea was working on his Master’s degree in the States. We then learnt that in the US, the FDA had approved a brand new drug that was supposed to help delay the total destruction of my retina!

Swee’ Pea sent me a few bottles that made it through the French customs because he lied about the content of the package  he was sending me... Well sometimes it is just right to lie.

While I started being on the medication (a very powerful vitamins and antioxidants supplement), I decided that blurry or not, my eyes had to start working again.

Those of you who have been my faithful readers already know how tough I can get.

Actually I think I’m kind of a mutant, maybe a true E.T.

Who knows?  My dear old mother always claimed that she had found me in a garbage can. (Her idea of a joke.) But maybe she was right considering all the illnesses that have plagued my life (not very healthy to leave a baby in a garbage can... but a very interesting way to build up extremely strong antibodies!)

End of digression...

I started to ingest the “PreserVision” (by Bausch & Lomb - no publicity there, just saying, that’s all). And I decided I had to start reading again.

One problem: There are no eyeglasses for WetMD. So when I started to try to read again, it was very hard. One of the hardest things I’ve ever done, including chemo.

Except that I did not know that the human brain is a magnificent computer and the eyes are just means to transfer whatever information they are set on. The brain does the rest.

By the time I felt good enough to read a whole chapter while understanding it... the “PreserVision” had been working wonders for me. My left eye slowly got rid of most drusen and I even started feeling more comfortable with my right eye.

I was walking normally and I had more or less quit bumping into doors and people. I was able to cross a street (very carefully) without getting hit by a car. (I never got hit by a car. Once I simply found myself sort of sitting on its hood or maybe its bumper. So thankful it had not been a truck.)

And there was a glamourous side to it too... I had to wear sunglasses all the time... During the day to protect my eyes from UVs and at night because having a choppy retina makes it hard to stand electric lights! So I had all sorts of sunglasses... until Popeye said to me: “Don’t you think you are overreacting?” meaning: “How many sunglasses will you keep on buying?”

After a (long) while, I started taking pictures again, training my left eye to replace my right one... Even though they say that only one eye can be used as a photographic eye... Usually. Not for me.

It wasn’t easy. Not easy at all. But I was fighting. I fought during chemos too. There were hard decisions to be made then. We made the right ones. Which means that we decided to fight cancer without worrying about my eyesight.

During chemos, I read with my ears. No, I did not turn into a monster! I simply discovered the pleasures of listening to recorded books...

My right eye was definitely not recovering at all but still no signs of neovascularization.

I finally ended up in a brand new WetMD research center in Paris where the first specialist I met there welcomed me with a big smile.

“I was hoping you would end up here one of these days,” he said. And he went to a big  cupboard behind his small office. He opened a drawer and got a file out of it. My file.

Hard to believe it but when some hospital ophthalmologists started being interested in WAMD in France where there are only a few patients (too many though) suffering from this illness and some of them quite young, they asked all their peers who had met people like me to send them their files.

I had been consulting quite a few retina specialists ever since 2001. But my first file went back to 1998 when my ophthalmologist found out weird drusen on my macula during a routine eye test without even telling me anything about them. (Dry AMD drusen look different.)

By the end of 1998, I had moved to Belgium and only came back to the American Hospital in 2001.

The research center is quite new but there are brilliant researchers there who share their time between France and the US where there are (too) many cases of WetDM.

The doctor in charge of me was very surprised that neovascularization had not happened yet.

1998-2008 - This makes an awful long time considering that he was totally agreeing with the AH retina specialist. I definitely was an enigma for him.

He told me to start driving again if I felt like it. I did start driving in Brittany but only in Brittany when the tourists are gone and the roads are empty.

I did not have to tell myself to keep on taking pictures or reading though!

So there I was, very confident that after such a victory over cancer (hopefully), I would keep on challenging my eye specialist. Well, I almost did... I’m still challenging him though, in a way (a small way, now).

My right retina is looking like a battlefield without any abnormal blood vessels growth though.

But lately (one month ago almost to the day), I started feeling really weird while I was reading a book or taking a picture. I got really mad at my left eye. It didn’t help very much. I then started to be really nice. It didn’t help either.

Let’s face it! My left retina has turned into a battlefield too! A small one for now. But a battlefield anyway!

Swee’ Pea has given me a Kindle which has proved very useful lately. But I also have to thank Steve Jobs and Apple for the wonderful iPad 2 Popeye bought me two weeks ago. (Doctor's orders!) Thank you, Popeye, by the way.

I don’t know what my future will be like and I’m not writing this post in order for you to feel sorry for me.

I’m writing so that it may help people just the way my fight against cancer is helping my neighbor in Brittany to fight against his cancer because he’s seen me fight hard and survive. (I’m not bragging. He told me. And it made me cry because I never thought such a hideous experience would ever be useful to someone else.)

All I know is that for some reason (the garbage can?) the neovascularization hasn’t happened yet while research is making a lot of progress.

They still don’t know how to stop WetMD (especially not the genetic form) but they have developed new technics to clean the bleeding so that the patient sometimes regains up to 50% of his eyesight, even though it will be a constant fight once it starts.

Sometimes I get really mad like when I can’t see things that I used to see one month ago. I get really mad when I have to ask my friends to explain a painting to me or what we are looking at. (I usually get the general idea though! And I have plenty of imagination too!). I get really mad because I can’t read a real book anymore. But I still buy them.

And then I turn my computer on and it’s like magic... Such a very useful and wonderful technology...

I do not admit defeat... yet. Just to say.

*Good Luck, and Good Night*