There once was a syndicated columnist named George W. Crane who frequently advocated that a woman keep her husband happy by forgoing “Kitchen Cheesecake” and instead concentrating on “Boudoir Cheesecake.” This has nothing to do with my post below, but I always found it entertaining. The guy seemed seriously disturbed.
Last April I got my chronic heartburn fixed at last. It involved pulling my stomach down through my hiatus (in the diaphram) and fixing it so it couldn’t pop up again. It worked. I couldn’t get heartburn if I wanted to, but there ensued some other issues, amongst them what seemed like a digestive tract that was out to kill me. Why my intestines should ever have it in form I couldn’t say. I happen to like pepperoni pizza, dammit! Anyway, by noting what I ate prior to having a long night (use your imagination) I was able to determine that it was something that followed right along when I ate dairy products. That took a few months.
Dairy products? Well, I started checking, and it looked like I had developed lactose intolerance. Damn, I also really like ice cream! But there are worse things! I found out that those Lactaid Milk commercials are right, believe it or not. It’s just milk! And nothing happened when I drank it, other than I got the satisfaction of drinking milk. And there are lactase pills one can take as one eats dairy, and those things did seem to work. Except when they didn’t. Sometimes I’d spend my night shuttling back and forth to the throne room even though I hadn’t eaten any dairy, or I had but I’d taken lactase pills. (You can’t overdose on lactase because it’s an enzyme, a protein, and it just gets digested if it isn’t used to digest lactose.) But it seemed odd that sometimes things worked, sometimes they didn’t. Was my intestine still upset because the operation had thrown my intenstinal fauna into a tizzy (it did that, actually)? What was going on. A few more months went by.
Then a few weeks ago I spent some time in France. Now, I have read stories on Ex-Pat sites about how some people have trouble with American dairy but not French (sometimes the other way around.) So, after a few days I tested things and ate some creamy sauces on various dishes, and some cheese (not the hard stuff, but real squishy French stuff that’s full of lactase.) Lo and behold! Nothing happened! Thus emboldened, I branched out. I tried pizza. Shazam! And then one day, Crème Caramel. Crème is cream. Caramel is caramel. I was stoked! And I regretted ever touching the stuff. What??? Suddenly it doesn’t work again, and this kept up even when I avoided all dairy except that nice safe milk. (It is, and if you have lactose intolerance you should try it.)
And within a week of returning to the USA I figured it out. I have the embarassingly named “Dumping Syndrome.” Not uncommon after stomach surgery, it means that food “dumps” out of your stomach into your intestines too soon. A nuisance level issue, except in the case of refined sugar. You know, the stuff they make caramel out of? Yeah. What do a lot of milk products have in them? Yeah, that stuff. Now, after testing further, I find that I can eat pizza, drink regular milk, chomp any sort of cheese I want to eat, but I must avoid any excess in table sugar. Like say Golden Oreos, my favorite. Or those iced sugar cookies at Christmastime? Love ’em. Like to eat them by the pound! But, no more. A couple is okay. Just a couple. But you know what? Pizza! I’ve cut way back on sugar before, for different reasons. It’s healthier not to eat very much anyway. And I already know that I can, for instance, get away with eating a Snickers Ice Cream Bar. It was a rough seven months, but now, as I said eating a small piece of cheesecake this morning, I feel as though I’ve been reborn!
Yes, this site has been silent, because I’ve been in France. Between Tami and I the entire experience is well documented on Facebook. But for those who may not like Facebook’s attitude(s), here is a recap on a site (mine) that will never, ever ask for more than your email address.
We decided maybe eight years ago, more or less, that we’d like to live in the European Union (EU) so that we could travel around Europe the way we’ve travelled around the USA. Honest, there were no political considerations. If you’ve followed me at all you know my opinions on things political, but this isn’t about that. We visited the UK (lovely,) Germany (very nice and friendly,) and Portugal (beautiful country, but not to Tami’s taste) before deciding upon France, for a good reason or two.
First, France is a free country. Tom Jefferson was involved in the writing of “The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen” by Lafayette, during the French Revolution of 1789. He was our envoy to France during those heady times. Lafayette, as you may recall, aided and abetted our own revolution. There are differences between attitudes about some things between France and the USA, but underneath them lurks the same set of principles.
Second, France has a reciprocal tax treaty with the USA which means that each country credits taxes paid to the other in calculating what is owed in income tax. (Okay, this is maybe the biggest one.)
Third, France has what is ranked as the world’s best healthcare system. It is universal. Nobody ever goes broke due to a health condition. It isn’t free, but the copays are modest. Fees are listed upfront in each doctor’s office. There is private insurance available, for when you’re new there, or if you want to cover the copays as well. Medical care is private, but price controlled. Medical school, though, is affordable for all, so doctors don’t have to charge exorbitant fees to pay off huge bills. Their outcomes are excellent, making France a good place in which to retire in terms of health care.
Living in France, or anywhere, requires having a place to live. FEY, Steven, France is a bit too vague to use for an address. So, we began, about three years ago, researching France. We joined Expat and other French Facebook groups. We began, almost two years ago, learning French. I can now state with honestly that I do speak French. Poorly. But, I do speak it. We were concerned with climate, medical facilities, nearby stores and shops, airports, and, yes, the political leanings of the neighborhood. France’s political parties range from Far Right to Communist, with every shade in between. I find it interesting to visit a country where Communism doesn’t scare people. That party elects almost nobody beyond a few municipal council seats, which gives you an idea of how popular it is if you just leave it alone. (No, I am not a Communist. Never was, never will be. I’m just not taken in the the fake Red Scare nonsense still being put forth by some.) After much consideration we settled on Nouvelle Aquitaine (New Aquitaine,) probably the more northerly portion thereof.
We visited France two-and-a-half years ago to see how we’d tolerate the place. (We had been previously, but only as tourists with no agenda.) It worked out okay. As I’ve known for a long time, French people are extremely friendly and helpful. If you find them impolite and brusque, that’s exactly how you look to them. This isn’t the place to go into it, but you need to learn how to be polite in France. I told you, there are differences.
Two years ago we went in a more focused mode, stayed in Angouleme, principal city of the Department (think County) of Cherante, and looked at some houses. We found one that we would loved to have moved into right then, but there was no attached yard (garden, if you’re using English) so our dogs would have not had anyplace to, you know, go. It hurt to turn it down, but we did enjoy our visit. We determined to return in the Spring of 2020 to actually buy a place, but that didn’t work out. Sigh. But, as of October 30th of this year, we returned to France. We stayed this time in a B&B on the outskirts of the village of Agudelle, not far outside of the town of Jonzac. We were there for two-and-a-half weeks, and we spent most of our time looking at properties. For several days we didn’t see anything that spoke to us, until one day, in the Village of Lizant, which is in Vienne, literally on the border with Cherante, one spoke. Now we had one on our list.
Our first weekend we were tourists. We went to La Rochelle and toured the Bunker where the German officers had their officers’ club during World War Two.
This place is a stark reminder of just how bad off the French were in the war. There was a major siege by Free French forces after D-Day, the fifth one La Rochelle has endured. The German Admiral in charge and the local Mayor became good friends. The Admiral’s entire family had been killed in a bombing raid. I don’t think either of those gentlemen had anything good to say about war. From the Allied perspective, World War Two was an example of Ragnarok. It cost almost everything, but evil was defeated. (Ragnarok is not the end of the world. That’s an over simplification. But it is very, very bad.)
Also during that first week we were invited for an Apero by a British couple, and to another by our hosts, who lived next door. (An Apero is a sort of evening with drinks and light noshes. Catherine, our landlady, makes some darned fine light noshes.) Catherine researched Tami, and wrote an article for the local paper about the writers from America and the Apero with some nice people, including another writer.
Amazingly, we do now know a few people in France. The other writer is American but spends three months a year in Paris. We also met a couple consisting of a French woman and an Englishwoman. Altogether an outstanding evening. Our hosts were the nicest landlords imaginable. Gerard built the wooden house we stayed in, and while we were there he added a chicken house, and he was working on a outdoor kitchen when we left. If I had his ambition and energy I’d own the world! We took them out to a restaurant of their choosing later on to thank them. I wouldn’t mind visiting Agudelle again someday, in fact. We also, as we found the chances, visited a number of Brocants, or antique/garage sale stores. We need to know what it’s going to cost to buy things in France, after all.
A couple more days of house hunting, involving driving on a number of interesting French roads, didn’t yield anything to add to “the list.”
We saw a house for sale by the owners that was in a very nice village with a grocery and bakery and other facilities, all on one floor, walk-in basement, and we put it on the list. And on our last day of looking we saw a property with a house, and existing gite (you might call it a casita or mother-in-law house in the States,) plus a barn or two and an option to buy another house. This house had three floors including an attic and we actually put in an offer on it. But . . .
Tami sent regrets to everyone who had represented all of the properties we’d seen, and the agent for that first house on the list came back with “What price would you pay?” or words to that effect. Tami gave her what seemed like a ridiculous offer, which, with a little back and forth, was accepted. They’re leaving most of the furnishings, including the full kitchen. Nervous? Me? Shhhh, yeah! But, someday, this awl will be ours. Something like that. I do mean someday. It takes three months at a minimum to buy a house, even if you have cash. It can take as long as nine months. So, if nothing happens to mess it up, by next summer we’ll own this place. We plan to convert the former restaurant to a gite, as gites make more money than restaurants. Gee, I hope this all works out.
Besides that, we went a couple of times to an aquatic center in Jonzac, Antilles de Jonzac. We ate at a great many French restaurants, and one McDonalds (McDo.) The fries were cold. The Big Mac was fine. I think the best food we had was near the Bordeaux airport, in Merignac, at a place called Buffalo Grill. That’s a chain, and it was authentic, for real, honest American barbeque. I know, French food, lovingly prepared, delicately flavoured, all that. Yes, but let’s just say that I’m taking my Cholula with me when I move. Chicken wings, pork riblets, corn on the cob, barbecue sauce, yum.
And then we came home to Las Vegas. Turned out that the need for a negative antibody test had been added to the requirements for entering the United States, so we had to rearrange our flights, get a negative test (22 Euros a piece, but right in the airport,) and didn’t get home until a bit after eleven PM. We got up that last morning at 4:15 to make a 7am flight. Our flight left at 10. I’m lucky, I can sleep almost anywhere, and did on the flights home. Tami not so much, but she’s recovering too. And that, mes copains, is mon histoire.
So, things are contentious around here. The right figures the left (including me) are out to steal their guns, insert tracking chips in their brains, and destroy the country. Meanwhile, from the left are those who figure that the right-wing is out to suppress all minorities, squash all opposing speech, and install a fascist dictator forthwith, thus, of course, destroying the country.
Well, they can’t both be right. Which means (can you hear them) that each side is shouting that they are the side that’s right about the other side. Oy Vey, I say.
Yes, racially motivated violence has increased. Due to an unfortunate series of events, those who are prone to such execrable behavior feel more able to express their urges. And, yes, one of the two major parties seems determined to gerrymander its way into taking over the government. Not good. (We should check out preferred choice voting, but that’s for another time.) And, sure, I lean left, but there are some absolute idiots on the left. Not the people the right thinks are idiots, but those who think it would be a good thing simply to split the country and, so to speak, go home. As I said, idiots. And some on the right would be happy to get together with them to make that happen. More idiots. Still . . .
Since idiocy is well distributed, there’s no cause to hurl invective. You can’t persuade someone to pay attention to your position by insulting them. It’s fun for a minute, then very much counter-productive. What to do? Listen to your “enemies.” All anybody wants out of a political system is to think that their position has been seriously considered. Really, that’s just about it. It doesn’t have to be adopted, but definitely must have been seriously considered. Are the urban, left-wing progressives letting the more rural conservatives think they’ve been heard? Are those conservatives considering that the urban folk have needs as well? I won’t answer, just think about it.
The honest truth is that every few generations we get into a mess like this. A couple of messes ago it got so bad that some Southern states pretty much lost a generation of young men. Not pretty. But, as in every cycle, so far, every time, things end up shifting a bit to the leftward. That is happening now, and I completely understand how those not familiar with the problems confronting urban dwellers feel threatened by the way things are going. (I’m not putting forth an opinion on that here, just stating that it is happening.) At the same time, the urban population, being majority-minority, feels threatened by what seems to be a vendetta against their very existence. Again, that’s easy to understand.
So, respect is what we need. Respect for each other, even those we have huge disagreements with, as human beings with human needs. (Yes, I hear both sides screaming that “those guys” don’t do that.) They’re right. So, instead of continuing to make things tense and awful, how about we all just afford each other, Bernie lovers and MAGA hat wearers alike, the dignity and respect due to any human being. Seriously.
I mean, considering everything, what’s to lose by trying?
Those dang Godfreys just aren’t posting like they once were, so I guess I’ll have to go back to writing my own. Since my last post, let’s see. I bought an AZERTY keyboard for typing in French, which language I actually speak now, though not terribly well yet, but well enough to carry on a normal conversation. (Maybe not in Paris.) I’m getting a Pfizer/BIOnTech booster next week. Being officially retired, the Pandemic’s various upsets have affected me less than those still doing regular work. (You’d think I’d have the next “War and Peace” drafted. You’d be wrong.) So. More specifically then.
Last April I had my hiatal hernia corrected. The surgeon yanked my stomach down through my diaphragm, folded it over, and put a mesh over it so it wouldn’t unfold. Ah, surgery, how do I love thee? Oh, yeah, I do not. Okay, but there are positives here. After a lifetime of what was at times debilitating heartburn I am completely heartburn free. I can eat whatever I want to just before going to bed. And my sinuses are considerably less congested day to day. Some, heck I have allergies, but I’m more comfortable with no medications than I was taking everything I could find. (Once I took a combination of things that destroyed my short-term memory for a few hours.) I had a measured pH of 1.4 in my esophagus prior to surgery. Now it’s mildly alkaline. Alkalinity is better. Of course, changing the chemistry in my upper regions has had repercussions all over.
After the surgery I discovered that I was lactose intolerant. It’s not all that bad, thanks to lactose free milk (and it really is just milk, folks.) And there are lactase pills one can eat with dairy foods to keep the lactose from moving out of one’s stomach and into infamy. (Look it up if you really want to know.) Hard cheese, Cheddar even, is okay, too, no pills needed. And butter! Yum! And ice cream? Oddly, not all that awful if you keep it down to a modest amount. And, why not, huh? my intestinal fauna all disappeared, independent of any dairy issues. They old ones couldn’t stand the new environment. Here, too, one can take probiotics, which sounds like a scam, but it’s a real thing. They’re in yoghurt, all active-culture yoghurts not just those expensive ones, but I have found that taking about four billion microorganisms per day works out well. And the weirdest effect? A horrible case of athlete’s foot! WTF??? Athlete’s foot! Yeah, well, things are going that way, I see.
In spite of my wearing only open toe sandals all summer (and to this day) the athlete’s foot wouldn’t go away. My insurance requires trying a prescription fungal cure before going to a podiatrist, so I took Terbinafine. Terbinafine side effects include sinus congestion and intestinal upset. Just when the Probiotics were working well, too.
And then there’s the ingual hernia (why settle for just one type of hernia?) It started at Disneyland, after walking around all day. A lump on my lower abdomen (or upper groin, I dunno) that, when I pushed on it, something popped back in. Yoiks! So just this week I had that hernia repaired also. Well, at least I could eat normally as soon as I got home. It never hurt bad enough that I wanted strong painkillers (the stomach thing did) so I’d say it was a pretty easy thing to go through. Of course, I have another ingual hernia on my other side, but nothing has popped through, so we’re just moving along.
Here I want to say a word about good health insurance. It is available in the United States of America, but only, apparently, to certain of us. I have a Medicare supplement policy, not the one associated with the AARP, but from the same company. My outpatient surgeries have resulted in my paying exactly zero in copays. Two in one year. I’m on Social Security. My wife is rich, though, so I pay a hefty premium out of my Social Security payments. Which has totally been worth it this year. The amount is income based, sort of like in France, so after she retires I’ll pay a lot less.
Three weeks from today we leave for France, hoping to find a house to buy. We’ll be there for three weeks, with an eye to moving to somewhere in Southwest France. It takes eight to twelve months to buy a house there. I’ll post my experiences along the way. But for today I’m done. Thanks for reading, keep your powder dry, get vaccinated, and have a great week!
I’m writing this post for those people who have bought my honey (I steal it fair and square) or who are curious about how bees actually operate. I have only two hives. Tami wanted to do something to help the bees of the world, so I got a couple of hives, we painted them up, named them Stark and Targaryan, mail ordered some bees, and were in business. Bees are fascinating little buggers. They are colonial, and not at all like the Borg, trekkies. They operate on consensus, which is a step up from Congress already.
In a quick summary, here’s how a bee colony operates. When a bee is hatched, it first cleans up its own mess (human kids, not so much) then cleans the rest of the hive for a while. Other jobs, often doled out by seniority, include queen’s attendants (who will also attend to drone development) guards at the door, and the ones you see the most, foragers. They can go in a three mile radius to find resources, so the bees you see in your garden might not even come from your part of town. They gather water and nectar and pollen. The water they all drink. The nectar gets put into wax cells where it dehydrates into honey, with a little help from the bees themselves, of course. The pollen is food, and it makes up an important part of porphyry, which is fed to drone larvae as well as next-generation queens.
Drones are males. They do nothing for the hive into which they are born. What they do is fly out until they meet a newly hatched queen, mate with her, and die. More about that new queen directly below. Drones are bigger than most bees, except the queen, but they have no stingers.
If the queen dies, or leads a swarm to a new home (see below) the workers pick a few egg cells and start feeding the growing bees inside with royal jelly, porphyry, and extra honey. The first queen to hatch kills the others still in their cells. (If two hatched they’d have to fight to the death anyway.) Then she (the only true female in the hive, although the workers are genetically female) flies out every day for ten days to two weeks, mating with every drone she meets, leaving a trail of dead male bees in her wake. It could be a male she laid the egg for, she is not picky. After she collects a lifetime supply of sperm, she never leaves the hive again, except as noted below. Male bees are, yeah, males. Queen bees are, for a few days, entirely sexually promiscuous, then they’re all business.
The queen does not rule the hive. Every bee knows what it needs to do. If you watch them, they are actually completely mindless as individuals. It’s appalling, actually. But the hive taken together is highly intelligent, adaptable, and even clever. That’s why some biologists think that the organism is the hive, and the individual bees are simply equivalent to cells in a body. Could be.
Should the hive succeed, sooner or later it will get too crowded in there. This is a big reason to harvest regularly. If it gets too crowded, they hive will decide to divide. (Mitosis? You decide.) Those at the proper stage of life will follow the queen out of the hive, and this is when you see swarms settling in trees or eaves of houses. Bees are at their least dangerous when they swarm, unless something disturbs them. They won’t live in eaves, or on a tree branch. They want an enclosed space. While huddled in the swarm, scouts go out in all directions looking for a suitable new home. When they return, they tell the hive all about the place they’ve found. Over the course of possibly a few days, each scout tells her tale, and eventually every individual agrees with one of them as being the best place to relocate. And they do.
Tells? Really? What? Morse code buzzes? Oh, it’s better than that. Bees are one of two species in the world to use symbolic language. The other species types out blog posts on the Internet. The symbolic language of bees is interpretive dance. In normal foraging, a bee who finds a good source of water or food will do a dance indicating which direction to travel from the sun, how far to travel, and how much of the resource there is. Other bees will dance along and, one by one, take off to gather whatever it is. The same thing happens with finding a new home. The scout which gets the entire colony dancing along then leads them to their new digs. Told you bees were fascinating. You can learn the dance patterns, should you wish to, by googling it.
Anyway, got another crop of honey the other day. Yummy times are back!
I like beer, at least some beers. Weihenstephaner Hefe Weiss is yummy, and Hobgoblin Ale from Witchwood in Oxfordshire is worth a trip. But I’m quits with them both. Because both are full of little tiny bubbles that really enhance the flavo(u)r and drinking experience. My tale follows.
I was a colicky baby. So was my daughter. I got it from my mom and passed it to my daughter. Ain’t I generous, though? What is it? A thing called hiatal hernia, which just means that you’ll get heartburn if you eat anything stronger than air. At a minimum, you’ll get junk from your stomach back where you never want it to go. That’s why colicky babies are colicky; it hurts to have eaten. And it does. Sooner or later, you get to the point where you think you’re having a heart attack because of the hard, sharp pain. It’s a real nuisance, at best. I know this from experience. To top it off, the acid causing the heartburn rises into your sinuses, so you also have, sooner or later, chronic sinusitis. That, not the heartburn (which can be controlled) is why I decided to have my condition corrected.
I might mention that at one point I was prescribed Zantac(tm) as a possible treatment. It didn’t work all that well, and instead I probably ate several pounds of Prilosec ™ over the years. Zantac(tm) did, however, apparently leave me with prostate cancer, which is all taken care of now. I did get into the class action suit. Can’t wait to spend my twenty bucks! But, not to digress . . .
Correction involves somebody reaching into your abdominal cavity (with robotic snake-like arms, in my case) and fixing your stomach so that, not only will you not get heartburn any more, you probably won’t even be able to burp properly ever again, or at least only rarely. If you don’t burp, of course, that CO2 from the beer or whatever doesn’t magically disappear. It has only one way out, the long way. The long way involves 12 meters or so of slimy intestines that hurt when distended by gas. See where I’m going with this? If I drink beer, or Coca-Cola(tm), or seltzer water, I live to regret it. A lot. In fact, having my stomach put into its proper place had several other unanticipated results as well.
My body chemistry changed dramatically. I got the worst case of athlete’s foot I’ve ever had. Ever! I lost 30 pounds, because, frankly, I just can’t eat like a starving wolf any more. I have to chew my food, and not take too much at once. And, this one really gets me, I lost my ability to digest lactose! Know what has lactose in it? Commercial baked goods, including those little pies they sell at Walmart, milk of course, cream, and (gack!) ice cream! No ice cream? Well, it isn’t that bad. One can buy lactase pills. Lactase is what I’m not producing enough of any more, so that works out, if I don’t eat huge amounts of ice cream. An ice-cream Snickers(tm) bar gives me no trouble if I take a pill. And, I can still butter my toast with no worries. Not a lot of lactose in butter, apparently. And they make Lactose free milk, which, to sound just like their commercials, is just milk. They add lactase to the milk, so instead of a complex sugar, the milk contains two simple sugars, glucose and galactose, both of which get absorbed and used. I wish Ben & Jerry’s used lactose free milk for their ice cream, but oh, well.
So, no more beer for me, please! I’m going to be traditional French, I guess, and have some wine with my meals, or whenever.
And no more surgeries! For three more weeks, when I get the next worn out part patched up. (lingual hernia.) Old age: not for the weak or easily frightened!)
Opportunities and delays have forced me to reconsider my prior assessment that neither pianos nor lawyers belong on sailboats. Remote work while attempting a circumnavigation by sail? I’m cautiously optimistic.