Despite the weather maps indicating that we were barely on the edge of the snowy weather currently causing havoc in the UK and elsewhere, we woke on Friday morning to a fair amount of it which proved to be all over the department right up to the coast - we often get a dusting up here while all remains clear down there. With relief we cancelled a lunch arrangement with J for Friday -Tom had been feeling the worse since a nasty stomach bug laid him low earlier in the week and wasn't much looking forward to it - and when it showed no signs of disappearing, I rang to put off my students for the next day (Saturday). Their mum said they'd all been at home all day anyway since even in St Brieuc school buses had been cancelled and they certainly didn't expect me to try to get there in the morning. So we were quite prepared to settle down for a weekend of housebound cosiness and indolence.
However. There was the small matter of the weird flocks of starling flocks of black floaters which had been coming at me from the corner of my right eye a day or two before, resolving themselves into darting insects and wiggly worms, then largely subsiding but being replaced by flashes of light in the same corner, and the vision in that eye going somewhat blurry. Too much time shopping the Chrome webstore, I thought guiltily. Then on Friday night a voice from somewhere in my head said 'retina'. I looked it up and these symptoms did indeed bode the possibility of a tear in that same membrane, or maybe not, but needing to be checked.
I rang our doctor who was still working, as he is a very saint and will, it is to be hoped, have a street in the village named after him on his retirement at the very least. One cannot but notice how many French streets are named after doctors, and in one small town locally the former doctor is also the mayor of many years standing, and boasts to have delivered many of the town's children; I have heard it murmured that he may also have something to do with the conception of some of them too (and we're not talking IVF). No such imputation has been or will be, I'm sure, made of our lovely Dr Le G, however. He told me to come in in the morning.
The night brought no more snow, but the roads around our hamlet were covered with ice, black, white and every shade in between, and there was a thick white fog over all. I had no intention of driving anywhere, or of dragging Tom out to do so, so I put on my sturdy walking boots, a bright red jacket so as to be visible, clasped my trusty hazel thumb-stick (which seemed a little over the top but in the event I was glad of it) and set out to walk the couple of kilometres to the village. I felt quite excited and very rugged and adventurous. I took a backpack in which I put, as well as obvious necessities like money and mobile, the camera and something to read. Tom raised his eyebrows at the hardback of Bring up the Bodies (link to a fantastic and worthy review, Margaret Atwood in the Grauniad, read it) as rather hefty to be lugged along in a packpack for a waiting room read, did I want to take the Spanish cookbook which I also had for Christmas too? I remarked that this was rich coming from someone who's likelier to be seen reading the complete works of St John of the Cross or the Nag Hammadi Scriptures in such a place than James Patterson. 'I've never taken the Nag Hammadi with me...' he protested as I left. 'But you might,'I said.
Anyway, I didn't have much reading time, since, for the first time I can remember, the doctor's waiting room was empty, though one patient was in the surgery. He was amused at my stick and boots, having driven in from somewhat further off without drama. He said as far as he was concerned, eye problems were always urgent, as without testing there was no way to say what they might be, so I needed to get to an ophthalmologist asap. I muttered couldn't I wait, I didn't want to go out in the snow, it had only just come up and wasn't that bad anyway... No, he replied firmly, in fact on second thoughts he said he'd ring round the ophthalmos on Monday morning and sort it out, as they are notoriously scarce and difficult to pin down in these parts, really one of the only areas of healthcare where we feel we are less well served here than in the UK, which is why we tend to make our eye appointments at high street opticians there when we go over.
I came out and thought I'd check out the tiny general store-cum-bar, for any useful supplies and a cup of hot chocolate. It's old-fashioned and scruffy but quite well stocked, with a beautiful wooden counter top; though they didn't have any of the pots of ready-made rice pudding Tom's been eating his way through to the exclusion of much else since he was ill. The woman owner said she had rice and milk, perhaps I could make some? In the bar part there was the kind of cheerful small hubbub that people enjoy in exceptional snowy weather, with stories of flat car batteries and the like.
'Many people at the doctor's?'asked the bar owner. When I said not, he predicted that come Monday morning, if the snow cleared, the waiting room would be crowded, everyone would be there. Country folk hereabouts don't like to be kept from their doctor for long. One wonders what they'll do when Dr Le G finally takes his well-earned retirement, he'll be hard to replace for his patience and dependability, if they can replace him at all.
On the way back, the ice had already thawed quite a bit, but the fog didn't lift much and the camera stayed in the backpack, and anyway I was inclined to keep moving and get home now. It was still rather lovely, the banks of the roadside ditches sculpted with folds of snow, a tiny jacksnipe or similar whirring up from one as I approached, robins and blackbirds and dunnocks eyeing me from the hedges, every twig and leaf seeming to be drawn double by the snow and air frost, and invisible flocks of winter birds, who knows quite what, bramblings and fieldfares and redwings, perhaps, calling from behind the curtain of white fog.
When I got home, Mol had been decidedly fed up with me for going for a walk in the snow without her and rather naughty. It was just the kind of snow she likes too, not too deep and with a nice crisp crust that doesn't make uncomfortable snowballs stick to your legs and between your toes. So we went out in it in the garden, where the fog rather scuppered the light for photos, but I took quite a few anyway.
The snow is on its way out. Not before some of it had found its way into our loft space, we know not how, blowing exceptionally under the slates we hope, not through an invisible hole that needs repairing, and giving us further headaches. Fortunately we have an old vacuum cleaner which can suck up wet things, so Tom clambered and stretched and stood on one leg at the top of the step-ladder to clear it out, while I held the vacuum cleaner as high as possible from further down them. We stayed quite cheerful throughout this operation all things considered. The eye symptoms have very largely subsided, apart from a bit of blurriness and the odd flicker, so hopefully it won't be serious or require any bothersome treatment, and we still have today to enjoy the last of the snowy peace and quiet, fingers crossed.
And I did make a rice pudding. Funnily enough, though I like to cook, I've never made one before. I added sultanas and cinnamon and golden syrup to it (I added a link to explain golden syrup, since I have observed that there are many benighted parts of the world which know it not, a sorry state of affairs), and boiled then baked it. Despite being very sloppy when it went into to oven, it came out a bit dry, but not bad for a first attempt, and really rather better than the plastic pots.