We went to the doctor yesterday for our flu jabs and to talk about Tom's eyes. The appointment was for midday. He never used to have appointments, you just turned up and waited your turn; he still doesn't have a receptionist but takes calls himself or his wife fields them sometimes. She's a bit fierce and protective when she does, and he tends to pull a face and say not to take any notice of her. He also used to freely make house calls. Our first winter Tom was ill, mostly from exhaustion, and Dr le G called in twice a day, unasked, for several days, clearly worried about the clueless and shattered English couple living in a draughty damp shack with the roof half-off. He's a dear, dear man from a family for whom caring and service and civic-mindedness are central to their lives, I used to teach his cousin who was a retired primary teacher, they always spoke glowingly of each other. But he's getting tired, we think, and despondent.
He was running about forty minutes late, which was already taking us well into any sensible person's lunchtime, but there were still people coming through the door. It's partly his own fault, he will chat away with you as though he had all the time in the world. We showed him the optometrist's note, which he said was readable and usable in French, but his response as to how we should proceed was a near-hopeless shrug. Surgical ophthalmologists with free appointments are rare as hen's teeth, we would need to search around, he didn't refer, but we could forget St Brieuc... perhaps Pontivy? No probably not, try Rennes, or Nantes... but beware those who weren't conventionnés (state covered) they could charge what they liked. Cataracts aren't considered urgent, but of course they are when they begin to interfere with driving and other necessary functions.
Everything is overloaded, he went on, not enough doctors anywhere, look at all the people out there in the waiting room, he should have been finished by 12.15, and he'd be back tonight till nine o'clock. He stuck our jabs into our arms while still grumbling. Tom didn't feel his, I did, in and out, but today he feels bleary and queasy while I just feel a bit as though someone's punched me in the arm. We appreciate having them anyway, two for the price of one as Tom's is free.
Dr le G is probably still a few years off retirement, when he takes it, as his cousin MH said, there won't be another like him, and indeed, there might not be another in that surgery, since there are fewer and fewer generalists available for the more rural practices, which is why he's busier and busier, as he's taken on patients from other doctors round about who have retired or moved on.
This morning I researched around a bit as to where the operating eye doctors might be. I looked despondently at the clinics in Rennes, I really hated the idea of that drive, especially in the winter, and trailing there on the train didn't seem a great idea. One could perhaps stay over... I tried St Brieuc anyway on the off-chance, but the answering machine in the hospital department wasn't even taking messages, there were no appointments, not now nor in the foreseeable, it told me. From when I had a threatening retinal tear a couple of years ago, I didn't imagine the private clinics would be a much better story, and the doctor had warned us off them rather as possibly unregulated as far as charging was concerned.
I had a look on AngloInfo forums. One or two people spoke well of the new clinic in Pontivy, so I thought it might be worth a try, and it's not too far. I carefully wrote out my enquiry, a thing I rarely bother to do now but I wanted to sound clear and not too easy to put off. Is there any possibility of an appointment at all? I asked and waited to be told it was out of the question. Yes, said the secretary, who I had got through to in a couple of minutes, in two weeks, early afternoon, OK?
Much relief all round, we can even treat ourselves to lunch in Pontivy, which is a lively little town down in Central Brittany (no, that's not necessarily an oxymoron), as it's just a day or two before my birthday. I don't know how long it will be before Tom can have the cataracts seen to, but at least we've got things underway.
Well, I've written more than I intended to now so the stuff about creative mending which I was going to include in this post, on the theme of getting things mended, will have to wait till tomorrow, but you can go back and look at the ponies or the man with the cheekbones, otherwise here's a pretty pink rose, some of which are still blooming in the garden yet.
Oh, and belated happy Thanksgiving to everyone on that side, it slipped my mind, but thankfulness is always to be treasured.