Tuesday, 24 November 2015

My Weird Experience at the Gynaecologist's

Because every female in the anglophone expat blogosphere has one, right? That oh-so-embarrassing moment when, in the doctor's consulting room (which probably looks more like their living room than any medical establishment you've ever visited before) you realise that when they say, "Take your clothes off," they mean right now, they mean in front of them and they really do mean all of your clothes.

Well *spoiler alert* my story has nothing to do with getting naked. I remember being a little surprised by that when I went for my first ever appointment with a French doctor, which took place in a leisure centre, was only to be certified fit to join a sports club and, as always happens, was on a day when I happened to be wearing my oldest, greyest knickers. But getting naked for the gynaecologist doesn't bother me. I figure they've seen it all, they're going to see the most private bits anyway, and I've learned my lesson about wearing modest but not holey knickers.

So anyway, I needed to see the gynaecologist and made an appointment by calling one who was recommended by my (wonderful) GP. The receptionist explained that it wouldn't be the usual doctor, but her replacement, and asked if that was OK. Being generally inclined to trust anyone who has qualified from medical school and been approved by the French state to practice, I accepted and went for my first appointment.

The first appoinment was fine, and I was pleased that at the end I was able to pay by card. (Many doctors don't accept card payments, as they have to pay for the equipment and transaction costs and their fees aren't necessarily high enough to cover that.)

Then I had to go back for a follow-up appointment, and that was where things started to get weird. Firstly, she started dropping in all these phrases in English all the time. And I don't mean tricky medical terms that potentially I might not have understood, just normal, everyday English, which was weird, because I hadn't exactly had trouble communicating with her the first time round.

Then she asked me what I weighed and I told her, but said I wasn't totally sure, so she sent me out to weigh myself on the scales in the waiting room. They were electronic, and when I stepped on the first time, they gave me a number about 13 kilos less than my normal weight, then went off completely, so I went back and told her the number was far lower than it should have been, at which point, instead of saying something like, "Oh dear, maybe the battery needs changed," she laughed and declared, "Ah, vous êtes mignonne, vous."

Then she tried to take my pulse rate, but strapped the meter on to the wrong side of my arm, so unsurprisingly it didn't work. (I'm pretty sure you don't have to spend seven years at medical school to know that you find your pulse on the inside of your wrist.)

By this point, I was starting to feel as if I was on an awkward first date with someone who was perfectly pleasant but was more keen on me than I was on them, so I was quite relieved when the time came to pay, and brought out my bank card.

"I don't take card payments," she declared. I said that I was sure I had paid by card the time before but she said, "No, you didn't," so, apologising profusely, I rushed out to the nearest cash machine to withdraw money, then came back and paid her, once again excusing myself for having wasted her time.

Then I checked my bank statement a few days later and saw that there was indeed a card payment taken from my account on the day of the first appointment and in her name.

Now I wasn't bothered by the incident with the pulse meter. I was prepared to forgive her for the scales, even if I don't feel that calling your patients "cute" is really appropriate in a medical professional. But lying to me and making me feel guilty just because she couldn't be arsed to turn on her card reader in the morning? That's pretty unforgivable from somebody you're supposed to be able to trust implicitly to monitor your health and stick weird devices into your lady bits.

If anyone needs a recommendation for a gynaecologist NOT to see in the 4th arrondissement, just let me know!

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Allons enfants de la patrie ... et les anglais aussi

In a week full of sad, serious and difficult news, one video more than any other put a smile on my face. Le Petit Journal sent their journalist to Wembley and managed to convince these two English guys to sing La Marseillaise for the cameras. (Just in case anyone out there doesn't know, there is an enormous rivalry between the English and the French and most English people are not at all confident in foreign languages, so this was a wonderful show of solidarity. It's also hilarious.)

Englishmen with a few pints in them aside, however, it's also been a week where La Marseillaise has been sung far more often and by far more people than usual, and I have not been 100% comfortable with that. The reason? Although I couldn't actually recall the words as well as the two blokes in the video, the lines, "Que du sang impur/abreuve nos sillons" have troubled me for quite some time, and seemed particularly inappropriate under the circumstances.

Apparently I'm not the only one to have been bothered in this way by one particular couplet of France's rousing national anthem, because UFM was watching one of his football programmes the other day and the topic came up. It turns out this is a common misconception, as a history teacher phoned into the show to explain that in fact, at the time when the song was written, the French aristocracy considered that only "blue" blood was pure, and therefore the "sang impur" in fact refers to the sacrifice of ordinary citizens towards a just cause.

I guess I can comfortable get on with learning the rest of the words now. Although violent and bloody, they're still preferable to the British "God Save the Queen", which at one point in its history famously had an extra verse inserted about crushing the rebellious Scots!

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Thursday, 12 November 2015

More Smiles on the Metro

If there's one good thing about taking the metro every day to work (apart from when I get a seat and can catch up with my reading), it has to be the adverts. They're like a little window into life (often Parisian life) and, unlike TV adverts, which I hate, I find the posters in the metro quite clever and entertaining.

The current ads for this new website make me laugh, because what could be funnier than an English-language pun that only really works if you have a French accent?

I also like this one, because even if the sleazebags who actually harass women on the metro will unfortunately take no notice notice,  I hope it will at least raise awareness among non-sleazy men, even the best of whom seem to think it isn't such a problem really:

Finally, we took the Transilien train over the weekend and they have a new range of adverts to tackle incivility, of which my favourite was the one which said, "Give up your seat for elderly people and pregnant women. You'll feel better." I think I like that one because it's true!

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Frustration on the Northern Line

As part of our recent travels, Understanding Frenchman and I had the unfortunate experience of using the metro system in an unfamiliar city and it was without a doubt the most frustrating part of our whole trip.

First there was the queueing system to buy tickets. A huge line of people were coralled off into one single line in front of a long bank of ticket machines. It would have been a fair and efficient system except that the queue was positioned so that the people at the front of it couldn't see which machines were free and which ones weren't, and the person who was trying to tell them was standing at the other end and shouting at them, but they couldn't hear her. Some of the machines took cash, some took only cards and some looked as if they were just for topping up travel cards, but in fact you could also buy normal tickets, except nobody knew that, so nobody was using those machines.

Eventually we got to the front and Understanding Frenchman bought two city-centre tickets for the extortionate price of about 14 euros. Each journey is cheaper if you buy a travel card, but it isn't worth it if you're only doing two trips.

Then we went to the ticket barriers, only to discover that the travel card I bought last time I visited this city didn't have enough credit on it, so we had to go through the whole stupid queueing system again. (This is another reason why you don't buy a travel card for a city you don't live in.)

Then we had to figure out which way to go, but the metro maps weren't displayed until after you had to make the decision about which line to take.

And finally, when we were coming back three days later, Understanding Frenchman discovered that the "return" ticket he had bought was only valid on the day of purchase, despite costing exactly the same as two single tickets, so he had to pay again.

If we had been in France, I would have been having a "Why is this such a stupid country?" momens. If we had been in Italy, it would have been a, "Why can't this country be more organised and stop ripping off the tourists?" moment. If we had been in Germany, we would have been cursing stupid German rules that nobody else can follow.

But we weren't. We were in London, in my home country (albeit the part that makes me feel less at home than I do in Paris) and things were supposed to make sense to me.

We were relieved to get on the Eurostar and be whisked back to Paris.

This will be an experience to remember next time "France" is driving me nuts!

Sunday, 1 November 2015


Autumn has been gorgeous in Paris this year. I read somewhere that for the leaves to turn red, yellow, bronze and gold, the temperature has to drop rapidly between the end of summer and the start of autumn, and that's certainly what happened this year when the mercury fell about ten degrees in the space of three days. This is a photo of my favourite view in the Bois de Vincennes a few weeks ago, and when I walked around the Lac Daumesnil yesterday, it was even more stunning:

My friends and I went on our annual October pilgrimage to the Alps (autumn is by far my favourite season in the mountains) and enjoyed crisp mornings, sunny afternoon siestas and delicious warming dinners of hearty soup and raclette.

While we were in the Alps, I got a message from my brother saying that my new nephew had been born, so our next October trip was over to the UK to meet a teeny tiny baby. In between cuddles, we went for a walk along the South West Coastal Path and were treated to sunshine, fresh air and beautiful sea views.

Finally, we came back to Paris and attended the wedding of two very dear friends. The Mairie du 3ième went to an enormous effort to make the ceremony personal and not just an administrative formality. One of my favourite moments was when the mayor handed them their Livret de Famille (book of family records) and said to them, "There are spaces at the back to record the births of eight children, but you only need to fill them if you want to!"