Friday, 30 April 2010

A Pacemaker at 104!

My father is 104 years old and he has just been advised to have a pacemaker fitted.
One of the disadvantages of living in France is that I am separated from my family but fortunately my sister looks after my father and he is still living in his own home. He can get up and walk around slowly but recently he has been falling occasionally. The “falls assessment nurse” eventually came and found that he had a heart rate of about 30bpm and low blood pressure when he was standing.

He was born in 1906, he has lived through two world wars and in his lifetime he has seen unimaginable technological change. When he was a boy horses were still being used for transport and the motor car had just been invented. He didn’t own a car until the early sixties and before that he went to work on an autocycle (the forerunner of the moped) and we used to have family holidays on the coast by taking the train.

In the late thirties, after marrying my mother, he took a job as a telephone operator because during the Great Depression he was worried that he would lose his job in the Stock Exchange. This led to him being posted to the Signals Regiment when he was called up and he was safely behind the front lines when in 1944 the Allies landed on the Normandy beaches. Later he was very nearly sent to Burma, but when he took the medical exam the doctor listened to his heart and decided he was not A1, as it said in his records, but C2. He had a heart murmur. He has always had a very low heart rate. Without being particularly fit his normal pulse rate was about 50 beats per minute. He had an infection when he was very young which damaged his heart in some way but it was well compensated and never gave him any trouble.
After the leaving the Army he passed the Civil Service Exam and, throughout my childhood, he worked as a Civil Servant. He retired at the age of 63 when it was discovered that he had cataracts and angina, but neither of these stopped him and my mother from touring all over the UK in their motor caravan. They moved to a bungalow in Wantage to be closer to my sister in the 1980’s.
In his early nineties he was still painting the bungalow, working off a short ladder, while my mother stood below exhorting him to be careful! But soon afterwards he stopped taking an interest in his garden and started to lose his short term memory. When my mother was dying in November 2008 he would come with us to the hospital, and was able to answer the doctor’s questions during the visit, but when we arrived back home he didn’t know where he had been.
A few months ago we tried to get him to wear a heart monitor to record a day’s activity but he removed it overnight, not remembering what it was for. Yesterday my sister took him to see the specialist at the Radcliffe who, after some deliberation, recommended installing a pacemaker. When this was originally suggested I was against the idea, thinking that it is a major operation which would be most likely to kill him. These days, however, it is a procedure which is done under local anaesthetic and requires at most an overnight stay in hospital. The hope is that increasing his heart rate, so that it is pumping more blood to his brain, will keep him more alert, which will in turn make him easier for my sister to manage. We worry whether it is the right decision because we are aware that, after every setback in his health, he tends not to be as good as he was before. The operation is scheduled for later in May, the decision has been made, and we will have to wait and hope for a good result!

15th June
My father had the pacemaker fitted on 11th June and came home on Sunday 12th.  He had a sleepy day on Monday but he has been walking around more confidently since.  Otherwise he is not much different from what he was a few months ago, before he started to fall much too frequently.  He certainly has not suffered a setback after the operation and I am hoping that he will still improve a little more.
28th November
Nearly six months later he has not improved much more, but he is much, much better than he was before the pacemaker! He has still fallen a few times, but that is when he loses his footing and there is nothing that you can do about it.  It has happened to both my sister and I when we were standing next to him and neither of us could stop him ending up on his knees!  Fortunately he has not suffered more than a minor graze so far. 

Friday, 23 April 2010

Elect a Queen

This morning on, France Inter, Jean Pierre Rafarin (ex Premier Ministre under Chirac) and Martine Aubry (Secretary of the Socialist Party) were quoted as calling into question the idea that the President and the assembly are both elected at the same time for five years. This was a recent constitutional change, just before the 2007 Election Presidentielle, because previously the President was elected on a seven year cycle and the Assembly on five years. This often led to “La Cohabitation” with the President belonging to a different party from the Prime Minister, which was thought to be a bad idea because the Government was not able to act in a coherent and concerted way.
With the harmonisation of the two terms of office, and the personality of Sarkozy, we have a different situation. The role of the Prime Minister is reduced, whilst the role of the President is augmented. But the Assembly can’t sack the President, they can only change the Prime Minister, and changing the Prime Minister would make no difference if the President was still the same and was “hyperactif” like Sarkozy. So without proposing a solution, Sarkozy’s critics are expressing the view that “Le Quinquennat” does not work as it was intended.

But what is the answer? If France reverts to the situation as it was before, then the problems that were observed before will recur. If the terms of office of the President and the Assembly are displaced by two or three years, given the French tendency to elect alternately left and right wing governments (La Pendule), there is likely to be a permanent state of “Cohabitation” in which nothing gets done. It was Chirac who said “La France est un pays très conservatif” and perhaps I could forgive myself for thinking that this would suit the many French people who like to resist change at all levels of society and at every opportunity. “Il n’y a pas de petites luttes”!!

But I have found a solution! It is a solution which is at the same time practical, lucrative, European and which would raise the status of France in the eyes of the world. Why not elect a Queen? It would allow France to express its solidarité with the other countries of Europe who have constitutional monarchies such as Belgium, Denmark, Holland, Lichtenstein, Monaco, Norway, Spain, Sweden and of course the UK. It also would solve the difficult problem of how to provide a Head of State, who would not interfere in politics, and who can’t be sacked for political reasons, because they would have no political power!
With all the beautiful French actresses that the world knows well, like Catherine Deneuve, Juliettte Binoche, Sophie Marceau, Audrey Tatou, Isabelle Adjani and others taking part, imagine the world-wide television rights! If you were prepared to take the risk you could even invite Carl Bruni to stand. But in order to preserve the essentially non-political nature of the role, one of the principal Royal candidates, Segolene, would be barred from standing.
The campaign could start with primaries in the autumn; it could have a Christmas special, and then move on to the real election in the spring between three or four candidates. You could add “Queen for a day”, in which “les francaises ordinaires“could have the opportunity to share the lives of the actresses for a day, all ending up with meeting the incumbent President and having a treasure hunt in the Elysée Palace. If France television was given the job, I am sure that the hole in the Social Security budget would be refilled, and there would be enough left over to last for the next five years!

It would have to be made clear to the candidates that the role was purely constitutional, and that it would be a five year contract (CDD Contrat Duré Déterminé) against a defined budget but, with such a high potential return, I am sure that a deal could be struck with the successful candidate which would satisfy all parties.

And then, once she was elected, the tabloid press in all European countries could have a field day digging up stories about past affairs and indiscretions and the paparazzi would make a fortune snapping topless pictures of the Queen whilst she was on holiday. It would be “la fête en permanence”.

This would then, of course, open up the role of Prime Minister to be both the head of the government and the leader of his or her party, and the Assembly would have the right to pass a vote of no confidence and change him or her whenever they wished.

Tony Blair speaks French doesn’t he, what about Helen Mirren?

Friday, 9 April 2010

Francois Morel's Chronicle in English - La Chronique de François Morel (En Anglais)

Following the regional elections in France, which were considered a great failure for the UMP, and especially for President Sarkozy himself, everybody, including members of his own party, have been taking turns to denounce his reforms and to condemn his style of leadership. So during the week of Sarkozy’s visit to the USA, the French press and commentators were all criticising his English, which they thought was the worst amongst the European heads of state. Perhaps that was why Francois Morel decided to do his chronique of Friday 2nd April entirely in highly accented English.

Allo M. Demarrand and everybody. I would like to say zis morning my chronique in English. I am pairfectly bilingual and I think that it is important to be not only frenchy-frenchy but to be open to ze perspectives of ze entire world. Naturally I profited de fait zat Mr Sarkozy has visited Mr Obama for saying ze great friendship who, which, exists between Americans and French people. Like said ze big poet Michael Sardou “if ze ‘Ricains was not coming ‘ere you’ll be all in Germany to speak about I don’t know what, to salute I don’t know woo”. It’s true, it’s complettly true! One morgen in the words of ze poet who illuminates ze way.

So Mr. Sarkozy and his pretty woman, Carla Bruni, was invited directly in ze White House by Mr and Mrs Obama, not in ze bistro of ze corner but directly in ze White House. It’s a great honoor, a great, great, great honoor, not only for ze French President and ze first lady but for everybody in France because when Mr President and his pretty woman are invited it’s you, it’s me, its Mr Demarrand, it’s Mr Achilly, it’s Mr Lefebure, it’s Mr Legrand, Thomas ze Tall ‘oo are invited.

Perhaps not exactly everybody, by example not Mr Guillon. Mr Stephane Guillon, I don’t know if you know ‘im, I don’t know if you have ‘ear speak of ‘im. ‘e begins to be very famous in France, ‘e makes some chroniques at ze beginning of ze week. Amusing chroniques, but REALLY aggressive chroniques and I think zat for ze moment it is better, zat he doesn’t go inside in any presidential palace where he is not very “in smell of holiness”, in “odeur de sanctité”. I think that today it is difficult for Mr Guillon. Mr Besson said zat Mr Guillon was racist, lache, I am sorry I do not know what is the traduction of lache in English, coward, OK, of coward and Mr Frederic Mitterrand, ze French minister of culture, it is not “n’importe qui”, has said recently that he detested ze remarks of Stephane Guillon. “I don’t succist where Guillon” he said (???) and he has added,” in France humorist people go too far”. All ze ministers now in France ‘ave to speak about Stephane Guillon, many declarations, many assertions, many speech, and during zis time ze works of ze various ministers are not done! Are not done! So I propose, not necessary to make a minister only consecrated to Stephane Guillon, but pir’aps a special cellule, “cellule speciale” in French, for e- tu-die every chronique of o’r friendly and talentuous colleague.
 So I come back to my subject, Mr Sarkozy was very sad about Mr Obama because he was not the first to be invited in ze White House. Before ‘im eight ‘eads of state of Europe was invited, eight, not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, EIGHT! Eight ‘eads of states of Europe was invited. It was fini-shed by becoming hurted, humiliated, the Greek, the Sweden, the Dootch and ‘im, Nicholas Sarkozy, the great head of state of the France NO invitation! He said what’s happened, I stink the party or what? But now all is back to normal, so much ze better. I think zat it is very profitable for the American President to listen all ze advice from ze French President, who success nowhere but who has an idée –a, un id’ – an id-ea, (c’est juste ce mot la j’ai du mal à le dire c’est dommage), from ze French President, who success nowhere but who has an idea on all. And now we sing all together “if ze ‘Ricains was not coming ‘ere you’ll be all in Germany to speak about I don’t know what, to salute I don’t know who”!