Home » Dandelion Wars And A Stay In The Polyclinique

Dandelion Wars And A Stay In The Polyclinique

Yellow is my favourite colour. In spring in the Morvan the forsythia, cowslips and primroses are a feast for the eye. On the road to Nevers (more about that anon) we pass huge fields of oilseed rape.

It has many uses: as a vegetable, as animal feed, and as oil for lubricating and cooking. Here rapeseed oil is called colza, and I buy it because it reminds me of Suffolk, where a lot of it is grown.Wikipedia, while not always considered academically respectable, has far more than you need to know about oilseed rape.

My favourite item in the Pests section is Bertha armyworms (Mamestra configurata). But I digress, as usual.

Another vivid yellow is the dandelion, le pissenlit in France. Check out
this site to see why. Let’s just say that dandelions are a diuretic.

A BBC website says:

Generations of children have helped make dandelions one of Britain's most common weeds. Blowing the delicate and beautiful seed heads to 'tell the time' is a very effective method of dispersal. Its spreading habit and long root makes the common dandelion in particular the bane of gardeners, yet the lush flowers attract bees that pollinate crops.

Dandelions haven't always been troublesome weeds. In Victorian times they were cultivated with care and eaten by the wealthy in sandwiches and salads. Even today the leaves are used as cure-alls and the flowers made into wine.

Not to mention dandelion coffee, beer and salad. Type ‘dandelion salad’ in your browser and take your pick from the recipes there.

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Well, we have plenty of dandelions here. As I type the grass is too wet to mow, and the dandelions are battling with the cowslips for supremacy. John has been out with his scythe, because once they seed our dandlions will take over the world.

Why, I wonder, when this beautiful plant has so many uses, don’t we see vast fields of dandelions every spring instead of waging war on them in our garden?

I have been in the wars too. I have had surgery on a strangulated umbilical hernia. Look up ‘umbilical hernia’ and you will find, intriguingly, ‘Umbilical hernia sale – up to 70% off’ as well as enough pictures and diagrams to put you off your lunch. Well, I went to our GP – our généraliste – with a fine specimen. I had had a bulging bellybutton for a while. Now I had a throbbing red golfball. Doctor Billiard telephoned the Polyclinique at Nevers, who gave me an 11 am appointment the following morning.


Doctor Pierre-Yves Billiard is President of the local Amicale des Sapeurs-Pompiers, the wonderful fire, flood and rescue service. This picture reminds us that they don’t just fight fires. I wrote about them, and their calendar, here.

‘Great,’ I said. ‘We can do some shopping at Carrefour and have lunch in the Chinese next door.’

Wrong! I was admitted immediately. John lunched alone, then shopped for toiletries, for I did not even have a toothbrush.

A typical room // The Polyclinique du Val de Loire

Well, I came, I had my operation, I was let out early because I was doing so well and John and I missed each other so much.

When I checked out I had to fill in a satisfaction questionnaire as if for a hotel stay. I ticked the boxes, but here are a few comments of my own.

: ) Great service, cheerful staff, state-of-the-art bed, etc, etc.

: ) The operation and follow-up appointments cost just 200 euros and bed and board came to 90 euros in addition to our annual NI-type contribution. Many people take out additional insurance – a mutuelle – but we just put aside the monthly premium, and always come out ahead.

: ( Parking is a nightmare. Well, it’s a cramped site in central Nevers.

: ( The paperasserie on admission was awesome – several forms, all asking the same information in subtly different ways – Heaven knows how anyone with inadequate French would manage. I am minded to offer an English translation to help other Brits.

: ) The greatest blessing was a beautiful free magazine with several pages of puzzles, and a bookcase in the lobby. I found the Chronicles of Narnia in French. Having enjoyed them as a child, I raced through The Magician’s Nephew.

For a description of the way health care in France is organised and financed, go here.

Digression: The system saved John’s life. Not long after our arrival in the Morvan, he had a routine blood test which showed high PSA levels. Within 48 hours John saw a specialist, who diagnosed early cancer of the prostate although John had no symptoms. Radiotherapy 5 days a week for several weeks, with a taxi door to door. He has been clear for 7 years now, and the total cost was 45 euros for the initial consultation. Meanwhile I have lost two dear friends to prostate cancer in the UK through delayed diagnosis and waiting lists.

Rosemary Border Rabson

In 2005 Rosemary Border Rabson and husband John Rabson emigrated to the Morvan in rural Burgundy, where few other Brits have ventured. Their chief preoccupation is Charity Cottage, a holiday home-from-home in their garden at Maré le Bas which they run in aid of Combat Stress (money donations) and Help for Heroes (free accommodation). Since 2012, when Charity Cottage won the Daily Telegraph’s Best British Charity award, the total amount raised for Combat Stress, comprising UK royalties and donations from visitors to Charity Cottage, is nudging £10,000.