Chapter 3 – The holiday

Whoo hoo… we were off on our holidays. I had packed all the new clothes I’d bought to fit the new slim me. We set off to drive to Plymouth, a drive of between an hour and a half and two hours depending on the traffic. Just over an hour into the drive I remembered that I’d forgotten to pack pillows. Though we were renting the linen off the owners of the Gite, in our experience the French only seem to provide one pillow per person and we both find it hard to sleep without 2 pillows, so we normally take our own. Of course, I should have realised that the Gite accommodated six and therefore there would be spares. In the event we were able to stop at Trago Mills near Lostwithiel which is a giant cut-price department store that people travel the length and breadth of the county to shop at. We bought pillows and pillow cases. I have a clear memory of driving away from there and 20 minutes down the road realising I’d forgotten something else…. obviously the high BGs were clouding the brain! I also have a clear memory of reading all the “gumph” that had come with the tickets, advising us about cleaning of the gite, linen hire, what to do if we needed to contact a representative of Brittany Ferries (since this was a sort of package holiday) etc etc. In a lot of French owned Gites you are supposed to clean the place before vacating it. In our experience it’s the last thing you want to do on the morning of departure, so we had arranged to pay for cleaning direct to the owners of the gite. In retrospect, this should have been a warning when we booked… because plainly not everyone wants to pay for cleaning and therefore the cleaning is done by the holiday makers in a very cursory fashion.

We had a pleasant crossing on the Ferry to Roscoff in Brittany. A journey of approximately six hours. The Ferries on that route are usually quite luxurious and have a nice Restaurant, as well as various self service cafes and we normally spend a good part of the journey in the Restaurant indulging in the splendiferous hors’ d’oevre buffet followed by a main course served by a waiter, and then an equally sumptuous dessert buffet. I was very good on that occasion and settled for cheese instead of a plate full of the tempting puddings and pastries. Of course I scoffed the delicious French bread, helping myself to more to eat with the cheese – ‘cos I simply didn’t know that white bread is as bad for BGs as one of the puddings would have been! A mistake I would continue to make throughout the holiday!

We stayed overnight in Roscoff and set out early the next day, with the sun shining down on us, to drive to the village near Nantes where we’d booked a hotel for that night, before arriving at the Gite on the Monday. I can recall that during the journey I was plagued by cramps in my legs and feet, and sat most of the way cradling my left arm which was throbbing with the pins and needles all day. I pushed these symptoms to the back of my mind as much as I could and concentrated on being happy. By the time we arrived at the hotel it was raining and dull, but the hotel was a very nice example of a small French hotel, belonging to the Logis consortium which is a member run association of small private hotels. One of the criteria for being a member is that a good “table” should be part of the hotel and so normally one can enjoy an excellent dinner in house without having to go out in search of local restaurants. We were also impressed with the rooms we had been allocated and inspected both carefully before deciding that we’d leave the slightly more spacious one with the better view for our friends. We then set off for Nantes airport to collect our friends, a drive of about 45 minutes. The greetings were muted. Our friends had been to a dinner dance the previous evening, had a very late night, followed by an extremely early morning and were very jaded by the time they arrived. The mood wasn’t helped by the teeming rain. Not an auspicious start to the holiday. The scenery on the drive back to the hotel wasn’t inspiring seen through the rain, but it hardly mattered since our friends had both nodded off! Back at the hotel we got them checked in and arranged to meet in the Restaurant for dinner. I can’t remember what the dinner was, but it was less than spectacular.

The following morning we met up for breakfast and I produced the “diabetic” jam and marmalade I had brought from the UK. Our friend the T2 also used this, though I think had I not produced it he would have consumed the ordinary stuff. Of course these days I wouldn’t touch such products, but I knew no better, nor did I think twice about tucking into the croissants (though I did avoid the Danish pastries and “Pain au Chocolat” on offer). The first day we drove to Saumur and visited a sparkling wine producer, buying several bottles there for later consumption. We stopped at a Supermarket and stocked up for the next few days before driving to the Gite.

The exterior of the Gite was very pretty, in fact quite picturesque, with lovely bright windowboxes on the sills and pots of Geraniums arranged outside. It was situated across the courtyard from the owner’s home and we had use of a section of their garden with a trestle table, benches and some sun beds. The inside, however, was dark, gloomy and, as it transpired on closer inspection, none too clean. We asked if our friends minded if we took the upstairs bedroom since it had an en-suite and I was visiting the toilet many times a night. They took the downstairs room with a bathroom down the corridor. We were all quite tired, particularly our friends since they said they hadn’t slept well the night before in the hotel, possibly because they were over-tired. I seem to remember we self-catered with pate and fresh baguettes that night. Whatever, I am now equally certain that the food on that holiday did me no good at all, since I was happy to eat all the bread, potatoes and other starchy foods that I hadn’t a clue about, whilst choosing cheese (with more bread) instead of the desserts I did know were no good for me.

I won’t describe the whole holiday, which actually is now pretty much of a blur. However there were several factors which combined to ensure that the holiday was memorable, but quite the opposite of a success. The hot water failed the first full day we were in the Gite. The owner did get a plumber, but he needed a part and so we had no way of having a hot shower that day, nor the following morning. In fact hot water was never available at all in our en-suite for the whole week, so we ended up sharing the downstairs shower, which had copious black mould on the tile grout due to lack of cleaning over a long period. The oven was so full of grease that it smoked horribly when in use so we were unable to use it. Not that we wanted to do much catering, but the grill was integral and there was no toaster. The house was permanently full of flies. We discovered later that this was due to the barn next door which housed hundreds of caged rabbits. Some of who’s ancestors had kindly donated their skins to make the patchwork fur cushions in the gite! Floors were an inch thick with dust under the beds/sideboards etc etc. It wasn’t nice at all. I can now muster a laugh at the day we left when the owners invited us into their house for coffee, and it soon became patently obvious that they were only ensuring that we didn’t depart without paying for the cleaning. The cleaner arrived whilst we were there, got out of her Mercedes and clip clopped across the courtyard in stilettos! We later complained to Brittany Ferries, the Gite was duly inspected, pronounced unfit for their programme and removed from their brochure, in addition we were given a full refund, however, that didn’t come until later. Of course, the booking was in my name and had I not been so addled with high BGs our first action on arrival should have been to phone the Brittany Ferries representative and remove ourselves to a hotel until alternative accommodation had been offered. I later discovered that Hubby was so worried about me (whilst trying not to show it) that it didn’t occur to him either.

The weather turned nice and we planned walks. I recall one day we hiked a 15 mile circuit through farms, woods and on the river bank. I must have dived into the undergrowth a hundred times to relieve myself and I was grateful that hubby was carrying 3 litres of water in his back pack. At the end I was exhausted and my walking boots felt like lumps of concrete on my emaciated legs. The following day I developed severe kidney pains whilst out walking and had to return to the gite and lay down. My husband was beside himself with worry, but our friends, convinced by the husband’s lack of symptoms either at diagnosis or since, quite plainly felt that I was kicking up a fuss about nothing. Whilst we were there my eyesight deteriorated so badly that I couldn’t read. I burst into tears at breakfast because I couldn’t read the label on a yoghourt to find the sugar content. My friend snapped at me that all I had to do was buy a pair of reading glasses in Boots. After the kidney pain I was reluctant to attempt any strenuous walking so we persuaded our friends that gentle strolls round the picturesque chateaux was a better idea. I don’t think they thought so! The lowest BG I managed during that time was 24.

It came as something of a relief to bid our friends goodbye at the airport. The holiday had put a severe strain on our friendship and in retrospect it would have been much better had we have cancelled it and if I had been sensible and got my diabetes sorted out before even contemplating going away, but I had so badly not wanted to “let everyone down”. In fact the state I was in spoiled it for everyone. Months later, I received an apology because my friend said he had underestimated the state I was in and thought I was just exaggerating and looking for attention. Fortunately our friendship has survived.

Looking back it’s amazing that I wasn’t more worried about my health and I now realise how very foolish I was, but I was ignorant with regard to diabetes at that time, and I had been lulled into a false sense of complacency by the three T2 friends who had reassured me that it was “nothing very serious, nothing to worry about and ‘everything would be fine’ once the Gliclazide started to work”.

We did have one last night, staying at Ploumen’ach in northern Brittany, on the beautiful rose granite coast. I felt much more relaxed that evening and fell in love with that part of the coast. We have since spent a blissful 5 day walking holiday in nearby Tregastel.

To be continued with my experience on starting insulin….


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