I can’t be the only one who’s glad to see the back of 2009.
So, 2009 is gone and 2010 is now with us. Well, thank heavens for that.
For us, as for many people, 2009 was not what you’d call a fabulous year.
Partly it was economic, of course. As our friends all around us lost jobs and faced repossession, for the first seven months of the year, we, as freelance writers, sub-editors and photographers, had almost no work and therefore no money. This is not a good situation to be in, in a foreign country where you’re not entitled to any kind of benefit. We learned to live on colcannon and chickpeas and reduced the weekly shopping bill more than I would ever have thought possible.
Then the second half of the year, we spent playing catch-up, so we worked like dogs. In the end, it came out about even, except that we had to go massively overdrawn during the first half of the year, with the consequent huge interest charges that you might expect, given how kind and understanding the banks are.
But the economy aside, the year was rubbish for other reasons.
January began with our cat Lucy being diagnosed with cancer. Vaccine associated feline sarcoma then ate her alive in front of our horrified eyes.
While she was dying, my husband’s mother rang – the shock audible in her voice – to say that she had lung cancer. She lived only seven weeks, dying suddenly in early June, exactly eight days after we euthanised Lucy. We did not get back in time to see her and the consequent shennannigans with family and legacies are not something I feel able to go into here, but it is the usual unedifying story in estranged families.
Bronchitis then felled me for three months in the summer, leaving me unable to function, go outside, take exercise or anything else – I nearly went stir-crazy with boredom and fatigue.
In December a family member died at the age of only 42 and after a life of nothing but work and hardship. And a member of our small British community here committed suicide, leaving his family distraught just before Christmas.
Meanwhile, I had three operations in weekly succession, to remove moles that might become cancerous. The pain was excruciating and left me limping – and once again confined to barracks – for nearly a month – I am still dressing the infected wounds.
At the same time, the cats got sick – all five of them – simultaneously, for the first time ever. It was touch and go with one 15-year-old, but we pulled her through, and another lost much of the sight of one eye because we couldn’t get him antibiotics in time (we were snowed in). He will be having treatment for at least another two months.
Our Christmas meal with friends was set for Christmas Eve, but a sudden fresh snowfall meant a trek through the Normandy countryside with the usual duvet, shovel, fleeces, balaclavas and wellies all in the car, in order to be sure of surviving the 10-mile trip. On our first attempt we had to turn back after skidding across the road and mounting the pavement, but fortunately the snow then turned to slush and our second attempt was more successful. We made it through and were rewarded with a five-course cordon bleu meal.
So, 2009 could have been worse. We were not repossessed, we were not killed in Afghanistan, we were not stuck on the Eurotunnel in pitch darkness for 12 hours, and we finally managed to make the most of it. Our winter party, which was cancelled twice due to severe weather conditions, with snow and ice, eventually went ahead and even though numbers were greatly reduced, everyone had a great time and glammed up for the occasion.
So farewell, 2009. It left us battered but not entirely defeated, and we must hope for better things from 2010.