Saturday, June 13, 2015

French pragmatism...oh la la

Well I've sampled the very adequate French health care system yet again. Reluctant though I was to step into the medical quagmire I had to do so as the pain in my side did not go.
In short, within five days all was checked, solution found & on the road to recovery. Cost in euros, just over two hundred, cost in peace of mind & ability to sleep comfortably, beyond price.

As always the differences in the two systems (UK & France) intrigue & amuse and added to my continuing medical saga. First was the fact that you must always acknowledge social niceties even when in pain or fear, so you must greet appropriately, give due time for deliberation(at least twice the time you'd expect for a doctor to take in the UK) and show no response & certainly no humour in the face of the gravity of the procedure. Secondly you must always be aware of the French preoccupation with  fine food and all things relating to the eating etiquette & process. Its not simply, 'don't eat from midnight before the scan', its suggestions for light 'dinner' and a repeated emphasis to take ' a little bread, a little cheese~ a petit morsel in the car in order to sustain yourself between the clinic & home.

Then the clinic itself, the exterior resembled a small house with tubs of bright flowers situated on what appears to be a suburban road; bungalows & houses, people trimming hedges & walking dogs. Inside a state of the art medical facility run with military precision and polite efficiency. But then there's the pretty seating areas with tasteful art work & fake greenery and all the patients have to greet each other 'Bonjour Monsieur/ Dame',cant let the social niceties slip.

So I finally get to the ultra scanning & x ray part, the working area of the clinic and everything is done very precisely, though all a little surprisingly. Now usually in such circumstances the NHS provide a back fastening unflattering coverall robe & cover most of the not needed parts like legs or upper torso with sheets or blankets. So I was curious to see what the French would do; fashionable over garments,'haute couture'? No, simply strip off ! I asked for clarification, in case my language skills had let me down but no, take off all your clothes & lie on the bench, the doctor will arrive soon.
I've always criticised the prudishness of the English system which insists on covering every possible unnecessary inch. Even at the point of imminently giving birth, having rushed into the cottage hospital, I was asked in the UK to "neatly fold my clothes & put my legs into the green cotton covers", the phrase 'bugger off' was shortly overtaken by the later stages of  labour contractions. But  in France, here I was no robe, nor sheet to hide my modesty, feeling somewhat vulnerable awaiting the doctor.

And when he arrived, looking like a  lab technician, white coat, high buttoned and jeans, I was questioned about my medical history for some five or more minutes, all the time stark naked lain on this bench, bizarre! Then came the internal examination, now to not go into too much detail in England the apparatus is covered in what resembles a plastic bag, not so in France; obvious really a 'French Letter' and a choice of colours! pragmatism

So what has this to do with a small French school? Well everything, because this necessity for social politeness & courtesy, but also the down to earth pragmatism is key to how the system works. The children are expected to always be polite & show good manners, but the practicalities of life are to be used & not hampered by health & safety or big business greed. 

In my professional life I was always aware of the security of schools; the access to buildings, the codes for classrooms or offices, everything secured down, the educational world on high alert. But here in rural France life has more trust & there are practical necessities, hence the small school room opens up, from a door with no security lock onto a playground with no codes or buzzers.

 Children play peacefully, not hampered with fears of the outside world. True we need to raise children in a safe environment & teach them to be aware of danger, but we don't need to stifle their existence in that world & make it a fearful place. 

So every Monday morning I rattle open the rusty bolt, cross the rough pot holed yard and open the classroom door. I enter their world as a trusted adult and bring to it, I hope, a little of the world of language  and the magic of learning.