We'd been searching for a chimney sweep for weeks. The annuaire phone book for Gaillac lists 3 but none responded to my calls. Was going to say story of my life, but it's just simply la France. No commercial spirit. It wasn't that it was urgent. Simply that, in France, if you don't have an annual certificate showing your chimney's been swept, no insurance company will pay out.....but then, they don't anyway. Don't get me started on that. Anyway, as it happens, we were at our local Brico Depot when white van man pulls up next to us and emblazoned on the side: 'Ramonage'. Quick, run over and ask him to call. And he did! Wasn't what I remembered though. As a child in England, we kids all had to run out to the back to shout out when we could see the brushes appear out of the chimney. (Probably a clever way to get rid of us). Now it's all machinery. But he was very grimy, so we shook elbows. Some things never change. Hopefully he'll bring us some luck. Wonder why the Gaillac sweeps never came? Him indoors says: they were detained by the 'flu!
.......so, I'm back with much to report on things French. A few weeks ago our local doctor strongly recommended that I undertake a coloscopy (don't ask!) and gastroscopy. The following week(!) I was duly admitted to the Claude-Bernard Clinic in the nearby town of Albi. I was welcomed and shown into a single room, complete with wardrobe, TV, phone and en-suite bathroom! Nurses brandished a laptop with all my details. Patients are responsible for bringing the prescribed medicine, purchased at the local pharmacie (no clanking trolleys laden with drugs), costs borne by your carte vitale, plus antiseptic shower soap. Next the dreaded bit: drinking 2L of what tasted like the entire contents of Droitwich Brine Baths - with the inevitable after-effects....oh well. At least I wasn't presented with a torpedo tablet: I'm s'posed to put it where?? The general anaesthetic was much improved from my youth. I felt a warm rush from the catheter in my arm, then fell instantly asleep. And guess what? No sickness, no after-effects. After a while to recuperate, I was wheeled back up to my deluxe suite. Best of all, within one hour I was presented with a glossy folder, complete with colour photos of my insides and a report covering reasons for operation, the procedures effected and the eventual conclusions + prescription for ongoing medication. TG: no cancer, but surprisingly I have 'beance cardiale' - the valve between the oesophagus/stomach doesn't work - probably congenital. It's only taken me 65 years to find out! The French health system? Merveilleuse.