I used to be the chancellor!

With the visit of my mother Sue, who enjoys flower arranging and just had her birthday, and her friend Eve, who listens to BBC Radio Suffolk but lives in Cambridgeshire, to Toulouse, where I have an apartment with street views (immediate) and ceilings (high), barely over, I have, dear readers, been entertaining again.

This time my Felixstowe playwright friend Susan came to France in search of cheese and wine and gorgeous French things.

Naturally, keen to live up to the ideal of France I chucked out the oven chips, Coco Pops and cheddar and stuffed my fridge and cupboards with croissants from the bakery, sausages from Toulouse - its famous for them and they are easy to cook, Tomme Noire - a cheese from the up lit pastures of the Pyrenees - and a couple of bottles of Ch�teau somewhere-in-the-Languedoc just to reinforce the delights of regional produce.

I walked Susan round Toulouse with such vigour that she saw every sight, every big church, every square, and every museum until she could ogle paintings, fountains, bits of furniture or virgins no more.

At the end of her visit, she made her way to the airport with sore feet, happy memories and a couple of souvenirs including a strange silver hat and some chocolates from the Basque region.

However, the flight was a little delayed thanks to that volcano that keeps spurting ash just to annoy the airlines.

Once safely back in Felixstowe, Susan put finger to keyboard and sent an email.

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She wrote: “I had to stay overnight at the airport. The next morning I shared breakfast and a spot of lunch, while waiting to see if were going to fly, with an older gentleman. We shared a taxi at 3 in the morning and then I helped him out the next day finding breakfast and getting to the airport again. I thought he was just an older man on his own that needed help and he spoke French so that helped me.”

Susan added: “We were talking and I was telling him about my playwriting and I was asking him what he did and he said “I used to be Chancellor of the Exchequer” It was Nigel Lawson, only I hadn’t recognised him. We shared a bottle of wine over lunch and got on very well.”

I wonder what he was doing in Toulouse?

A great art theft has hit the headlines here in France.

Five masterpieces from a modern art museum in Paris were lifted in the middle of the night. The alarm system hadn’t been working so the lucky thief didn’t have much trouble.

The masterpieces by Picasso and other people who did strange pictures.

I know I shouldn’t but I always find that sort of thing faintly amusing, don’t you?

Living in France has many advantages, pastry, weather and cheese among them but there is one thing that never fails to annoy me about Toulouse - the dogs.

Dogs are everywhere. In shops, in parks, on the streets, in caf�s - indeed I have yet to walk along a pavement that does not bear the most unpleasant evidence to the city’s large canine population.

I don’t like dogs - I never have - the other day as I was crossing a road I was perturbed to be sniffed at by two leadless and rather large dogs.

My attempt to display my abhorrence of this event to the owner with a facial expression of disgust was in vain. He merely smiled and said: “They’re so friendly aren’t they?”.

There’s been a big rugby match here in Toulouse.

The other evening the centre of town was awash with people cheering in front of a big screen as Toulouse played.

Rugby is hugely popular here and almost everyone I seem to meet is a fan.

Obviously I didn’t go along to watch as I don’t like crowds and as far as I am concerned sport is like a global joke I have yet to be let in on.

Toulouse won, I think.

He’s a saint but I don’t really know who Thomas Aquinas was do you?

I recently discovered, however, that he is buried in Toulouse. I happened to be passing one of the town’s many ancient churches and decided to pop in for a look.

Inside I discovered Thomas is inside a small gold coffin with a candle flickering nearby. I discovered he had a lot to say about God - he must have known him well - and he was moved to the church from another church in the 1970s.

Judging by the size of the coffin he can’t have been a very big man either.

The weather has suddenly turned glorious - it’s like Summer has arrived and winter little more than a distant memory.

The cafe’s and restaurants busy late into the night and the centre of Toulouse is one huge playground.

One thing I particularly enjoy about Toulouse is that every now and again you stumble across a pretty little square with a fountain stuck in the middle. They are everywhere.

You can’t drink the water but they look nice.