It’s a small world here - and thin too

THERE’S no getting away from it, France is full of thin people.

Everywhere I go I see people who need a good feed.

And not only are the French of the Haute Garonne thinner they are noticeably shorter - in fact, dear readers, with my slight English accent, girth and almost six feet but not quite, I am somewhat noticeably noticeable.

Of course I wouldn’t have it any other way, but this difference in shape can lead to problems. Not only do I regularly hit my head when I get on a bus but caf� chairs have occasionally found my company strained.

Added to these difficulties if the fact that finding anything to wear is decidedly tricky.

Not just tricky but nearly impossible. The choices range from supermarket clothes or haute couture for the large with nothing in between.

However, that’s not to say there aren’t big people here in Toulouse where I have a flat with street views (immediate) and ceilings (high) because there are.

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The other chubby man here in Toulouse is called Jean-Michel and he works in my local bar. In fact I have even asked Jean-Michel, where he buys his clothes. He told me he goes to London regularly and stocks up on tops and birthday cards - a commodity which is strangely expensive due to a lack of WH Smith - while he is there.

My sophisticated friend Charlotte, a lady who is by no means large by UK standards, is planning a trip to downtown Glasgow to refresh her wardrobe with essentials and I, at the end of June, plan to mosey along Hamilton Road in the Edwardian Spa town of Felixstowe, where I have a small flat with sea views (distant) with a card full of credit. Almost every Brit I know does the same and picks up a Marmite and deodorant - another expensive commodity - at the same time.

Anyway, a colleague of mine called Jill, she’s small so doesn’t worry about these things, informed me that there are things I can do to solve this difficulty like eating less and exercising more.

But decent pastry is one of the advantages of living here and I have never been to a gym for fear of dying of complete and utter boredom.

Jill, and I don’t think she was joking, gently informed me that corsets are not unknown in the wardrobes of French men. If you can find one to fit that is.

- ONE of the things I miss the most, apart from cheese and pickle sandwiches, buy one get one free and Desert Island Discs, about the UK is my small car (blue).

Unfortunately, I haven’t got a car here and I haven’t yet dared drive in France - you never know which direction they’re coming from. So getting out and about isn’t always so easy. However, where there’s a will there’s a way and the other weekend I found myself enjoying the spring sunshine in a small town called Villemur-Sur-Tarn.

A very attractive place with lots of old walls and things. There was even a jazz band.

- WE’VE moved on to relative pronouns.

At least that’s what I think they’re called.

During my bi-weekly French lessons, where we only speak French with our teacher Lucie, we have been trying to say more and more complex things moving away from “May I have three stamps for England” and “I have a illness of the head”.

Lucie, who is thankfully very patient, has been telling us all about these relative pronouns but I fear they may never be my Mastermind specialist subject. Lucie has also been giving us homework. This week it was on French history. Did you know that Paris became the capital of France during the reign of someone called Clovis? Nor did I.

- I HAPPENED to be making a delicious omelette with French eggs when I heard the news that Gordon has decided to change his address and that David and Nick were enjoying themselves in a garden.

And, dear readers, I suddenly realised I’d heard the news that the government had changed on the radio - not some English speaking station either but France Info which is just news and no distracting music.

My point is that I understood what had happened without really thinking. I had forgotton to translate, I was just listening as I was cracking eggs. It doesn’t happen often.

- LEARNING a language is always intersting but there are some pitfalls to be avoided.

A friend of mine tells me she recently ate in a restuarant that offered English translations of its menu. The starters included something made out of avocado - avocat in French.

Thanks, I suspect, to the fact that avocat also means lawyer in French and advocate In English looks a bit like avocado this tempting delicacy was translated as lawyer salad.

- AS I whipped my way through The Way We Were and imperceptibly sashayed into I’ve Never Been To Me , I was delighted to find I had, for once, a small, but appreciative, audience.

Arnaud, the barman at the hotel where I occassionly put finger to keyboard informed me, after I had rounded my piano playing off with a quick rendition of Sometimes When We Touch, that a few of the diners in the elegant dining room were wondering why I stopped and do I take requests.

I said that unfortunately my repetoire is limited as I could only fit one music book in my suitcase when I arrived in France, and the only request I’ve got is a glass of white wine (large).

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