Trip to the med proves a welcome tonic

AS I said to my intelligent Irish friend Mairead the other evening "You're a doctor can you look at my toothache?"

James Marston

AS I said to my intelligent Irish friend Mairead the other evening "You're a doctor can you look at my toothache?"

Unfortunately, Mairead declined. Apparently, she isn't that sort of doctor so my back molar, something which regular readers will know has been giving me untold gip, isn't really of interest to her.

Mairead, it turns out, works for the Centre de Recherche Astro-Physique - I've written it in French as the acronym is a little unfortunate - as an astronomer so she's very handy when you want specialist knowledge on Jupiter's moons.

I changed the subject.

"I think it's time for me to explore a little bit more of France. Molar or no molar."

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Mairead, who, as I said, is very clever, agreed with me.

Anyway, in case you are wondering if I'll ever get to the point, as my level of French has improved from schoolboy to older schoolboy and I can buy more than just stamps and baguettes, I have found myself growing in linguistic confidence.

Indeed, this weekend I popped along to the railway station with the unpronounceable name to execute a textbook conversation.

I remember the "buying a train ticket to places" lesson from my boyhood days in short trousers and, I have to admit, it was rather a thrill to put into practice the skills I learnt some 20 years ago.

My destination this weekend was the sandy shores of the azure waters of the Mediterranean, a mere two hours train ride away.

You see, dear readers, I had been invited by my friend Gill, a lady who remembers me in those short trouser days and divides her time between the Suffolk cultural hot spot of Aldeburgh and a small town called M�ze in the Languedoc, to stop by her French retreat the weekend. I jumped at the chance.

So I emptied the ashtrays, shut up my Toulousain apartment with street views (immediate) and ceilings (high), packed an overnighter and let the train take the strain. A couple of hours later I was sipping a sundowner in Gill's apartment with sun terrace (shady) and sea views (panoramic).

The weather smiled, the oysters were delicious, the sea calm and gin and tonics strong - I have to admit, dear readers, to feeling rather lucky.

Of course, there are famous people in France. Though if they passed me in the ancient cobbled streets of Toulouse I'm not sure I'd really recognise many of them.

However, there are a few long standing famous people that always seem to be in the news and they are Johnny Hallyday, Stephanie of Monaco and, of course, Bridget Bardot.

Bridget, I am informed, lives somewhere gorgeous in the south of France, likes animals and is always putting her foot in it.

I noticed a little article in the local paper the other day in which a French politician, suggesting the couple had known each other very well, said they didn't spend much time sleeping. Miss Bardot doesn't mince her words. She delivered a rather cutting riposte: "I know with whom I have slept and it certainly was not with that fat, ignorant, liar, bore with an inelegance rare."

She holds no prisoners.

I learnt an interesting fact the other evening during my bedtime reading.

Way back in 1553 when things were a bit tricky in the kingdom, Mary Tudor apparently paid a visit to Hengrave Hall.

The Queen was dashing across Suffolk on her way to Framlingham to raise her troops to take her throne from usurpers.

The last time I dashed through Hengrave I got a speeding ticket. I doubt she had that problem though.

I was delighted this week to hear from my Felixstowe chum Brenda - she's the one who grows tomatoes and entertains a lot. Brenda informs me that the beach huts in dear Felixstowe are being put back and Hamilton Road is being dug up and that she broke her crepe pan on shrove Tuesday.

"It's all very exciting!" she says with tongue, I suspect, firmly in cheek.

There's really nothing more agreeable than a bit of gossip is there?

The amusing story about Lord Tebbit had me falling off my French chair I can tell you.

Apparently the 78-year-old kicked a dancing lion in the bottom during a Chinese New Year parade in Bury St Edmunds and has since apologise for his actions so it is all amicable.

How utterly hilarious.

Newcomers eh?

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