Your very good health mes amis!

SO what's the weather like back in Suffolk?

James Marston

SO what's the weather like back in Suffolk?

I've been lunching outside and enjoying the bright sunshine of the Haute Garonne.

Of course, you need a coat and a jumper but I feel far from the winter's rages here in the south of France.

IT'S one of those French curiosities that you need a medical every couple of years just to make sure you are healthy enough to work.

Now, dear readers, there's nothing duller than talking about your health - someone once told me that - but nevertheless I thought I might share this little interlude with you.

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Firstly, it took place at lunchtime - and the doctor I saw must be the only man in France who works through the sacrosanct lunch hour, possibly to make sure I didn't have one.

Secondly, it took place entirely in French and the doctor used a rather formal form of language.

Nevertheless, I arrived at the allotted time to be directed to a friendly nurse for the usual form filling exercise; this took 20 mintues and included the following:

Age - I decided not to lie as my thinning hair gives me away now so I told her I was 29 plus VAT;

Place of birth - I told her Newmarket Hospital - though I think she just wanted the country and she certainly wasn't interested in hearing about the closure of the maternity unit some time ago;

Nature of my job - I mostly sit at a desk and in front of a computer I said; she nodded;

Nature of my previous job - see above - more nodding;

Nature of my job before that - though beginning to wonder why she wanted to know what I was up to in the late 1990s I said something about a bank - she nodded.

Then came a lost unexpected question.

"And what sort of qualification do you have?"

"What?" I replied, rather taken aback and not totally sure I had translated the question correctly

She repeated her words.

"Are you sure this is necessary?" I countered with a rising inflection.

"But, Monsiuer, it is on the form."

Now I've been in France long enough to know you never argue with a form, so casting my mind back to my salad days I told her I am a bachelor of science.

I noted this announcement cut no mustard, French of otherwise, and she filled in the form with the word "diploma" - clearly the form needed a French translation.

I also had a most comprehensive eye test leaving us both somewhat confused when I tried to explain what colour blindness is and relieved myself into a small cup … but the least said about that the better.

It was only then I met the doctor himself.

He too, after he had listened to my chest and asked me about my liver - an organ about which I rarely think, had a number of questions.

"Et faites-vous le sport" he said.

"Do you do any sport?" I translated to myself.

Not knowing the French for croquet on a summer's evening I thought I better answer with something else.

"I go racing," I replied, with a slight smirk.

He didn't laugh.

"Do you smoke?"

"Only cigarettes," I replied.

He didn't laugh, again.

He asked me if I sleep well and if I had any operations at which point I got a little stuck as I tried to explain, probably totally unnecessarily, that I had my tonsils out when I was six.

A few moments of rather painful discussion followed, during which he actually rolled his eyes, before we found the right translation - tonsils are "amyglades" in French in case you wondered - leaving me in no doubt he had had his sense of humour removed some years ago.

In the end he finally signed a bit of paper, plus a copy for me, with the single word "apte" - which means, I suspect, I am apt - and I went back to work.

NOW I have my own flat, with ceilings (high) street views (immediate) here in Toulouse, I have been busy buying soft furnishings and essentials like a bottle opener and ashtray.

I have also picked up some bedding with much help from a young woman keen to sell me gorgeous French things.

It was after I picked out a duvet cover that she posed a further question.

"Do you need a sheet?" she asked.

A question which, in a French accent, sounded like something rather different.

THERE'S much excitement as the Chirstmas market gets underway next week and, I think, the lights get turned on.

Today, I started my Christmas shopping but quickly gave up under the intolerable strain of not having a clue what to get people.

Instead I bought myself a copy of Hello! magazine and went for a coffee just so I can keep up to date with my favourite royal Camilla and find out what's happening with Kate and William, apparently speculation is rife.

IS anyone left in I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here? Does anyone really care?

I read with some amusement that Samantha Fox has been voted out.

From what I can see most have left already. It must be getting a bit lonely in that jungle.

SO the annual "Elf and safety" headline has made its seasonal appearance once again.

Don't we journalists love a pun?

This time it was feared Santa might not be able to travel with his sleigh on his annual trip around Felixstowe due to problems finding the right insurance.

But thankfully The Evening Star intervened and the volunteer drivers of Felixstowe's Rotary and Save the Children Rudolph float can go about their business as usual.

Sense prevails for once.

I RATHER like Sir Michael Lord.

I hear a new candidate has been found for his very safe seat in Ipswich North and Central Suffolk in the form of a doctor from Surrey.

Sir Michael once entertained me to a very tasty lunch in the House of Commons and, after assuring him I had no purple powder, I watched him in action from the Strangers' Gallery.

A gentleman, and I wish him well as he stands down.

James' Mailbag

AS regular readers will know I do like the odd letter or e-mail.

And this week Patricia Bridges, from Waldingfield (Little), has very kindly been in touch. If you'd like to drop me a line feel free.

“Hello James,

I was rather surprised to read your comments concerning Claude Francois in last week's “A Suffolk Man Abroad”.

"… some old French guy called Claude …"

I met Claude Francois in London in the 1960s when he appeared on the Petula Clarke television show. He was considered to be the second most popular French pop singer, Johnny Halliday being number one.

A year later when I was working in Paris his song Comme d'habitude (As Usual) written with Jacques Revaux, became a huge hit throughout France.

Later, Paul Anka wrote English lyrics to it and it became a world wide hit, My Way.

If only Claude was “an old French guy”, he died in 1978, at the age of 39.

I do enjoy reading your column and it has brought back all sorts of memories of when I decided to leave the UK and work in France. I also enjoyed it in the days of the distant sea views too.

La belle France takes a bit of getting used to as you are finding, but give yourself time to enjoy it.

I worked on the top floor of a bank across the road from Galleries Lafayette and Bonne Marche, never earned enough money to shop in either.

On a trip home one weekend I met my cousin's friend, a student in digs nearby. When he finished studying, he decided to bring me home to Suffolk and here we are, many years later.

All best wishes,

Patricia Bridges

Waldringfield (Little)”