postcard from languedoc

Before we embarked on our journey, we kept asking: "What happens if the children get ill?" Luckily, our first-aid book is among Tallulah's bedtime reading. We pore over methods of preserving amputated digits and rescuing an electrocuted woman by standing on a telephone directory and prodding her with a broom. I like the way the victim looks so absurdly content and clean. Of course, the answer to the question is obvious. We would call a doctor. But what if you are parked in the middle of nowhere? Oh, hypothetical - phooey.

It happens in the mountains of Languedoc. For once, we're not interested in the revival of endangered European languages. In fact, we're thankful the French have marginalised their regional tongues. I would be hard- pressed to explain Tallulah's symptoms in Occitan. Tallulah has a chesty cough, not helped by an incessant downpour. We are parked down a mile- long track, across a flooded ford. The track belongs to our friend, horse- trekker Roland Bec, an irresistible Frenchman who serenades Tallulah on his guitar. She falls for him, but not with her usual wild joy.

That night, Tallulah's temperature rockets to 104F. She thrashes about in her bunk, muttering "Carry me, carry me" increasingly deliriously. Most worrying of all, she has a headache. Richard pulls on his waterproofs and sloshes across a field to Roland's house where he is forced to interrupt a dinner party to ask Roland to call his doctor. I trust French doctors, because the French are so obsessed by their bodies - inside and out. No other European high street has so many salons de beaute and laboratoires de analyses medicales. Where our bodily secretions are hidden away in the back of hospitals, the French study theirs between the post office and boulangerie.

Roland's doctor arrives with impressive speed. He twists Tallulah's head from side to side. Nobody mentions the M word, but this is what he is thinking. However, he diagnoses bronchitis not meningitis. I am overwhelmed. I cradle Tallulah; lights are low; rain drums on the roof. I want to keep the doctor here, this competent visitor from the real world.

Roland offers help. I have seen Roland jabbing a horse with antihistamine - he knows his stuff. But this time he's offering to drive Richard five miles to the nearest chemist. In the event, his son has taken the car, so a guest is persuaded to drive them there. The doctor prescribes seven drugs. He insists on bottled sea-water to spray up Tallulah's nose and six sessions of "clapping". We look blank. It seems we must find a kinaestherapist (whatever that is) to bring up her catarrh by rhythmically patting her chest. "Suppo?" he asks, as he signs off. "Pardon?" "Suppositoires?" "Non." Here I draw the line. "Pas pour les anglais."

Tallulah, I am happy to report, has recovered.

Helena Drysdale

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

    £30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

    Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

    £18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

    Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

    £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

    Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

    £23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

    Day In a Page

    Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

    The secret CIA Starbucks

    The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
    Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

    How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

    The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
    One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

    One million Britons using food banks

    Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

    The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
    Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
    Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

    Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

    They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
    Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
    The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

    The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

    Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
    How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

    How to run a restaurant

    As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
    Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

    Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

    For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
    Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

    Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

    The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
    10 best tote bags

    Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

    We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
    Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

    Paul Scholes column

    I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
    Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

    Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

    The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...