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The Smoking Doctor


After a week of facial pain and no improvement, I decided to go and see Dr Lienard here in Pierrefeu. The dentist had said that he’d thought maybe my sinuses were inflamed so, as you can’t get anything over the counter here, I trundled along to the Doc’s to wait in line with the halt and the lame.

You don’t make appointments in France so it’s basically first-come, first served. So I joined a small room-full of folk, all reading three year-old magazines, whispering conversations about last night’s torrential rain and greeting each newcomer with a ‘Bonjour, madame/monsieur’. A woman came in with two toddlers and, remarkably, managed to keep them both amused and in line simply by whispering at them.

Soon it was my turn. Now, I’ve seen Dr Lienard before when my ears got a bit bunged up after some ill-advised snorkling at St Clair. I remember her as a lady of a certain age, in a jaunty red suit with a packet of ciggies on her desk but assumed that, with the new laws about smoking in France, this would be a thing of the past.

Nothing of the sort. I start my tale of woe, desperately trying to remember the french for jaw, x-ray and pain, and the phone rings. In fact it rings several times. Not only does she take the calls (fair dos – there were probably folk much worse off than me) but during the second one, she reaches for her pack of Lucky Strikes, gets her Bic out and lights up – all one-handed. Inhaling deeply, she informs Monsieur So-and-So that she’ll call him after her consultation. He carries on talking and she cuts him off, rolling her eyes at me. I nod sympathetically, leaning back to avoid the cloud of smoke.

Actually, she was very nice. She did far more than the English Doc in London had done – including checking me for spots, oddly – and commenting on the British propensity for sticking cotton buds in their ears. How we laughed.

Twenty two euros later and I had a lengthy, scrawled prescription and a note to get me a sinus x-ray in Cuers. (Well, if it keeps raining, what else will I have to do?)

Oh, and a faint whiff of cigarette smoke, clinging to my clothes.