As well as British germs being more benign than those in France, I am pondering the unlikely idea the air might be healthier in London than in Paris. I have not a jot of scientific evidence for this, but La Fille has stopped coughing.
For at least half her young life she woke up in the morning and began to cough. Hack, hack. Hack, hack. Half way through the morning: hack, hack. The afternoon: hack, hack. The evening: hack, hack. Sometimes it was a dry hack, sometimes a chesty hack. It never seemed to bother her but it sure as hell drove me mad, mostly with worry.
The Frenchman said she sounded like a 20-a-day smoker and as unreformed puffer of filterless Gitanes, he should know. He was already banned from lighting up in the apartment, but every time he nipped outside for smoke (not even sub-zero temperatures can cure his nicotine addiction) he was expected to stand on the doorstep flapping his arms and slapping his clothes It made no difference to the hack, hacking but it entertained the neighbours. Her paediatrician thought she might have asthma or an allergy so we dragged La Fille to various doctors and even a homeopath and a reflexologist. She had tests, x-rays, scans; nothing showed up. She had massages, gallons of cough syrup and honey and lemon; nothing worked. I steamed her bedroom with the kitchen kettle until it resembled a rainforest. The warm humidity lasted a couple of seconds then it just felt cold and damp. A French friend gave us the Gallic standby for all ailments, suppositories. I took one look at the milky white slugs, the size of a medium-calibre bullet, and told the Frenchman: "No way is that going anywhere". I threw the box in the back of the cupboard with the inhaler, the homeopathy paraphenalia and the balsa parrot.
Then we began spending half our time in London and suddenly La Fille stopped hack, hacking from dawn to dusk to dawn. I find it hard to believe there is that much difference in air quality between the two cities; we do live in one of the most polluted triangles of central Paris, but in London we are also near several busy roads. Still, there is no denying it it; La Fille has stopped coughing. The other morning the Frenchman woke up and said: "Do you know we haven't heard La Fille cough in weeks." They he started: hack, hack, hack. I have told him he has a choice: smokes or suppositories.