It's really very frustrating when doctors don't believe you. You want to - or I do, anyway: maybe you're made of more resilient stuff than I am - you want to pick them up and shake them and generally sit on their heads until they gasp for mercy and promise eternally to take you seriously.
It's this sneezing, doctor. It'll carry me off one day. It happens after certain meals and certain other adult phenomena that I won't specify in a family blog like this. After a perfectly ordinary meal of roast chicken, say, followed by trifle or profiteroles or crêpes Suzette or even Tesco's Expat Extra Strength Tinned Treacle Sponge Pudding (with custard) or even strawberries and cream, I tend to be attacked by a series, usually about 20, of violent sneezes that bruise the diaphragm and bronchial tubes, scour the throat and sinuses, sometimes to the point of drawing blood, and which occasionally knock me down with their violence. It has already caused a hiatus hernia. I have to close my eyes, I become feverish and shivery and an embarrassment to everyone, especially if this takes place when we're eating out. I usually have to leave and shatter the night air in the restaurant car park with my explosions. Or in our host's garden, when dogs bark, flocks of roosting starlings take flight in alarm, shutters open and neighbours peer out anxiously to see who is so savagely roaring rapine or pillage.
Our GP lives well within sneezing distance of us. I've complained about it to her, but she says she's never heard of such a complaint and that I'd better see an allergy specialist, and next time it happens will I please face well away from her windows?
I know it's not an allergy, I tell her. There might be something in it if it only happened after meals, but there's the other trigger, which I outline to her discreetly. She's embarrassed, and I don't insist. French GPs are often only a clearing station for referral to specialists. She knows of no specialist for my case. I will just have to suffer. Or abstain. Two years ago, in desperation at my badgering, she prescribed codeine, which puts the central nervous system on skeleton service for a bit. It works very well, but I'm uneasy about taking codeine for the rest of my days.
So the other day I went to see J.'s acupuncturist, of whom she speaks quite highly. He's from South-east Asia and fully qualified within the French system. I start to explain. He's never heard of it either. Nevertheless he sticks pins in all over - head, neck, wrists, groin, knees, ankles and feet - and applies some heated resiny substance to points on my back. He then prescribes drops, to be taken under the tongue, of compounds of copper, gold and silver, the inevitable lithium and essence of aconite.
I'll await results. I wonder if anyone else among the multitude of sneezers who come here has similar problems?