We're there because J. has her monthly visit to her acupuncturist, and my business involves pins, too.
We park in one of the many city centre underground car-parks, from which we're borne up into the heart of a shopping mall called Le Polygone by lift. We've time for coffee before going our separate ways, double espresso, strong egg-cupful, twice, for J. ('Intravenous, she says. Straight into the vein.') and I prefer grand crème, a rich, creamy, potent café au lait which has not the slightest resemblance whatever to so-called latte or anything like that to be found in Costa's or Starbuck's.
Caffeined up, she takes the tram to Dr Acula's pin tables, and I take the trousers of my one and only suit to a place prosaically called l'Atelier de Retouches, the alteration workshop. Several genteel middle-aged ladies are sitting at sewing machines. I'm a little uneasy: J. has told me that in order for the alteration ladies to ascertain what work has to be done, I'm bound to have to put these trousers on and show them. H'm. Not only is it a bit of a quart-into-a-pint-pot fit, changing has to be done behind a flimsy folding screen, decorated with birds of paradise, with wide see-through gaps at the angles. How will the birds of paradise compete with furtive glimpses of my knees and calves?
In the event it doesn't matter. The genteel lady who receives me understands the problem straight away. I got this suit in Los Angeles 10 years ago, to wear at a wedding. When I first tried it on all those years ago the trousers were - can't resist this, I'm afraid - Toulon and Toulouse, so they had to be taken up and in. My leg length hasn't changed, but over the intervening 10 years I've put some weight on, nothing gross, just a bit of dignified girth that limits activity while wearing these trousers to holding my breath, walking bolt-upright very stiffly and slowly, like Frankenstein's monster, and trying to prevent my eye-balls from popping out.
Madame examines the original alterations. There's plenty of material. She won't have to let in a gusset. In fact, she'll only have to restore the trousers to their original state, the pristine way they were when they hanging on the rack in Hugo Boss in Century City, LA.
They'll be ready by Monday, she says. Will I have to try them on? I ask. Do I betray some apprehension? If you want, she says, but I think it would be more sensible to take them home and try them there, with the jacket. If they're not right you can bring them back in. That will be €14,40, please.
I really don't know how I've managed to become so sidetracked. Possibly some subconscious notion of freedom, of liberation. What I really wanted to post about was a demonstration in Montpellier in support of two French journalists held hostage in Afghanistan. It's a year since they were captured, and any negotiations for their release don't seem to have got very far.