... when the only card to play is that of a batty old English lady who doesn't speak much French.
Lost in the middle of Montauban at lunchtime, as I turned left at the traffic lights, I realised immediately I was heading towards Auch and I should have gone straight on towards Agen. But not to worry, there on my right was a large lay-by in front of the gendarmerie where I could turn the car round. As I did so, I heard the sound of shouts and whistles and hooting of horns and found I was facing a row of oncoming cars. Not perhaps the best place to choose to do a U-turn in a one-way street.
This was the moment to play the only card.
I was lectured severely by two young, tough off-duty gendarmes setting off for lunch with their large fierce dogs who obviously thought I should not be driving at all. Vita, barking loudly in the back, gave me all the encouragement she could, .
French honour and discipline satisfied, we were sent meekly on our way.
Two hours earlier, in the calm of a small white room among farm buildings, at the end of a long grassy track, another elderly lady bent over Vita, her hands working steadily and gently up and down Vita's spine. I'd arrived with my story of Airedale skin problems, slug pellet poisoning, losing weight, an epileptic fit, but my imperfect French was barely heard. The patient was Vita and it was her body that told its tale.
Fortunately, not all elderly ladies are batty. Some grow old gracefully and with great wisdom.