Our neighbour Roger has been suffering since September with an ulcerated leg which is resisting everything that medical science can throw at it. Usually out and about in all weathers, he has been confined indoors for most of the winter and, besides going stir-crazy, he is in a lot of pain. So, alongside the conventional treatment, he has started making regular visits to M Moulin, the rebouteux who lives across the valley at le Crestet. The results, he says, are spectacular.
It seems extraordinary that people as ferociously rational and cartesian as the French – who have no time for ghosts and superstition and indeed no truck with the supernatural in any of its manifestations – should be so open to the idea of alternative methods of healing. Many years ago in Paris, when Markus was laid low with sciatica a friend recommended that he should pay a visit to a faith healer, in the delightfully appropriately named Passage de la Main d’Or, or Golden Hand Alley, without the slightest indication that there was anything unusual in the suggestion. The French are perfectly happy to try such treatments as accupuncture, thermal water cures, herbal remedies and homeopathy, many of which are covered by the State Health Care system. Everyone has their favourites – I always have homeopathic arnica granules with me and can vouch for their effectiveness in mitigating the effects of bumps and bruises.
A rebouteux “remet les os bout à bout” or puts your bones back together and, in country districts traditionally dealt with the dislocated shoulders, sprained ankles and back strain that were the inevitable results of heavy agricultural labour. They used manipulations similar to those of an osteopath, though usually of a more energetic variety, often involving a few lusty assistants and a knee placed firmly in the small of the patient’s back! But today the term is widely used for a variety of (completely unlicensed) practitioners who also treat muscular contractures, internal ailments and nervous disorders, relying solely on an unexplained magnetic force emananting from their hands.
Roger’s doctor is quite happy for him to seek out such unorthodox methods of treatment, as is usually the case provided the patient follows the more conventional approach as well. Roger says M Moulin’s waiting room is packed and that he feels a strong burning sensation emanating from his hands which lasts for several hours, then leaving him free of pain for some days. Who knows what will cure his leg? But time is running out. The grass is high, the days are getting longer and soon Roger will need to let his cows out to pasture after the long months they have spent in the barn. Then he will be into haymaking, cherry picking, harvesting and all the other outdoor tasks that will not wait …. and he needs that leg!