Sir edward spears

The 100-year-old opiate had lost none of its potency

Our neighbour Michael is a keen and knowledgable attender of vides-greniers, the equivalent of our car-boot sales. His focus is on old bottles, full or empty, and old china, but he’ll pick up anything that piques his fancy. Some months ago, for example, he bought for €1 a glass tube of opium tablets issued to the French infantry during the Great War. Last week he reissued me with three of these little brown pills knowing that I had an abiding interest in the first world war and was using a modern version – white crystals of morphine sulphate in a red gelatine pill – to mask the pain I was