We had a wander beside the stream the other day which flows through fields below our house. I was hoping to see a little fish or a frog maybe, but no such luck, they must have all been hiding. We came to a shallow area where the water ran over silty mud into a little pool. Old willow branches had fallen in, and in the shade I noticed a glimmer; something reflecting the light. Of course I had to get a stick and give it a poke, and we could see that it was a small cylindrical object. It looked about the size and shape of a shotgun cartridge, but when I rolled it out onto the bank it turned out to be a little glass bottle, probably quite old. After we’d taken it home and cleaned it up we were able to read the embossed letters on the side: GRAINS DE VALS.
My French has never been up to much even though we’ve lived here for ten years, so we Googled it, as you do, and lo and behold found out that it was a medicine bottle, probably going back to the fifties, and GRAINS DE VALS are pills for constipation. They contain senna and are still sold today. Along with the information I also discovered some hilarious little You-tube videos that show you how well these devilish little pills work!
In this one called ‘The Past. The Present and the Future’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_nKgMVP9qIw a man goes to a fortune teller. In case you don’t speak French the conversation goes something like this:
Fortune teller: ‘I see sadness, black moods, and melancholy. At the same moment you suffer. Your stomach and your liver work badly. But tomorrow you find health and exuberance!
Man: ‘Oh it is impossible!’
Fortune teller: ‘It’s because you are going to swear to take one tablet every evening before your meal.’
One month after: health and gaiety go together!
Man: ‘The fortune teller was right – Grains de Vals regularizing my functions returned me to health and happiness!’
So there you are, if you’re feeling sluggish go and get some Grains de Vals – but be sure to see your local fortune teller first just to make sure!