Monday and it’s a cheap flight from London to Nantes, one of my favourite cities and a much under-appreciated one. But inevitably it’s not as simple as that. The bureaucracy, because of the pandemic, is pretty formidable and a second-day Covid test on return costs more than the £16 return flight from London.

What is immediately noticeable is that in Nantes, and presumably throughout France, they are taking it much more seriously than we are. I’d say one person in three is wearing a mask in the street and it’s impossible to enter a restaurant or bar without having to dig out your QR code to prove you are double vaccinated.

On Tuesday afternoon, I went to Place Royale which is packed full of stalls, tents and awnings where you can buy anything from a pair of leather slippers to champagne and oysters. I bought a cup of hot traditional Alsace wine and had barely put it down on an upturned beer barrel next to the fountain when one of the staff, going round the customers, asked me for the obligatory pass sanitaire, taking a snap of it on his tablet.

I don’t know what they do with the codes, if anything, but it happens everywhere. And it’s being self-policed.

Nantes has a history not unlike Glasgow, of shipbuilding, slave and sugar trading, heavy industry and then de-industrialisation.

But it has reinvented itself better. There are parks – the Jardin des Plantes, just opposite the station, is world famous and delightfully quirky, with over-sized furniture. There are wide boulevards with single-deck bendy trams and buses, lots of the streets are pedestrianised and full of cafes and shops, and they’re cobbled with those large, flat ones that rioters love to prise out to chuck at les flics.

In one of the old shipbuilding sheds on the Isle of Nantes mad inventors have created a wonderland of idiosyncratic machines, Les Machines de l’Île.

One, the Great Elephant, is a 40ft high mechanised wood and steel creation which can take 50 passengers, latter-day maharajahs, on a lumbering walk round the place belching steam. There’s even a lounge in its stomach.

Awards for all

GLASGOW’S Susan Aitken was crowned Leader of the Year by the Local Government Information Unit (no, me neither) during the week for spearheading Glasgow’s green recovery. No, me neither again.

That’s because it hasn’t happened. It’s an aspiration laid out in the plan she was taking to COP26 to raise private money to fund it.

Set aside the politics and the conditions that would be imposed if this this green PPI should come to pass, so far not one thin dime appears to have been committed to it.

It did rack up column inches and broadcasting hyperbole, as did this award from an organisation you’ve never heard of before. Other SNP councillors also received gongs at the ball. Was there a party majority on the judging panel?

I did ask the LGIU just who was on it. They didn’t get back to me.

Diseased mind

LET’S hear it for James Hunter, the man whose discovery set back medicine half a century. He was a Scottish surgeon, born near East Kilbride, who wanted to cure what was then called “the pox”. Venereal disease.

While some18th-century scientists were convinced that gonorrhea and syphilis were different diseases, he set out to prove they were the same, by making puncture wounds on his penis and rubbing it with yellow, infected discharge from a patient.

A few days later he began to experience pain, redness and itchiness, then followed by syphilitic sores. He was over the moon.

So, for 51 years his treatment was used everywhere, that is, mercury to burn off the sores, until the French scientist Philippe Ricord proved it was rubbish. What Hunter hadn’t factored in was that the man he took the sample from had both gonorrhea and syphilis.

Hunter was also a body snatcher. He paid for the corpse of Charles Byrne, which he studied and exhibited despite family protests. He was such a thorough-going dunderhead that they named a society after him and set up a museum, the Hunterian, at the Royal College of Surgeons. All his medical bits and bobs, together with the body of Byrne, are there, but fortunately not the exhibit which made his name.

Medical monster

I DON’T want to go on about male appendages but an Italian gynaecologist called c has been “curing” female patients by having sex with them. The 68-year-old, in the southern city of Bari, referred to his penis as a “magic flute” that he claimed could cure women suffering from the human papillomavirus HPV infection, a cause of cervical cancer. If they had already been tested and cleared he assured them the tests were faulty.

Despite being outed Miniello is unrepentant. Perhaps that will change when he goes behind bars.

Lady luck

IT’S about time Michelle Mone, or Baroness Mone of Mayfair as she prefers to be called, made her annual speech in the House of Lords. Since she was given the gig in August 2015 by David Cameron she’s made just five of them, the last of which was in March last year. Mind you she was charging £20,000 and more for private speeches at the same time on a hectic schedule, although at the start of the month she claimed to have stopped doing it.

Dave, who knows a bit about making millions from pals, made her the entrepreneurial tsar, whatever that was. The last time she exercised her vocal chords in the chamber was on International Women’s Day in 2020 when she wittered that women in this country weren’t being given the help

to do what she did – make loadsa money. Solidarity with the sisterhood of toil.

None of this would matter much if this unelected publicity hound in ermine did not have a vote on all our futures. As with speaking though, she hasn’t cast too many – a little over three a month, just 265 votes in all, only 12 of which she gave the thumbs up to and10 of them in favour of Brexit.

She is a bit more active for her friends and acquaintances, however. She was the “source of referral” between the Government and the newly-formed PPE Medpro – the lobbyist you could call her – a company that was awarded £203 million worth of contracts to supply PPE to the NHS.

This was via the Government’s “high-priority lane” – where you’re 10 times more likely to succeed, according to the National Audit Office – just a month and a half after PPE Medpro had been launched.

Mone has denied any financial interest in the company or benefit in the deal.

On the same day that PPE Medpro was set up, Anthony Page became a director, quitting as director of MGM Media, the company that handles Mone’s personal brand.

Page is also a director of Knox House Trustees, a company in Knox Group, founded by Mone’s husband Douglas Alan Barrowman, who apparently has six homes, an automobile collection with 15 cars, a mega yacht and a private jet, as well as the obligatory Picassos and Dalis.

PPE Medpro’s registered office address is 16 High Holborn in London, which happens to be the address not just for Knox House Trustees but also Michelle Mone Interiors and MMI Global Unlimited, which Mone is a shareholder and director of, along with Barrowman.

Another company with an office address in the same building is Neo Space (Douglas) – as in the Isle of Man, the tax haven where Mone and Barrowman live – which she has been bigging up in the media. One of the directors is the aforementioned Page.

It’s Michelle and Doug’s first wedding anniversary tomorrow. Page will be ticked off if he’s not invited.