THOMAS CRAPPERIf an elephant stood on an average British WC flushing mechanism handle it would do its business and return to its original position without too much fuss or complaint. We do not really have to think about British WC flushing mechanism handles. They are there, they do what they are meant to do, they are not central to our existence. I could go on but I would begin to sound like John Cleese's parrot sketch.

It came in a flash (or was it a flush?) There are many differences between life in France and life in Britain. The health system is better here, the bureaucracy worse, but the greatest difference is to be found in the humble WC flushing mechanism. To put it bluntly, in France, it's crap. (Important digression, see Thomas Crapper, myth and reality click here)

I am writing this because I really do not want ever again to spend an evening sitting the wrong way round on a toilet seat struggling to reconstitute tiny bits of dissembled plastic invented in 1936 by some amateur design engineer who was obviously underpaid, undermotivated and a sadist to boot.

Be warned, heretoforward I shall take very unkindly to anyone who calls me saying "it came away in my hand" Treat it as the French have learnt to treat it from an early age i.e. extremely gently, and all should be well.

First ascertain whether it's one that you push or one that you pull. Do this by manipulating it very gently with your fingers. Most of them will wiggle in all directions anyway because they never fit properly, but its real nature should become obvious within a few seconds.

Then operate it as is should be operated. Do it with delicacy and finesse, with a light fingered touch worthy of a surgeon on an operating table. Respect its frailty, its fragility, its appalling design and its idiosyncrasies. The world will be a better place and I will be able to spend my evenings as god intended.

And lastly, please leave all elephants firmly tied up at home, you never know....