If you live in the countryside in France, you will be all too familiar with the acronym SPANC — not, as you might imagine (or hope), the calling card of Ms Whiplash — but the Service Public d’Assainissement Non-Collective, the governing body of the nation’s septic tanks.

For centuries, indeed since William the Conqueror was a lad, and long before that, France’s privies were a private matter, the upkeep and content of which were left to the discretion, or otherwise, of the individual. Quite what it all added up to I am in no position to say, but it must have been considerable.