You just don't know what's lurking deep in the French countryside. Francoise asks me if I would like to go with her to a linen sale at a house where she teaches English. She picks me up in her ancient 2CV and off we go puttering into the countryside and up a little track, at the end of which, well-hidden from the road, lies a newly renovated chateau. Inside it is very impressive - all ancient terracotta tiles, old tapestries on the walls and stuffed game and animals at every turn, including a real lion snarling on the staircase. It all looks like a spread from Maison et Campagne, my favourite French interiors magazine. I am far more interested in the antique carpets and amazing views of rolling green countryside from every French window, than I am in the tablecloths and pillow cases that are for sale.
But the owner of the chateau, Madame De La Borde - we do not address her by her first name - is rather formidable and looks me up and down in a way that makes me wish I'd dressed endimanché [in Sunday best]. I am, dare I say it, intimidated - a feeling that does not come naturally to me - and I find myself expressing an interest in some brown linen pillowcases. This is a mistake as a member of her staff is practically wrapping them up for me. 'Oh what a shame, that they don't come in white,' I say, looking for a get-out clause. 'My bedroom is all pale colours, so they won't really work. Francoise comes to my rescue, and, after buying some linen shoe bags, we leave. But I would so love to have seen the rest of the chateau. Maybe next time!