‘The thing is,’ says Travis, as he opens another bottle of white wine and lights his twentieth cigarette of the evening, ‘I really believe in looking after myself. I always start the day with a cup of hot water and lemon as it’s really good for the liver.’ Sitting in a cloud of secondary smoke on the sofa, I nod in agreement. Travis, it has to be said, is in excellent shape. He is also quite inspirational. The last time he gave me a lecture - on the benefits of exercise for invigorating the mind - I had put my trainers on before I’d even finished the phone call and subsequently ran around the countryside for an hour (and I am so not a running kind of person.)
If Travis ever gets bored with being a financial journalist, I am convinced he would make an excellent life coach. At the moment, he flits between his house in London and his villa in France at short notice. I had called in on him earlier in the evening on my way back from line dancing, of which, Travis does not approve. ‘Seriously, you need to get over this,’ he says, when I suggest that it could be amusing to teach him the Texas Stomp. ‘Line dancing is just SO wrong for your image in every way.’
He insists that I stay for dinner with his friends, Lola and Eric, a cool, good-looking couple who are very Glastonbury-chic. They have lived in a nearby village for ten years and I am wondering where they have been hiding out, as I know most ex-pat Brits within a 20-mile radius, but have never met them. Travis is worried that his chips are too hard but his home-made chilli burgers are excellent. At the end of the evening we end up dancing to a CD of ethnic Arabian house music. His terracotta floor, we discover, makes an excellent dance floor. It’s all slightly surreal - particularly since I am entirely sober - but as Travis points out, dancing is an excellent way of burning calories. And since his house has nothing but rolling green fields on four sides, there is no-one to complain about the loud music.