'What kind of courgette shavings do you call those?' says Lyle, looking disdainfully at the salad I am assembling on Friday evening. 'They don't look anything like Jamie Oliver's.'
I am sitting with a peach bellini in one hand, potato peeler in the other, at the kitchen table of a villa in Lacanau, near Bordeaux. I have come to spend the weekend with Olivier and Christian and a group of friends at Olivier's family holiday home, which is surrounded by ferny green forest, a flip-flop's throw from the lake. Olivier and Christian have driven into Bordeaux to collect their French friend Savannah from the station, leaving Lyle in control of the kitchen. As Henrietta, Dan, Giles, Jerome and I sit at the table chopping up vegetables, he flounces around barking instructions. But who knew that, in the right company, chopping garlic and snipping haricots verts could be so much fun?
It is a weekend, which revolves almost entirely around food and drink, interspersed with the occasional foray to the beach or lake. Saturday morning, we go food shopping en masse to the market in Lacanau. Then in the afternoon, Lyle and I cycle through the cool green forest, following narrow concrete paths built by German soldiers during the second world war.
Dinner on Saturday evening is a very French affair - including a first course of foie gras with toasted brioche - in a shady dell in the garden. Then someone suggests vodka shots [never a good idea] and the evening takes an even merrier turn, culminating in a moonlight dip in the lake [wearing swimsuits, in case you are wondering] with a dozen Diptyque candles flickering on the shoreline. On Sunday, certain members of our group emerge just before noon on Sunday, looking very peaky. I wake early and with a clear head, grateful for having declined the vodka shots. But it is with great reluctance that I leave the party on Sunday afternoon to drive back to the Poitou-Charentes, to prepare for a trip to the UK.