The Man complains that I do not spend enough time at his house. Until recently there was a very good reason for this: his bathroom. Mine is not very salubrious but his was almost non-existant. Recently however, work has been progressing at his B&B and he now has a very large bath tub installed. So I pack my bottle of Czech and Speake bath oil and head over to his village for the evening. I find him barefoot in the kitchen stuffing une pintade (guinea fowl) for dinner. The log fire is burning, there is a bottle of red wine breathing and everything is very lovely ... until we sit down to eat and suddenly I feel a strange and persisent itch around my ankles.
'Have you got fleas?' I ask, as I scratch furiously at my skin.
'Not to my knowledge,' he replies, looking perplexed.
I wake up the next morning with visible evidence to the contrary: big angry bites the size of buttons on my legs and arms. It's not a good look. I drive home dreaming of calamine lotion and puzzled by the cause of this unfortunate affliction.
Later The Man phones to say that he has asked around locally and thinks that I have been bitten by grass fleas. 'Apparently, the bites don't appear straight away. It must have happened yesterday when we were collecting walnuts from the garden,' he says.
Grass fleas sound rather sweet but when I casually raise the subject at line dancing on Wednesday morning - as in 'the grass fleas seem pretty bad this year' - everyone looks at me blankly. Hmmm. I do not know what has been lunching on my skin, but I do know that my most highly-prized accessory is currently a tube of calamine lotion.