I am lost in a forest and it’s almost dark. I set out with Biff two hours ago, following his owners’ instructions for a short circular walk - across damp green fields, past an ostrich farm and a family of donkeys - that would supposedly bring me back to their house. Only it didn’t and now I have no idea where I am. Somewhere in the forest to the left a man is chopping up tree trunks with a chain saw. I’m certainly not going to stop and ask him for directions.
Instead we plough on along the muddy track, me trying not to trip over in the deep tractor furrows, Biff blissfully unaware that we are lost as he trots along ahead of me. It reminds me of the Sunday when, armed with little more than a copy of Time Out Guide to Country Walks, I (over)confidently led a group of London friends on a winter foray into the Sussex countryside. It culminated in a scene reminiscent of The Blair Witch Project, when at nightfall we found ourselves lost in a forest miles from the train station.
Biff and I eventually emerge from the woods by a pig farm. When darkness falls rural France, it is like someone has dropped a large black velvet throw over the surrounding countryside: you can’t see your hand in front of you.
But suddenly, that’s the least of our problems. As if out of nowhere, a grey liver-spotted beast charges towards us, teeth bared. I’m glad at first that he decides to chase Biff and not me, as Biff can run faster. But as the chasse dog closes in and Biff lets out an anguished yelp, I am forced to intervene to save him, hurling myself towards them and yelling at the big grey bully to go away. Fortunately, it does. (This is the very same dog, it later transpires, that recently gave Biff’s owner Frances a very nasty bite, necessitating several hospital visits.)
After a fast diagonal walk over a farmer’s field, I eventually find a small sign to Biff’s village and in less than half an hour, we are back.
‘I’d better take a compass next time,’ I say, relieved, not just to be back in the warm kitchen but to be returning one small black terrier intact.