We stand before the iron gates of the 16th-century chateau - the setting for my friends' forthcoming wedding in November. Quick as a flash, Biff slips through the railings and is galloping joyously across the manicured lawn and its flowerbeds. 'Biff! Biff! Come back! Now!' we shout in urgent tones, to no avail.
The chatelaine appears dressed in jodphurs and couldn’t be more charming. Ditto Charles, le chatelain, who is French but speaks impeccable English with a jolly spiffing upper class accent.
As my friends debate in which room to have le cocktail and which to hold the dancing - this is definitely going to be a wedding to remember - Charles explains the history of the chateau and the paintings on the walls. I have to fight the urge to ask the manufacturer and colour of the pale blue-grey paint used for the woodwork (it is exactly the shade of gris-bleu I have been searching for the past three years) though I am bold enough to ask the provenance of the beautiful floral wallpaper in the drawing room.
The owner is remarkably unprecious about his pile, and has no problem at all with Biff trotting across the Versailles wooden floor and beautifully worn Aubusson carpets. As we explore the chateau's eighteen bedrooms, Biff, I can tell, is really enjoying himself - yet more proof of his very refined tastes. (More refined than mine, since in London, he tried several times to slip into the opera in the local park - whereas I can only take quivering operatic voices in very small doses).
Later, as the four of us tour the gites and chambres d'hotes in the village - quite honestly, the perfect day out - I start planning the oufits that will do justice to this magnificent setting when we return in November.