The sounds of France in summer: birds singing, pigeons cooing ....and the heavy metal classic All Night Long, by Rainbow, blaring out from my neighbour's windows. For some months now, the peace of my rural existence has been broken by the Portuguese construction guys renting the village house next door. I'm not quite sure how many men live there: at least three, but sometimes up to seven - all single, in their thirties and, it seems, ticking testosterone bombs.
At weekends, they turn the street outside our respective houses into a party. (Biff, annoyingly is drawn to them like a magnet, enticed by the barbecue that they often set up outside.) When it gets too loud, I stick my head out of the upstairs window and shout, 'vous faites trop de bruit,' and (sometimes) they obligingly turn it down.
But, yesterday being the fete de la musique, with outdoor music and concerts taking place all over France, I couldn't really complain. Early evening - before heading over to Martine's village for an outdoor concert of Celtic music and roasted pig - I took Biff and my bike and headed to a quiet country lane to run him.
My Portuguese neighbours, who were drinking beers on their doorstep, watched our departure with the usual interest. I was then surprised to find one of them following me up the country lane in an attempt to persuade me to have une verre de porto with him later that evening.
'II est joli ton chien, comme sa maitresse,' he said, scooping up Biff. As chat-up lines go, it wasn't bad and I allowed myself to be flattered, which was foolish as a) he had clearly been drinking b) he is missing a tooth c) it was very hot and the summer solstice and everyone's thoughts seem to have turned to lust. (I had a similar encounter with Pascal, the bearded and eccentric local artist, earlier in the day - again, very flattering, as I am no spring chicken, but less inspired by my charms than the heat and possibly the bongo drums being played in the square at the time.)
I told the Portuguese neighbour I was going out and wouldn't be back until late but he wouldn't take no for an answer. When I returned, just after midnight (after an excellent evening - one of the highlights of which was a long-haired, tattooed man vigorously and expertly carving up the pig) he was waiting in a cloud of CK-One, with a lairy and hopeful expression on his face. The party, meanwhile, was in full swing.
I managed to fob him off - with difficulty and the vague promise of an aperitif another time. But as I fell asleep, listening to the music reverberate below my bedroom window well into the early hours, it struck me that a lairy and amorous neighbour could spell trouble ahead.