A few days prior to The Great French Heatwave I consulted maps and reckoned I could cycle to the Cele Valley, between Figeac and Cahors, before the really high temperatures kicked-in. The River Cele is suitable for wild swimming, and in the village where I planned to stay there’s a good Epicerie and Boulangerie. I arrived the day before the 40’c+ temperatures, and made straight for the Office de Tourisme. I’d decided instead of camping I’d try to find a gite to rent. The Tourism Office has been shut. What to do?

So I went to the Mairie (Town Hall equivalent) and enquired whether there might be a local gite available. Two women kindly searched out contact numbers for me, and one of them suddenly jumped to her feet and shot out of the office to the market square where she’d seen a woman whose number she’d just written out. As good luck would have it, the gite owner was delighted for me to move in with the dog that morning until the following weekend. On arrival a deja-vu moment hit me: it was only where we’d once stayed more than 20 years ago...

My French heatwave experience has been bearable. Not comfortable - but bearable. I was grateful to be coping with the searingly high temperatures from inside an old stone cottage where I could close the shutters against the sun. In fact it was so hot I couldn’t even bear to be outside in the shade... and even the birds seemed to stop singing.

The Cele Valley seems to have its own microclimate, lying between limestone cliffs. Over the years we’ve often noted the limestone plateaus above the valleys - referred to locally as Les Causses - can be in full sunshine whilst the river valley is in deep mist. And thus it was the other day when I cycled a 20 mile round trip to a nearby town for Poppy the JRTxPug - because dog food in the little local shop wasn’t suiting her. Shortly after sunrise I saw what appeared to be handkerchiefs made of gossamer sprinkled along the verges for a few kilometres. They were spider’s webs coated with dewy droplets - extraordinarily delicate and beautiful.

Cajarc was the nearby town. The butcher there has a papier-mâché calf-sized model of a dairy cow outside the shop. Walking with Poppy through the village I was caught off guard by her refusal to pass it... Staring at it with terrier-fury she decided to give it ‘what-jolly-for’... but of course the model cow just continued staring benignly at her... at which she became even more annoyed by her failure to elicit a response.

She tried over and over again to obtain a reaction from The Creature. The butcher, who was chalking up his day’s specials outside laughed at her with two of his customers - by time she’d started leaping into the air like a Harrier jump-jet in an effort to reach the cow’s face. So I lifted her up to inspect The Animal at close quarters, hoping she might become calm when she realised it wasn’t real. But no. She just wriggled and jiggled in an effort to give it more ‘what-jolly-for’...

In the end I shoved her, still in protest mode, under my arm and bade them farewell.