One dark winter morning while I was in France alone, I reached out to hit the snooze button on the alarm only to find that the alarm was still ringing as I pulled the duvet back over me. Eventually I managed to work out that the noise was not the alarm clock. I lay there trying to work out what could be causing such a racket, and it slowly dawned on me that there was somebody at the door with their finger pressed firmly and continually on the bell. My next reaction was to panic, thinking that maybe the house was on fire and the pompiers were trying to rescue me. I jumped out of bed quicker than I would jump out of a cold shower - and believe me, that's pretty quick - pulled on my dressing gown and tripped over my feet as I rushed to the door. Still on my knees, I reached up, turned the key and opened the door.
On the doorstep, towering over me, was a witch. She wore a black hat, had long black hair, and in my befuddled state I mistook her overcoat for a witches cloak. All that was missing was a broomstick and a cat. I had just about decided I was dreaming and that I should drink a smaller nightcap in future when she spoke. I say she spoke, but all I could hear was a string of garbled words that might have been French or might just as easily have been Hungarian. I screwed my eyes shut, but she was still there when I opened them again.
She spoke again, and this time the French nearly penetrated my brain. I muttered a sort of half-strangled, "Pardon?"
On her third attempt I realised she was asking for somebody called Lionel. I shook my head, which was a mistake as this made the street light bounce up and down as though it were bungee jumping.
"Never heard of him," I replied, and shut the door.
This is the chateau at the nearby village of Challain la Poterie (although I might have got the spelling wrong). As one drives along the approach road the spires and towers appear above the trees making it look like a fairy-tale castle. Unfortunately, there is no place where that sight can be photographed properly. Or I have not yet found it.