It was, everybody said, the most perfect evening, windless and warm, the sky flushed with the last of the sun, the mountains a hazy dark mauve. The terrace was filling up, locals and foreigners circling each other with polite interest as Ernest, resplendent in pink linen, encouraged them to mingle. Nicole and Simon, armed with bottles of champagne, moved slowly through the crowd, topping up glasses and eavesdropping on fragments of conversation. The French talked of politics, the Tour de France, and restaurants. The advertising group talked, as always, about advertising. The expatriates and owners of holiday homes compared plumbing disasters and, with a mixture of disbelief and secret satisfaction, shook their heads at the latest excessive leap in property prices.