It woke us about midnight, clattering on the clay-tiled roof upstairs. I thought someone was knocking on the door.

“Hail,” said Ray, in what was soon revealed as understatement.

We lay listening as it progressed from clattering to crashing to banging with sledgehammers. We tentatively climbed the stairs, the racket increasing with every step. Surely, the skylight would shatter under the barrage. It was like being inside a machine gun. Lightning flashed continually, adding its rumble and boom to the surround-sound effects.

The streetlights revealed a landscape thickly covered with large frozen pellets. Leaves and twigs were sliced from branches. Madame’s newly-planted pansies and petunias lay pulverized in their pots. Our patio was littered with leaves, dirt, and bamboo from the overhead shade. The hedge, praised that morning for its bountiful new growth, was shredded.

The noise stopped ten minutes later, the lightning passed on to the north, and after checking the car windows (all fine) we went back to bed. Life in rural France is nothing but excitement.