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Two police cars blocking a junction between two single-track roads in the middle of nowhere. The obvious place for a roadblock.

We stopped and out came the documents and back came the questions - what are you doing here and why? They were very inquisitive. And they were armed.

But very helpful. They asked to see the picture of the house we were looking for and peered at it a few times, took it over to the officers in the other police car, conferred, brought it back. Shrugged.

And then out of nowhere appeared an ancient cyclist. A gaunt old man in a beret struggling with heavy pedals and weaving from side to side as he crawled along the road on his vintage bicycle.

Within a flash, a policeman was out into the middle of the road, arm upraised and hand resting on his gun. I wasn't sure if the cyclist would be able to stop - he didn't look very safe as it was without the additional pressure of a police roadblock and an emergency stop. I saw the ditch on the side of the road beckon for a good few moments as panic threw in a few extra wide swerves.

But he stopped, after a fashion, standing astride the cross bar looking less than comfortable and distinctly shaky. I wondered why he'd been stopped. Surely they weren't going to breathalyse him or search his bike?

They didn't. Instead, they showed him our house picture.

The next we knew, we had a smiling policeman waving us on and telling us to follow the cyclist - he knew the house and would take us to it.

I wondered if anyone had given him the opportunity to refuse.

We followed the cyclist for some time, omitting the more eccentric swerves but otherwise exactly matching his snail-like lead. And it was during that epic slow-motion pursuit that we decided that whatever house he led us to, we'd agree it was definitely the one and thank him profusely for all his trouble.

Eventually he pulled his machine to a stuttering halt and pointed down a hill towards a farmhouse obscured by trees. We quickly agreed that that was undoubtedly the place and thanked him for all his help.

Amazingly it was the right house, but after a few minutes inspection I could see it wasn't the place for us - there was too much work to do for the price and the location wasn't ideal.

So, slightly disheartened, we climbed back into the car and headed off for the next property. Hopefully without finding any more police roadblocks.

But we were lost and the roads were winding, narrow and all looked the same. And, as is the often the case in the depths of the French countryside, completely un-signposted.

It's one of those unwritten laws - that when you're lost, places you're trying to find never appear and those you're trying to avoid never go away.

We saw the police cars first, then the cyclist.

We were back.

As we passed the cyclist I could see the worried onset of a bout of deja vu form upon his weather-beaten face. Did we have any more houses for him to find? Would he ever see his own home again?

And then we were stopping and a smiling face leaned into our car. Had we found the house? Yes? Were we going to buy it?

I wondered why he had his hand on his gun as he asked me? Perhaps we should buy it? Perhaps we should buy it now? How much cash did I have with me? There's nothing like an armed police roadblock to bring out the paranoid in the law-abiding.

Peter smiled and said his clients were considering it and could he tell us the way to Tarbes. I think I heard a groan from the cyclist. Tarbes was over twenty miles away, he'd never be able to make it. But it might have been his brakes as he pulled up alongside.

The gendarme was only too pleased to give us directions. He waved and pointed over various fields and clumps of trees and sprinkled his speech with plenty of rights and lefts. I didn't have a clue what he said but Peter seemed to be nodding in all the right places.

With a wave and chorus of farewells we eventually left the roadblock. I think we could have held out for a police escort.