The Café de la Place, our usual daytime watering hole, is taking its summer break early this year, so on Wednesday — market day — my wife and I looked into Les Marronniers, which, if you discount La Buvette, opposite the station, is its main competition.

In recent years, since the closure of L‘Hermine — a bar in which I always felt I was not so much welcomed as tolerated — the Marronniers has served as the local bookies, part of the state-controlled PMU betting network. This means that half the customers spend their time, pencils in hand, engrossed in the racing pages of Ouest-France, looking up only at the moment of truth, caught on the overhead television screens, to observe their investments as they gallop, or stumble, over the finishing line.

I presume that they are not growing rich on the basis of their equine expertise. But they seem happy enough, as if it is the journey, rather than the destination, that matters — an approach to life I have also observed in bars in Liverpool, Belfast and Dublin.