Thanks for your reply.
I'm only going by what the breakdown mechanic has said - but he's also the garage owner, so who knows???
What actually happened was that after a 1000 km run (sweet as a bird or, as John says, the engine ticked away like a mouse's heart!) and pottering around Cahors et environs, I got into the car after a deep frost overnight. When I turned the ignition, there was a horrible crunching noise. I thought it was ice (that had accumulated on the fan) being crunched as the car turned over. Then .................. nothing except a whirring sound as I tried to start it again. Tried a jump start downhill and ....... nothing!
I'm hoping a local mech (on hols at the moment) will give me a second (more optimistic!) opinion next week. Otherwise, I'll be looking for a replacement engine or a replacement car which I can ill afford right now! Hence the plea for either an engine or an old banger!
BTW, the car's only done 50,000 miles (not kms).
Have a great night tonight - my celebs will be at home of course!!!!!
All the very best for 2011