Well after a few calls to various people the man from Lyonnaise des Eaux came in his van, a young guy in his twenties, very polite and efficient. He got out a metal detector and searched for the meter. And in fact it had not been taken, it had been buried. We dug away and got at it, cleaned it out and turned off the water.
What a relief !
Interesting, though. That means our water meter has not been read for a very long time and, in my humble opinion, neither has our neighbour's - it was full of gravel and muck and I had to clean it out before turning off her water. I suggested to her last night that the meter readers had been submitting rélevés fictifs...
So now we await a visit from our plumber to sort out the leaky pipe. I hope that it is a pipe that feeds a hose buried under the lawn that rises to a tap in next door's garden. If so then we can just seal it off and have done with it, and the neighbours will be glad.
I've been trying to get that sorted for years. There is a worldwide shortage of plumbers.