‘There was a choice, turn left or right’. Might as well be up or down he mumbled gloomily. I don’t’ know where I am but I’m damn sure either path will get me further from where I want to go.
To discover how he arrived at the choice we need to go back a little while to before the story started when his mother dropped him off in her little ‘voiture sans lic’.
That morning he had accompanied her to buy fresh fruit and vegetables at a farm in the country. Afterwards the question was what to do next.
‘Why don’t we visit Clairac’, she said. It’s pretty and you can see the river and bridge?’
Luckily he had brought his camera along, so her suggestion appealed to him.
Once they reached Clairac they wandered around taking in the shops and admiring the view along the river.
‘Over there is where you used to go swimming,’ she pointed along the river to the far bank where and artificial beach had been built for the local children to play on.
‘I remember, we found a huge catfish, it mush have been seven feet long, I was quite shocked to think I’d been swimming with that in the water ready to nip at my ankles.’
‘I don’t think they’re dangerous, anyway it had died of old age. Someone took it probably to make violin strings.’
‘More likely dog food, or Peking duck in the local Chinese restaurant. I think they make violin strings from catgut and not catfish gut.’
Slowly they meandered across the bridge. Part of the town lay along the flat plains of the Lot valley, the Hotel De Ville and High Street stood at the top of a hill which could only be reached by climbing. Having managed the climb, they both agreed a coffee was in order.
By now it was about 11.00 am but very few café’s or restaurants were open and those appeared to be on the shady side of the street. Eventually they settled on a PMU opposite the ‘Hotel De Ville’. There were chairs outside and the sun shone brightly. Their seats were covered by brightly coloured umbrellas so they could sit and watch the world go by in the shade
‘Deux café au lait, s’il vous plait’, he said to he young girl behind the counter.
‘Oui Monsieur, je vous cherche, asseyez-vous.’
He went outside and settled himself carefully into the chair.
‘Nice little place isn’t it, the people look very happy?’
‘Yes’, his mother replied. ’I often come here in the summer with Jean. There’s a festival with dancing lions and giraffes. At the New Year they always have a fireworks party which is open to everyone. Very exciting and you can purchase a glass of wine as you watch.’
‘I don’t know that a few months in France might not be good for me.’ He told her
‘I could rent a small apartement, and try to learn French. ‘Who knows I might even want to stay permanently.’
‘I suppose you could offer services to local Brits who need gardening or building work done but remember it can get very lonely and there would be very few people your own age around.’
‘Yes but that’s why it would be so good for me. I’d have to get out and meet the French, learn their language and try to become involved with their customs.’
She didn’t answer, she was thinking of the struggle she’d had to adapt and get used to the environment. Even after nearly thirty years it was still lonely at times.
‘Take your time’, she told him. ‘Perhaps a few months will be good for you but keep your lines of supply open so that you can go back to London if need be.’
‘Of course I shall,’ his tone was reassuring. I don’t intend to jump in the way I did before with Janey. After all there are the kids to think of and the cat.’
She sighed then looked at her watch,.
‘We need to get back it’s almost 12.30. What do you want to do?’
’How far is it to home from here?’ He asked. ,
‘About 10 km’, she told him. ‘But if you want a bit of a walk why don’t I drop you off outside Clairac and you can find your own way home?’
To this he agreed with enthusiasm, the chance of a walk on a warm summer day was too good to miss and it would give him a chance to think about things.
So here he was with a choice to go up or down. Earlier he’d waved happily to his mother as she left him on a quiet country road with the simple direction to ‘stick to the path and it would take him all the way home.’ Of course her directions as always left something out, in this case the fact that the road forked after about 30 minutes with no sign. So the choice was turn right or left.