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watch a fascinating

watch a fascinating world go by: tourists with cameras slung over shoulders, elegant perfumed ladies in high heels, backpackers and New Age trendies. A complete mixture. We sat sipping our coffees, absorbed. Bill, always astute where money was concerned, suddenly turned and uttered the key word, “Salary?” “Don’t know. We didn’t discuss that.” He made one of his funny faces that meant he’d got a dreamer for a wife. “But she said to ring her tomorrow with any questions. Anyway, there’s no rush. Barbara said to take a couple of weeks to think about it.” “Barbara? Who’s Barbara?” “The boss. She’s American.” “What’s she like? Do you like her?” “Yes, I do. Difficult to describe, actually. She’s a bit like quicksilver, but she’s got a quirky sense of humour. I think we’ll get on well, and with it being such a small establishment, I hope we’ll become friends.” We talked it through. The job seemed exactly what I wanted, part-time, two thirds of the week, classes at the school rather than out in companies, which was something I had disliked about the Normandy job, a freedom of teaching style, with some translating work as it arose. The school was modern, well set out with a language laboratory and a library. “There don’t seem to be any snags,” I said confidently. Bill gave me a considered look. “Sure? Sounds too perfect to me… perhaps we just haven’t thought of all the right questions. But let’s put it on the back burner for the moment and go and explore a bit more of the town.” Yesterday we had seen La Rochelle as tourists, today we belonged: this was going to be our town now. Our first 12

impressions were of colonnaded streets leading to the market square. Half-timbered houses, except that when we looked more closely we realized the ‘timbers’ were covered with a facing of small, rectangular slates nailed into place. Glimpses of paved courtyards planted with small box hedges. A tall tower near the harbour entrance with an oriel window to the seaward side, presumably the original lighthouse. The jewel was the town hall, standing in a square like a fairytale castle, surrounded by a wall with crenellations. Yes, it was a beautiful town, full of history I was sure. We returned to the campervan to relax and discuss our immediate plans. We had from now to the end of August to explore. We would head south. Before I went to sleep I said to myself, ‘No more governors breathing down my neck, no more interminable administration forms, no more school finances. What bliss…’ 13