7 months ago


“Don’t be daft,

“Don’t be daft, Bill. I’m on the promotional ladder, on the up.” He gave me a funny look and changed the subject. Within six months, I’d resigned. I had no idea what a relief this would be. I felt instantly as though a huge load had been taken off my shoulders. I was uncertain of the future, but I felt I’d done the right thing. I wanted my new life with Bill to be without something that could drag our relationship down. One day, after a lovely walk along the Seven Sisters cliffs, we were lounging on the grass, watching the gulls gliding on the air currents. Bill took my hand and caressed it. “You know I want to marry you…” I nodded. “But – well, first I’m Scottish, not English and second I’ve spent virtually all my working life abroad and don’t want to spend the rest of it in England.” “No problem. We can live in France.” “France!” He sat up and stared at me. “Well, I was thinking perhaps, Spain. Why France?” I turned to face him. My reply had been impulsive. Now I took a deep breath. “First, very practical, I speak French, I don’t speak Spanish and if I’m to work – I know you’re taking early retirement, but I’ll still be working – I’ll need to be able to speak the language.” Bill nodded, “Makes sense. And yes, I’m almost certain to get early retirement as the centre is changing from an environmental study centre to an outward bound centre unit. They won’t need a manager in a collar and tie. They’ll be looking for a trendy young man in a tracksuit.” We’d discussed this before and I was anxious to give my other reasons, so I squeezed his hand to gain his attention. “And second, when I was a teenager I stayed 16

with families in Paris and loved the French way of life. I’ve always dreamed of living in France one day. And lastly, my grandparents were French, from Alsace. They were proud of having taken British nationality, but a lot remained French in their way of living. So from very early on, I’ve felt an affinity for everything French.” Bill stared at me. “After all that, what can I say? France it is, my darling.” The following weekend he arrived with details of a course for teaching English as a foreign language. “You say you love teaching; this could be the answer.” We bought a small, left-hand drive camping car. In France campervans are called camping cars, which pleased me because ‘campervan’ seemed too lowly a name for the lovely vehicle we had bought. I decided to christen her Evita. “Why Evita?” “From éviter, to evade, escape responsibilities.” “Escape normal, late middle-aged routines, escape from what is expected of you. Oh, yes! I like that.” Now, a year later, here we were, chasing our dream, in La Rochelle . 17