Paris: In a park full of French children La Fille, who is yet to enter a sociable phase, strikes up a friendship with a delighful Australian girl. The mutual admiration is forged when they discover they speak the same language.
La Fille stops hanging off my jacket and runs off with her new friend, who, I discover, is a couple of years older than her. They play hide and seek, tag and chase thudding into the sand with much giggling. They walk around barefoot holding hands and stand arms around each other forming an united front against the French children monopolising the see-saw. Then when they secure a place they sit tight and refuse to get off. As this has given the little girl's mum, also a writer, and I a chance to make friends too - and as none of the French mums have noticed the foreign takeover - we pretend not to have seen either.
I have noticed that La Fille has an uncanny knack of spotting a kindred fish out of water. In London playgrounds and even in the Anglophone Caribbean she was able to find the only French speaker for miles around, and possibly the whole island. But this is the first time I have seen La Fille become so firmly and instantly attached to another child. Sadly, it was the briefest of friendships: three magical rencontres in the same park and then time for goodbyes.
The next morning, from the moment she wakes up La Fille starts badgering to go to the park to see her friend. I explain, as gently as I can, that she will not be there. I say: "She has gone home to Australia." Realising that La Fille has not the faintest idea where Australia is I add: "And that's a very long way away, in fact the other side of the world." La Fille's face falls then perks up. "Never mind," she says. "Let's go there anyway. I don't mind walking."
Quid pro quo
5 weeks ago