Saturday, 4 October 2008

It's a Long Way to Tiperra West

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."


Iota said...

I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Paradise Lost In Translation said...

Ah, yes, I know those moments well. My daughter asks EVERY day to remind her when it is we're seeing her (same age) cousin again. 'When you're 5, next summer' I always say, safe in the knowledge that time phrases mean nothing to her. Equally she wants to hop on a plane like a bus to 'go and see Granny and Grandpa this afternoon'. Life's very complicated for an ex pat child. They just don't seem to realise it themselves...

Frances Penwill-Cook said...

And I thought walking to our village seemed a challenging prospect...!

Penni said...

Ah bless.

This morning Fred and I closed our eyes and pretended we were in Paris, and talked about going to the park to play with Mathilde. Fred thinks we should come back, and I have just discovered the Australia Council has an apartment in Paris for six month writer's residencies...just have to think up a Really Good Reason why I have to go there.

And our last postcard (posted at the post office in Rue des Archives) arrived (rather belatedly) today. (I did get a sense that they might have been posting it in a dark cupboard somewhere - there was some spectacular breakdown of order in the post office and many people rushing headlong towards confrontation and much shouting and arm waving, but alas I shall never know exactly why.)