‘De Sa Grande Amie’ is a short rondeau by Clement Marot, which I read before Lydie arrived to take me to Bergerac airport for my return to England. It was easy to read.
My driver’s cough was worse than sometimes, but she was her usual cheerful self. This sexagenarian woman is a stalwart character, full of fortitude, and is as wide as she is short. She insists on placing my bag in the car herself and opens my door for me like the true chauffeuse she is. She is absolutely reliable and always punctual. We share much fun conversation, and she is a great teacher of her language.
The youngish woman checking us through security at the airport was so curt and brusque that I stopped speaking in French, or at all, and gave her a long, cool, stare. This was after she’d ushered me to a chair to take my shoes off, snatched my wallet out of my hand, thrown it into one of the plastic trays, and summoned the next person before she’d finished with me. I had to retrieve the wallet to extract the passport she was demanding. She appeared not to realise that that might have been the reason I was opening it anyway. The elderly woman who answered the summons was expected to take off her shoes standing up, as there was only one chair. There was actually no need for any hurry. We were early, there was only one further customer in the queue, and I was moving briskly enough, having gone through all the motions, like taking off my belt, without being instructed to. ‘Ok’, she said, in response to my look, her face betraying no emotion. I did not reply. It takes quite a lot for me to respond in such a manner.
Until we approached England there was a clear view to the land or sea below. Only then did clouds obscure our vision. Swimming pools in gardens around Bergerac airport seemed to reflect the wing of the plane as I watched them reduce in size as we rose. The river Dordogne, from which this part of Acquitaine takes its name, wound its way through the landscape. By the time we were descending towards Southampton and looking down on the fields of Hampshire, the temperature had dropped a few degrees, and as Jackie drove me to Minstead, I noticed that the wild flowers in the hedgerows were some way behind the French ones in their development. Light rain spattered the windscreen as we parked at Castle Malwood Lodge.
As has become traditional, there being a dearth of Indian restaurants in France, we just had to go out for a curry on my return. This meant a visit to Lyndhurst’s ‘Passage to India’ for a good meal and a glass each of Kingfisher.