So it is that we are going to leave England for a few years. My husband won a research grant which sends him to Paris, and we follow.
It is strange and exciting to be going back to the place where I first experienced some sort of independance, became an adult and a teacher. Memories come rushing back of evenings out in the 13th arrondissement with my colleague and friend Valérie, giggling over a steaming bowl of pho ; of eyeing in Toraya’s tearoom, in a mental disposition akin to veneration, the perfectly shaped wagashi gleaming like mother-of-pearl on their black lackered little plates ; of feeling happy and accepted in my friends’ sitting room up on the 30-something-th floor of a Parisian block of flats. Sitting alone in front of the sushi belt in Matsuri, where the manager’s kind smile made me feel there wasn’t anything wrong with going out to the restaurant on my own. Long mornings in the RER, slowly penetrated by the intensely nostalgic beauty of grey suburban lines. Dragging my heavy bag full of essays to be marked on my way to school, trying to lift the sleep-deprived teacher’s tiredness, and the burst of joy on a successful sharing moment with the pupils.
It seems to me that we leave, in each place where we have lived, a person defined by that space and its inhabitants and who can therefore not be taken away on our journey to another horizon. Leaving Paris was a little death and I bereaved for quite some time. I wonder – will I find the ghost of my 20-something-year-old self lingering on a bench in the Jardin du Luxembourg, or leaning at the window in one of the battered RER wagons ?
And as I try to organise the material side of moving away, I think of the young mother I will leave behind this time, forever pushing her red Bugaboo around the cathedral, breastfeeding in Boots’ little mothers’ room, sitting down for Sunday lunch at M&S after mass at St-Thomas’ church, and crossing the beautiful green, green field with her son jumping at her side as they walk to his first school. I see the cubicle where the French assistant had such stimulating discussions about politics and identity with Simon Langton’s sixth formers, and the tree framed in the window which inspired the writing of long dreamed first poems. Saturdays at the Petite Ecole, pretending not to have left France. Smiles on little children’s faces. My first garden.
Yet I don’t feel so sad this time. I feel the few friends I made in England will stay with me. For some reason, the social networks alleviate the feeling of loss.
Next time, I would like to write about the specific things I will miss from England, amongst which I count beautiful and complex hedges.