The air outside reeks of change
When I look up at the sky these days, I see the proud towers and ancient walls of my hometown. I rang the Embassy last week to ask when I could be repatriated. I’m being held against my will by a dangerous virus, I said, and I’m depressed and crotchety and numb. I nearly choked on a fishbone not long ago, I added, but thankfully they slipped a tube through one of my nostrils and now it’s gone. The woman at the other end was very kind and sympathetic. She told me the only way to get home at the moment was to take to the sky like Margarita from Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita. I said I’d rather wait as I didn’t want to be flung into the Channel by the strong north-eastern winds. As I look through the window every morning, I see Normandy and the Mont-Saint-Michel Bay and, in the foreground, the grey rooftops of Cancale glimmering in gold sunlight. There is no town in the sky, let alone my hometown. It is just an illusion. At night I sometimes picture the virus as a menace of a biblical nature, translucent mist sweeping the streets, looking for unlocked doors, but I’m told it’s not like that at all. If my granddaughter should ever ask me ‘what was the lockdown like, grandad?’, I’ll say ‘go play with the velociraptor toy I bought you, you silly little sprog.’ At that point, the woman at the Embassy chimed in, accusing me of being stand-offish with my own granddaughter. ‘Oh no, it’s cool,’ I replied, ‘I don’t think I want to have grandchildren.’ I offer a reward to anyone who knows what will become of my job. Have you still got yours? Can you work from home? Do you have a nice big gaff in the suburbs with a lovely little patch of ground for a garden? Does your mum bake biscuits every day now? The woman on the telephone wouldn’t answer these questions. She hung up. I’ll give her a call again tomorrow. The golden rooftops of Cancale from my window. I have seen them 57 times now. I wish I had met you at a different time, Cancale, but at the same time I feel honoured to have been a Cancalais for the past couple of months. Yesterday was the first day I could leave the house without the official form, and yet I stayed inside, perhaps still out of fear of my slippery captor. The air outside reeks of change. Will it be good change? Perhaps I’ll try and set foot in the free world again tomorrow. I am in dire need of a haircut.
Aujourd’hui je me suis aperçu que je n’avais plus rien à dire en français ; il est donc temps que je retrouve les mots que j’avais failli oublier et que j’écrive à nouveau un sonnet afin qu’ils se souviennent de moi, les petits-enfants que je n’aurai peut-être jamais.
Till next time,
Tomi Petek is a student of French and Film Studies at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. His passions include languages, films, reading and writing, as well as a spot of travelling as often as possible. The youth exchanges he has taken part in have already taken him all across the continent, he has also been chosen as a 28 Times Cinema jury member at the Venice Film Festival. Tomi is a youth leader at CET Platform Society and is currently working as an English-language teaching assistant in a secondary school.