People in my books: Euan. An English family in France.
First and foremost, and before anything – anything – Euan was a dad. A husband and a father. He was totally devoted to Catherine and the children and would have moved heaven and earth for them.
He was an old-fashioned Englishman, born and raised in the south-east. He liked bread-and-butter pudding, custard, bangers and mash, Yorkshire pud. Gravy. Lager. Mint sauce. He liked straight-forward honest-to-goodness things. He read the Telegraph and watched the News and loved the Carpenters and Abba. He never told a lie and never expected anybody to lie to him. He always saw the best in people, was always kind, thoughtful, tolerant. He believed in the old-fashioned values his grandfather had taught him.
He had always worked, and worked hard. At 6’4″ he was a big, strong man, willing to tackle most chores – and good at it too. His workers respected him totally and recognized a good boss who was always fair and who knew how to get his hands dirty – more dirty than theirs often enough. In many ways he was a fish out of water in France. It wasn’t just that he couldn’t speak French … it was more that he was totally English … and, despite all efforts to fit in to the French way of life, would remain English.
When his world started to topple, he was ill-equipped to handle it.
Extract from “A Call from France” :-
“Honey!” he exclaimed, seeing me sitting there, “are you all right?!”
I so loved this man. Big, tall, strong, smelling of warmth and comfort, I rose and fell in to his arms and he rocked me gently, quietly, waiting for the tears to subside.
“Auntie Dulcie has died,” I sobbed.
“Oh my honey, I’m so sorry …”
“And Debbie is pregnant!”
“Oh my honey, our stupid daughter …”
“And I feel upset!” I blurted suddenly, red face spluttering stupidly as I looked up at him, “really REALLY upset!”
He kissed my face. He didn’t need to say anything for he knew we both felt the same way. We stood for a long time in the big stone hallway and the light in the room quietly changed, darkening imperceptibly; we held our arms round each other, rocking silently as the same thoughts went through our minds.
I didn’t go to Auntie Dulcie’s funeral.
But I used it as an excuse and I knew that my old auntie would willingly forgive me for doing so.
“I can’t go by myself!” I exclaimed tearfully to Debbie, “Bernie and Max are in school, daddy is working and the only person who can come with me is you!”
“Hussein says no,” she replied, a slight tremor of hesitation in her voice.
“Whatever has he got to do with it?” I asked innocently, trying to look totally perplexed.
There was a moment of silence, so I added, equally innocently:
“He can come too if he wants. Could he take the time off work? The flights are about £200 each, tell him.”
“No,” Debbie replied, “he can’t afford that. But I’ll persuade him I’ve got to be with you …”
I’m not quite sure what I was hoping for. Of course, first and foremost I was hoping she’d ask for an abortion. Once away from Hussein it was likely she would feel totally differently. On the whole I was against abortion – certainly in cases like hers – but when it’s the future of your own child that is at stake it is different, and your values change. I tried to broach the subject a couple of times, without actually saying the word “abortion” – but it fell on deaf ears, so that on the last day in England I said to her:
“Debbie, you don’t HAVE to go back to France or to Hussein if you don’t want to. You are in charge of you …”
It sounded so weak. I was trying to give her a chance to change her destiny. I was trying to hold doors open for her, when they were slamming shut all around. Also I was hoping that seeing her cousins and her grandparents – the people who loved her the best – would help her to change her values, re-evaluate her situation and re-think her course of action. But girls of seventeen rarely have a course of action.
While in England I encouraged her to spend time with the family. Gran – who at this stage knew nothing about the pregnancy – took us out for a meal. Debbie was very animated. If she suffered from the waves of nausea she claimed to be having (one could never tell with her), she hid it very well. I tried to avoid the subject while not ignoring it. I battled constantly against blurting out to her that she was a total idiot. I wanted to tell her how disappointed in her Gran was going to be, I wanted to tell her how disappointed I was. When I told my father his mouth fell open in astonishment.
“Grief!” he searched my face for signs of tears, “you certainly are having a time of it with that girl!”
I nodded dumbly.
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“A Call from France” by Catherine Broughton is a true story and considered a must-read for mothers of all ages:-