Ten years. Seems like a thousand years. I met this crazy loon called Clare at the end of the Autumn term in 2005, we hit it off. Loops and her youngest daughter were in the same year and had been for 2 years yet somehow we'd never met - until then. She said hello in an Aussie accent which I picked up on (on account of her being Australian!) and said she was off to France with her French husband (him being French, not that she has a supply of husbands of varying nationalities!) and his family to their place in Brittany and we chatted about children, Christmas and France. When the schools went back we met up again and chatted about everything, and when I heard that the road was going to be dug up between her road and mine I offered to take her loons to school. Who offers to take 2 extra loons on school run for 3 months? A loon! I'd see her briefly each morning and over a cuppa each evening, after that we had a Friday night Chinese take away routine, she helped me with my French, we laughed at the same things, we went on adventures, we talked long into the night, we drank tea whilst she marked books, we drank French cider, toasted marshmallows, we holidayed together, her family and friends became our family and friends and vice versa. Loons. To thank us for school running her loons she bought a picture which hangs in our dining room, when she dared go to France at a different time to us she would bring Petit Marseillaise toiletries and sugar, when we went to see her in France we would take Cadbury's and books. We would talk about everything. Every hope, fear, worry, niggle, drama, trauma. Everything. Mealtimes would take forever to prepare, we would work well together in the kitchen, she being "neat" and me being "creative". Meals took ages as we savoured and devoured all that we had prepared, washing it down with bottles aplenty. The long table in Stang ar Bacol would groan under the weight of the food, the garden table in Les Pommiers Gites would be a day long grazing table, when the weather turned in Chez Belliveau we added the table from theirs into ours and crammed into the kitchen, the picnic in Biscarosse, the booze flowed and the conversation never dried up. When they left Wokingham to start a new life in France I was sad to see her go but we promised to keep in touch. There was no doubt we wouldn't. Time stands still, beauty in all she is. I flew to Bordeaux with my 3 when they moved and we crammed into a 5 seater car, 6 of us. We didn't think we would be able to get a tram ticket as the woman told us off for having too many people in the car. She said eff it. I remember the time I rang and she told me she had breast cancer. The time she said it had spread to her hip and lung. The phone call telling me she had brain tumours. Then I got a message from her husband to say she was in hospital and was very poorly. I had to see her, I had to see the family, I hastily found flights, arranged childcare thanks to Big Welsh and friends, and within 48 hours I was in Bordeaux. By Clare's side in the hospital. Yesterday afternoon she came home and when she said eff it I cried. The cancer that had invaded her body all those years ago had got hold and was not loosening its grip. We talked, I cried, she said eff it. Again. Our conversation will stay with me forever. We agreed we had had a brilliant decade, we laughed at words and phrases that had been poignant. She said we had never argued and said maybe we could have an argument just to see what it was like but we couldn't think of anything to argue about. When I left I tearfully told her to get the wine, find a comfy sofa with a good view and I'll find her. Then I nipped back in and said I didn't want her last memory of me to be of me crying. We laughed.
My Clare, Mme Cholet, loon. Clare de la loon - I have loved you for a thousand years, I'll love you for a thousand more.