On Thursdays, after using Dr Seuss to teach prepositions to 30 clamouring ten year olds, she makes her way down the steps and through the narrow streets of Vieux Nice. The blissful taste of passion fruit ice-cream marks time until she reaches the shore. (She always orders that flavour, still too uncertain of her accent to try something else.) The sea, of course, is azure blue, the clouds non-existent. Once colourful buildings line up behind her, telling of more glamourous times. Evenly spaced palm trees are occasionally permitted to break through the Promenade. A graceful young girl roller-blades in circles around them, with enviable abandon.The chaos of the market, and the more grubby premises are hidden, prevented from disrupting the image of Meditteranean prestige. Nice must always be ‘nice’ after all.
Ever l‘Étranger, she clumsily pushes the grey stones apart to make her seat. Straightening her rumpled jeans, she puts ear-phones in, and shuts out the noise of chatting friends, affectionate couples. The sea, the sky, the sun, the taste of ice-cream, all these things should speak perfection. Her gaze, however, is not on the postcard view. Her hearing not on the animated French voices or the breaking waves. I’m going home, Rod Stewart wails in her ear. She watches the planes taking off, and wishes she was on one. Flying away from the warm blue, towards a colder, darker place. A place that is home.