A great friend of mine, a true cosmopolitan who has lived in many countries and speaks several European languages fluently, once said to me that she still wasn’t sure where “home” was…for her.
I understand. Finally today I have completely “got” what she meant. Yes, I arrived here in 1990 and I am now a French citizen but it was only on this trip to Slovenia that it sank in. France is the only place I have ever felt home-sick for. Today, running from borders closing around us and the fear that we wouldn’t be able to get home without very long delays at frontiers, I came out of the Frejus tunnel and almost burst with joy and relief. OK, of course I sang La Marseillaise at the top of my voice with tears running down my face..but that is just me.
I realise very much that I am fortunate to have a home to come back to. All those people trying to get through the barriers don’t. Whatever the politics and arguments I am very conscious that there are children who have been dragged into the situation who don’t have my blessings of a roof over their heads and a warm woodstove. I am blessed. I am also, however, a realist and quite elderly. My life-experience has taught me that however compassionate I am, it won’t help me if I’m seen as a useful tool to enter a country, having French documents on me and two French registered vehicles. One could pack a fair few illegals into our caravan and Renault Traffic, especially if we had been “disposed of”.
The rain was my first kick in the backside.The campsite slowly started to resemble a re-enactment of the Somme, and enjoyable activities were curtailed. My guardian spirit was giving me strong hints that it was time to go. I had been doubtful about the wisdom of the trip but bearing in mind our age and state of creakiness it becomes a case of “go now or forever hold yer whingeing” or we don’t get to see these places at all. Of course the caravan wheels were sunk into the mud, we were expecting that but when Myfanwe our big van also got to wheel spin we were just a little distraught. Fortunately the daughter of the house, who had been practicing her French on me with her pals, rang a neighbour to bring a tractor. Our bacon was saved. The lovely man tried to refuse the 50 euro-note I was pressing into his hand so I disarmed him with the kiss on both cheeks. He was too shocked to do anything but take the money and blush furiously. Not a Slovenian habit, obviously!
After that it was “just keep on running”. We knew that the border at Nice had been tightened up so we skirted around Trieste, snuck into Italy through a back route and made for the Frejus tunnel, being more isolated and less likely to severe delays. On the way we stopped only once in an Italian motorway service station to eat something rather horrid and hide our rig between the lorries while we got our heads down for three hours. Then it was back on the road until we dared to grab a few more zzzzs in our homeland.
When I say this I feel hard-hearted. I was only facing hours of delay. We had passports and the right to enter any EEC country. We weren’t facing being roughed up by the police or vile scum like the Hungarian reporter who assaulted children of migrants. What I feared was the Old Feller having a seizure as he has diabetes and a heart condition or my animals dying of dehydation, it was appallingly hot even at night. Oh, and being hijacked at gunpoint or forced to take on passengers.
I know where home is now. It’s where my heart is and I think it may be some time before I leave it again to go out into the big bad world it has become recently. I used to know that a big smile and an open heart would get me anywhere…but I think not now.