Sunday 12 February 2012

Francine on a Bicycle

New novel: Work in Progress

Francine on a Bicycle

... I wedge the suitcase on my bicycle and walk it down to the harbour. Madame Griche is there outside the laundress’s door, now closed and locked. She has her heavy bicycle with her, which sports baskets back and front, not so uncommon these days.

She smiles slightly when she sees me. Then she makes me empty my case and share the contents between her baskets and mine. ‘No point in letting them into our secret, Francine!’ she says, wrapping the books and paper in an oiled cloth and puts them at the bottom of her back basket. We throw the case itself into the broad river.

Then we make our way out of the town, side by side on our bicycles, keeping to the narrow lanes away from the coast where the soldiers lurk. They are so afraid of the sea and what might emerge from its pulsing waters. After all there have been secret landings here. ‘The sea is our friend,’ says Madame Griche. ‘Now we know the Americans are firm for the endgame alongside the poor old English they may turn up anywhere.’

As we ride along she explains to me that in the beginning everyone thought the Boches would march straight into England, just as they'd marched straight through France, so why should we have any faith in the English? She goes on: ‘Love them or hate them, though the English do hang on. They hang on, Francine! Because of them, and perhaps more importantly, the Americans, France will be returned to the French. To us!’ Even thrusting her big legs down on the heavy pedals of her bicycle Madame Griche remains every inch the teacher. ...

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