Dan Briggs continues his Provence blog about being a house dad in France.
By the time Monday morning came the horror had faded a little. Parents greeted each other normally, there were kisses on both cheeks but the pleasantries were missing: the quick chat about the weather, or the piano teacher’s infuriating habit of being late. Nobody could talk about anything because there was only one thing to talk about and, by then, after the long weekend, the subject had been exhausted. So the eyes did the talking, lustreless on a bright sunny morning.
At midday I was back outside school. My two, Chris and Joe, had been due to go on a coach trip to Avignon, to see around the Palais du Pape, but all school trips were cancelled indefinitely.
As we waited for the gates to open the old village air raid siren went off. A wail that cut straight to our fears. All the parents looked at each other.
‘It’s to mark the two minutes silence,’ re-assured one mother.
On Tuesday morning I was in the garden when I looked up into the blue sky. There, heading almost vertically and silently, was a white rocket. It reached the apex of its climb, and fell through the fierce sunlight, a black shadow towards the ground. An engine cut-in, and the rocket turned, so that I could see the fins of a drone. The drone came closer, and the fins became wings, and the chug of an old fashioned propeller became audible.
That evening after I left Chris at the gym for indoor football, I stood outside for five minutes wondering whether I should stay. It was a warm evening, I could sit on the wall, play games on my phone, a silent sentinel, but what about next week, the week after?
On the way home from the gym, Chris asked: ‘Why did they shoot the people in Paris?’
‘It’s difficult to explain,’ I faltered. We drove on in silence.
‘When people don’t have much in life, no money, no food, nothing to look forward to, then they become angry.
Sometimes people become so angry that they start believing things that aren’t true about other people.
They killed the people Chris, because they believed in a lie, and nobody could make them see the truth until it was too late.’
On Wednesday (a half day at French school) at 11.55am, a police car drove slowly passed the school gates. All of us turned to watch the car and the faces inside. Two pairs of eyes behind sunglasses, checking, checking for what? The car turned and then came by again, stopping a short distance up the road. The children flooded out of the open gate. I embraced Chris and Joe, a little too firmly.