must have been a barn. Ahead was a road junction with a small collection of miscellaneous
buildings including a few houses and a hotel.
‘Bloody woman’s made it worse,’ he announced to the neighbourhood as he got out of the
car. Caroline did not react but sat stiffly, her face expressionless.
‘Hello,’ he shouted to a man in overalls who walked towards us from the garage. ‘You speak
The response was a shake of the head, and I hurried forward to act as translator. The
garage owner confirmed that the nearest approved Porsche mechanic was in Poitiers, and that
the best plan was to get him to come out with his équipement de dépannage. He telephoned to
make arrangements, and returned to say that the earliest the mechanic could be with us was
eight-thirty next morning. Peter was not satisfied.
‘Tell him we need to have the car attended to straight away. How far is it to Poitiers? We’ll
have a breakdown wagon take the Porsche in. You can drive us all down there in the
Vauxhall. Tell him we can’t wait until the morning.’
I passed on the message, but after unwillingly making a further telephone call the garage
owner returned shaking his head. Whether we stayed where we were or went to Poitiers, the
car would not be repaired until the morning, absolument pas.
Peter refrained from another outburst, reluctantly turned to me, shook his head and said:
‘Is there an inn or hotel of some kind over there?’
Large signs at the front and on the side of the building, clearly visible from where we stood,
told us we were looking at the Hotel des Amis.
‘Looks as though it is.’
‘I suppose we’ll have to bivouac there for the night. What do you think? Caroline? Marie?
Willing to rough it, or should we ask Mark to take us to look for somewhere better?’
‘It’ll do for one night. At least you’ll be on the spot when the car is fixed in the morning,’
‘Good girl. Marie?’
‘It looks quite respectable from here; these little famil- run hotels in France can be very
‘The garage owner probably runs the hotel too. That would explain why he’s arranged
things so that we’re stuck here for the night.’ He looked expectantly at me.
The accusation was groundless, but not worth arguing about. ‘Maybe. Do you want me to
drive you over and come back for your luggage?’
They decided they could manage the couple of hundred yards to the hotel on foot and I
put their bags in the back of the Vauxhall. At reception, Madame, who although middle-aged
had retained much of her prettiness, took a handful of keys and showed us up to a large
double room on the first floor. Marie and I watched from the corridor as Caroline and Peter
inspected it, looked without enthusiasm at the shower and lavatory, but finally pronounced
the accommodation acceptable for one night. The allocation of two smaller rooms on the
second floor to Marie and myself was then a formality. As we went to get our things from the
car we heard Madame call out loudly towards the back of the hotel. ‘Georges! Georges!’
A young man of perhaps twenty, his long hair pulled back tightly into an untidy bun,
rushed from the dining room to help with our bags. He had smudges of chocolate around his
mouth and smears of it on his T-shirt. In the pockets on the outer thighs of his military style
trousers were bulky cylindrical objects that made them stick out rather like a clown’s costume
pants. He looked uncertainly at our assorted collection of baggage until Madame told him to
take the two cases nearest the stairs up first. Though Peter looked at him open mouthed,