London calling



When in London, I felt I should be in Paris, though it was nice to visit Greenwich meridian to set my watch straight at the Observatory, and to have Brian and his partner Kate pampering me.

 

In the evening, my friends drove me to Canterbury Cathedral. I was brought up as a catholic but was not a church goer. I decided to attend the evening service; it was necessary to see the cathedral and I secretly sought comfort, hoping to share my misery.

The preacher started talking about the atrocities in Paris and then of course went back to local subjects, the church charities, I was a bit disappointed I must say. My friends tried to reassure me  ; certainly there had been a big sermon in the morning obviously, the vespers were different. At the time I was not convinced, but they were right: English people were genuinely concerned : everywhere I went, people expressed sympathy and compassion

The next day I saw another dear friend Chris, a British journalist with whom I had been a journalist in Prague in our golden years in 1992, it was very emotional ; apart from our hairstyle, we had not changed, freelancing, but our world had changed dramatically.

When I left him at King Cross station, trying to solve some domestic problems with my plumber on the phone,  suddenly something became strange around me. A big silence, it was 11 am, (and so 12 am in Paris) and everybody stopped, that was so gripping, powerful.


When in the evening, my friend Brian took me to the wonderful Boisdale jazz club in Canary Wharf, the concert started with a speech from the pianist singer in honour of the Paris victims. And when some people realised I was French, they patted my hand. That was really comforting that people cared really.

But as I mentioned, the reason why I was in London, was because the next day, my dear friend Andreas was becoming Sir Andreas and my dear
friend Valerie, Lady Whittam Smith. Of course, only the close family attended the touch of the sword which Prince William put on the shoulders of Andreas.

But all the friends were invited to the glorious Garrick Club, a very male and media English Club near Covent Garden. 

When I arrived, my friends were still held at Buckingham Palace and so I met with the guests, among them Sir Nicholas Barrington, a former diplomat with a 37 year career in British Foreign Office, and with a brilliant past in the Middle-East. « I love Islam, this is not Islam », he said. He had looked for the only tie he could wear today, blue, white and red to support France.



Then my friends arrived from Buckingham Palace.

After a drink we moved to the living room where Sir Andreas's first words were for me and the Parisians


 

We are not alone. Europe, which was created to avoid the war again, (against Germany, we thought) now has a common enemy, and may at last truly exist.

 

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