My mother came to me in a dream
As mothers do, well, mine does,
And said two words, on a satellite phone
Passed to me by a Royal Marine
(I know this because he wore navy blue
And had that fetching Mark Ruffalo look):
‘France, Giles’ in a tiredly breathless voice
The voice, I recall, I last heard her use
As she battled the myriad ailments that sank her.
And that was it. The phone went dead
For no good reason except that perhaps
That’s what satellite phones do
When weather gets in the way
Or terrorists jam the frequencies.
Or because that’s all she had to say.
Or simply because I then woke up.
Oddly, as I took the call, I assumed far worse:
Bad news from home, another loss
A further blow to bruise the heart.
However protected I seemed to be
By armoured cars, guns, marines
And a strange collapsible pogo stick thing
No amount of steel could keep me safe.
Instead a simple word and salutation
Full of memory and mystery
A direction, always useful, and not my forte
Decisiveness is not my middle name.
So ‘France, Giles’ were the words.
Did she mean France as a place or an idea
A recently deeply troubled nation or
A place of family memory, happy holidays?
Was she saying ‘nowhere is safe, even France’
Comparing our own troubled nation with the West?
Or did she mean buy there, move there now,
As prices fall, nerves fail and expats flee
Seeking supposedly safer climes, who knows where?
Perhaps she’s saying: France is a place
You’ve always loved and even lived in
Do not deny its place in your history.
Either way, the timing of the call is strange
Because, you see, she has not been in my dreams
For some months now, more like a year.
Those two words of telling and timely intervention
Come after a long silence: she has said so very little
Directly to me since she left us in 2012, on Freedom Day.
So why now?