I remember staying in San Maurice in the South of France with my Grandparents. It was a warm summer, I was there with my brothers and my dad. We spent the entire day on a coach from Oxfordshire to Montpellier, I think around 14 hours. I don’t really remember the journey there but I do remember the castle. I stayed with friends, for couple of days: two french sisters, we were really close. We all slept together in a room of their chateau. I remember the smell of old buildings, the towering turrets, the room upon room, the small claustrophobic corridors that seemed to go on for miles.
It was the middle of the night, sometime after three a.m. I guess. We had been up talking for hours – trying to speak to each other when my French was poor their English a little better. ‘I need the loo. Oh god, I really can’t remember how to get to the toilet.’ It is cold, the middle of a hot summer and it is freezing; I only have a thin nighty on and there are so many doors and corridors; maybe this door, no it’s locked. I turn and go up a staircase, along a corridor down another. Down some stairs, up some others; through yet more doors. I hear echoes and footsteps. I am scared, frightened, shadows everywhere – I am lost and I haven’t even been for a wee yet, I can’t see a thing and it smells strange. Then a tap on my shoulder, I jump. A gentle voice softly hums in a french rose scented accent, ‘Annar, ‘re oue oukaiy?’ I suddenly feel relief sweep over me, I am so tired. I explain, feeling guilty for getting so badly lost and she leads me to the bathroom, before showing me back to the bedroom.
In the morning I am awoken by the beautiful smells of freshly picked and cut fruit and freshly baked baguettes and croissants from the garden and garden oven. We eat on the upper patio, when my grandparents collect me, I listen as the sisters and I play on the lawn, marbles or dolls or something, as they laugh about last night and talk of me wondering the great corridors and halls like the late Anne Boleyn.