I finally bit the bullet and took Puce back to the UK by myself. OK, I wasn't flying the plane or driving the train myself, but I was a lone parent, managing luggage, toddler and see-through bag of small bottles of liquid.
Talk about a challenge.
Actually, it was a lot easier than I expected it to be. Other mothers were right when they'd reassured me, people suddenly do become a lot more helpful when you're on your own and I didn't give a moment's thought to accepting help grabbing bags, child, tickets, whenever one or several of them went astray.
A mid-morning flight to Gatwick meant that we could spend the rest of the afternoon sitting in my friend's back garden in Surrey. The weather, for once, was identical to that which we'd left in Lyon. It was great.
And what was especially good was just blending in, being part of the crowd. Nobody came up to us in the park to ask why I was speaking in Spanish (maybe I've developed a Spanish accent when I speak English?), nor whether Puce understands French. And telling me about what little sponges they are at that age, because their sister's brother in law has a daughter who…. Nope, we just played in the park with the other kids, pointing and shouting "A plane!" at every vapour trail unfurling overhead.
I made the most of letting Puce taste all the kind of things that I grew up with, but that either don't exist or wouldn't be let into France: jelly, for instance. How to stick Hula Hoops on your fingers before you eat them. Letting a Mini Milk dribble down the stick and onto your fingers. I even sneaked back a tin of Heinz Organic Baked Beanz in my bag. Moi? Nothing to declare…
It was an education for her too. Since she's been able to reach it, she enjoys pressing the button on the top of the cistern that flushes our toilet. Greeted by the handle on a British toilet, she stood staring at it, perplexed. A quick tutorial from my friend's nearly-4 year old resolved the problem, but the flick of the wrist required to finish the flush remains to be perfected next time. The one verb English reserves for the action betrays the complexity behind mastering the art.
She learnt the word "banister", as both of my friends live in houses with staircases. Friends and family in France all live in flats, so we don't see many banisters, let alone know what they're for.
I am overjoyed that our favourite orange airline has just announced a direct link from here to Edinburgh, meaning that we can have more visits to my family than would ever have been possible before. I'm looking forward to re-discovering my country through Puce's eyes.