Adults in France never bothered with the afternoon meal that was known as tea in English-speaking countries. Children, however would have goûter at four o’clock. It was almost a written law that the goûter should involve chocolate in some way. A popular goûter food was pain au chocolat, which was a rich roll of puff pastry wrapped around a whole finger of chocolate.

Rodan approved thoroughly of goûter. She thought pain au chocolat was one of the most delightful tastes in the galaxy.

At four o’clock on this warm late spring afternoon she was sitting at a table outside the Café des Arts in the Place des Bancs in Parthenay. Her lips were chocolate brown from eating her treasured meal. Beside her, Marion and Aineytta drank French coffee and relaxed under the wide parasol that shaded their table. There was a buzz of quiet conversation from the other customers and occasional cheers from the group of men playing boules on the Place itself.

“We first came to this café six years ago in Earth time,” Marion told her mother-in-law. “It was 1959 then – 1965 now. We spent a quiet afternoon out here on the terrace then listened to a magnificent tenor singer performing in the bar in the evening. Times have changed. Tonight there is a rock and roll band playing.”

She looked around the square. The shops and houses were much the same as she remembered. There was the boulangerie selling freshly made bread, including her favourite long crusty loaves and the patisserie next door selling the sweet cakes and pastries like the croissants that Rodan loved for her petit-dejeuner. The bakery at the back belonged to both businesses. In another shop bicycles were built, repaired, hired, bought and sold by an old man who wore a croix de guerre pinned to his overalls and would talk to anyone who asked about his time in the French Resistance fighting the Nazis.

There were subtle changes, though. France was beginning to prosper in the post-war years and the boulangiere had a van for delivering his bread instead of the horse drawn cart of old and there were lots of small, brightly coloured Renaults and Citroëns parked up, cars belonging to confident young people who sat at the café at four o’clock in the afternoon drinking wine and talking among themselves.

“Grand-mère, voici Grand-père,” Rodan said in prettily enunciated French. Aineytta took a handkerchief from her pocket and wiped the chocolate from the child’s face before looking at her husband and son amongst the boule players. The senior Lord de Lœngbærrow had just won a game and was being congratulated by all.

“He is enjoying himself,” Marion noted. “I am glad you both came with us on this little holiday.”

“Yes,” Aineytta agreed. “It is refreshing to see Moony engaged so thoroughly in such a simple game. Usually his head is full of complex astronomical calculations.”

“I’m not sure it is as simple as it looks,” Marion noted. “The way the men work out the scoring seems quite complex. Kristoph seems to enjoy it. But he is always careful to lose a few games. I hope his father does that, too. It doesn’t look good when strangers win too often.”

Rodan watched the boules game for a little while then drank from her glass of milk that accompanied her goûter and picked up the book she was reading this afternoon. It was quite a basic one compared to the books she usually read, being a picture book for French children of her own age. She could have read it in a few minutes if she chose, but she was learning to read and speak French during her holiday and so she deliberately blocked the ability to translate languages automatically and carefully read the paragraphs of French text before translating them for herself into her native Gallifreyan.

“Bientôt la rentrée des classes. Il faut beaucoup de choses pour aller à l'école. Afin de ne rien oublier, Martine a tout inscrit sur son bloc-notes. Elle a dressé la liste avec sa maman: une ardoise pour Philippe, le petit frère. Deux cahiers pour Jean et un boîte d’aquarelles. Pour Martine, une trousse avec des crayons de coleurs, deux bics (un rouse et un bleu), une gomme, un taille-crayon, et pour papa, cinquante enveloppes.”

She took another sip of milk and thought about the paragraph for a little while.

“Back to school soon. It takes a lot of things to go to school. So that she will not forget anything, Martine has everything written in her notebook. She made the list with her mama: a slate for Phillippe, her little brother. Two books for Jean and a box of watercolours. For Martine, a kit of coloured pencils….” She paused and looked at the awkwardly translated sentence again. “For Martine, a SET of coloured pencils, two pens (one red and one blue) an eraser, a pencil sharpener, and for papa, fifty envelopes.”

“Très bonne, ma chère enfant,” Marion told her. “Do you like those books?”

“Mais, oui,” she answered. “Ils sont très simples, mais j'aime les histoires et les images sont colorées.”

“There are three new Martine books at the bookshop on Rue Jean Jaures,” Marion told her. “And we can probably find the older publications there. But we shall have to find the later books another time, otherwise they will be anachronistic.”

Rodan had travelled in time and space often enough to understand what anachronistic meant. She fully appreciated that she would have to wait until they finished their holiday in Parthenay to read the rest of the series of books published nearly every year from 1954 to 2006.

But that still allowed her to read the seventeen Martine books that were published before this year. That would be enough to be going on with.

The boules game continued. They could often last for hours on these leisurely days. Marion ordered more coffee for herself and Aineytta and another glass of milk for Rodan. She was quite satisfied to stay there with nothing to do but listen to the child reading aloud and the chattering voices of the other café customers.

Of course, Aineytta didn’t have to just listen to the voices. She could reach out and feel what they were thinking, too. Most of them were content, as they should be on a peaceful day such as this. A couple in the corner sitting close together were both contemplating their impending wedding in the Eglise St. Laurent not a few hundred metres from the café. Aineytta touched on the young woman’s thoughts and smiled to herself. She remembered when she was young and in love and the possibilities of married life stretched before her in the same way as it did for these two French people.

The young woman was thinking about matching curtains to the newly painted shutters on the windows of their as yet unoccupied marital house. Aineytta remembered choosing fabrics for the curtains and patterns for the carpets in Mount Lœng House. But then the work was all done for her and the house was fresh and new for her when she came to it after her honeymoon and settled in as mistress. She didn’t have to sew them herself and hang them. But she thought she would have been just as happy as that young woman if she had done so.

She looked at her husband playing boules enthusiastically and knew that she had enjoyed a full and happy life. Four children had graced their marriage. She was proud of them all, but especially her first born son who accompanied his father in the game. If this young couple had that much of a blessing in their marriage then they would surely sit here in thirty or forty years’ time and be as content as she was.

There was another young woman sitting alone, drinking coffee and reading a book. Or at least she pretended to read a book. She was, in fact, watching the young waiter as he served the customers. Aineytta saw that the woman, whose name was Anna-Marie, was very much enamoured with the waiter, Jean-Michelle. She wanted nothing more than for him to stay by her side and pass a few minutes in friendly conversation. The problem was two-fold. First, Jean-Michelle was busy, and secondly, he had never realised that Anna-Marie was a girl he might have such a conversation with. They had known each other all their lives, growing up a few streets away in the St. Jacques district. They worked close by each other. Anna-Marie was the patisserie’s assistant spending her day counting croissants into paper bags and carefully putting pastries and cakes into boxes for the customers before coming to drink coffee at the Café des Arts when her shift was over. Jean-Michelle served her the coffee and went on with his work. Anna-Marie watched and waited and hoped he would one day realise she was a woman.

Aineytta smiled. She knew several subtle herbs that could help these two shy people to recognise each other in the way they should. It just needed that tiny little push in the right direction. She didn’t have access to such things here. But there were other ways that she could provide that push. She watched as Jean-Michelle walked past her table after serving cognac and coffee to the soon to be married couple. A tiny bit of telekinesis was needed to make Anna-Marie’s purse fall onto the floor. Jean-Michelle bent to pick it up. As he handed it back to her their fingers touched. Aineytta had intended to put an idea into his head, then, but it wasn’t needed. Jean-Michelle paused just long enough with his hands next to hers. He smiled warmly. She smiled back. The connection was made. Jean-Michelle hurried off to bring another customer’s order, but then he went back to Anna-Marie’s table. He asked her if she was coming to see the band that was performing at the café this evening. She said that she hadn’t thought about it. Jean-Michelle asked if she would think about coming and sitting with him. His shift would be over and he could buy her dinner. They could watch the band together.

Aineytta nodded in satisfaction. Her work was done.

“That was very skilful,” Marion whispered.

“It was nothing,” Aineytta answered. “A small push in the right direction, that was all.”

Rodan’s laughter turned her attention away from the newly acquainted couple. She had put down her book about Martine’s shopping trip and was watching a man in a colourful clown costume who was juggling a set of plastic balls skilfully. A group of children were already gathered around him.

“Maman, peut je regarde le jongleur?” Rodan asked.

“Bien entendu vous pouvez, ” Marion replied. Rodan set her glass of milk carefully aside and closed her book before going to join the group of local children. The juggler noticed the new child in his audience and deliberately ‘lost’ one of the balls in her direction. Rodan picked it up and tossed it in the air and caught it several times just like the juggler was doing and then threw it back to him. He caught it without breaking his rhythm and carried on juggling, introducing extra balls gradually into the act along with comical gestures that made the youngsters laugh at him.

Marion and Aineytta both watched Rodan among the children. She seemed safe enough, but it didn’t hurt to be cautious, all the same.

Then both were distracted. Everyone was. Even the juggler looked around at the angry shout from a man who stalked towards the café, then he threw three of his colourful balls out to three of the children at random, turning their attention back to his antics and away from the grown up argument that was going on.

It didn’t need any powers of mind-reading to understand what was happening. Jean-Michelle, who had found another excuse to attend to Anna-Marie’s table rushed to try to stop the angry man from attacking his fellow waiter, Antoine, who had been serving inside the café, but now came to the door to head off his rival.

Rival was the right word. It was one of those arguments that happen in all times and all places where young men have ideas about young women. The woman in question was called Céline, and the angry young man, André, had thought he had a clear field with her, but Antoine had asked Céline to walk with him at the weekend. André was here to decide which one of them should have the exclusive attentions of Céline in the age old way.

Nobody noticed when exactly Kristoph and his father both left the boules game, but in an instant they were both there. Kristoph grabbed the impulsive André while his father urged Antoine to go back into the café. In the stunned quiet after all of the shouting everyone heard a metallic sound. Kristoph reached quickly for the small but sharp knife and pocketed it.

“You came to argue with a deadly weapon on you?” Kristoph said to André. “You would risk the guillotine for a matter that could have been cleared up by simply asking the young woman which one of you SHE prefers? Go home and cool your head, you foolish young man.”

Perhaps Kristoph used a little Power of Suggestion as well as his words of obvious wisdom upon the miscreant. Either way, André hung his head in contrition and said something quietly before turning and walking away. The crisis was over.

Then Marion cried out and ran towards the juggler and his crowd of children who had been innocent witnesses to the disturbance. Aineytta rose from her seat and turned with an anxious expression towards her husband and son.

“Rodan has gone,” she said with all the dread in her voice that any parent has ever felt in such a moment.