At first I was worried that we would lose everything, but we were allowed to collect our few belongings before the destruction began. It was terrible to behold. What now, where? There had been talk of relocation, but there is such uncertainty. I just hope that the next move brings us closer to some permanence.

I find myself staring at the destruction, feeling numb, I can hardly breath. Nadia has her arms around Yaya and Abdo, trying to comfort them. “Now, we will go somewhere better”, she says. Please, I hope so.

The dream was always to reach Britain, we speak English and have some relations there already. At least there would be some friendly faces to help. But here, it seems like everything will be so much harder. But, believe me, even the Jungle was better than where we came from. If learning another language is the largest problem we have, the future will be bright. 

The police are coming now, directing us where to go. Single men here, families there, children here. It is unbelievable how many children there are, with no families. Teenagers with no one to guide them, heartbreaking. Our processing seems relatively simple, the decision has already been made where to send us. Another foreign name with no meaning for me.

We are put on the bus, with many other families. Time to leave. Part of me is sad, how strange to think I would ever feel sad to leave this place. I guess the channel crossing was always the end of the journey, and we never made it. And now we are off, to something better. I must believe.

It is easy to forget what a beautiful country this is, once you move away from the port and the city. We have been told we are going to a large village. This seems surprising, how will we find work there? And the people, what will they think?

Now we are moving, the children are more animated. There is excitement in Yaya’s eyes, it is infectious, I am starting to feel it too. The colours of autumn glow all around us as we speed towards our destination. There is nervousness amongst my fellow passengers, but so much hope.

After a couple of hours we are told we have arrived. What a pretty place, typical old-world French charm. I am amazed, I would not have believed that we would be brought to somewhere like this. It is obviously not the richest of places but it has a warm, welcoming feeling. Nadia looks too shocked for words, but she is smiling, nervously. 

Le Grand Hôtel, sounds impressive and looks fine. It maybe doesn’t quite live up to the name, but it looks clean, warm and dry. All the things we have been missing so much. The lady, maybe the owner, is very welcoming and takes us to our rooms. Yes rooms, two rooms with a bathroom. 

As soon as we are alone, Nadia begins to weep. Gently, at first, but when the dam bursts she cannot stop. You see, this seems like a palace to us. Two rooms, four beds and the children are already jumping and bounding from one to the other. Unbridled joy, it has been such a long time. The feeling of my wife’s tears, running down my face and soaking into my collar. The feeling of love, of hope. 

© Neil Hayes and neilhayeswriter

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