Ever wonder what happens when a child falls in the grand canal at Versailles? Tour guide Joshua, pictured below, has a story to tell
It was the second month this season that thus far had been colored by persistent rain. “We usually only get three or four days in the season, usually,” Mark muttered as we sheltered from the downpour in a deserted Versailles marketplace. Our four guests cowered in the cafe nearby. That was my first day. Today is mild, peppered with clouds, not warm but good enough and spirits are high. At the shed, as I manhandle the bikes out of their puzzle-like formation, a father of two tugs at my ear, “I have a change of clothes for the children, could I leave them here?” Mark has nicknamed me The Bad Luck Fairy. It’s bound to rain today and this way there are dry clothes for when we get back. I nod, “good plan”
It stays dry. The older of the two children latches onto my back wheel as we ride down to the market. It turns out she is not to leave my side for the entire tour. She offers me advice on my choice of footwear, while I wave my hand madly behind my back to keep her from straying too far into the middle of the road. We whittle through the history and some child-friendly Versailles quips. At the Grand Trianon, the young group is beginning to fidget; the weather has held but may break at any moment, risking our idyllic picnic. I offer firm instructions to my tiny tag-along for riding down the steep cobblestone hill and thankfully she hangs back with Dad
We all picnic by the canal. I warn everyone to lay their blankets up by the trees, away from the water, as the wet spring rains collect where the bank slopes down. I munch through my tour guide lunch – baguette with cheese and a roughly cut tomato – and regale the old ones with some gory revolutionary stories while the young ones are off playing.
Then, there is a delicate plopping sound, like a small stone falling into water. One of the children, my tag-along, is standing by the canal’s edge. One. “I think she fell in the canal!” Another mother shouts. It’s true, the five year old has somehow fallen in
I take off, hardly believing myself, power slide through the wet grass to the edge. I plunge both arms, and a leg, into the water and haul the five year old out. Her sister begins to cry, and Dad sweeps the wet one into a bear hug, mum comforting. No harm done.
Luckily we are all English, and just started saying sorry over and over. The rest of the group spouts phrases loudly— “not your fault”, “happens to every parent”, “no harm done”. Everyone laughs and congratulates me for my quick reaction, I’m as amazed as they are. During first aid training the instructor told us it’s normal to freeze in a crisis. I had been sure then that I would be a freezer. Apparently not.
Lunch officially interrupted and clouds gathering I recommend we make our way back due to the shivering five year old in our midst.
We make our way over to the bikes, and my tag-along has perked up. Her mother keeps telling her she was “very good to start screaming for help”, and that she probably saved her sister’s life. I smile, “lucky we’ve got that change of clothes up in the shed”. The dad smirks as he wraps his five year
old in reams of waterproofs and his own ginormous woolly jumper.
Back in the Peloton I recounts the story to Emily, Mark, and the others. Mark promptly raises his flat white in a toast,
to the Bad Luck Fairy