Madame Pauline

A few kilometres along the Sambre river from Namur, in the Val St Georges, lives great grandmother Pauline Marchal.

Every Thursday she heads to the local nursery school to read stories to the children - her arrival greeted with excited calls of 'Mme Pauline'. Mme Pauline is a bit of a legend around these parts - other than reading to them, she babysits nightly, helps with homework, looks after them when they are ill and dresses up as St Nicolas once a year. The walls of her home are pasted with photographs of hundreds of smiley young faces - she refers to them all as her grandchildren. She tells me proudly of one woman who has become a teacher, moved to Liège and found her own 'Mme Pauline' to read to her classroom. 

She doesn't enjoy talking about herself as much - she has lost her husband and two of her sons. Although the memories are bittersweet, she plays me some home videos from the time she spent living in the Congo in the late 50s, when she was my age now and her children were not much older than the ones she reads to today.