Tubes suck. There’s no argument to be had, they just suck. Honestly, best thing for them is to make sure everyone’s out of them one night and just fill in the tunnels with quite a lot of wet concrete. Imagine if it happened, the bitter-sweet morning that would greet Londoners. The temptation to be grumpy because they were going to have to find a different way to get to work that day, battling against the slowly dawning knowledge that never again would they have to be stuck in a tunnel with the bile-yellow emergency lighting flickering, their heart beating faster as the engine makes that sounds-like-something’s-about-to-overload-or-the-train’s-going-to-move noise for the 8th time while they get intimately acquainted with someone’s one-man crusade against the evils of deodorant and general hygiene. I think sweet would outweigh the bitter and it wouldn’t be long before people could be seen sitting outside riverside pubs drinking cool lager’n’limes on sunny days with full bicycle racks everywhere, glowing with health (the people not the bicycle racks stooopid) and reminiscing about how they used to put up with underground trains.
Talking of pubs, I was on a tube on my way to one, covered in rucksacks, laptop bags and my trusty manbag to say a brief hello to some very nice people on my 4 day whistle-stop tour of Southeast England before staying with a very nice friend and getting off to Stansted airport. You could say that I was between countries. In fact I quite like that as a way to describe how those four days felt. Not that it wasn’t great to see everybody of course. It was. Ah I’ll shut up before my mouth gets me into trouble again.
Where catching a plane before would be a trauma, now, it’s as forgettable as taking a bus. Well the actual bit where I go through airports is. I love flying. I’ve probably said that before but I’m really pleased I do, so bear with me. (Run away! It’s a bear!) It used to be really scary for me back in old anxiety days but there was always the bit in the middle that I loved. It starts not long after you take off and it’s best on cloudy days. It’s the bit when you rise above the clouds for the first time and see the miles and miles of unblemished blue sky above a ground made of pure white cotton wool and flour and you can look at the sun glinting off the marshmallow-mountains in the distance. I think the moment that happens, I become 4 years old again and it’s all magic everywhere. Goosebumps every time. Click on the pic below and there’s a little video from out of my window. err well do it when I can figure out how to get the pics up here from a French internet cafe…
So a smiley face with rosy cheeks (two, one each side of his face, for ‘tis trés cold at Bergerac airport) greets me and off we go in a borrowed Smart Car. Always quite liked them, and am well up with the concept of smaller cars being good in cities and small towns (Think that’s something that shows that there are almost certainly 2 species of humanity living uncomfortably side by side on this planet. Some people think that saying they need a big car, (well lets call it what it is shall we? a monster-truck), because they have a child and a dog, or even just a dog, and not a big one at that, is in some way acceptable and doesn’t make them a shit-head destroying the planet for their own penis substituting pleasure. It does. So, yay for Smart Cars. If men have big cars as some kind of genitalia display replacement, what are the women who drive SUV’s replacing? And, more importantly, what bodily part am I replacing by writing all this crap? Online diary as brain substitute?). Anyway, we chug along (not chingaling) with Geoff being most hungover, the poor fella, and take it out on the rest of the drivers of Bergerac by turning the lights on full beam in their face. This is where blogs collide rather than drivers so we go back safely, in to lovely, very old Bergerac and up the stairs in to Geoff’s lovely 16th century rented abode. Drop off stuff, and head for lovely Michael and lovely Andre’s lovely restaurant. Everything’s lovely in Bergerac even the lovely drug addicts. It’s the lovely law. A couple of lovely liveners in the lovely restaurant and then back to the lovely old house for some lovely pasta and lovely wine, a lovely chat, and then some lovely and well needed sleep before a lovely day of lovely pottering about in lovely Bergerac and then off to the lovely station to get the lovely train to Bordeaux…
A Lovely Dog
The first thing that went wrong was there wasn’t a train to Bordeaux. Lucky I asked really since the woman behind the counter had just, in a very friendly manner, converted my internet-given booking number into a nice set of posh looking SNCF tickets. (SNCF tickets if you’ve never experienced them are more like plane tickets than the mundane and frankly mediocre British equivalent. The French like a bit of a sense of occasion and they’re no different when it comes to train tickets. (Worryingly, now as a thirty five year old I have to think hard about which version of “Their/ There/ They’re” I am about to use. That’ll be some important brain cells dead then.)(I bet you’ve missed my incontinence when it comes to brackets, yeah? Consider it a mental work out and I don’t even charge… everyone likes something for nothing right? That’s the McDonalds way)) (check if you like, all the brackets are closed). What she had neglected to say was that despite providing me with a ticket that said “Train parti Bergerac à 18:59 pour Bordeaux”, it wasn’t ever going to, the main reason being that it had been cancelled, and if I had not said, “So I get the train from here at just before 7 right?” only in better French than that, I would still be sitting in Bergerac, possibly in an uncomfortable silence. Instead I sat on a bus to Libourne in an uncomfortable silence and then waited for a train to Bordeaux from there on an uncomfortable sub zero platform, thinking “at least when I get to Bordeaux I can get on a train with my couchette reserved and sleep all the way to Toulon.
So what’s a couchette then? A couchette is every type of hell known to man put into a train. Invented by Dante in the 17th century but left out of his Inferno because he felt they were a bit strong and got a little queasy every time he thought of them, they were first used by the Spanish for dragging confessions of sorcerous behaviour out of mad old women who lived alone with cats (now known as actresses). They went out of fashion after a Ye Olde Amnestye International campaign swayed Spanish public opinion against the practice. Immediately snapped up by the SNCF (Société Nationale de Carriage de Foreigners), they have been used ever since for carting cheap non-nationals across France once, and once only. The number of couchettes in service is kept in a delicate balance by the number of first time couchette users willing to travel at any one time and once everyone has had a go they will be discontinued. I for one, am going to Toulon today to change my ticket back to a normal train and frankly I don’t care how much extra it costs. With regard to my night on a couchette I’ll just say I got no sleep and leave it at that… There may be children watching and it’s not 9 o’clock yet.
Ahhhh, If there were one place I’d like to be after a night of hell, it’s the Presqu’Isle de St Mandrier and fortunately that’s exactly where I got to. I feel much better now after a few pastis, some top food, and plenty of red wine that doesn’t make your head hurt. St Mandrier is lovely in a different, more earthy way to Bergerac, featuring gorgeous azure Mediterranean vistas and big, cream coloured, rugged mountains covered in sweet smelling pine forests. Last night in a jet black, diamond studded sky, I saw 2 shooting stars, one of which was so low that you could see flame and sparks trailing behind it as it streaked across the heavens.
“Temps pour le petit déjeuner.” said Zebedee (who was French).