The second Eurostar to leave St Pancras. after us, has just passed us. We are standing still. quite still, in a part of provincial France: kosmos by the railtracks, wheat fields and farms, dotted with typical French homesteads. I have no meetings, planes or any other important calendar dates this morning, and sit content taking in the view and surveying the passengers.
We hit a swan. Wish they had not told me that we hit a swan – images of a gracious animal caught in machinery. Trés malade. Sensed something was wrong when the train started slowing down, and then, total stop. The train may have been adversely affected by death of swan.
So, tis here we are manifest, carriage of all sorts. I am not fazed but fortunate to have a train driver so finickety about safety that he must personally inspect the train for faults, via demise of swan. Imagine one single feather in the brakes and us arriving at high speed into Gare de Nord, thereby transformed into Gare de Mort.
Perhaps age and my very screwed up life is teaching me patience. Happy to take the time to file through fotos, a little trip backwards and actually having time to talk to my daughters, a rare treat nowadays. We are embarking on a three day Paris restoration exercise. Of course they took the two seats together and I am plonked next to a young man who would rather have been plonked next to one of them. We do not talk, a bonus when the delay reaches over an hour and I see a hapless women being bombarded by a Canadian tourist eager for conversation. She is being affable, but praying for the bantering to stop. We all sense her anguish, but commend her for her manners.
The group of women in front of me, have planned a getaway to Paris. They are the stereotype of trash magazines, flat English and comfortable middle age. A ‘girls’ weekend. Soon after leaving London, out pops the plastic glasses, the cheap champagne and orange juice to herald the start of the trip to every tourist sight available in Paris. Bless ’em. Thank goodness I am so far from that place now, but part of me is a little jealous of innocence and discovery with friends. I wonder how much sight seeing and how much partying will happen. Did I just hear one of them, silly with excitement about the fact that 50 Shades of Grey is out on DVD? Do not go there, I tell myself … E.L. James, you are a tart.
Behind me, the quintessential French group of corporates, now a little antsy with the hour delay. My fellow passenger is a willow: lithe, brown, impeccably dressed – vision is crushed tangerine, right down to her elegant same coloured shoes. The difference between the English lasses and the French executive is difficult not to notice – and I wonder what I look like sandwiched in between?
We are to be compensated. Not really Eurostar’s fault, still excited to see what our goody bag will be. This is the thing with planes and trains and public transport, when locked together all sorts of habits crawl out for my experience. Families trying to wedge in five suitcases with space for four, babies, tourists, business men and women. And us.
I have always loved the Eurostar, the uncanny knowledge that I am whizzing beneath the surface of the sea for all of twenty-eight minutes to alight in a foreign country. The idea of having a cuppachino underneath the sea. And of course, the promise of Paris on the other side … my sanctuary, my place of love and memory. Four days of Delacroix, of Van Gogh, Lautrec and Degas. Four days of pastries and old churches. Quirky Marais with her Jewish deli’s, Montmartre and St. Germain.
We begin to move again. Sighs and clapping all around. Poor swan. Life happens. I am repeating history to take my children to a place so beautiful, my grandmother thought so, my mother thought so, and I cannot wait to call up the memories all over again. Bon soir, mes amis.