Brief Encounter on a Journey.
Continental Train Journeys with Bertie… A Brief Encounter.
I am a little embarrassed this week. Bobby is so keen to tell you about the journey to Venice that I feel a little “excluded”. I did after all spend most of the journey hidden in a rucksack while he was in full flow.
Bobby… “You’re jealous. Because I proved that you are not the crumpet puller everyone thinks you are. My brief encounter had nothing to do with you, but rather my own panache and charm!”
Bertie… (Thinking) “Bloody hell you’re welcome to him this week. Be prepared to cringe. I’m having a week off.”
Bobby… “So, finally, we left Lammersdorf – possibly for the last time. Said goodbye to Gerda, and accepted the lift from her Slovakian cook, Whatsisname. A hair-raising drive down the mountain to Spittal and a local train to Villach. The big interchange town.
Standing on the platform at Villach, I couldn’t believe we were going to Venice. Foreign holidays with Diddley had ended as we came close to being arrested in Crete. Much as I liked holidays on my own, Paris, Venice and other such places are for couples. Lovers. Not on your own by choice. But here I was just a few hours on a train away. A ride through the mountains to Italy. Little did I know I wouldn’t see any of the journey through the window.
A slightly older, wonderfully comfy OBB (Austrian Railways) train arrived. I found my reserved seat which, unusually, was one of a pair of single seats facing a small table. A rather nice lady sat down opposite. “Where are you going?” she asked. As far as possible with you I thought, but said “Venice”. In a proud voice. “So am I” she said. Thus started our “brief encounter”.
The train left Villach and, in a short while, the lady descended into a panic. “Oh no. I’ve lost my passport!”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. I always keep it in the same place.” She spoke perfect English.
Well now I would panic too, but I am sitting this side of the table and haven’t lost mine. So, I can play at being calm. My wife would calm me down and start working back. “When was the last time you saw it?”
“At my mother’s. In Austria.”
“Can you contact her?”
“Go on then.” She rang her mother, who checked the house and rang back.” Sorry it’s not here.”
The panic was increasing, and needed a calming response. “How important is it? When do you next need it?”
“I’m travelling to my sister in Italy from Venice, and in two days flying to Cairo where I live with my husband. He’s Egyptian.”
“So, in life and death terms, this is a nuisance. It may mean you have to change your arrangements. Spend a bit of money. But it’s not that terrible. After all, I am on this train alone as my wife died a few months ago.” The mood changed. She told me how sorry she was, and I told her she hadn’t even looked properly for her passport.
“How many bags have you got? How many pockets? Check them. Small bag first. Tip it all out on the table. I won’t look. But empty it, and check that bag completely.”
She did. No luck. “Well, it’s just the big one then.” “It can’t be in there. That was packed earlier.”
“Well until you look you will never be certain.”
“But it’s a waste of time!”
“Just empty it all over the floor. It’s a nice clean carpet.” She did and, eventually, out fell a leather wallet with her passport in it.
Shall we just say the hugs and kisses were memorable.
Suddenly, we were great friends. Wanted to know all about each other. Austria slipped away. As did northern Italy as we talked.
“My name is Gisele. Pronounced Giz a la. The German way.”
“My granddaughter is Giselle… the French way.” It was only then I admitted I wasn’t travelling alone. “Would you like to see my bear?”
By now she would agree to anything.
And so she was introduced to Bertie for the rest of the journey. Finally slipping across the sea into Venice.
We walked down the platform. Me, and Gisele with Bertie in her arms. Until it was time to say goodbye. Forever. No emails. No phone numbers. We kissed. We hugged and she disappeared without looking back. And I was in Venice. My Brief Encounter was over!
For two days. Wonderful but that’s for next time. Instead, here is a treat. The last morning was interrupted by a magnificent thunderstorm. Witnessed from a pavement café. Under an awning. A girl with a dog in her bag for company. An hour watching the world go. Fascinating.
Be sure to play this while looking at the rain pictures:
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week. Click here for more info.
Lighting a Candle for Diddley.
We lit lots of candles in Venice. I wished Diddley could be there sharing it with me. I wondered if Gisele had got to Cairo. And thought of me. Or was I a daft old sod?