The return journey with greenjumperman

There’s something about international train stations. Perhaps it’s because by and large we don’t have them in the UK, the Eurostar out of St Pancras being the exception. Seeing the names of what are to me exotic destinations up on the departures board is exciting. It also somehow feels appropriate that I am bleary eyed from a poor night’s sleep thanks to the usual waking up every half an hour to see if it is time for the alarm to go off yet. Or whether the alarm has not gone off when it should have more like. This morning I packed my stuff up in my room, fumbled my way around the living room to hug Hannah on the bed settee and set off. Rue Faubourg St Denis at 8am was just waking up. Shutters were being rolled up on shop fronts. Early commuters were starting to permeate through from Gare Du Nord and Gare De L’Est. Kids were being towed by parents, schoolward bound. I over heard one father say something to two kids decked out in identical coats. It ended in “uh?”. The verbal shrug of Gallic shoulders being instilled at a young age. Hannah has a lie in. She is meeting someone to hand over the keys to the AirBnB apartment at midday. Our instructions in the welcome pack were to leave the key on the table in the living room. However whoever comes in to clean up has lost their key and so needs ours to get a new one cut. That piled the pressure on us. Every time left the flat I had to treble check that I had the key with me. Accidentally locking it in would have been a bit a disaster considering that the backup had been lost. It feels strange leaving Hannah behind but she is a grown up now. We still have a lingering responsibility as she is still a student. Paris is the second half of her year abroad. She is studying French and Spanish with Catalan and has just finished six months in Toledo. Both her French as Spanish are now pretty impressive, at least from the perspective of someone whose Spanish extends to ordering two beers and whose French is frozen in time in 1978, the year of my Grade B French O’Level. I get by. Han is by now used to being left alone in strange cities, having made it to Toledo under her own steam. I figured it would make sense to go with her to Paris. Turning up alone in a big city is not a nice thing. I stayed 4 nights and achieved the main objective of finding her some accommodation. She has a student apartment in the 5eme Arrondissement with a Dutch girl and an Italian lad. A good place to be, near the Quartier Latin and the cafes of the left bank. Unfortunately the apartment doesn’t become available until the 20th so we’ve booked her into a cheap hotel just around the corner from the Gare Du Nord where she can catch the RER B to work. 15 nights in a hotel! The flat hunt was a bit of an eye opener. The first one we visited was cheap and would have been a great place to be had it not been for the guy whose flat it was. There was something about him that perhaps hinted at why he had been unable to let the room. The second was a nightmare. She was expected to share a room with a somewhat smelly girl and where the landlady kipped in the living room. A non starter. The third had real prospects compared with the first two. It was just around the corner from the Luxembourg RER B station, on the top floor of a nice old building. The problem with this one was that it was owned by a nice old lady. You got the feeling that it would have been somewhat stifling for a 20 year old girl after a bit of experience of life, and life in Paris at that. So now she’s behind me in Paris and I’m hurtling towards the English Channel and breakfast in London with her brother Tom. As I write we have passed a row of wind turbines. It must be a still day as the blades are pretty motionless. The train is half way between Paris and Arras. Big fields. Occasional villages. Lots of wind turbines. Looks cold out there. Paris was cold. This was a bit of a nuisance because every time we entered a cafe we had to peel off the layers or cook. Greenery is just starting to come though in some of the fields we pass. Growth from early planting at the end of last season, one assumes though I’m far from knowledgeable on the subject. Half the people around me on the train are asleep. The others are engrossed in gadgets as am I. A girl sat across from me is learning English. She has a dictionary and doing stuff with her iPad. We have just passed Bapaume, a place of significant historical significance from WW1 unless I am mistaken. Her name is Mlle Zena Saheli btw. The girl learning English. She has a letter of application open in front of her. Looks like she is a dancer. Not my business but it’s hard to not see what’s there in front of you. I have a coffee now. A medium latte, E3.20. I don’t drink much coffee but figured it was necessary on this trip. Either I spend the journey catching up on my zeds or I write stuff. So I’m writing stuff. When you look out at the frozen fields you really can imagine hte hardship of life in the trenches, especially at this time of year. It’s 10.14 Paris time. Hannah will be just starting to get up. No rush. Once she is checked into the hotel she has a few things she can be getting on with. Signing up for a Navigo and chasing up the bank to see why they haven’t been in touch with her to get her bank account sorted. Bloke next to me is asleep with his green sweater over his head. I took a picture although with the sun behind him it didn’t come out brilliantly. It’s going to be nice to get home and back into a routine for a week or so. I’m listiening to ELO on my earphones. I don’t have a huge choice of music on my phone so tend to listen to the same stuff time and time again. Normally I hop artists/tracks but I can’t be botherered to get that involved on the train. I’m not sure I’ve listened to the whole of ELO’s greatest hits (or whatever the album is called – I bought a load for my 50th Birthday bash 3 years ago). Before I forget I though the passport control set up in Gare Du Nord was a bit odd. You went through a French Passport Control and then separately through a British one. Why bother with two? Just a UK one should have sufficed I’d a thought. Anyway who am i to say? Eh? The fields are a bit snowier the further North we get. Hey we’re in a tunnel. I don’t think it can be the tunnel, the chunnel. I could be wrong. Hadn’t realised we were that near the coast. Must be it. No mobile data reception though. I got 4G on my way out. Probably because I’m still roaming and have data roaming switched off cos it’s a rip off. On the way out I got LTE but was still registered with O2 in the UK. Zena has packed her stuff away now and the green jumper is off his head. There’s something a little strange about being in a very long tunnel under the sea. It ain’t natural is it? We butcher our planet. Handy though if you want to get to central Paris quickly. I’m in seat 46 Car 14 btw. It’s handy for the cafe bar. There’s also a UK electrical socket but I’m in the aisle seat and I can’t be bothered to ask green jumper man to plug in my Chromebook. I’ve got enough juice to get me to London anyway. Only half an hiur until we’re due in London so must me bearly out of the tunnel now. Zena is having a bit of a kip. Feet up on the next seat in the foetus position. Her black trousers are torn at the knees. V trendy I suppose. Green jumper has opened a bag of mixed fruit and nut. Still lots of sleeping folk. Cmon guys. You can’t sleep your lives away. Do something. Oriental looking guy has woken up and is now checking his phone. I can hear the rustling of crisp packets or simlar despite having 10cc in my earphones. Also just had a bit of a shock. Lost this file I’ve been editing for two hours. Coming out of the tunnel and back in the land of connectivity I eventually found it on Google Drive. This is even though I was working on it offline. Wow. Cool. Back underground now. Maybe we are running through a site of Special Scientific Interest and they built dug the tunnel to avoid disturbing a butterfly, or a lizard. Or maybe someone put a hill in the way. I dunno. We interrupt this ad hoc dialogue to tell you that we are shortly arriving at Ebbsfleet. I suppose someone might want to get off there. In fact a woman has stirred and picked up her suitcase. As long as she doesn’t touch my bag we are all happy. Ebbsfleet is clearly convenient if you don’t want to haul yourself into Central London to catch the train. They didn’t have a similar stop in France though. Oo a few people getting off here now. It’s an uninviting looking station. Overweight member of staff speaks into his walkie talkie on the platform. Whistles blow. Presumably in code. Largish bloke not given the go ahead to depart yet. must be someone still getting off train.He keeps looking up and down the platform. The driver has taken things into his own hands and we are off anyway. I’m going to upload this now as I don’t know how much more editing time I’ll have before the final subterranean segment of our journey. Ciao amigos. It’s good to be back.