Now that the Travelogue has been completely transferred from it’s previous home at Endless Realms, it’s time for a new format. Inspired by the Live Journal of Jules, and not a small amount of badgering, it’s time to make this journal into more of a… well a journal, dammit!
And so, as opportunity, inspiration and time permit I shall endeavour to update this journal as best I can.
Perhaps there is something prophetic about this column. I arrived in Rosendaal from Brussels to change trains. Upon arrival I find that the station is nearly empty as there have been no other incoming trains. They have all been delayed due to… suicide.
The benefit of this was that outgoing trains were still running so I had the train to myself for my ongoing journey. The stories the driver told me were most enlightening and, in some cases, downright scary. I now know which stretches of track to avoid during thunderstorms and which to avoid under any circumstances due to failing safety equipment. I could tell you which ones… for a small bribe.
Once again I was forced to Brussels for a meeting. Still unimpressed with the city, my Belgian colleagues attempt to coerce me in the afternoon with free alcoholic beverages. I sense an evil conspiracy to bribe me with alcohol for the purposes of a favourable review of their city. Do these people believe I’m some sort of semi-corrupt alcoholic?
Brussels, it could be worse.
One excuse for delays I have heard a little too frequently is suicide. So far in my life, two people have thrown themselves in front of my train, never once thinking of the consequences that my delay may have. Or the trauma that the poor driver must suffer. Or the cleaning crews that have to mop up afterwards.
You can always tell when these events happen while you are waiting at a station for a train, they are announced as “unfortunate incidents” when a train is delayed.
On the 2nd of July, I wrote of the sleepy village or Markyate, where I currently live. One aspect of the house I live in which I neglected to mention at the time is that any loudspeakers in the study pick up radio. Not radio stations, but taxi radios, fire engines and police radio, whenever one of their vehicles drives past.
How is this relevant in any way? Allow me to explain. I also live right next door to a pub. Minutes ago, this pub and surrounded by four police cars and a Dog Response Unit (Are you a dog? Woof! That’s the correct response.). According to the policemen and the radio which I accidently overheard via my speakers I discovered that sleepy little Markyate, middle class haven that is is, was just subjected to a major drugs bust. The police have just dragged away three people, including the son of the proprietor of the pub, for posession and distribution of class A drugs.
The excitement just never stops.
One of the most common objections I hear about France in general is that it is common for women not to shave their armpits. On considering this I decided it was time for this survey.
Paris has been blessed with lovely weather for the last few weeks, so the time was ripe for me to conduct this survey. The Parisiennes kindly obliged me in this endeavour by wearing halter tops, bikini tops and other skimpy items of clothing that allowed me to surrepticiously inspect their armpits.
For this survey the armpits of women aged between about 15 and 50 were inspected. The total sample size was in the region of 25 subjects. Naturally only visible armpits were inspected, no clothes were ripped off and no Parisiennes were harmed in this experiment.
From the sample size of 25, only two women had not shaved their armpits recently. On one of these two the underarm hair was not as much of a detractor as the hair on the face. Mustaches are just nasty.
From the results of the survey, it can be concluded that 92% of Parisiennes who show their armpits in warm weather have also shaved them. So, if you want to avoid that underarm jungle, look before you touch.
I was late getting into work this morning. Someone had… wait for it… set fire to the train! I sense a conspiracy! Anarchist pyromaniacs begin their reign of terror!
Having received the exciting news that my flat in Paris had finally been arranged, I proceeded to leave work early, about 19:00, so I could meet the landlord to have a good look at the place before moving in. With the meeting arranged for 20:00, this should have left plenty of time to travel there on the underground system. Unless of course someone sets fire to the train you are on. That phenomenon has been known to cause delays on trains from time to time. Not always of course, I remember one story a few years back where there was a fire in the freight train tunnel underneath the English Channel. The fire was started by a lorry that was already on fire as it entered the tunnel. This does not speak well for French customs officials. I can just imagine the exchange:
“‘Ave you anysing to declare?”
“Oui, c’est bon. Move along.”
But anyway, back to the night in question. Having the journey interrupted by an inconsiderate pyromaniac, I was pleasantly surprised by the response of my fellow travellers. The news was greeted with shrugs, gallic of course, jokes and a general movement toward creating car pools and taxi shares for everyone to get into town. No anger, no screaming at officials, merely acceptance. This does beg the question of how often this kind of things happens of course.
I ended up getting a lift from complete strangers who had been driving past and heard the news on the radio that there were problems. So they stopped by, picked up some people and took them to the centre of Paris, even offering an evening meal to my co-passengers and myself.
The apartment itself is lovely and I will be spending my first night there on Wednesday. I shall be sharing it with a colleague from Poland and one from Germany, so I’m sure it’ll be… amusing.
I bring you now the tale of Markyate, the village I currently live in. I’m only there two days a week, so I think it still counts as a travel location. Markyate is a very old village, the house I live in is three hundred years old in itself, all wooden beams and a large majestic fireplace that would have the romantics of the world going all misty-eyed. Words like ‘quaint’ and ‘picturesque’ might spring to mind. Obviously, I’m sure you’ve come to expect it, I tell you now of the downside. I begin with the doorways. Three hundred years ago people were even shorter than they are today, which is no mean feat. Hence, the doorways are so low that a limboing dwarf could still manage to get a heavy concussion, never mind people who are over six feet tall. The main benefit to these doorways is the humour value during house parties when that anguished “Oww! My head!” echoes through the house. Ah, the memories.
As for the wiring, I’m sure it was installed as soon as electricity supplies were invented and not replaced since. I’m considering buying light bulbs in bulk to cover my needs, they blow so often.
And the large majestic fireplace? It is gas driven, and although, this would still be nice, has been condemned and may not be used.
The village itself is incredibly small. It has one Indian restaurant, one fish and chip shop and five pubs. Some of these pubs are reminiscent of scenes in ‘American Werewolf in London’. Those who have seen the film will know what I mean, those who have not, ought to. All in all the biggest contribution to an evening’s entertainment in Markyate is the bus out of town, which can take you to the heady delights that are St Albans and will be described in a further episode. Stay tuned…
Friedrich Nietzsche once said of the Germans that “…this people has deliberately made itself stupid, for nearly a millennium: nowhere have the two greatest European narcotics, alcohol and Christianity, been abused more dissolutely.”
And who am I to disagree with the great man himself?
Many moons ago I lived in a village called Eisingen, in the Black Forest, in Germany. The village was quite small and, like many villages in the area, had it’s own vineyards. The wine was of a good quality, especially the rare ice wine. A warning to the uninitiated: Ice wine is pricey due to its rarity, and highly alcoholic.
The people in the area of Germany known as Swabia are even more anally retentive than your average German. Hard to believe, I know, but I swear it is true. There are regulations when and where you are allowed to wash your car or have a barbecue. Fifty year old women will wander the streets, apparently innocently walking their dogs, seeking out those evil -doers who would dare brake such vital rules. They will seek evidence of detergent on the roads to see if there has been any illegal car washing, or sniff the air like a dachshund, to determine if someone is daring to grill sausages on a day that this is not permitted on. If their investigations uncover such dastardly deeds, off they scurry to report the fiends who would so flagrantly poo-poo the rules and regulations.
These same women also enjoy leaning out of the window of their family home to peer out into the street, watching the activities of their neighbours. This can be quite uncomfortable, but fear not, they come prepared. A pillow is used to protect the elbows during this marathon act of blatant voyeurism.
Love thy neighbour? Sure, as long as they sweep the pavement in front of their home on a weekly basis, but do not do so on a Sunday.