Mouton’s Not-So-Triumphant Return

24 Jun

Travel. A nerve wrecking experience merely because so many things can go wrong. First there’s the packing when you realise just how much crap you own. Then the tickets, the passports, the travel cards, the easily accessible bottle of water, the list goes on.

This time I didn’t leave things to the last minute. I started packing two days in advance, oh yes! I checked out of LP with minimal stress. The caretaker came to inspect my room, walked in, asked “So, any problems?”, “No,” I replied thinking of the wobbly chair, broken cupboard and the shower that doesn’t drain properly, “none at all”. Case closed.

I traversed Paris, boarded the Eurostar and settled down. The train manager Guy announced that he “and his friend Jean-Pierre” would be patrolling the aisles, which made me smile. It’s something my mother and I noticed a few years back: no matter how many times you take the train, you will invariably spot the manager but never his “friend Jean-Pierre”. Therefore the only logical conclusion is that all Eurostar managers have imaginary friends to keep them company on the journey. I then fell asleep, as I always do on Eurostar. It’s the air con: drugged I’m sure of it.

Arriving back in London, despite being weighed down with 4 bags, I enjoyed listening to people speaking English. English! In informal situations! Magic! It wasn’t Shakespeare I’ll admit it, the best line came from an angry man in a suit who shouted down the phone: “Tell Sam when he comes down he can help us fix up the shed. No, f**k chickens I want a jacuzzi!”

So with a little help from my friends, a big dose of divine intervention, a sprinkling of common sense and a dash of experience I made it onto the 7.50 train from Paddington. Approaching Maidenhead I decided to call my mother to remind her to put on her driving shoes and get ready to pick me up from the station. The conversation went a bit like this:

“Hi Mum!”

“Hellooo!?” (surprised and confused tone)

“Yes, hi Mum. Just to let you know I’m at Maidenhead right now”


“What? In France?”

“Ummm… no. England.” (I mean really! How many places called Maidenhead can there be in France? I don’t even know how you would pronounce that in French!)

“Wait, you’re in England? But you’re supposed to be coming home tomorrow!”

For a split second I panicked. “I’ve got the wrong date!” I thought, “I’ll have to go back to Paris! Wait, hang on… Eurostar would never have let me travel a day early. Breathe, Mouton, breathe.”

“Uh no… I’m pretty sure I’m coming home today”

“Really? Oh sorry darling I’ve been ill, completely lost track of time! Twins! D’you hear this? Your sister is coming back early!”

(Muffled voice of younger brother from the background) “Whaaaaa??”

“Well it’s not exactly early is it…” I started to say, but was interrupted.

“So you’re on Eurostar then?”

“No Mum! I’m at Maidenhead! I’ll be arriving in 25 minutes, get your shoes on and come find me!”

“Yes of course darling, what a wonderful surprise! See you soon!”

“Bye Mum.”

Hangs up.

Surprise. Hmmmphh. Four months I’ve been away. Train tickets been booked for a month and a half. Good thing I called ahead really. So not exactly the long awaited return I was hoping for, but it’s good to know nothing’s changed around here.

Got home, made some real tea with the proper milk and water, plugged in my computer and the sockets had the right number of holes, ate a good British pork sausage roll and settled down to the latest episode of Silk on BBC 1. Whoever said the grass isn’t greener on the other side has clearly never made the Channel crossing.


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