April 4, 2010

An old picture

The train is hot and overcrowded. It looks as if I’m surrounded by teenagers who, one way or another, all seem to be talking about pop music, sex, and the combination of the two. It gives me the eerie impression that I’ve wandered into a high school. These commuting kids must have just been let out.

A whistle blows, the doors shut and the train pulls out. People are sitting everywhere they can, including the halls and the baggage racks. From this description one might picture a rickety mountain train in some far flung Nepalese town or a train in a highly populous part of the world such as India; but it isn’t.

For one thing, there’s air conditioning (too much of it) and for another, there isn’t enough poultry (i.e. none at all). In fact, I’m in a shiny new “next-generation” “Top-of-the-line” French TER (Local express train) during the crush hour in Amiens leaving l’Oise and heading for Paris. These new trains are sleekly blue and silver on the outside, and boast a sickly pale green and Plexiglas interior. The entire train is nonsmoking and second class. Why couldn’t they make the entire train first class, if only just in name? Besides, since there is only one class on the train why did they decide to call it second: wacky French marketing?

All in all, it is relatively comfortable if you get a seat… I’ve never seen it so crowded. At least the trains in France are usually on time, provided there isn’t a strike, in which case there’s a fifty-fifty chance of the train not coming in at all.

The landscape starts to roll by as I think about trains in France: mainly sprawling hilly farmland interspersed with villages and clumps of trees with a canal every now and again. The wheat is starting to golden in places. Too bad I don’t have time to hike along the canals. It would be nicer to walk through the country side rather than ride, even though it does sprawl on unvaryingly for very long distances. I suppose I’m missing out on the occasional plop of a carp jumping out on the canal, on hares, gyrfalcons, crows and endless wheat and sugar-beet fields.

For now, I’m taking the expedient route to get where I want be and I’m content in letting just my mind wander and my pen make tracks on the paper.