Thursday, 6 August 2009

A journey, remembered

More photos and/or film from last week will have to wait: for some reason, I had a compulsion to post the following memories from around 9 years ago:

I remember getting on the coach to London at midday, and finding myself sat next to a bloke who was built like a brick shithouse, and who was also very genial. We talked about many things for the duration of the journey to London, sparked off by one of us making a comment on how so many of our fellow passengers seemed in a mad rush to get on the coach first.

I remember being at the coach station in London and having an hour or two to wait. I phoned France (not all of it, mind) and left a message, Je suis en route. I also had to stop myself staring incredulously at a man who was wearing orange dungarees and a matching headband.

I remember setting off from London Victoria on the coach after a few minutes delay, someone was on the wrong coach and refused to get off. I felt a little anxious because, according to the itinerary, I was to change coaches in Lyon with just 15 minutes to spare. I decided to stop worrying about this and let things be as they may: we had been on the road for mere minutes when our coach broke down on the fast lane of the M25 (during the start of rush hour on a Friday afternoon).

I remember that sat next to me was a chap called JS (I still remember his name), a youngish guy, also very genial, and of mixed heritage. He was travelling to part of France to inherit some property and farmland from an elderly relative who had recently died. We too talked about many things, not least our concerns about the competence of the coach drivers. He laughed out loud when, as we drove onto the ferry at Dover, I told him I was going to the bar - but I won't be happy if I see either of those fucking drivers having a beer.

I vaguely remember having a drink at the bar on the ferry.

I remember it being very late in the evening as we drove along French motorways, and that there was something very comforting about being on a stretch of the Paris-Reims route for the second time that year. All the previous times I'd journeyed on that stretch of road had memories of good times attached to them.

I remember The Matrix being shown on the onboard TV screen. It was late at night now, and the film was a very odd one to watch while drifting in and out of a very transitory sleep.

I remember we stopped at Dijon for a short break. It was perhaps an hour or so after first light, so it was magically quiet: I marvelled at the early-morning mist and the bright-but hazy sunshine. I was fatigued through lack of sleep, but somehow this seemed to enhance the beauty of that particular moment.

I remember the coach station at Lyon, and that we had miraculously arrived there with time to spare. Lyon is a city that I've travelled through a number of times and that I would like to explore, but never had the opportunity. The most time I've spent there was changing coaches on both the outward and return journeys, within the confines of the station interior. This mild frustration was very much with me on the occasion described.

I remember the coach stopping at Orange, and me wishing JS all the best: he was completing the final leg of his journey to a rural estate near Avignon. He seemed an all-round good bloke, and I wondered just how much this inheritance might shape his future, possibly even change it beyond recognition. I liked that travelling relatively long distances by road meant that you spent time with people you might otherwise never meet: fascinating, interesting people who add a whole extra dimension to the many elements of the journey.

I remember Montpellier as being sun-bleached, but by now I was more keenly anticipating my destination rather than savouring the journey for its own sake.

I remember finally disembarking at Beziers: another phone call and then I browsed the bookshop next to the station whilst waiting for a lift. I saw a copy of Umberto Eco's How To Travel With A Salmon printed in French (naturally), whereas I had my own copy in my shoulder bag. I was tempted to buy the French copy so that I could try and read the two in tandem to help with my language skills. I clearly made the right decision in not buying it, I still haven't got round to reading the English edition to this day.

I remember arriving at my destination, a small holiday village, some 27 hours after the journey had begun. I had Emmental with French bread, followed by a slice of melon. Then we began drinking, and both the form and content of my recollections are far less ordered and significantly more chaotic than the ones I've recounted above.


Zhoen said...

Strange experience, traveling by coach or train, a sort of lingering side slip.

Montag said...

Strange experience, indeed.

What I am not clear on is this: when you say that you remember - or vaguely remember - sitting next to a chappie or whatnot, are you saying that it is hard to recall because it did happen nine years ago...or, are you saying that it was extremely vague at the time? sort of a Hunter Thompson journey into the heart of darkness of France?

Reads well both ways.

lakeviewer said...

Actually, the last detail, wine and bread and cheese, cemented the previous experiences.

DJ Kirkby said...

You no like orange dungarees? Or was it the headband;) This post was cool, very vivid, I liked it a lot. Lucky JS I say.

trousers said...

Zhoen, it's a bit like being in a bubble, a very different world, on those kind of journeys. In my experience its not a bad world to be in, either.

Montag (nice to see you again btw!), I think it's mainly the passage of time: some things remain crystal clear, others obviously less so. Perhaps it's also about the nature of the experience to an extent, a cluster of different events and stages all one after the other.

Lakewiever, yes indeed. I remember that very clearly too - obviously it was important :)

Deej, to give the guy credit, it takes confidence to wear such apparel...either that or a total lack of self awareness (or both). Glad you liked it :)

zola a social thing said...

It takes confidence to write the way you write me old Trousers.

trousers said...

zola, thank you :)

Merkin said...

Cracking story trousers.

I've too many comments to make on it but, be sure, your narrative illuminated many memories.

trousers said...

Thanks, merk. Yes I can imagine it might have chimed with you in certain ways: perhaps you might post some more of those memories at some point, subject to whatever discretion might be required?