An Italian Alphabet in Twelve Days and Twenty-One Trains: O-S

An Italian Alphabet: J-C


is for Off. I am off. Off duty, off abroad. I am in St Pancras, nearly foreign. Back at home the computer is off and the infant broad beans are unsupervised.

I struck the board, and cried, No more!
I will abroad.

When I have caught five more trains – two already this morning – it will be tomorrow and I will be on the other side of the Alps.

Further alphabetical reports will follow. They will be Out of Order.

Paris Bercy (the station for Italy)

waiting for the Sleeper in Paris Bercy


is for Sleeper. This is the night train from Paris, running South along the Seine at the moment in the evening light. The two strangely quiet Australians in my compartment have gone off somewhere, perhaps for Stereotype reprogramming. (No, to buy Sandwiches; they’ve just come back.)

I have a passion for sleeper trains. It is environmentally correct, and it means I haven’t had to worry about strikes or volcanoes (so that I am Smug), but these are only excuses. There is something about going to sleep and still travelling all night, and waking up somewhere entirely other. But not arbitrarily other. Milan, I expect, in this instance, very very early. In Milan the train will divide; like Carstairs. The train is Slow. More things should be slow.

S is also for Somerset. After I found the Gare de Bercy I went round the corner until I found a cafe. There I ate a croque monsieur and drank a glass of wine. I looked up, finishing the wine, and there opposite was the part-time GP and sculptor who used to live over the hill. She is somewhere along the train, travelling intrepidly to Venice with her husband and two small children.

And S is for Spies, very moral spies in A Most Wanted Man by John le Carre. I must return to it now.


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