Our large and cumbersome television spoils the effect of our newly decorated bedroom rather.
It is an aged monolith. It stands like a disgruntled rail employee on a station, with the most uncompromising air. If you don’t like me here, Madam, it emanates, you can always go and sleep somewhere else.
It has garnered an affable working relationship with my husband, however. A few moments ago, Phil drew my attention with a gleeful:”Look! The telly’s got a new remote control!”
He is correct. And it does not require batteries. I looked up from the laptop to find my husband had extended his leg out from under the duvet, and succeeded in operating the fast forward button with his big toe.
He was delighted.
I, however, was perplexed.
The film he was fast forwarding was To Russia With Love. Phil adores his Bond films and I could not understand why he was hurrying the frames past.
“Why are you fast forwarding?” I asked.
“To get to the train bit,” he answered.
Phil likes train bits in films. He loves this mahogany-clad valet-peopled world which is disappearing fast; he loves the pace, the drama. He loves the trains.
My husband loves North By Northwest, where Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint flee James Mason in a sleeper carriage. He loves Murder on The Orient Express, in which there are too many clues in the sumptuous VIP couchette.
Together we watched Sean Connery negotiating The Train Bit with suave authority. We watched him roughing up the beautiful blonde Russian plant Tatiana. Around them were the fixtures and fittings of a beautiful old sleeper train. Tatiana fell in love with James. Behind them both, the world flew past, enticing landscapes somewhere between Istanbul and Venice.
“What are you laughing at?” I asked. There seemed no rhyme nor reason to this man’s thought patterns tonight.
“That train is clearly,” he announced with unequivocal authority,”a British Rail train. It has the green livery of a commuter train of the 1960s. It was probably travelling between Waterloo and Woking.”
At which point he rewound the film and freeze-framed it for me. Sure enough, the mark on the side of the train was a classic British Rail roundel.
Phil has done his bit researching the old sleeper train tradition. Last year he travelled from Paris to Munich by sleeper. We were all agog as to how it would be, following in the footsteps of Cary Grant and Sean Connery and Albert Finney.
It was, Phil reported, an atrocious night’s sleep. Mainly because he was so incredibly excited.
There was, to his great disappointment, no dining car: that is reserved for the Summer holidays in these modern times. Beer and sandwiches from the attendant had to suffice.
He pulled out of La Garde De L’Est at 7pm and they arrived at Munich Station at 8am. The sleeper carriage was tiny, the window a slit shared with the next carriage. The train took forever to travel across France, and Phil, being Phil, felt compelled to note the stations as they passed. Somewhere around midnight he clocked Metz, on the Franco-German border, and then nodded off.
He slept an uneasy doze informed by the speed at which his body was travelling through space.
At about 7am, he woke, trundling at a sedate pace through the towns of Bavaria, pristine and quaint as only the people of that part of the world know how.
There was a shower next door but one: and Phil reports that was huge.
When they got on, they had been the third carriage from the end. Now they were somewhere in the middle. Half the train had unhitched from the rest and headed, under cover of darkness, off to Berlin. And then a contingent of carriages from Amsterdam had joined the carriages snaking their way to Munich.
Of the shunting and re-coupling, the hitching and un-hitching, the comings and goings, Phil remembers not a thing.
Even the retelling is filled with romance; everyone from Josephine, Geraldine and Sugar Kane – of Some Like It Hot- to a team of the original Vampire hunters from Bram Stoker’s Dracula have resorted to a train to get them from A to B across a continent, with bed and breakfast provided.
And now, my husband has done it too.
Which only leaves me. We now have a pact: my third novel will be set aboard a sleeper train hurtling across Europe. It will require extensive research, not only by me, but by another, knowledgable about trains, who can fill in the minutiae.
It sounds both seductive and, as fantasies go, lucrative.
Better get started on the first book, then.
Meanwhile, feast your eyes here.