5am on 2nd August 2010
I can’t sleep so my mind digs up something that just has to be written now. I’ve been trailing through a journey I made about six years ago, on a train from Prague to Warsaw. Why didn’t I document it at the time? Is this another presentation of my procrastinations? Obviously. The whole thing must’ve crept up on me because I found the Prague and Polish photo files today; looking for something else I discovered them on an old disc. Although I should make a search in case there are scattered notes somewhere – I’ll be back.
Nope, I didn’t write a thing – well nothing that I can find; and I know that I have already searched the diaries and notebooks for journal stuff and put them all together. How could I, a writer, not have written anything about that time? I mean, I was going to a job in Poland for Godsake! There’s a vague memory floating around, of me trying to learn Polish and emailing Karen about what to take with her to Prague for her TESOL course…I was in Lyme Regis in this memory. It’ll be in the emails somewhere, but that’s only the preparation. I want to know why I didn’t scribble a word while I was alone on that long train journey through the Czech Republic and into Poland. I took some photos, as you can see, but where are the words?
It was hot. I’d spent three wonderful days in Prague before getting on that train, but that’s another story. Eastern Europe had always fascinated me and the idea of working in Poland was something I had put on the top shelf of my dreams – out of reach.
Most of the journey I had a car to myself and every hour the trolly would pass up the corridor, giving me permission to eat and drink again…and it was so cheap – unlike our British counterparts. I think that my attention was taken with the views from the window, always looking for something to snap with the camera. Maybe I spent some time reading, or studying. A young German woman shared the car with me for an hour and we talked in sign language for a while, about our children. I wanted to call her Heidi because she had her hair in plaits.
How long did it take? I don’t know. The train stopped at the border and we had to get off, leaving our luggage in case it was discovered to be suspicious (I supposed). Soldiers stomped onto the train and demanded to see our passports before we got off; it was all quite frightening and reminded me of old black and white movies. I think we got back on that train for a little while then had to change trains further down the line, probably when we actually got to the border. Now this is the kind of thing I need if I ever want to write about the Eastern Europe I experienced, and now it’s gone from my head. Well, I write fiction anyway – so no harm done.
So there I must’ve been, as enthusiastic as a child, gazing out of the window and looking forward to my new life – teaching English as a Second Language in a strange country; a fifty-year-old child, suddenly free to wander the world.
I don’t read well when I’m travelling; the world outside the window lures me away from the words and I hold the camera in my hand, waiting for the perfect moments. This picture is one of my absolute favourites. It was taken from my moving train to capture the train flashing past us but it also snapped the three chimneys behind and all of it is sharper than anyone would expect. That was the Kodak camera – it had the best setting for movement. The only reason I changed cameras was because the lens cap kept falling off and it annoyed the hell out of me. Wish I still had it.