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Travel But No Sex On The Night Train Of Years Ago

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The night train goes between Halifax and Montreal, and Montreal and Halifax. You can’t get there from here in daylight . . . by train. The train chug chug chugs out of Halifax early afternoon, and out of Montreal early evening. The two pass somewhere in Quebec. Arrival in Montreal is early morning (breakfast time) and early evening (supper time).

Although I’ve had some association with trains for decades (the father of a next-door childhood friend was even the conductor on a train) I came to my pleasure and interest in trains from my first trip to Europe. Both in Great Britain, and the continent, I had great pleasure on the trains (much due to the scenery I had never seen). It was really after that first trip that I travelled with any seriousness by train in Canada. And, as I said, any travel from east to west must include the night train to Montreal.

I have been blessed in that I have never had to ‘sit up’ on this trip (though, these days, even that is not too bad). I’ve had berths (upper and lower) and compartments (these days – again – even with their own shower). And I love the dome cars, sitting there for hours even after dark. It is a grand sensation travelling though the darkened forests with often no more than moon light and stars. And the red and green signal lights of the track itself.

Back ‘in the day’ I even almost had a Night train romance.

This was in the upper berths, where nothing more than a curtain flap and a zipper kept the sleepers private. One usually undressed while supine upon the mattress, sloughing off one’s outer clothes.

On one particular journey to Montreal, in the dark of that Quebec landscape, across the narrow aisle, was a beautiful teen-aged gal, not many years younger than myself. And she indicated ‘interest’, with smiles and giggles and some gentle teasing of undress.

However, she travelled with her (I presume) parents, safely ensconced in the lower berths. And Daddy looked as if he:

a) would brook no nonsense

and (more to the point)

b) would cease and desist any interest by me

The sweet lass keep appearing from behind her curtain with smiles and gestures, but finally realized that an athletic leap from my side to hers was neither safe nor wise. We arrived in Montreal as pure as we set out.

*Sigh*

(image)http://www.museumoftheamericanrailroad.org/Portals/0/Gallery/Album/21/Women-in-Pullman-Section-Berths-January-1930-Hulton-Archive-Getty-Images_600px.jpg

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Travel and Dine on The Orient Express With Alison Alexandra

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A few days ago, Alison Alexandra unceremoniously ended my chapter. I had planned another week of work to arrive at the ending. She did away with my ending, put in her own, and ignored the intricate back story I had planned.

So, I sat myself down and wondered what would happen in its place. It turns out Alison Alexandra wants to take a vacation, and the one place where she might just get away from herself (as she seems to desire) is the . She previously had a few pages (literally writing-years ago) on the train.

Sounded good enough for me.

A half hour later, the Face Book page for the Venice-Simplon-Orient-Express popped up in my feed.

Full steam ahead, think I.

The following is a portion of Alison Alexandra’s previous trip on the Venice-Simplon-Orient-Express.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In the reflection in the glass of her for-the-time-being-stateroom window, Alison Alexandra notices the glances from people on the platform watching her peering, and she doesn’t want to give them any ideas of turning into spies themselves so she stops and turns from the train and continues to walk its length to the engine. Of course, she is looking for spies herself, as befits the aura of the Venice-Simplon-Orient-Express. Spies and temptresses and writers and countesses and moustached gentlemen of natty appearance with zee little grey cells working overtime. And criminals and murderers and explorers and adventurers and (no doubt) adulterers and placid businessmen with fettered imaginations and the old wealth and the nouveau rich and folk on the run from the past and folk hoping to run to the past and not once in her complete walk to the engine did she once stop for all those posing to take a Selfie with the Orient Express in the background because – really – if you can’t remember it with your own memory then what’s the point?

She looks up at the engine and realizes that it has never belched billowing smoke and that it never will and she has been prepared for this disappointment – but still. It is a pleasant fantasy as is the whole trip as is the Venice-Simplon-Orient-Express itself since the *real* train stopped years ago and even then there had been so many variations with so many destinations that someone could have taken several “Orient Express” trips and travelled on several different routes. In fact, two of the most famous books set on the Orient Express”, Christie’s Murder On The Orient Express and Greene’s Stamboul Train, are set on two different trains, neither of them the “Orient Express”. So Alison Alexandra is not really miffed there is no smoke-belching engine with escaping steam. She can make her own fantasy as others have done before her.

She returns along the platform, rubbing her fingers across the side of the blue-and-gold Waggons-Lits Sleeping Cars. She has kept out of the way of the ceremonial line-ups of the train staff greeting passengers. Enough attention has been paid. She again peers into her compartment window of the S-Series sleeper – slightly smaller and slightly less ornate – more suitable for a sole traveller who plans no assignations. The train is five minutes away from leaving. Alison Alexandra will indeed change for her evening meal. Not all her interests in the fashion of her youth have dissipated. And- after all –she is on the Venice-Simplon-Orient-Express. She is not present only for the transportation.

Alison Alexandra wants to blend in and not be either a fashion statement nor a fashion disaster. Black is always the new black, so she enters her Waggon-Lit, enters her compartment, opens a travel case much older than she, and slips into spiffy clothing and accessories that would have allowed her to slip into any of the fantasies of the fantastic Venice-Simplon-Orient-Express with nary a comment of discord but with a nod of appreciation.

In the Etoile du Nord dining car, she has the desire to sit with three other people instead of one. She has made her request known, and will be hailed by a seated trio. She hopes for the best but her anticipation is tinged with a trace of concern. She does not want to be bored, nor does she want to spend the meal warding off unwanted attention. She felt it futile to make such stipulations up front. Sometimes you have to go with the flow.

“Hello.” A face turns up to her. “Are you Missy Alison?”

“Alison Alexandra.”

“I told you so.” Another head turns in her direction. “Your black attire will slide right well into a trio of  three widows.”

“Now, Blanche.” The third voice speaks without raising her head. “We’re sisters first, and widows second.”

“Which one of our husbands would have gone on this trip?”

“True.”

“So that’s why we’re here.”

“Is that why you’re here, Alison Alexandra?” The sister who has yet to look at her now does. “Death allowing you to escape into life?”

“No widow me.” Alison Alexandra looks at each face in turn. “Nor wife neither.”

“Do you still want to sit?”

“Oh, yes.” Alison Alexandra pulls out the final chair. “And as I am the only one in black, might I suppose your widowhoods are not recent.”

Train Station Saved By Becoming House of Booze

 

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I was first at this train station in the late 1950s, to greet my Mother’s mother, who travelled by ship from England.
She first went to Saint John’s, and then (I guess) Halifax. She stayed with us two months or more, with one trip (I bet by train) to Ontario to see a sister (Great Aunt Lizzie, who sent me a toy where you squeezed a rubber ball attached to a hose that pushed air into a small box which made it pop open and a snake coiled out. I called the snake Lizzie, which caused some consternation).

Also, my brother’s first memory of my father was seeing a pair of legs waiting at the bottom of a rail car as he and Mom disembarked. I assume this was also the York St. Station. He would have been three. Dad was away on the continent fighting a war when he was born and, at war’s end, had been shipped directly back to Canada.

And – of course – I lived ten minutes away from this station for thirty-four years. Many and many are the times I walked the tracks to go to UNB, both as a student, and for work at the University Library. Many was the Sunday walk I took from the Station to the Princess Margaret Bridge, which was two kilometres away. Then I walked back beside the river.

I also took a number of train trips to and from this station. And during those times the train finally did not physically come into this station, one took a bus from here, to and fro the Fredericton Junction station.

This  unexpected walk down memory lane is caused by my current character, Alison Alexandra. For the last three days I have been describing Alison Alexandra sitting beside a disused train station (now a museum), waiting for a train to pass so she can wave at the engineer. Which she did.

Here is the link that describes how this station – eventually – was revived from its years of abandonment, and its derelict situation, to become a modern place of commerce.

100 Years Ago Love Goes So Terribly Wrong For Kafka

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When I wrote my novel, Kafka In The Castle, filling in all of Kafka’s missing diary entries,  after a few months of writing, I found something very interesting. The day/month/year I was writing about, mirrored the day/month/year in which I was writing.

 

For example, if the 03 of July was a Friday in my writing year, it was also Friday, 03 July in 1917.

 

It was an exciting surprise, and made (I think) for more immediate writing.

When Kafka became so ill he he took leave from his employment, he stayed with his sister Ottla in a village, hours from Prague. The following recounts the visit of his fiance,Felice.

 

Here is 23 &24  September from Kafka In The Castle.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

23 September 1917

The trials of Felice. The trials of Franz. As they are put together in this obscure little village – with animals and harvest and the clatter of waggons without.

Because of the war, her train journey an ordeal of thirty hours. Only to reach this destination. This lover who doesn’t …even have the grace to love another.”

That is something F. can understand.

 

24 September 1917

The two days Felice spent here a trial of misery. A trail of misery. Even – I suspect – when she slept.

It is fortunate that I am ill, for it lets her see me in life, the way I am in spirit. The`me’ she would have to fight against. The `me’ which is always opposed to her.

We shared quiet meals, grateful and annoyed by Ottla’s constant chatter. As good a hostess as possible to this strange, sullen couple.

Ottla must have been thankful that her chores took her away as often as they did. I had no such excuses, yet could offer nothing in their place.

F. and I were truly left to each other, and any thoughts she might still have about us getting married must surely be removed.

When we did talk, it was about the change in seasons, the harvest (she took an interest), her work in Berlin. About my health when I seemed to tire (my weariness not all caused by being sick).

We rarely held hands on our walks – just briefly, in the minutes as we returned.

The few kisses were perfunctory.

Not even for memories of things past.

God And Death Kept Me From A Poetry Reading

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Admittedly I set out later than I should, but the poetry readings were to go from 7-9. Enough time for some of it. However, as I was a few blocks away from the harbour (yes, I was also going to stop by the harbour first) I heard Latin chanting.

I greatly enjoy Latin chanting, so imagine my surprise. It turned out there was a large tent set up in a parking lot beside the Roman Catholic cathedral. Six men were chanting a service for a small group. It seemed related (in some way) to the jazz festival happening in the city. They had mics and lights. I lingered by the  fence and listened. Evocative and effective.

However, I did feel I should go to the poetry readings, so off I went.

But I gave in to my temptation of visiting the harbour on the way. It was there, as I sat looking out to sea, that an elderly, white haired man struck up a conversation. A visitor who had arrived by train for a week of vacation.

The first vacation without his wife, dead these fourteen months.

She was eighty-four.

When he said this, he saw the look of surprise on my face.

“Bet you can’t guess my age,” said he.

I answered, with some truth, that I never answer that question.

“Eighty-one,” he said.

I granted I would have shaved a dozen years off his age.

“Married sixty years,” he said. Always had travelled with her. Always went by car. “But it wouldn’t be the same,” he said. So he took the train.

So – yes – I stayed to talk to him.

“Get up every morning to fill the day is my motto,” he said.

So I answered his questions about the islands, and if the helicopters flying overhead were military, and if all the ships needed the use of the tugboats we were standing beside, and was there somewhere close he could buy magazines, and how he got this real good travel deal through CAA, and how he talks to everyone.

“Is that really the ocean out there?” He pointed.

I nodded.

It was.

DE

(image)http://www.poetseers.org/wp-content/uploads/emily-dickinson-because-i-could-not-stop-500×344.jpg

The Dream On The Night Train

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The troubled night carries too many warnings of mortality to be ignored.

There are horses kept unfed in refrigerators, clambering to get free.

Some will be found emaciated.

Punishment will be meted in an ingenious and terrifying manner.

Flowers will turn to doorknobs.

Stooping to smell will reveal the pungent scent of fingerprints.

Dreams to befuddle Satan.

Fears not be wished upon a hated enemy.

The steps are steep.

The rooms without walls.

Pictures hang and grin with howling mouths.

What would be the fruit of seed tilled in these fields?

If that hunted figure, racing so slowly after the final train, is you,

Whose eyes watch the train?

DE

(image)http://previews.123rf.com/images/jerryb7/jerryb71111/jerryb7111100134/11458140-Railroad-Track-Switch-Stock-Photo-railway-tracks-train.jpg

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