But are not all things beautiful?
I have a theory that we are each of us born an age which is our default real age our whole lives through. For example, I have known babies and toddlers like tiny old men and women and equally I have known consenting adults of several decades who are consistent in their infancy. My age, I am sure you are fascinated to know, is six.
At six years old I was taken on my first skiing holiday. We travelled on what used to be called ‘The Boat Train’ from London Victoria leaving at night, to Dover whence we boarded a ferry and then another train to take us across Europe.
I don’t remember much about the first train, I do remember my mother getting increasingly taut when my father refused to stop and ask directions despite having no clue where on earth he was going in a vast after dark London. I now know this is a cliché of male-female behavior but at six years old I merely thought it hugely entertaining that my mother was making hissing noises like a deflating bike tyre and gradually turning purple under her (entirely natural if you please) platinum blonde coiffeur, my father seemingly oblivious (which remained his constant default) to the combustable woman beside him. I suppose he must have found the station and parked the car and we must have taken the train to Dover but I don’t remember it at all. I remember a dead dog floating in the dock at Calais the following morning which instilled an unfair prejudice to the place that lasted over thirty years until I visited on a whim and found it to be not unpleasant at all.
We were greeted by our ‘courier‘ who was Austrian and called Ernst, had blonde hair, was very kind and thoughtful and whom I liked tremendously – in fact, if I close my eyes, I can still see him in his bright blue turtle neck which matched his eyes and jeans a shade or three darker. I imagine he was in his just-crowned twenties and so, to a six year old with an array of older male cousins, he fit nicely into a niche that I was comfortable with. For reasons I cannot discern I remained convinced that he was Norwegian for many years until, in my forties trotting out a memory or asking a vital and, til then dorment question or idly wondering if Ernst would still be waiting for me, I included this erroneous fact in my chatter and Mother corrected me. I admit to feeling momentarily crushed. I haven’t any idea why I thought he was Norwegian – I’m not even sure I really knew where Norway is. But he was so nice and smiling and friendly and he wore a large shiny badge loudly declaring the firm he worked for, all beguiling features to a six year old girl positively beyond effervescent with excitement. He ushered us onto the train and into our compartment which had, joy of joys, ‘couchettes’. This meant that at night we could turn the deep leather bench seats into bunk beds. Imagine the absolute heaven of that! I fancy we must also have slept on the ferry but sadly the shocking incident of the deceased dog at dawn eclipsed all else and I have no recollection at all of a cabin. After some while there was a mighty wheezing and blowing and the noise of metal being tapped upon metal and a scrunch and a lurch and off we groaned gradually, gradually gaining momentum. I can still remember the sound – not so much the rhythmic slide and clatter of the wheels on the rails but the chuff-puffing-puff-chuffing. Because we were being pulled by none other than a steam train.
I had only ever been conscious of one steam locomotive before (this was 1967) and that time we had been standing still and chill on the platform of our village railway station, my father, older brother, granny and I, solemly waiting with a crowd of others for Winston Churchill to pass on his final journey to burial after his funeral in London. He had died the day before my younger brother was born. I was four and even at that age I understood that this was momentous and I remember peeping through the steam and knowing the train was carrying a most important cargo and that it was extremely sad. Of course in my reality I was a very grown up six rather than the four any notional calender assumed me to be, which may account for this mature attitude to treating things with respectful gravity and deference.
This steam train, though had my now two year old brother aboard and he was extremely over-excited and equally over-tired. We were subjected to him repetitiously singing ‘I Did It My Way’ (not the whole song, just that line) having been so moved by Frank Sinatra, with whom my mother was smitten, singing on the television, at yet another final concert that wasn’t, when we were waiting in the night to get in the car and set off on our tremendous adventure. Bedtime at that age was six o’clock, except on Tuesday’s when I was allowed to watch ‘Bewitched’ meaning I retired at seven, so the fact that we were catching a night train in London meant we were up giddyingly late.
The journey passed as journeys do with cards and colouring and playing games that involved looking out of the window and spotting things to fit whatever theme my mother had invented in her desperation to keep us amused. Far too often, the bumptious brat would chime up with another chirpy chorus of ‘I Did It My Way’. At regular intervals, possibly to try and stem this vocal flow, Ernst would appear with refreshments in boxes or on trays depending on whether it was a cold or a hot repast. Having never eaten anything from a box before it was beyond exotic and things like cold chicken and salad took on a whole new allure that was positively glamourous to a six-year old. And those little packets of salt and pepper? Thrilling! I didn’t actually use them, you understand and I think I may have been thirty-five before I finally conceded that my little collection of identical squares was serving no useful purpose in my life. When they gave us warm croissants and other viennoisserie for breakfast a life-long and unquenchable obsession with pâtisserie was born.
Whenever the train stopped we were allowed to get off and walk around. I have no idea now where we stopped but it was quite often and it was quite fascinating … up until then I really had no notion that the French Miss Scrivener taught us at school was actually relevant, that people really spoke it. I had no idea that grown men might wear berets just like the one I had to wear to school. And all the while there was Ernst elegantly and seamlessly looking after us, making sure my nine-year old big brother who preferred not to be seen anywhere near his siblings didn’t wander off too far and that we were all back safely on the train in good time for the whistle to blow. I was certainly in love with him and convinced we would get married when I grew up by the time we got to what I imagine may have been Strasbourg. When it was night we slept, or tried to, with the increasingly bawdy toddler still shouting ‘I did it my way’ every time morpheous silently, smoothly snuck in with her soft arms ready for the fall. I decided that I positively did hate him and made a mental note to ask Daddy if it honestly was too late to send him back.
Eventually after what seemed like a month but was probably a day and a half, we reached Innsbruck where we had a break of some while before boarding our onward train. Looking back from the lofty position of having mothered several children, I imagine our mama must have been sleep-deprived and virtually desiccated by this point. Therefore, when she rattled into the cafeteria to extricate my father and I, he in the process of buying my first ever bar of Ritter Chocolate, a hallowed moment to be savoured, not interrupted, it is fair to say that brittle would be the word that described her mood best. She was shrill in her insistence that we were about to miss the train and dragging my older brother and carrying the tot she advanced purposefully towards it and, in fairness, it did indeed appear to be revving up for an imminent departure. My father didn’t question her (he knew his place) and we all boarded and sat neatly in rows. Even the blessèd bellowing boy was decorously calm and still. As the platform official raised his flag and puffed his whistle-blowing cheeks in readiness for the off, all hell let loose and suddenly there was the heroic Ernst banging on the window with one hand and yanking at the carriage door with the other. My mother stared at him glassily as though she had never seen him before in her life and my father didn’t notice at all. But I did notice. I noticed because, be reminded, this was my husband-to-be. I tugged coats and bounced and squeaked and eventually my parents collectively engaged their brains and peered at the apperition now almost glued to the window. He was mouthing something urgently. Father stood and pulled down the little openy bit of the window through which, if tall enough, or lifted by someone who was, you could wave to your adoring public on the platform as you departed. The now near hysterical Ernst managed to emit the word ‘Budapest’ before collapsing. My father gathered us all and shoved us through the door that had dangled Ernst, calling on all his skill as a one-time rugby player of some talent, before it slammed shut behind us, the platform official looked at this disgraceful tangle of gaping fools in disgust and blew his whistle, dropped his flag and the train departed for Hungary.
The actual train was barely a train. It was tiny and the seats were wooden slats but I was certain it had taken us to heaven. So high above the world, so clear the air, so blue the sky, so diamond sparkling the snow. Actually it took us up into the Tyrolienne Alps with which I fell in love as instantly and as deeply as I had with Ernst. The difference was that Ernst, I am ashamed to say, would be replaced many times over as my one object of undying love, but the mountains never will be. And neither will Ritter chocolate which remains a guilty pleasure to this day.
The picture was taken at Les Lacs Robert in the Alpes Belledonne, one of the three mountain ranges, two of them Alps, that surround Grenoble, where I live. We enjoy walking up there. The shot was taken in June. Today being January it is thick with snow and peppered with skiers. The Alps are relatively young mountains as you can tell from their sharp silouette, older mountains have been eroded more and are less craggy, more buxom in appearance. It was the Weekly Photo Challenge labelled ‘Weathered’ that prompted me to post the picture. The gallery is brimming with admirable entries, should you be minded to take a browse.
PS: The title comes from Jerome K Jerome, he who is best known for his wonderful ‘Three Men In A Boat’. This is taken from a short story, ‘The Passing Of The Third Floor Back’, a slightly strange and whimsy tale told with his usual acute eye for characterisation and wry humour. I recommend it if you have an idle half hour – it isn’t arduous nor long. In it, the main character, referred to throughout as ‘The Stranger’ says ‘Nothing, so it seems to me, is more beautiful than the love that has weathered the storms of life, the sweet tender blossom that flowers in the hearts of the young, that too is beautiful. The love of the young for the young, that is the beginning of life. But the love of the old for the old, that is the beginning of – of things longer’. Miss Devine responds ‘‘But are not all things beautiful?’ I find the observation of the stranger quite lovely and something one can only hope one is fortunate enough to attain.
To square the circle, when I saw that very first steam train taking the greatest of men to his final rest, I was on the station platform of the same village in which Jerome’s Three Men noted that ‘the reaches woo one for a sunny sail or for a moonlight row, and the country round about is full of beauty’. And there, I shall always be six.
A well remembered story from your 6 year old life.
I was something unforgettable 🚂 🎿 ⛰
Great story – so well written…I particularly love the line “the journey passed as journeys do…”
Thank you John …. I’m glad you liked that line – it happens I am fond of it too 😊
It is amazing what things stick in our minds and what disappears. A wonderful piece of writing. Thanks.
Oh thank you, Darlene … that is so kind. It is strange when one ponders why one thing sticks whilst another doesn’t. 🤔
Like you I always felt people, and myself, with a real age, the one that lasts until death . It may be THE challenge in one life to get a little more mature, a little wiser . And what’s really good is the fun gets more blazing too in the process . Normally .
And yes, I adored Jerome K.Jerome when I read him at about 10
It was my first introduction to British humor – I didn’t realize – and this man strongly infuenced my writing in the following years .
Don’t you think we should marry ? :😊
Ian, you, of course, live at the next station up the line where in Jerome’s story, they discovered the body of a woman in the river and then had a meal at The Bull, much to Montmerencey’s delight. If the queue is long, I handn’t noticed 😉
You are my soul mate! I have loved JKJ since I was 10 too (although I was obviously still really 6) …in the book, the village where J comes upon the body of a woman and they then decide to leave the boat and go to The Bull – thus pleasing Montmerencey? I lived opposite The Bull at Streatley which is linked to Goring on the other side of the river by a pair of very pretty bridges. When I talk about Cheese, the shops (Wells Stores) was in Streatley! I was brought up in Pangbourne, in fact. So that is my history for you because if we are going to be married then you must know everything 😉 I am so glad you concur about the notion of being one age until death. I’m afraid I will never grow up. Or not afraid actually …. I probably prefer it that way! Gros bisous Grenoblois à toi 😘
In French we say “my sister soul” (âme soeur), I find it suits perfectly, Baudelaire says “our wife is our sister from (by?) choice”, so he agrees . But you need to grow up a little, or I’ll risk a karmic fine for cosmic pedophila and we’ll have to flee across the galaxies for a thrilling endless life of adventure and beauty..
That comment has me laughing so loudly that my rather snooty neighbours must be in despair! I love that expression âme sœur… it’s beautiful. And I really should get down and dirty with Baudelaire one of these days. I am getting so much more confident with my reading (like all good six year olds … by the way I had a reading age of 12+ at 6 to my mother’s pride). I promise I will effect grown up whenever necessary to avoid fins but fleeing across galaxies is a very beguiling thought!
As you two are to be bigamously wed, may I be chief bridesmaid, seeing as I am another of your soul-sisters?
Now snorting indecorously in Grenoble … you can be the âne sœur bridesmaid on condition you bead his frock 😉
Phildange will be wearing a frock!?
Sure baby . Always ready for a F… Rock ! Let’s roll !
He will in my version …. that’s the great thing about being the writer – you get to write the script for the cast 😊
“âne soeur” ? Is it an intended pun or just thoughtlessness little girlie ?
I plead autocorrect, sir – honestly. And I should probably go to sleep – up since 4 and clearing slacking 😉
@”I have loved JKJ since I was 10, too…” – décidément, we have this in common, également… 🙂 <3
I grew up in his shadow, Mélanie …. and a beautiful shadow it is ❤️
As always, a lovely piece of writing. Thanks for sharing – all I can remember of course is the three men in a boat, and Joe Rance in a different boat.
Three Men in a Boat and The Boys in The Boat —- so different but both masterly. If pushed, though I would go with Joe rather than Jay 😊. Thanks so much for commenting Arby – it’s always good to see you here.
I enjoyed your post about your first trip very much. It brought back memories. In the tender age of 14 I was sent to live in Great Britain for four weeks during the summer time. I remember the trip the opposite way, the train ride through Austria and Germany to Calais and the ferry to Dover. Goodness now you got me going. I should write about it. 🙂
Oh PLEASE do! I love your writing and can only imagine what a wonderful post this will be. I’m so happy to have brought back memories. Where on earth did you get sent to in England?
Plympton by Plymouth. Don’t ask me how that happened 🙂
We used to refer to Plympton as Plumpton and Portsmouth as Pompey – its a navy thing, I think. How on earth places are selected, who knows but I am always fascinated by the twinning of towns and wonder how they occurred. For example Grenoble is twinned with Oxford which is entirely understandable – both very academic, but how did it get hooked up with Phoenix Arizona … I’n sure there is a plausible explanation but it escapes me!
Hmmm – my long reply went AWOL :-}
Never saw it … WordPress can be the very devil on occasion … I will check the Spam folder because I have been a victim of that TOO many times!
It’s a devil for me too, and I have five customer sites plus one charity rowing effort on my Linux server WordPress network (in Amsterdam, but for a valid reason – the vendor had no UK datacentre when I first set it up).
I’ve been using it for over four years and mostly it is really good but it does have it’s strange foibles and like most strange foibles they appear to have no reason. As someone who simply wants to use it not understand how it works, I don’t question I just go with it ….
Overly at pains to point that out, as I worked at an ISP that had UK and Netherlands coverage. Told one day that the company were a nett exporter of web traffic to the USA, I couldn’t reconcile the traffic volumes with the speed of the link we used across the North Sea. Until a colleague mentioned “Do you think all those Dutch web sites are physically in Holland”?. Penny dropped. All in server farm in a converted church in North Finchley.
So that’s what the Cof E is doing with it’s surplus stock!
What a wonderful telling of this story.
It is amazing what we remember – and why do dead things stick so long in the mind when you see them as children? Among a large assortment of dead creatures clogging up my brain, I vividly remember a poor kitty who met his end on a busy road on my walk to school, decades late.
Thank you Sarah – I’m really pleased you enjoyed it given the pleasure you and your furries give me! There’s no hiding your profession when you home straight in on one of the most important details for me. That poor dog. I can still see him and it is 51 years ago. I don’t know why we get so obsessed with dead animals (and I’m really sorry about that poor pusscat) except I imagine it is primeval in connecting us to death perhaps.
You are such an amazing storyteller! Such a vivid memory! What an adventure. I was right there with you…. 🙂 Now do tell me about this “default age” and how you arrived at 6 for yourself?
Thank you Jodi. I just spit it out when the mood takes me. I do, though, have the memory of an elephant inherited from my mother, she from hers and passed on to at least two of my daughters. Six? I did resist in the quest to mature for a long long time. I think six was quite defining (this is one of the reasons … this first experience of the Alps – the long long train journey and observing my parents, feeling somehow responsible for my younger brother whilst knowing my older would always protect me even though he effected nonchalance – I had another post about flying … that might enlighten further 😉
I always wanted to be 32, even when I was six. It was my favourite number. Now at 50, I still want to be 32, but the ravages of time are making it a little harder to achieve , although not being grey yet, I could possibly wing it for a few years more. I have my own age calculator – take your age, divide by ten and add two – that now makes me seven this year. Being a year older than you Osyth – I would steal your Ritter bar and probably eat it all without sharing!
Step AWAY from my Ritter … I can be quite vicious and had two brothers and many male cousins to hone my fighting skills on 😉 22 is actually my lucky number and it was a good age but I’m too forgiving, too naive for 22. YOu calculate like an accountant. Stopit!!
What a brilliant story. I was nearly ill laughing, and I needed a laugh today.
My perfect age, for reasons that would bore others rigid, was ten. I was at my happiest that year. The childhood years before and after? Nuugghh!
Ten is a lovely age to be. Keep it close and check out that little girl from time to time when the going gets touch … my six year old is my secret weapon. I was still at my first school at six which had a lot to do with it. After that my excessive height, my mother’s insistence that I had a boy’s haircut and hand me downs and the fact that we lived in what was dubbed ‘a palace’ by one of the village children and it stuck, made school miserable. Interesting – I hadn’t considered that before. I am so so happy that I have made you laugh.
That house had a gate, and a St Bernard that woofed (and dribbled) at all comers with it’s paws on top when my parents Triumph Herald stopped outside.
Max – he was the size of a small pony and his woof was more of a boom but he was as fragile as a flower 🙂 My first car was a triumph herald. I bought it (literally) in Portabello Market
I’m so glad you…. Did it your way….
There is no other way in world of me, Ali! Thank you so much for taking the time to stop and comment … I do appreciate it x
I can just imagine how frazzled your dear mum was! I do hope she did enjoy the holiday once you all arrived. xx
Jenny, mum never took to skiing (nor golf nor any other sport, actually) so when we went skiing she was to be found on a sun lounger in a fur hat with her sunglasses sipping coffee (or was it something stronger 😉) whilst we cavorted on the slopes. She was an absolute trooper because she hates snow and cold – she says she enjoyed it but I think she was relieved when the time came not to have to chaperone any more! Xx
Beautifully narrated and words crafted cleverly that touches the heart. I enjoy reading your experience which is visual imagery painted and makes it a thrilling experience.
That is SUCH a lovely compliment Vishal … thank you so much. You make it worth the effort. Go softly my friend 🙏
I enjoyed reading this and I too remember ‘the boat train’ and Ritter bars. It seems I am about your age, and although I only lived in the UK for some few years in the middle somewhere, I have fond memories of Europe and the UK as-were and taking trains and reading paperbacks while doing so. I am unsure of my own secret age, but there are some contenders that I will contemplate–
Oh thank you for that lovely reminder … of course, how could I have missed paperbacks …. I suppose because I still do that. Most recently I took the TGV to Paris from here in Grenoble and what bliss it was to bury my nose in whatever book it was – somehow books seem so well disposed to thundering through countryside, looking idly up from time to time and wondering where one is. I love trains. And hurrah for another who loves Ritter. There are no others quite like those bars of delight. I am 57 – I always think being born on a zero makes it easy to remember which I hope will see me thorough to senility quite nicely. Have fun working out your secret age …. I promise you will have one. So lovely to see you here, I hope you will come again 😊
Thank you. I am a couple-few years younger than that but not much, and you are right that an even year would make the math easier! I used to love the trains. Those in the US seem dreaful-smelling, all sealed windows and bad chemical spray and the train exhaust–or maybe I am just older and crankier. I recall the Italian trains back then had problems too. The most vivid recollection of them was waste on the bathroom floor, and not something one wants to see or evade in a moving train…
I’m glad to bring back happier train memories …. dirty bathrooms and nasty smells are not to be envied and the sealed window thing is ghastly. I spent many years commuting from Oxford to London to work and the trains were very hit and miss. Here I have been fortunate, from that first long journey to more recent excursions it has normally been a happy experience. Italy, not so much. I lived in Rome in the eighties and had some pretty noxious experiences! My second daughter is also born on a zero and says that it makes it impossible for her to escape her age (which is an age I would love to be again, by the way!!)
I agree about the youth thing. I understand now what a precius gift it is, and how it seasons everything: hard work I did or deprivations I suffered or illnesses I had all were more easily weathered as a young person. Oh well–all that is left is to build character perhaps–I must get started on that right away!
I keep telling myself it’s time to get started …. they say youth is wasted on the young – in some senses it is but it always is – it’s part of the condition of being young and full of promise and not imagining for a moment that you will get old. But then again … there is something to be said for living in the moment and not worrying too much. That’s where my six year old comes in. My daughters will tell you that our go-to song when they were growing up was Que Sera Sera and I do have that attitude which many find irksome but really … most things are not in our control and we can’t fix the past, so why worry!!
That is why when I do tarot readings I always focus on what is best to do and to be aware of for the best outcome. It seems unkind and foolish to me to predict something (which can of course change in an instant, so I do not believe that would be possible or even practical) and not give the person some insight into what might be best to bring about the best results.
Wonderful, wonderful story-telling. I love the re-telling of childhood from the vantage point of age, and you do it so well. Your “Budapest”-mouthing Ernst has several equivalents in my childhood and that shiver of recognition will have me smiling for the rest of the day.
My default age is 23; I was an unbearably old and miserable child, so was very happy to discover that even as the body ages, 23 is an excellent age for the soul (if not the heart or mind).
Thank you Su, you know how highly I rate your opinion. I’m so glad you enjoyed it. I have never forgotten Ernst, he still has a tiny portion of my heart somewhere in not-Norway. Twenty three is a wonderful age to settle on. Childhood is not always happy and I think it’s hardest for those born at a later age. My older brother was the same and I think only really started to become him, the real him in his twenties.
🙂 I wonder if eldest children (I’m assuming your older brother was the eldest) are more likely to have an older default age? I must ask the Big T (a youngest child) about his.
Yes, he is the oldest and I think there is truth in your comment. My eldest struggles to be as whimsy as her sisters …
I’m the eldest, and the only girl — a double whammy of “responsible” that I see also in my sister in law, who shares the same position. I hadn’t thought too much about it until I realised that the Big T and I come from identical family structures (except he now has a sister no-one knew about until recently). While he’s the baby of his family, we both have the same struggles with our “difficult middle ones.”
Haha …. I’ve always been considered difficult too. Having four children, all now adult, I watch the dynamics, listen to the struggles and conflicts and the protection and support with great interest.
Beautifully written as always. I can sort of relate four major pivots that had a fundamental effect in my lifetime outlook, the earliest at age 14 and the last at 28.
At 14, it was working all summer holiday in the grounds of GP Trentham in Purley, and earning £42 for several weeks work. Stapled it in a jacket pocket and took the train to London to buy a kit to make a Sinclair Executive Pocket Calculator. Duly built it, and took it to school for life in amongst classrooms full of British Thornton Slide Rules.
My comfort zone has always been the latest gizmo and the opportunity to dream optimistic future realities on what I tinker with. Nothing high tech fazes me.
A side effect was two of us finding we’d be short changed in our weekly (cash) pay packets one of those weeks. My colleague from the local Secondary Modern School was asked by the payroll guy to empty his out to prove it was wrong. When he left and I said the same thing, he just asked me which school I went to. “Theale Grammar, Sir” I replied. He just paid immediately. That’s why I loved that School; it’s reputation at the time was golden.
The other three are for another day.
I remember Trentham of course. Peter was a friend of the family outside of anything else. I suppose they all were but my musty recesses get clogged with so much else. Yours is a precious memory of working hard, earning the cash and spending it on something you wanted and that was to serve you well. My own calculator was bought in Japan by my father. It was solar powered and everyone at school was amazed. I say was – actually I still have it and it still works. Theale was a wonderful school. I actually arrived as it turned Comprehensive and I’m afraid that was its downfall for a while. I look forward to the other three stories in due course and in the meantime, thank you for always being so kind to me. For anyone reading this and wondering – Ian was at school with my older brother therefore being a fourth year when I joined the same school in 1972.
No matter where I am or what sort of day I’m having, your writing draws me in and allows escape for a brief time, but what a lovely time.
My heart is lost to non-Nordic Ernst. He is a hero, true enough. Though I’m certain your present 6-yr-old self would have written a glorious tale of Budapest as well.
That is balm to my spirit, CJ – thank you! There are a precious few that I really rate as writers in this place and you are most assuredly one of them (as you know) so your words are truly well received. I still find myself wondering if Ernst would have waited ….. and I have still to go to Budapest 😊
Thanks so much for taking us on your first journey as a 6-year-old. Given your static age, we have been lucky enough to enjoy some of your later adventures too. I’m not sure what my real fixed age is, but I often refer to 27, which seems rather grown-up for how I behave sometimes.
27 is lovely if that is how you feel. At 27 you can certainly still behave like a much younger person – my second daughter proves that regularly 😉.
So much to enjoy in your marvellous story telling. As always you take me back to my childhood and my first steam train memories, travelling to Swanage with my parents as possibly a 5 or six year old. When we arrived my father took me to the engine and the driver allowed my up into the cab – oh the joy 🙂 If only we could always be six.
Oh HOW exciting! I would have loved that. The best I ever got was a ride on a traction engine at the Woodcote Steam Ralley. Six is a wonderful age. Actually all ages are in the right circumstances but six retains the real wonder of discovery and belief in magical things (even if you don’t dare own them to your friends just in case they laugh). I am always happy if you enjoy one of my silly stories, Andrew 🙂
What a marvelous tale! Worthy of a book. (ANOTHER book for you to write!)
The photo reminds me of the Lenana peak of Mount Kenya.
I have never been to Africa …. I would love to. I watched Out of Africa on Arte Fr the other night – I’ve seen it countless times, but never in French, it made me itch again. You are too kind about my storytelling but I do enjoy the process 🙂
If 7 is the age of reason, so much the better to be 6 and still ding magic at every corner.
I like six, Bernadette though I am mindful that it must be the magical six not the stroppy six that I know I could become if unguarded
I hate autocorrect. Still see magic
I rather liked ding magic … it sounds like a special bell 🛎
Some lovely memories stirred up from the recesses of my childhood, and teenhood (if I just made that up it is long overdue!). Boat trains, slatted seats on buses, trams, and trains (no spitting!), couchettes. Oh yes.
Thank you kindly Ma’am!
Oh Osyth, what a beautifully told tale! So many gems and the characterization of your mother is a hoot! Haven’t we moms who’ve traveled with a brood experienced those same taut moments and brittle moods.
Have we EVER!! It honestly only was when I had a clutch of children of my own that I understood. I’m glad you enjoyed the picture of my mother – these days she effects Dowager Duchess much of the time and calls me ‘The Daughter’ – never sure if that is to be embraced or hidden from!
I’ve never had Ritter chocolate. Can we still be friends?
Also, I must say that I am a little peeved with Ernst that he didn’t just hop on that train with you and go to Budapest. Imagine the stories you would bring back from THAT adventure!
I love your writing. This is wonderful.
Sally, you are safe …. my husband has never had Ritter either and I love him!
Poor Ernst, I think he must have been relieved to see the back of us in reality, but I do still find myself daydreaming about whether he would have waited, and I do still need to visit Budapest. I’m so glad you enjoyed it.
On road trips as a child it was…”I’ll take the third house on the right” followed by “No way, what a dump!” Thanks for taking me back to a better time.
Great game! I like playing if you HAD to have (insert whatever it is you are looking at) which would it be. Your life depends on it. If you choose none, you are out. I’m glad you enjoyed the journey …. it was so much simpler then, wasn’t it?
I think writing humour is one of the hardest things to write. And you did it so perfectly, and made me laugh, after having been already annoyed by someone else, that I’m sure you just bettered my whole day.
So thanks again and I wish you smiles too 🙂
Hello L – that a lovely thing to say. I’m so glad to have made you laugh after a less than pleasing day. That really is as much as I can ask for. Humour is a very particular thing, I think so I am glad this particular thing gladdened your day. Lovely to see you and I hope you will return often. I send those smiles reflecting right back to you 😊
I enjoyed reading this to the max. Smiling ear to ear with occasional out loud laughter. And yes, that first croissant! Such a trend setter for life, irresistible. 😃
This makes me very happy. And reminds me that I deserve a croissant 🥐
Entertaining journey, entertainingly retold. I remind me of your mother, having been the one pulling urgently at toddlers sleeves and chivvying husband along in an attempt not to miss something that had a deadline. Oh to be the one who carelessly said : “there’s plenty of time, stop fussing”.
I became that person much later and for many years. These days, she’s the one I chivvy but it is, of course entirely futile 😉
6…what a great age to be. I felt as I was on the train with you. I have never tried Ritter! I don’t think we have it here in Australia 🙁
Next time you are in Europe find you that Ritter…. copious flavours all to be savoured! So glad you enjoyed it …. 6 is pretty perfect 😊xx
Will do! ❤️
Or privately email me your address (really, you need this after your recent sadness) and I will send you some .. really – Ritter IS chocolate (and I come from the land of real Cadbury and moved next door to Belgium 😉
You’re too kind Osyth. Thank you 🙏🏼😊 I do love my Cadbury. I can only imagine how wonderful Ritter is. ❤️
It’s different – not better because I don’t think it’s possible to be better than Cadbury but as good😋 💖🍫
Superbly written early memories; sparkling photograph. I’m sure there must be a stupid quiz on Facebook that would fail to do the sensible thing and confirm your age as 6
Detrick, thank you so much and I promise I won’t do any foolhardy quizzes on Facebook though I can confirm from previous such research that I was Queen Victoria and Mozart in a previous life, that my spirit guide is Aardvaak and my shaman animal an aardvaak and my shaman guide a raccoon and that my natural career is ballet (or was it belly 🤔) dancer 😂
From what I’ve seen belly would be the more appropriate 🙂
A lovely memoir, told in your own inimitable style. I’d have wanted to give your brother back too, if only for his taste in music! I think I can fill in the gap in your memory caused by the dead dog in Calais incident: as the Dover to Calais crossing only took two hours or less, except in bad weather when it was horrendous, the ferries I worked on as a student didn’t rent out cabins to passengers. They were expected to sleep in the lounges, or spend all their time and cash in the duty free booze shop. A pain in the arse for those of us having to work, especially the hyperactive brats. Oh, sorry…. 😂 xx
Over time I mostly improved his taste in music but I still regularly wanted him to be returned! That must have been it. I think the night train to Dover must have been one of those curious sleepers that crept like cats and arrived at dawn and we must have been foot passengers on the ferry. Either way, the for haunts me go this day and it was only the Dodgems that I passed a childish and possibly aggressive hour on in Calais in 1997 that allowed me to pay lip service to moving on …. I wasn’t hyperactive, I was very very earnest and well behaved so I am free of your branding 🙂xx
I’m glad you managed to get it out of your system! The night train must have taken many more hours than needed, as Victoria to Dover Marine was only a two hour journey at normal speed! Either that or they put you in the sidings for the night! I was of course referring to your brother rather than your good self – though my happiest memories were of the parties of French and Belgian students that we used to ‘look after’ 😉 xx
I was only 6 and he was 2 so not really student league at that point. I believe they used to run the night train at a snail’s pace and arrived you at Dawn Krakov. Whatever they did I don’t remember…. the dog was eclipsing 😦but Ernst made it all good so I could skip harmoniously away to Austria 😊xx
At least you have the memories of Ernst to sustain you from that time! And he spared you from Hungary, which was a noble deed. I suspect I enjoyed myself on the ferries much more than you did 😉 xx
Let’s just say I always use the tunnel out of choice 😉xx
I suspect I would love my childhood even more if you were doing the telling of it! By the way, I feel akin to your Mother, for I too, was smitten with Frank Sinatra. But it’s your admission of being thrilled by those little packets of salt and pepper that makes me go “ME TOO!”
Hurrah – I’m so pleased there’s another fan of the little salt and pepper packets …. too thrilling. And, as it happens, I’m with you and my mum on Sinatra … he was pretty perfect 😉
This age fits you well dear Fiona! Love the post and story
What a lovely tale! I agree with you, I too kept very much in touch with the child within. 🙂
I’m delighted you enjoyed it. Personally, I have found it essential to protect the inner child and I am always heartened that people I value feel the same way 😊
Oh, this was such fun. I’ve got into the habit of expecting to find you posting new here only on Mondays for Marcolès house progress, so it was a delightful surprise.
You’ve stirred two memories for me. One is of waiting for hours in chilly St Paul’s for Churchill’s funeral to begin. I was in my first job (if you don’t count selling umbrellas in Harrods as a vac job – but that’s another story). And although the most newly arrived member of the H of C Library staff, I scored a ticket to that grand and solemn occasion.
The other is of a recurring dream I used to have – not sure how based in reality but we were living in Germany for some of my childhood. I’m in a large German railway station, trying to find the right train to get us to some distant place, and I’m perhaps 11 or so, and in sole charge of my younger sister (6 or 7 at the time) and a pile of luggage, having to get both of us and the luggage onto the train, and be sure it is the right one, and it all hangs on me to get us to the right place. No parents in evidence.
My birth year ends in a zero, so the real age caluclation is too easy, and I’m under no illusion that I’m still 10 (no, that was not a good year) or even 20 (though that was much better). I fancy you may have “I think I’ll stay six for ever and ever” at the back of your mind. Was that the first or the last poem in the book? Doesn’t matter: you are still “as clever as clever” in your writing and I so much enjoy it. Thank you.
I’m trying to discipline myself into a more regular writing blogging pattern of 2-3 times per week. For the moment we will certainly have Marcolès Monday because, believe me, there’s an awful lot left to tell and it is therapeutic for me to realise that we honestly have done an awful lot. I think. Your memories are fantastic. Both jobs are worthy of the telling …. in fact the umbrellas mind me to tell a tale, rather a sorry tale, in fact 😉 The library job – now that really does fascinate. And to be at Churchill’s funeral. I am profoundly moved by that. The German train dream is quite irking. People tell me dreams mean things …. If that is so then surely this is a tale of anxiety and a sense of responsibility beyond the years of an 11 year old. I’m sorry 10 wasn’t good … my mind now wanders to the possibility that this is somehow connected to your dream. Staying 6 is undoubtedly safe and I am sure the poem (it’s called ‘The End’ by the way, which tells you where it sits) probably played and still plays a part. Milne cannot be bettered for his simple wisdom in my view. I am extremely flattered, therefore that you think my writing ‘as clever as clever’ – to adopt a Pooh-ish stance it just sort of happens, tiddly pom. I’m delighted to have you along for the ride, thank YOU.
I can close my eyes and see your poor mother….great story….and I too have had many an Ernest in my life….aren’t infatuations wonderful….and as for Ritter chocolate, its yummy but my fist love is and will always be Hershey’s…being American and all….the Alps are on my bucket list….I have been to the little Alps in southwest Alaska, not sure of the real name of the mountainous crags, but the little float plane had to fly threw them to get to the other side of the island, something I wouldn’t want to be part of on a windy, cloudy day….and in Colorado Lizard Head Pass is also referred to as the Alps, so I have been told, and when you come over the top and look East the purple craggy peaks are breath taking, the locals told me it would the closest I would ever get to the real thing in the USA….They were beautiful…I can only imagine how beautiful the peaks are around you in the middle of winter… I look forward to reading more of your renovations in Marcolès !! Another one on my bucket list….it just keeps getting longer and longer….!!xxxxx
You see, being European, I don’t entirely get Hershey …. I’m a Cadbury and Ritter girl through and through! Childhood tastes of pleasure. The Alps are absolutely beautiful but I’m pretty certain I would fall in love with the Little Alps and the LIzard Head Pass just as easily … I’m a sucker for mountains, as you know and this is really where it started! I’d love to show you my France, you know that 🙂
Oh sweet heart your on my bucket list for sure…LOL not that you are in the bucket, just on the good list…LOL Cadbury is pretty damn good if I have to say so myself, now that I am married to a German, they claim the chocolate fame and his family is always trying to prove that fact…LOL they certainly do a good gingerbread that’s for sure….LOL this kind of talk is not helping with the “lets not eat sweets” is it….mountians and oceans are my heart throbs, along with trees and cactus, can’t forget my sisters in the woods…..xxxxxk
We beat with the same heart, dear sister Kat xxx
Hershey? It always appears to carry butyric acid from the milk they use, which is why us Brits sense the smell of sick in it. Unfortunately, Kraft are already selectively polluting Cadbury’s Chocolate now. Creme Eggs the first victims. I hope their sales figures carry the message back.
Given that the British seem to embrace all the worst things that come out of the US, I imagine they might splutter but it won’t stop them scoffing the eggs by the truckload 😉
Interested …. not so much – sorry 😐 People will do as people will do. The fact is that Cadbury sold out, the fact also is that the food industry is one of the most aggressive in the world. The public will find another love, they will moan and groan for a while and then they will forget. Such, sadly, is life.
Wonderful story! I remember going to Innsbruck, too, with my parents when I was quite small. The best things were the hot chocolate and the wiener schnitzel, which were the only things I allowed to pass my lips during the whole holiday, since I was a very fussy eater as a child (I wish I were now!). On another occasion, we took the train from Calais all the way down to the Cote d’Azur, with the car on it and had couchettes. I was about 10 and had to share a compartment with my cousin, four years older. When we arrived in the early morning she got off the train and promptly fainted. In my pre-adolescent state of ignorance, I was less than sympathetic. My mother always hated travelling, and it was my father who dragged us around Europe.
I think I have remained at the age of 12, which is when my father died and our lives changed forever.
I was not at all fussy but I would certainly have lived on the hot chocolate and Wiener schnitzel for ever …. your story about your fainting cousin did make me laugh. Ten year olds can be very unforgiving! What prompted me to write this, or reminded me, was a conversation with another follower in which I told her about this theory of mine. She said she is nine which was the year she lost her mother. I cannot imagine the trauma and impact of losing a parent when you are a child – it is one of the many ways in which I have been extremely lucky. 12, you are then but for such a tragic reason.
I always think of that as the day my childhood ended. It is a long time ago, but it’s also yesterday.
Life can be very unkind
A lovely memoir, I was pleased to meet your parents and brothers 😉
… And you were very lucky to have someone like Ernst to look after you throughout this long trip !
Thank you …. I’m so glad you enjoyed it. Ernst was a superstar – I genuinely hope he has led a happy life 🙂
Somebody told me that around six years old is when our strongest memories are formed, almost like a kind of imprinting. Memories stemming from before and after that period in our our development are not nearly so well defined and multi-dimensional. If so, six would be a good age to default too!
How fascinating. I would love to read more about that. Certainly I can vouch that many of my strongest childhood memories stem from that age. All the more reason to stay six for ever and ever 🙂
Not sure how valid this theory is, but it makes a degree of sense and is a good reason to stay six!
What a fantastic post, Osyth. What an amazing story teller you are with such a gift for the English language. You took me straight back to steam trains taking me to much less fabulous destinations with egg sandwiches for the beach at Prestwick. I now love your mother who reminded me of my own with unnatural ash blonde hair. If she had been still with my father, I can only imagine the hissing on car journeys. Teddy’s parents took him on wonderful adventures like yours to Innsbruck. Teddy and I went on a fabulous train journey from Vienna to Budapest about 15 years ago – heaven! What a wonderful start to 2018 – my dearest friend writing happily about our shared loves. Part of me is 7 years old and another is 19 years old. None is the real 58 and a half years…😸❤️🚂
Thank you Kerry – coming from you, that is high praise. I think my love of trains stems from that time and I, in turn, am rather envious that you took trains to the beach! For us, beach trips were by car (and I always got car-sick) and trains were for the twice-annual trips to London. No surprise that our mothers have similarities, I rather feel. Mine always felt rather glamorous. Your trip to Vienna and Budapest has me green with envy. Both cities are on my bucket list and to go by train from one to the other … heavenly! Nineteen, I think can be quite a seminal age – I remember it fondly and told each of my girls that it was a year to bottle so staying there seems a good notion. As does 7!
You will have to post a photograph of your gorgeous mother – you had to get your beauty from either her or your Dad. Despite being as poor as church mice, my mother insisted on wearing Italian wool clothes and expensive shoes. To be fair, they lasted forever and she just coordinated them differently. I dyed my dark hair blonde at age 19 and the men came flocking…quite a fun experience. 😻 I channeled my inner Blondie, who I saw at a college concert. I really just looked like a slut…LOL!
My dad was quite a looker too – in fact when I was engaged to my first husband my divorced mother-in-law made a play for him. He didn’t notice but my mother never recovered from the affront. Hilarious with hindsight – at the time, not so much. I will try and find a picture of the two of them and scan it in. Your mum sounds deliciously glamorous to me and your description of you and your first foray into blonde made me snort in a decidedly unglamorous way. The embryonic cougar was born 😉
A cougar cub…😸 I love that your divorced MIL made a play for your handsome Dad – that is hilarious. So Peyton Place! I would love to see them.
When I’m next in Marcolès I’ll find a picture and scan it in. Here I am in a furnished place and have few treasures with me …. if I told Mother it was Peyton Place she would probably stop having moments (she still does and I had to council her before my daughter’s wedding where clearly they were gong to have to meet after all these years) that dad is not even here any more and she should try and forgive and forget. Hilarious role reversal 😂
I am so happy that your still have your mother with all her foibles! Weddings bring out the worst in my family. My widowed aunt in her 80s was felt up by another older relative from the other side WITH HIS WIFE SITTING NEXT TO HIM! You can tell I inherited the cougar thing…
I nearly bust my corsets laughing at that! 😂
Beautiful story, beautifully written!!
Thank you, Sumith … that means a great deal 🙂
This memoir of your travel tales is so fascinating. I’m amazed how you remember so much about the train and other details. And yes, I also do believe all things are beautiful. As far as age is concerned, I agree 100%, though I’m not quite sure about mine. Ashish always tells me he has two kids to take care of – Aayansh and ME 🙂 🙂
One of the key traits I got from my mother is an extremely long and accurate memory. Of course I have the licence of the story-teller to embroider and fill in the cracks if they exist …. lucky Ashish – two young children with wide-eyes and delight!
Looked again for part 7 but it has disappeared from sidebar and from blog. Mysterious…
It’s because I published part seven before re-running the previous six. Then I took up the story afresh with part eight. You can either find it on the scrolling banner at the top or type Coup de Coeur part seven into the search box … either will find it. I hope it’s not a massive disappointment when you do …. thank you for being so willing to keep looking 😊
Sorted! I had already read and commented. Happy to be up to date.
Thank you Brigid, you are a determined woman!
Well written as always Osyth!!!
Thank you … You are very kind 🙂
I have missed so many of your stories in the past few months. We are back on the blogsphere to post a few photos on our trip to Mexico City so I am taking the time to view what I have been missing. This is a lovely story…(Suzanne)
How lovely to ‘see’ you Suzanne (et Pierre) …. I shall really look forward to seeing pictures from your cameras in MC – I know it will be a real treat. I’m glad you enjoyed the story – it was fun for us, probably less fun for my mother!