Postviral, postcontract and pre-jobcentre, I am now also pre-Paris. Parents and self in hotel for the night before, in compassionate deference to the fact that two train journeys in one day would probably kill me (I get sick on trains; Interrailing, the darling of Sophies, Tamsins and Tristrams everywhere, would probably put me on a drip by Belgium). Tomorrow, I Eurostar.
Breaking it down, this means that tomorrow I have to get on a train, under the ground, under the sea. This is not news to anyone who either uses Eurostar regular or feels no qualms about doing so, but for me it has to combine the worst of all possible worlds. A plane may be a screaming metal death bullet, a tube in the sky with only death and oxygen between you and terra firma, but the Eurostar takes the train’s one virtue of sticking firmly to the earth, and, quite literally, buries it. I don’t like trains. I don’t like tunnels. I don’t like the sea, for ANYTHING except swimming or surfing or eating things that come out of it (nb fish and not trawlers or swimmers). I don’t see why on earth it’s a good idea to combine all three and create a means of transport that, if it doesn’t drown you by drips, will quite possibly set you on fire.
I am, of course, v lucky to be having a holiday, and will probably have to put off complaining about my unemployed penury for at least a fortnight post-return. Unless the tunnel does what I expect and EXPLODES, in which I case I will be poor and crispy and entitled to a bloody good whinge.
Thank god it’s Paris. I am, despite the visions of a claustrophobic, water-clogged death, very excited. My tiny French students (flirtatious and well-dressed, admirably fulfilling the national stereotype) recommended various cafes, shops, and bits of grass to sit on (oh, my lost youth), and I have strict instructions from friends regarding cheap bars, arty squats, bicycles, balconies ‘where beautiful people will make googly eyes at you’, shops in which to feel stylish, onion soup, and a possibly apocryphal ‘Lesbian Street’ (guess which two suggestions came from the same source?).
Next time I check this, I will be IN PARIS (god & chunnel willing), and I want suggestions. Stories. Recommendations and dark, dark threats. Where should I go in Paris? And, since I have a couple of semi-commissions from a fresh-faced editor who I think is now in Iran, or somewhere, what should I write about?
Much love, your still-dry and still-sentient author. This hotel serves free cakes.
Dr Sophie Duncan is Fellow in English at Christ Church, University of Oxford. She works regularly as a historical advisor and as a dramaturg for theatre, TV, radio and film. She likes theatre, detective fiction and cocktails.