3: and every chapter must be so translated

In Others
July 22, 2010

I travelled from Bologna to Paris today, on the train. Well, last night. Well, today. Forgive me, I’m a bit tired. The train was two hours late arriving at Bologna – hours I spent on a humid platform fending off beggars and weirdos, always fun to be a woman travelling alone – then it accumulated another couple of hours delay on the way across Europe. I was on the top bunk, which required a bit of an acrobatic feat every time I wanted to go to the (fetid) loo. (Actually I don’t know why it was quite so horribly smelly, it was literally a seat over a hole onto the tracks. Nice.) And the bunk was uncomfortable, and the train kept jerking, and I got so little sleep I’ve spent the whole day literally room-spinningly-dizzy.

And yet, and yet, I loved it. I never did that inter-railing thing that everyone was doing when I was a teenager. Me and my friend Esther did a mammoth train trip around Scotland, but never the backpacking across the continent. Well, some experiences you missed as a teenager can’t be recaptured, but some can. I want to do this again, something about the challenge of it, the exercise of rusty language skills, the encounters with strangers, the feeling of being in motion… wonderful.

Some of my best moments were translating between Italian-speakers and French-speakers. I wanted to go “you’re both speaking Latin, for goodness’ sake, surely you can understand each other?” But I really enjoyed helping out.
“Venti due,” said the Italian train conductor, “venti due.”
“Vingt deux,” I translated for a grateful French lady.
Somehow, bliss.


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