Friday, December 14, 2007

Postcard from Frankfurt

Dear Wifey,
Went across to Frankfurt to see an old friend who is recovering from an operation. Like me, she moved away aways a couple of years ago because of her husband's job and since her operation has been locked tight into a very Germanic programme of recuperation and rehabilitation. She is very brave about it all - I would winge endlessly: "Meine leg hurtzen lotzen...Ich wolle grossen pillz bitte." While she was at rehab, I went to a Christmas market. Little wooden sheds with carved nativities and an orchard of ribboned baubles, hung about in different colours like so much exotic fruit. They tempted you to lean closer and bite through the glass to taste Christmas sweetness and emptiness. I resisted. I did not think I had the German to explain such behaviour to the police psychiatrist. I caught a cab from the market to the railway station. Is there anything better than a train station in another country? Arching rooves, a station clock at the head of each platform, electronic displays that tell you if only you were to turn up on platform 17 at 16.58pm you could go to Paris Est and then what? Life could begin again. I did not go to Paris Est, instead I got on a train to my friend's house. I was inordinately pleased with myself. I checked on board and a kind fellow traveller told me when to get off. He got off at the same place and walked up the platform ahead of me; I looked around deciding which direction to go and I noticed him hesitate then glance behind him. My friend had said to catch a cab when I got to the station. I remained inordinately pleased with my capacity for independent travelling even though I could not see any taxis at the station. Indeed from what I could see, it was not so much a station as a platform in the heartland of the German suburban night. Luckily, there was a phone box with an advert for a cab company plastered on the back wall. I rang, using my word scraps to say where I was. It was cold and nothing much moved. I stood by the phone box on the street corner. I hummed a few bars of Lilli Marlene. I rang the cab company again - I thought there was an outside chance I had ordered a cup of coffee with milk and no sugar rather than a cab. The taxi controller though seemed quite cross I still had not been picked up. I thought: "I wonder if I am where I think I am?" I began to doubt myself. I really do not want to start doubting myself - God knows where it would end. I walked past the recycling bank, back up to the station. My kind fellow traveller had put me off at the wrong station - instead of Kelkheim, I was in Kelkheim-Muenster. Nothing much happens in Kelkheim-Muenster. I thought: "If I was going to get off at the wrong station, it could at least have been Paris Est."


softinthehead said...

German Christmas Markets - ooooh lovely. Didn't you buy anything? How restrained...not even a gluwein?? Having lived in Germany for a little while I know what you mean about the deserted stations, but am still envious of you and your shopping opportunities. However, I have to say the transport systems in Europe are fantastic and so affordable and seriously put north America to shame. Here a train only comes when it is convenient for the train company, doesn't run late or early or during the main part of the day actually and is bloody expensive. Sorry to use your blog to have a rant...Hope your cab finally found you.

Racheal Miles said...

Hi, just saying hello, I found your blog whilst blog hoping.

I will visit again soon.

Racheal x said...

I remember going to the wrong station when we were in Italy. We caught the train to Florence in a remote station. We had done this before but this time I was hesitant that this train was going to the right station. Call it a hunch. Our friend said "it says Florence, why wouldn't it be the right station". It turned out there were several stations in Florence and the one we were going to didn't have a cab rank to get back to where we should be or, come to that, any body to ask what we should do. Long story, but we finally found our way back to the right place. Scary