Posted tagged ‘Journey into Hell’

Steam on the inside

November 13, 2012

Many tides ago I recall reading in some obscure magazine that it is not a good idea to make friends while on a cruise. The reasoning for this was that, although initial contact with the strangers you’ve just met was favourable, after a few further meetings they can start to annoy you. His jokes are rotten, her voice is grating and things like that. Avoiding your new acquaintances can be difficult as big as the boat might be, there are limited spaces to hide on a ship. Diving over the side is not an option, especially if there are sharks in the water or if you can’t swim. There’s a lot of islanders that can’t swim, you know.

I’ve singled out cruise ships but irritating holidaymakers can be found on any kind of vacation. Or location. On a train, for instance. There’s no telling who will sit beside you on a long train journey. If it’s the chatty type you’re in for a long haul. Guess what, I was once the victim of a gabby traveller who could talk the leaves off a tree.

My ordeal began, as these things do, quietly enough. The carriage I was in was empty save me and I settled down for an enjoyable read of my Kindle. The silence was broken by the siren of the train signalling it was about to move. I had selected my novel from the library mode of the machine and breathed out a pleasant air of satisfaction as the train trundled on its way. Suddenly, there was a back draft as the door of the train opened and a middle-aged man jumped into the cabin with the verve of a superhero.

“Hello there, I’m Dan.” Dan offered his hand to me and during the clasping of hands he tried to wrench my arm from the socket. A firm handshake is one thing, why do some men go the extra inch? It’s definitely a my car is better than your car kind of thing. Male alpha/beta nonsense. And we all know what these men are hung up on.

“What are you reading?” Danman asked.

For me, this is bad practise. It’s Ok for close friends to ask this personal question not complete outsiders. I was also reading a Kindle which should give me amnesty from this type of query. The whole point of the Kindle is for private reading. There are no big covers displaying your reading material only a leather bound wrapping protecting the e-reader. My hesitation lasted a lifetime forcing Dan to utter another enquiry.

“Do you speak English?”

This was a lot easier to answer. “Yes”

“So what are you reading then?”

And now there was nowhere to hide or run or dive and attempting to shield my pulp reading matter I lied to Dan that I was reading that masterpiece of complex human relationships dealing with the theme of madness, Tender is the Night.

“Tender is the Night.” was my lying reply.

“Fitzgerald, eh.” Danman was on the ball with books. He went on. “Don’t you think Redford was miscast in the Great Gatsby? He ruined the whole film for me. A better choice would have been James Franciscus.”

This was too much for me “James Franciscus has never been in a decent film or TV show in his life.”

Dan was not for budging. “Franciscus was absolutely sensational in Beneath the Planet of the Apes. He outHestoned Heston.”

“Are you kidding? The Apes saga was Chuck’s best work.”

Dan sat back in his seat deep in thought before resuming the conversation. “I’ll let that one go. Let’s go back to Gatsby. Lloyd Bochner would have played the part much better than Redford.”

“Dan, You’ve lost the plot. Bochner must have been about forty when The Great Gatsby was made. He’d be too old.”

“Actors change their appearance. They’re never too old or young.” Now I’d had enough. What am I doing, sitting here arguing over trivialities with a stranger on a train? Goodbye, Danman, I’m going to jump. I opened the door of the carriage and leapt outside.

My fall was broken with a soft landing. I had jumped into a small lake which was beside the railway. How lucky was that? And then I remembered I couldn’t swim. More serious was my worry that I didn’t know if the Kindle were waterproof or not. At least as I was in Britain there were no sharks or stingrays or piranha. I heard a splash in the near distance. Crocodiles? Alligators? With my head barely above the surface I could see a figure powering toward me through the water. It wasn’t a caiman it was Danman.