15 June 2016

ObserVation: The Boat-Train {A Journey in 4 Acts} -:- Act 4

hat has gone on before..
I was on my way between Cologne and London with the boat train. I had offered an inebriated Yugoslavia Tsimahian to accompany her onto London. On the boat I offered my assistance to a girl (not inebriated) on her way back to the British Museum from Kabul. Our luggage was now 5 pink cases, a hay rake, 2 butter churns (one content rancid), one still unopened 15 litre flagon of red wine and one two thirds empty, a spinning wheel and a sea chest of dubious and semi-unknown content. We were now heading for the train to London.


Act 4. Scene 1
Well we finally arrived at Dover. No mishaps for this stage of the trip, we got all our luggage off the boat okay, Jo was glad to leave and made the effort to walk down the gangplank under her own steam. Being now a professional in trolley acquisition we were off in no time. Same mode as before:
Me pushing, Jo riding.
Diana at this point informed me that she had to deal with the customs concerning some complicated paper work or other. I didn’t understand exactly what she was going on about, but she said that it would be advisable if she would run off ahead as it may take time and we would meet up again at the train.
I would have agreed to anything at this time, I was just glad to have reached terra firma. I nodded, she was off and the pushing resumed. Jo was at last in a good mood. She was singing to herself while finishing off the last of the fire water found to her joy in one of her bottomless handbags. As I was not up on Inuit languages and their customs it sounded like either an Inuit lullaby or a fully-fledged war dance for senior members of Alcoholics Anonymous.
With this thought there rang a bell off in the distance….
Now what was that?
Something in the last few minutes rang that bell..
was it ‘war’? no...
‘languages’? no...
‘fire water’? ... no ...
‘customs’? ... that bell rang again, closer at hand and with now a frantic overtone...
Customs! Oh h**l!
We had to go through Customs with a capital C!
And not only that, this was Britain!

British Customs: renowned worldwide for their ways of making you tear your luggage apart in front of the other terror stricken victims in the queue and make you smile all the time as you do it.
British Customs: who brought out the best seller ‘101 excuses for having you walk through the metal detector in bare feet’ [Ed: 4th. edition.]
British Customs: with their subtle ways of getting you to tell them where the secret compartments in your luggage are (which you didn’t even know you had) and without any use of narcotics and sharp needles.

Narcotics! The bell was now deafening and doing overtime..

The whole thing came up and swamped me, I had had a nagging feeling since the second butter churn appeared on the scene, but I could not put a finger on it. Until then I saw Jo’s 'alcoholic presents' as not a problem, we had drank almost half of the wine anyway and rancid butter doesn’t usually ferment, gooey and smelly - yes, noteworthy to customs - no.
But now Diana was on the scene …

But that was the point, d*m it, she wasn’t there! She was off and away. Was this a set up? No, no way, I threw that scenario out straight away. I admit that we were possibly naïve and hadn’t thought this through, but that was all.
Here I was, on me Todd, (in a worst case scenario, I didn’t see Jo being a reliable witness, more rather in the way) pushing the following:
1 rucksack
• 1 singing Jo
• 5 pink cases of various sizes
• 2 flagons of Yugoslavian homemade red wine (one flagon almost empty)
• 2 butter churns (one presumed to be filled with rancid butter)
• 1 spinning wheel (with wool in different stages of spun-ness)
• 1 five tined hay rake (could this be classified as a weapon?)
• 1 sea chest
And that was it – the sea chest.
A chest which didn’t belong to me, but a girl who I just happened to meet on the boat and whose address and family name I did not know!
A chest with large padlocks to which I hadn’t the keys!!
A chest which contains… which contains..
Hell! I don’t know what it contains!!!
Diana said something about medicine, remedies, ok, but shamans also used trance inducing drugs! It was dawning on me that Diana may well have not realised what she had carted half way around the world. There could be anything in there, from magic mushrooms, Lophophora williamsii Peyote and the rest of its crazy family or at least the Central Asian equivalent and there was the chance of a ‘touch of the hard stuff’ as well, and I wasn’t thinking of liquids either!
Oh b*ger!

This wasn’t amusing anymore.
I held the panic button pressed
until the level reached max.

What was I to do? That was it. I couldn’t do much other than push and hope for the best. My only thought was a repeat performance of Oostende. I pulled up the hood of my anorak, head went down, whispered to Jo to stop singing, look straight ahead and put on her “Bodicia look”, if it worked in Belgium it might work here.
Her singing changed to humming. As I couldn’t see her I hoped the rest of my commands were being acted upon. The gods were either taking bets, or occupied elsewhere, for we sailed through once again minus any mishaps. Following this the only other highlight at this stage, was having to leave Jo on her own to get through the passport control, which in her state she mastered with bravo.

Act 4. Scene 2
Well here was the train, we were through! Oh, was I relieved. The last leg should be a breeze.
Diana was not insight but that was not a problem at the moment. It was a long train and she was probably settled down somewhere up front. No matter I would look for her once we got going. I sat Jo down in an empty compartment, placed the wine within easy reach and piled everything else in the next door baggage carriage.
Even though there was no water in sight, on my return Jo had got into the swing of things and there was lots of swigging and singing going on. By the look of it we would be jettisoning at least one flagon before Victoria station. As not to be left out of things I helped to redistribute her liquid luggage as we slowly moved off direction London.

Time was ticking on and I started to wonder were Diana was, I had expected her to make the first move in looking for us. We had the bulk of the luggage and she had only her rucksack when she sprinted off at the boat. After sitting around all day, I wanted to stretch my legs. As we were at the end of the train I thought I would make for the engine end.
 

For the second time that day I commanded Jo not to move and started my journey - direction front - keeping a look out for Diana on the way.
Well I reached the first carriage with no real problems apart from one – no Diana! I was tired, the wine had gone to my head, but my short time memory was rather good, so I was pretty certain that I would have recognised her in my fly pass. But no, there was no sign of Diana.


In any case, I had lingered at each compartment or moved slowly between the seats long enough for Diana to have at least recognised me. Due to this lingering I was sometimes getting funny looks from the occupants which lead in some cases to a hastily retreat on my part. I couldn’t have missed her, there was hardly anybody on board the train anyway, which was a bit odd as the boat was packed..
That bell again..
Nothing for it, I made my way back in the direction of the wine depot. This time the funny looks turned to level annoyance as I lingered longer this time. On returning to our compartment, I was hoping to see Diana sitting there with an expression of ‘and where have you been all this time?’ on her face. But no, there was only Jo with a ‘Oh, it’s you again on her face’..
Ding… ding … ding….

Ok there was nothing for it.
I unpacked my panic button
and pressed it.

Now what was I to do? I had about an hour to think of a plan. Where to start ...
Ok, simplest answer would be to hand all Diana’s things over to lost property and make a run for it before awkward questions were asked. An alternative just leave it on the train. No, neither of these scenarios was on.
Ok. See if you can find an address or something on the chest. I remembered it was covered with stickers and labels, maybe I would find Diana’s home address. I went off and scrutinised the chest. The only address apart from a hotel in Kabul was a department deep in the heart of British Museum, where I expected she worked. That was no help at this time of night.

My mind started racing - there was no way I was going to convince a BM night watchmen that I just happen to have a chest full of possible homemade narcotics which was not packed in my presence, but in Afghanistan and belonged to Diana ‘somebody or other’ who I suspect, is or was, a member of the staff at this noble institution, or maybe she’s just a freelance worker and therefore you’ve never heard of her and when I come to think of it, you work nights and she would work in the day and therefore, even if she was a permanent staff member you probably would never have heard of her anyway, and no I’m not a hippy and that is not a butter churn bomb...


[Ed: Catches breath brings train of thought to obvious conclusion.]
 

I would suspect after hearing this, I would get a blank look with a forced smile, asked to wait the preverbal minute and the next thing I know there’s screeching of brakes, blue lights flashing all over the place and a Dixon of Dock Green type voice from behind me saying ..
‘ellow, ’ellow what ’ave we ‘ere then?  


No that was not on. While [Ed:] consults the train time table, I will digress a little….

Interlude
The only confrontation I had with the ‘Establishment’ was in my late teens, when I was interviewed by the police following a car accident with two fatalities. I was of the opinion that the car - as it drove passed, was going much too fast. I was walking home from the pub at the time. A week later at the same time there was a couple of plain-clothed officers hanging around interviewing “passerbyers” about the accident. I opened my mouth and put the proverbial foot in it.
I didn’t realise at the time that I would get dragged into a court case. It was a right farce; the police were trying to get the driver (who survived the crash) for reckless driving. They were clutching at straws and tried to use me as a witness, even though I hadn’t seen directly the crash. I had to go up to the Old Bailey and stand in the box and say my piece - embarrassing to say the least. It didn’t work - the defence found out I have a problem with my eyes and didn’t drive and so the opinion was I couldn’t judge the speed of the vehicle and therefore my ‘evidence’ was dismissed. 

At least I had the opportunity to see the inside of the Old Bailey and stand in the dock. The only amusing part in all this was, my interviewers name was Pepper, he was a detective sergeant, and I had at long last just bought the album...

Act 4, Scene 3:
Good, where were we.. yes, back on the boat train.
Thinking about it, a night camping outside the gates of the BM was not where I saw myself either, especially with a possible fiasco with a BM ‘day’ watchmen.

Ok, there was nothing for it, Plan B. Just wait at Victoria station and see if she turns up. It was the only place we both knew the other would be at some point. I could wait all night if need be. Jo would have to be solo from then on. If she made it most of the way through Europe before I turned up, she can do the last leg to Alaska on her own.

So with this in mind, I put panic on hold and returned to our red wine powwow for the strengthening of Anglo-Inuit relations. Victoria was finally reached, as we rolled into the station I stuck my head out of the window and scanned the platform, I had an idea and it had started with that first bell on the train.
During my 'walk-about' I had the feeling that something was not quite right. Nobody was standing in the corridors or aisles and the compartments were mostly empty. It left me with the impression of a half-hearted attempt at a ghost train. The boat had been more like a troop carrier than a passenger ship. Where were they all? Ok, some were off in other directions, but this was the ‘boat train’ and therefore by default should have been full of people from the boat.
Now to put my theory to the test.
Yes! And there she was!
Standing there waving like mad with a relief on her face matching my own.
Theory proven.
There were two boat trains!
The train stopped, we bundled off and Diana ran up and started babbling on about running up and down her train looking for us! It seems she had the same experience, only her train was packed. She had at least the idea to ask if there were two trains, so she was prepared.
Well what next. We were reunited only to see that it was time to go our separate ways. Diana was so pleased to see us again she spontaneously offered to put us up for the night at her parent’s house. Jo jumped at the chance, it was either that or looking for a hotel before her flight in the morning. I was also game and curious to see what was in the sea chest. The concert was the next day and I only needed to ring my friend to say I would see her in the morning at the rehearsals.
So we were off again!

This time the target was a taxi and Diana sat with Jo on the trolley and I pushed like mad. As I sweated out the last of the wine I wondered if Diana had an alternative motive than just thanks. I made a beeline to the head of the taxi rank, the driver sprang out with a spring in his step and a smile on his face. I showed him our luggage and the smile changed instantly into a grimace and a constant grumbling ensured for the whole trip until payment.
It was a bit of a squeeze but nothing was left for lost property.

At Diana’s house we got everything into the front room and finally chilled out. Diana was happy to be home after so long, Jo was happy that she had made London in one piece, and I was happy I would be only carting my own luggage around in future. Diana threw a meal together, the second flagon of red wine was cracked open and as it flowed we opened Diana’s box.
I must admit I was none the wiser after the event than before. It was full of packages with powders of various colours, dried leaves, roots and bean like err… well... beans. The labels were unreadable and even if they were I would not have recognised anything. I can’t remember much else about the contents of the chest, the day had been long, the wine was making its mark again and well it was some time ago.
Next morning we had breakfast together.
Jo took a taxi to the airport.
Diana was off to the British Museum.
I left for rehearsals.
I had a postcard from Jo some time later, but I never saw either of them again.

Epilogue:
[Ed: Glad that’s over. I must ask, was all that true?]
Of course it was, you were there!
[Ed: Yes I suppose I was. Still ..]
Yes I know what you mean, rather a lot packed into 12 hours.
[Ed: Nothing weirder than reality.]
Yes very true. How about a cuppa?
[Ed: Good idea, ... by the way anything left of that ‘you know what’ from D’s box?]
No. Long gone..
[Ed: Shame, then a bicky then?]
Ok, why not …

09 June 2016

ObserVation: The Boat-Train {A Journey in 4 Acts} -:- Act 3

hat has gone on before..
I was on my way between Cologne and London with the boat train. I had offered an inebriated Yugoslavian Tsimahian to accompany her onto London. After arriving at Oostende and gathering her luggage (five pink cases, a hay rake, butter (rancid) churn, one unopened 15 litre flagon of red wine and one flagon open with rapidly diminishing content) we were now heading for the Boat.


Act 3. Scene 1
I can’t remember how we got everything on-board; what I do remember is that Jo and the boat had something in common - they were both erratically swaying about. This was not, in more ways than one, going to be the calm crossing I had hoped. 

The next clear recollection I have is circling the boat looking for a large enough space to store the luggage. I marked the new found territory by depositing two of the pink cases on two empty deckchairs. The next phase was executed by running zigzag backwards and forwards between Jo’s last co-ordinates - she had the tendency to wander off in search of further aliquots of high octane - and the pink cased deckchairs. I eventually moved the entire luggage to the new location. 
Jo was the last trip. I steered her to one of the deckchairs where she made a pirouette, sat down, sprawled out and started to snore all in one movement. I made sure that all her bits and pieces were in easy reach, slumped into the second deckchair and let out a sigh of relief that this scene was at an end.

Act 3. Scene 2
I started to reflect. I had time; it was another 4 hours until Dover. I could not quite believe what I have experienced in the last few hours. It was all a bit weird. I was returned to this bizarre reality only by looking at Jo chilled out to my left and a mountain of pink and farm produce to my right. Had the ‘mountain’ grown since I looked last? No matter, I was tired and nothing could surprise me anymore.
But as before I was going to be proven wrong once again.
How wrong was going to be just before embarkation. 


I suddenly realised that I had neglected my own body functions. No not that, the red wine had seen to that earlier. I was famished. Naught to eat in hours. By the look of it Jo was off wandering her hunting grounds or where ever Tsimahians go went they slumber and so I prepared to hunt for the cafeteria or whatever they call them on boats..
[Ed: maybe aquateria?]
Nice one.

Interlude 2a
I will diverge a little while my hungry other self is off in search of nourishment. 
Is that ok?’ 
Sure, carry on; it will give an impression of time passing. 
Good luck and Bon appetite. 
Thanks’. 
One of me meanders off in the direction of the next watering/eating hole. Arms straight out to both sides trying to compensate for the rolling boat, looking a right charley for the second time that day..
[Ed: Camera swings back.]
While he’s gone, I’ll front-track a little, before giving a commentary on present surroundings.
[Ed: Back tracking would not be the correct terminology as we are off into the future at this point.]

Shipping utensils of today - sorry I was still in food mode. 
I mean boats of today, are nothing like the ones at the time of our four act journey. Today they offer a good British nosh up independent of the nationality of the captain and port of registration. They have stabilisers, giving the impression of a mill pond within contra to the choppy force 10+ gale without and thus relieving you of having to see your breakfast twice in quick succession. They have ‘wall-to-rail’ carpets – sticky in places following gastronomic mishaps due to ‘SSI’, but still carpets, and decent bolted down sit-ables, so that there are no surprises with unwilling sliding ‘deck tours’ when the going happens to gets rough. 
It’s only when they start handing out seatbelts, that you know there’s really bounce-able weather imminent.

[Ed: SSI stands for Spontaneous Stabiliser Instability, this is the nautical equivalent to air turbulence while flying, especially when you have just got your hot coffee.] (see Aerial pastimes no. 46 - Lunch).

But now back to the seventies, at that time, the channel crossing tubs in general and Belgium tubs in particular were - to use one word – diabolical. 
A floating lump of rust. 
I correct - a diesel stinking floating lump of rust. 
I correct again - a grimy diesel stinking floating lump of rust. 
You get my gist? 

The faded paint would flake off just by looking at it. The decks where made out of thin wooden lacquered planks slighly curved upwards in the middle lubricated with a mixture of diesel/oil and salt water. Thus turning into a topsy-turvy skating rink with the slightest roll or jaw. Vacated deckchairs would indiscriminately hit shins by sliding around in droves. Maybe ‘droves’ is not quite the collective noun I’m looking for..

[Ed: How about “a waltz of deckchairs”?]

I must admit ‘waltzing about’ would be more appropriate, synchronised to a spray which slowly and surely soaked anyone above deck. Of course most people would be above deck, which was due to the intolerable heat and smell of diesel below deck. 

I remember on one occasion I booked a cabin for MrsA. and myself for a night crossing, so that we could get a bit of a kip ‘en route’. Talk about a waste of money and mind. The cabin was a miniature version of a box room, had two bunks one above the other with blankets that had never seen a washing machine since their purchase. We were sandwiched between the boiler room and galley with the smell of burnt fuel and food. To top it all there was a constant droning noise and bone rattling vibrations. We held out for about 15 minutes before making a bee line for upper deck into a salt infested spray and freedom! 
These tubs disappeared over the years and were replaced with somewhat modern lumps of rust, the smell was better and the food - well - I’ll leave it just there. I have always wondered where the original floating wrecks ended up, not at the bottom of the channel that’s for sure. As they were a load of 'junk' anyway maybe they were put to good use by pirates for gun running and high-jacking in the Straits of Malacca.

[Ed: I know high-jacking is used for planes, is it used for boats as well? 
In French it literary means ‘pirates of the air’. 
If high-jacking is for planes then low-jacking is probably for boats. 
How about “aqua-jacking”? 
Sounds better eh? 
What about “terra-jacking” for cars?
ok, ok, I know that look it’s getting silly..]

Interlude 2b
As we have time before embarkation I’ll move on to the topic of deckchairs. 
On board there were striped canvas contraptions stacked up ‘en masse’ all over the place. There were a few ‘normal’ bolted down seats available but never enough to go around. The pushing and shoving up the gangplanks from ‘in the know’ frequent travellers and the resulting ‘seat’ skirmishes – a restricted localised variation on ‘street’ skirmishes - were probably the only entertainment on offer for the boat personnel. 

I think it was all a set up so that they could make bets on the number of causalities ensuing. It’s amazing what people will do not to have to strain their IQs by trying to set up a deckchair in a gale force wind. During the many trips I made in the ‘70s, one got to hear of rumours of passengers going over board, tangled in their deckchairs fighting with it to the last gurgle. I believe I now know why the trips to Dover took so long; it’s to allow fatigued passengers following a 4 hour deckchair battle, to sit triumphantly for 5 minutes writing postcards home describing the melee in detail before having to disembark. 

I could see a business here, jobbing on a boat and a side line getting paid putting up deckchairs for passengers. All you would need is a few hours practice, a finished deckchair with a sign on it saying..

Longing for a relaxing trip?
Frustrated due to an unruly deckchair?
This one was put up in 35 seconds flat!
It could be yours for a fee of only 3 pounds!
Delivery to the deck of your choice
for a small additional charge
(Reductions for families)


I must admit I haven’t been around places where deckchairs are popular in a long time; maybe there are people that fill this slot, no idea. 

Hi I’m back, are you finished?’ 
Well yes, I think that should do for this divertimento ... 
Good. I’ll take over from here’ 
Ok.
One of me disappears in my own literately construct.

Act 3, Scene 3
Now where was I? The food was not to my liking, there was no visible rust in the baguette, but was still uncannily gritty and the Belgium beer is nothing to write home about.
[Ed: This opinion was revised after a pub crawl between small independent Belgium breweries lead by a native. ]

I sat down and surveyed our little island of luggage. Jo was still out for the count. The cases were huddled in the corner probably afraid of the bands of irate deckchair fighters roaming the decks. The rake was propped up against Jo who was hugging her wine depot. Two butter churns standing next to the spinning wheel … wooa ……. rollback. 
Two butter churns?
A spinning wheel?

Had I ended up in a Grimm fairy story or was there something in that beer! I could not believe my eyes; this was way over what I could handle in one day – a week even. I could probably have forgotten a butter churn it had been a long day, maybe there were two to begin with…. 
But a spinning wheel? No, that I would have remembered. 
Spinning heads – yes, spinning wheels - no!

I was absolutely certain that on arrival at Oostende we did not have a spinning wheel with a dollop of un-spun wool hanging from it. Therefore, my dear Watson, the spinning wheel and the extra churn were not ours! What a relief this knowledge brought, my panic level went down a notch for the first time that day! 

Now my curiosity was aroused - who owned these contraptions? I surveyed the area behind the spinning wheel and found a girl sitting on a huge sea chest with metal clasps and locks, stickers and labels. [Ed: The chest not the girl.] I asked her if the butter churn and spinning wheel was hers and she nodded in the affirmative. She was about my age and looked bushwhacked. 

The reason why was obvious after listening to her story, which was on par with Jo’s. Diana, as this was her name, was returning from a field trip to Kabul where she had been sent by the British Museum.
She was to spend two months with a nomadic tribe and if possible to win the trust of their resident shaman, mainly to obtain an insight into the local customs from a shamanic view point. This she did and before her return was heaped with presents. The chest she was sitting on was full of medications, local remedies and talismans from the shaman. The tribes elders, or equivalent, had given her the butter churn and spinning wheel. I don’t remember how she had got this far, it might have been a land and/or air route.

[Ed: Afghanistan was relative stable at this time and it would be another four years before the Soviets rolled in.]

Respect is all I can say. 
And yet again I threw all sense to the wind.
Diana readily accepted my offer of accompaniment.
It was not just an act of chivalry on my part it was also a tactical manoeuvre as I had now another pair of eyes to keep Jo in check. 

I had added to my entourage a second butter churn, a spinning wheel, a Diana and a partridge in a pear tree….
… no backup.
An old heavy well-worn chest, that by the look of it may have at one time belonged to one Davy Jones of nautical norioty. 


A chest that would in the not so distant future 

made me press the panic button again…

02 June 2016

ObserVation: The Boat-Train {A Journey in 4 Acts} -:- Act 2

hat has gone on before..
I was on my way between Cologne and London with the boat train. On arriving at Oostende I had offered an inebriated (induced due to thalassophobia) Yugoslavian Tsimahian with three pink cases to accompany her onto the boat to Dover and then the train onto London.


Act 2. Scene 1
I was about to leave the train with my rucksack on my back a pink case in either hand and the third tucked under one arm, when Jo said she had to collect the rest of her luggage. I was beginning to regret my spontaneous gallant manoeuvre. 

What was this about ‘the rest of the luggage’? 
Jo said I should get out of the train and she would pass the rest out through the corridor window. “Ok” I said, and stepped down onto the platform. 

In hindsight I should have dropped everything and made a beeline for the boat. But no, that wouldn’t have been fair. At Oostende the train stops directly on the quay next to the boat so it was only a matter of a few hundred yards to go. Anyway she would probably have found me and duffed me up with her homemade silver knuckledusters. 
Well the next sequence of events was most surrealistic to say the least. 
The window was pushed down and a pink case matching the three at my feet appeared to dangle of its own accord in mid-air. Now where did that come from? I took the case and placed it next to its relations. As I looked back up again - déjà vu - another pink case! This was becoming uncanny. I repeated the exercise and low and behold when I looked up again a sixth case was hovering in the same place. I took it and placed it next to number five. 
At this point I was rapidly developing a sixth sense with a pink hue. It was time that I took on myself to have a fit of self-panicking. Most of the other passengers had drifted off in the direction of passport control and onto the gangplanks.  
We were still unloading! 

As if a suite of pink cases wasn’t enough, the next object to appear was not a case but some sort of hay rake. About 2 meters in length and with a wide five tined head. I couldn’t believe my eyes when it was followed by a wooden butter churn with plunger. I packed it and with difficulty brought it down upon the platform. Was it heavy! I had the idea it was still full of butter, rancid butter if the length of Jo's trip was any indication. 

I stood expectantly looking up at the window for the next farm implement. Well at this time I was pretty open minded in what to expect if the past few minutes were anything to go by. But nothing more appeared. I felt a right charley standing there with a rake in one hand and the plunger of a (rancid) butter churn in the other, and the pink of the cases just did not go with the redness of my face. I would have probably got some funny looks - but there was no one around! 

I pressed my panic button
and moved up a level...

 
[Ed: You have no problem with pink these days - just the opposite!]

 
True. Also thinking about it a three tined rake would be a tri-dent and a five tined rake would therefore be a ‘pent-dent’. No that can’t be right, sounds like a brand of toothpaste, anyway as I said a right charley... 


I called to Jo, but no reply. While waiting I started to look around for a trolley because in no way were we going to get all this stuff moved without wheels. Before I had the chance to make a move there came from the door of the next wagon a “Hello! I’m here!” 
At the top of the steps was Jo, and in each hand she had what looked like 15 litre flagons wrapped in a mesh of straw. I was slowly coming to the enlightenment that Jo’s relatives had ladened her down with gifts and local farm produce from the ‘old country’. 

I took the two flagons out of her hands and put them down. I then watched her slowly and carefully climb down from the train using all manner of hand holds that she could muster. If she had had rope and ice picks I think she would have used them. 

Jo was not in total communication with her extremities. 

With a closer look at the flagons at my feet I had an inkling of what was behind the slow motion descent. One of the flagons was open. The cork and what looked like red sealing wax was obviously broken and a good measure had been recently been extracted. I suspect for municipal purposes.  
"Try it" said Jo, "It’s homemade"
Why not I thought, what the heck I’ve earned it. I removed the cork and sniffed. Ah! red wine, I took a swig and that was not as easy as it sounds, the flagon was b*** heavy! But it was worth it, it went straight to me head. I took another why not I thought it lightens the load I thought.

Everything distanced itself from me. After what seemed like an age and a bit I was suddenly back in full Technicolor. The 'what the heck' was pushed aside by the harsh reality of the situation.

I took another swig and pressed my panic-button and the additional hit points allowed me to again move up a level...
 
Act 2. Scene 2
Now was the time to take the upper hand. 

I sat Jo on the largest case, propped her up against the butter churn and placed the hay rake vertically in front of her line of vision. To stop her falling over I told her to grasp the rake with both hands. I followed this up by looking her straight in the eye and commanding her - in a pseudo-American-cop accent - ‘to freeze’. Maybe I’ve seen to many American movies but it worked 2aT. 
Just in ‘case’ she keeled over I spread the other five cases around her to soften a potential fall. If I’d had the chalk I would have joined up the five cases to make a pentangle to ward off any daemons in the vicinity. But I suspect the only “jinn” in the area was leftovers in the little empty bottles tinkling in her handbags.

The flagons were placed in easy reach just in case of a 'de-freezing' before my return. With a glance over my shoulder I set off looking for a trolley.
After what seemed like ages I returned to the scene with four wheels and to my relief Jo was in the same position. Frozen in the stance of which I had left her. The magic imaginary pink pentangle was still intact on the optical and by the feel of it on all other metaphysical planes. 
I packed everything I could find onto the trolley starting with Jo and ending with the rake. To gain strength I took another swig of the wine and we were off! 

We must have looked a right pair. Me in my NATO anorak hood up [Ed: it had started to drizzle] head down pushing like mad. Jo sitting on the trolley, rake in the one hand the other arm cuddling one of the flagons her head held high with a look of serene stupor on her face. 
If I could have captured the scene on canvas I would have probably have called it ‘Bodacia on a binge’. 
I headed for customs with their uniformed Belgium ‘keepers of the coast’. I can only imagine that they were staring on in disbelief as we sailed past. I had my head down if you remember and I had no intention of looking up and making eye contact. 
There was no stopping now. If I had even slowed down it would have probably broken the spell and all hell would have been let lose. Our collective gods were on our side or giving us a reprieve to see what would happen next. 
Which would 
and did..