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Foreign Intrigue & Adventure

When I were a lad, we went to Rome to see the Pope. He was in. That was lucky. We'd traveled overland from the UK by train through France & Italy. I can't remember how long it took, a couple of days at least. I had a huge white plastic 'gerry can' in a haversack. It was filled with orange juice. It had been my dad's idea, because we couldn't drink the water 'over there', (and you still can't!), and this would help on the journey. There was a slight embarrassment about it at first, but although the juice was warm before we'd even left England, there were some welcome thirsty faces on a packed sleeper train ploughing it's way through Europe .

But who were we. 'We' were the Archconfraternity of St. Stephen - the "altar servers union" - and we were on a pilgrimage to Rome. Funny thing is, I never really felt like pilgrim. In fact, as far as pilgrimages went - this was a pretty damned good one in terms of the travel arrangements, journey, and guaranteed final outcome. If you consider all those medieval pilgrimages where the church actively encouraged people to go wandering around Europe & the Middle East looking for Holy Shrines, we were on a good thing. No passing plagues, no bands of robbers ,(although it never stopped the pickpockets in Rome trying to steal from one of the priests with us), no chance of getting to our final destination and finding it burnt down/stolen - or find ourselves imprisoned for our beliefs. But those French sleeper trains were a bit primitive.

Our train stopped everywhere. By the time it got half way down France, it was absolutely packed. I remember one morning sticking my head out of the train door window as we whistled through the French countryside scaring les vaches, and there was a girl who was leaning out of another door window a few feet away:
"HI !" I shouted, above the noise of the, ( I guess ....), diesel locomotive, "Where you from?".
Now I was actually being a bit silly there, not just being incredibly English. (Note: being incredibly English is expecting everyone....everywhere to speak the Queen's English. I mean, after all, didn't we colonise half the bloody world in the first place!? Anyway, lets not get into that one. Lets get back on the train......).Yes I was being silly, because I didn't know how she was going to answer me....
"Fine," she shouted back, "Where you from?".
Okay. That took me by surprise - she either was English, or had a very good English accent, and I couldn't hear her 'foreigness' because of the noise of the train. I shouted back that I was from England. So was she. Hmmm. I understood her quite well. I asked her to be more exact.............she only lived about 15 miles away from me back home.

So much for foreign intrigue and adventure, eh? I stuck my head back in and had a warm cup of orange juice instead. 

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