I boarded the TGV to San Raphael, where Verity was to collect me. It left Paris at quarter to 6 in the evening. As soon as I settled into my seat, it was as if a light switch went in my head. I was OUT.
An hour later I came to and the smartly-dressed, somewhat nervous Frenchman in the window-seat excused himself. Goodness knows how long the poor guy needed to get up, presumably to use the loo. Throughout the rest of the journey he proceeded to smooth his neatly-folded suit jacket on the pull-out table in front of him whilst eating mints at a precise rate so that he finished the last mint in his packet exactly before his stop. I, meanwhile, drifted in and out of consciousness.
My hands and feet burned as they thawed. The skin on my hands hurt to the touch. I slowly regained a healthy body temperature. After nervous-Frenchman left, I snuggled into the corner by the window and passed out again. The rushing sounds of TGVs passing in the opposite direction, that punch of wind blowing as we went through a tunnel, roared in my ears and my mind returned to the long stretches of the D-roads in the North of France. The cold, the wind, the impenetrable mist. I shook in a half-conscious daze and imagined crawling under the duvet in Verity’s guest room and sobbing.
Dani very helpfully put together a MAP OF MY ADVENTURE FROM LONDON TO PARIS. I like visuals, and I like maps. This trip was either amazing or insane – probably both.
But I was warming up now, I’d eaten dinner – I’d had a beer! Luxury! – and the TGV was safe, warm, and well-lit. Everything was going to be ok. And I was never going to do that again.
Verity collected me as planned. When she asked if the trip had been cold, I said, ‘You have no idea.’ And she replied, ‘I think I do.’ And she probably does have some idea. Her late husband was an award-winning motorcyclist, who would follow races with a news camera, who took part in the Grand Prix. And she’d been to the North of France. ‘The weather there is like England.’
Of course it is. LATITUDES, Kelley!
11pm on Friday night: Vertity fed me hot soup (bliss!). Then I had a hot shower (ecstasy!). And then I went to bed, and her two cats, Gaston and Felix – the reason I’m really here in Les Adrets de l’Esterel (The Sunny Side of the Esterel) – to cat-sit – slept on the bed by my side, purring away.