I’m on a train right now. The light is dying outside – and the clouds are glowing rosy pink over the limestone hills.
Enough with the pretty. Inside the train it’s prison strip lighting, tacky floors and toilets that make me yearn for a penis (as in, that I had one for peeing with, I don’t get turned on by prison strip lighting). Hell these toilets – they even make me yearn for India.
I never thought I would say I missed Indian trains but actually here I am saying it. I miss Indian trains – same strip lighting, probably more filth and more cockroaches but there’s something so epic about an Indian train ride. I think it’s the chai wallahs. And the men who bring you your pile of laundered sheets to spread over your ripped lino plank. And the samosa sellers. Yeah, maybe what I miss most is the never ending stream of food and tea straight to your bunk.
I’ve just trekked through ten carriages to the buffet car on our express to KL and ordered nasi goreng and fried mee – hold the spice. I trudge back leaping heroically between the gaps in the cars and find Lula having a fit and John threatening to take her to the naughty step in the prison carriage of the train. As Lula sits down and starts eating I wonder whether I should tell John that possibly the reason for her dynamic shift in mood is that ten minutes ago she helped herself to the Sprite into which I had decanted the remains of our duty free whisky.
I am interrupted by a scream – ‘It’s spicy!’
‘It can’t be. I expressly asked for no spice. Like three times. I said NO SPICE.’
John tastes both plastic containers. They are spiced to the eyeballs.
‘But I’m SO HUNGRY,’ Lula starts to scream, jump up and down and cry hysterically.
I look at John – ‘They have western food too – ‘
He gets up and trudges the ten carriages, returning with a burger. This is the man who rolled his eyes at me this morning for ordering Lula a banana pancake because she wasn’t getting enough fruit and veg. Banana? Hello? Burger? Hello?
But options are limited and something needs to soak up the sprite.
She takes a bite into the flaccid chicken patty and I watch in disgust, images of Gillian McKeith and abattoir floors dancing in my head.
‘Ahhhhhhh,’ Lula screams, ‘IT’s spicy! My mouth is all fizzy.’
I take the burger and dissect it and then lick it tentatively. It is indeed slathered in a chilli sauce.
I wonder, not for the first time, why we ever think that trains are a good idea. They are only a good idea retrospectively. Even Indian ones. Then I remember the weeing episode on the coach we took from KL. There are some benefits to trains I guess.
I resort to wiping the sauce off her reconstituted burger with a piece of toilet paper. Lula eats it. I cringe. Then she passes out.