Polish trains — always fashionably late

Occasionally I find it useful, and often interesting, to try out some dialogue that I may use in the book.

A live response is much more visceral than an imagined one, and every so often one can still be surprised by how random people, whom one has never met, will respond.

Let me give you an example.

Last night I’m on train returning to Brzeg — a town, incidentally, which I now actually hate… more on this later — from Wroclaw.

Now, this is a journey, which those of you who read the blog will know is fraught with danger. On three occasions I have slept through Brzeg, once waking in Katowice and twice in Opole.

The 22.18 train is fashionably late, as is the norm in Poland but it’s not crowded and I take my time selecting a compartment which isn’t too full but is populated by interesting looking travellers; young, female and of the good-looking variety fits the bill.

I can’t find one so, as the train, whose final destination is somewhere unpronounceable, pulls out I dive into what appears to be a vacant compartment, but shortly it’s occupied by three hairy-arsed beer-swilling middle-aged men.

And just as I open my can of beer (it’s important to blend in when travelling by rail at night in Poland) this gorgeous creature breezes into the compartment and asks me something in Polish. I respond by saying that I only speak four words of Polish and none of them are connected or even useful… apart from pivo, which means beer.

She laughs and asks me if I’m English.

‘I may forgive you for that sleight on my character,’ I go, ‘if you’ll be good enough to do something for me?’

‘Of course,’ she replies with a smile, ‘if I can help I will… within reason.’

She is heart-meltingly beautiful. Late ‘20s I’d say, with long blonde hair; tall, sender, pale

Joanna Krupa on Richie’s train? Maybe he’s had one too many beers

skinned and with those delightful Eastern European facial features — high, symmetrically sculpted cheekbones and hazel eyes that give her an exotic aura of classical mystique.

‘What can I do for you?’

I ask her where she’s going.

Opole, she replies.

‘Good,’ I go. ‘Perfect.’ I’m slipping into character here. ‘When we get to Brzeg, if I’m asleep, or appear to be asleep, I want you to use whatever level of violence is required to wake me.’ She laughs, and I explain about my previous experiences.

We settle down to our own diversions and the journey passes. She listens to music and reads and I listen to music and drink beer. We both have window seats, and occasionally our eyes meet as light from the carriage captures our reflections, contrasted against the blackness of the empty countryside.

It’s only a twenty-five minute journey, and as the train pulls into Brzeg, praise be, I’m still awake.

The angel opposite me deduces this and that there will be no need for violence, so we exchange pleasantries and I turn to leave the compartment.

But then I have one of those oft regretted ‘let’s try this and see what happens’ moments and I actually say this out loud?

‘You know…’ I go, ‘I hope you don’t mind me saying this, but you are an incredibly beautiful young woman.’And before I can regret that this came from my mouth when it should have remained in my head, she smiles and actually blushes.

‘Thank you,’ she goes.

So I add: ‘I hope your boyfriend appreciates his good fortune.’

‘I don’t have a boyfriend,’ she replies with a broad and — or do I imagine this — a slightly seductive smile? Then she adds: ‘and you’re really attractive yourself… for an older guy.’

There’s no answer to that. The sword of Damocles has been removed; temptation avoided with those four humbling words.

And so, like Damocles, I’m reminded that with great fortune and power comes also great danger.


And so back to Brzeg.

The Brzegska — you can check out any time you like…

On my way home from the station, I have a beer in the Brzegska, which I am beginning to consider to be the world’s unfriendliest hostelry.

And then, on a whim, I decide a glass of red on the terrace listening to music before I retire would be in order. It’s gone 11.30 but it’s still sweat-inducingly warm.

I have no wine at home, so this necessitates a trip to the small twenty-four hour shop at the end of my street. I try to avoid this shop because — particularly late at night — it is the hub for the town’s degenerates, and there is often trouble.

Generally the woman who staffs it locks the door at pub closing (well, there’s actually only one pub… the Brzegska, unless you count the Weird Old Man’s Bar (WOMB). But tonight the door is still open and I am permitted into the wine area to make a selection.

My choice is based on bottles with a screw top, as I broke the corkscrew last week.

I pay and leave.

But outside, before I can gather my wits and more importantly, close the zip of my shoulder (man) bag, I am assailed by a dark-skinned, elderly crone dressed in dirty clothes and with a bloodied bandage on her arm to which she draws my attention, muttering something about money for the hospital.

Of course, I know she’s Romanian and that this is a scam, but she’s persistent and before I manage to shake her off, she’s clever enough to make shoulder contact with me and I realise later that this was when she removed my wallet from my bag.

I wander on, blissfully unaware of what has just happened.

But no sooner have I reached the corner and turned towards my apartment block than she’s there again, shouting and gesticulating at me.

And then I realise that she’s holding my wallet. Of course, I assume at the time that I’d dropped it and she was kindly returning it to me, and thus I’m sufficiently consumed with guilt for my previous lack of sympathy to shower her with the considerable amount of change that I find in my pocket.

It’s not until she’s disappeared (about three nano-seconds later) that I realise she’s removed all the money but, mercifully, my debit cards and credit card are still there. So that bottle of wine cost me in the region of three hundred Zloty.

Of course I walk the streets looking for her but she’s not to be found.

Another reason to hate Brzeg.


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