Sunday, December 07, 2008

For Momo

It's 5.30 a.m. A small, well wrapped figure picks her way up the catwalks of the Luxor. She's wearing high heeled shoes. Good idea for an icy morning on board a Dutch barge. She reaches the gangplank. Hmm, low water this morning and with an east wind the barge has settled comfortably on the bottom like an old maid in a sagging armchair. The plank is like the north face of the Eiger and the angle is at least forty five degrees. No exaggeration. How on earth is she going to get up there? The high heels come in handy for once, for what else can you use as pitons to haul yourself to the top? As she scrambles onto the quay, she has to rescue the pitons and restore them to her feet as shoes. The morning dash is now on.

There's a group of them. About six in all. They all catch the same trains in the morning. It's like a Monty Python sketch, though. The first train takes them to Rotterdam Central. They have three minutes to make their connection. As one, they leap off the train and charge through the station stampeding past six platforms, trampling all in their path to catch the 6.02 to Utrecht. They arrive on platform 2 together, breathless but nodding to each other in satisfaction at another race won. The train isn't in yet. But this morning the station staff are in mischievous mood. They must be watching the team on their CCTV's. Let's make them run for it again shall we? Across the station intercom a voice booms. "Dames en Heren, the six oh two train to Utrecht will depart in two minutes from platform 14." The group all stare wildly at each other. Panic reigns. Off they set, arms and bags flailing in another mad dash to reach platform fourteen before the train arrives.

They make it just as the intercom booms out again. "Dames en Heren, the six oh two train for Utrecht departing from platform fourteen has a delay of 5 to 10 minutes." The station staff chortle delightedly as they watch the varying degrees of murderous intent on the faces of the team. Another day, another morning of entertainment over. Who will they get tomorrow?

At Utrecht, the team disperses and our small well-wrapped figure stands on the concourse watching the the departure board. Another tense few moments ensue. Will the train to the east leave from platform 3 or platform 10? You never can tell...and every day is different. She stands midway between the two. They have a really mean minx in the control office here. A minute before departure time, the board springs to life. Platform 10 it is. Sprinting to the other end of the station, the pitons have now been stowed for future use in our heroine's bag...trainers are required for this leg. Flinging herself between the doors of the train carriage as they start to slide shut, she's made it. Triumph again! At last, eventually, she is ensconsed in her compartment, the only test left to endure being the mobile phone terrorists, who seem determined to hi-jack every sleep deprived traveller's morning commute. Ah well, it's all in a day's work.... isn't it Mo?


  1. Val,
    you're reminded me with your wonderfully descriptive writing why it is best to live five minutes from my workplace.

    I'll have my EG new chapter up by the time you wake up (typing it up now!)


  2. Ha, I've just been giggling at all the comments on your last post Vally. This one also has me smiling. I swear those guys do it on purpose. As for the commuters using high heels as pitons - brilliant! And to think my poor Em has to climb the Himalaya with mere hiking boots.

    Speaking of naughty public transport announcers, we had my niece staying with us until recently on a Melbourne Project. One of the things she had to do was see how our train system works at Flinders Street (our main city to suburbs station). In the control room, her group asked how the staff knew which platform the trains would be arriving at, and whether they controlled it from there. "Of course" one guy replied. "Watch this". With a flick of a switch he diverted a train due to arrive on platform one in two minutes right over to platform fourteen, then made an announcement so all the people waiting for it had to run up the escalators, across the concourse and down to the far platform in time to catch it. Rebecca swears this really happened. There's obviously some sort of conspiracy here; a sort of International League of Vindictive Engine Controllers. Tell Koos to get on to it!

  3. Yes, Anne Marie, poor Mo has to undergo this obstacle course this every morning! Have been to EG, and emptied the glass;-)

    Margie, they really do it, don't they? It's unbelievable but I'm sure it's their daily amusement...mean playing puppets with puppets. I can kind of imagine what fun it must be though. Wicked, no?

  4. So you CAN climb mountains in YOUR backyard, too! Clever Mo!
    And she has to do that every day?

    It's one other thing we don't have to contend with here in our little rural corner of Canada! Rush Hour...
    We don't have the convenience of mass rapid transit, but, even if we did, I can guarantee there would only be room for one platform... enough to thwart the canniest of station staff!

    I'd love to witness this flock in action...

  5. I enjoy the way you tell a story Val.

    done my share of high heels, only on special occasions now! :)

  6. Dale, the gradiant of our mountain depends on the time of day, or state of the tide, whichever way you look at it. Mind you if tide is a corruption of tijd, then it's all the same thing anyway ;-) In any event, Mom doesn't have to climb mountains every day, but she does have to do her morning team sprints with the team. I'm so proud of her. She's being so brave about taking on the Dutch Language, society, commuter chaos and the sheer density of this small country after the sun, space and comfort zone of her life in South Africa.

    Grace, I broke the highs off my heels long ago too ;-) The danger with 'pitons' is that they get stuck now and then.

  7. Hmmmm, then once the trains have left I still have to deal with the beastly cyclists!

  8. Val,

    A fantastic short story this! It was so descriptive in its shortness, the things happening so vividly depicted. Although, it would work as the beginning of a long novel, because it left me wanting to hear more! Like: who is the figure in high heels and what is she doing onboard Luxor? Although no doubt describing reality, this has the quality of fiction.

    For me, the first few lines already hit home: the figure in high heels negotiating the gangplank of the barge.

    Also, the name Luxor always gives me a hint of the exotic - it being a city in ancient Egypt. But also a hint of Las Vegas, as I'm pretty sure there's a casino of that name there. :-)

    You sure know how to write.

  9. Thanks Maria, you've made my day!


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