At 4.30am Grandpa waggles my foot, interrupting a splendid dream and leading me to the conclusion that I’m being overrun with marauders ransacking the bedroom.
I smugly notice, in a borrowed jacket to combat hypothermia, that while trains to other destinations are delayed, the 05.29 direct service to Milano Centrale is due on time. ‘It’s only coming a few miles from Terni, so no need to worry,’ says my silly, I mean sagacious, old grandfather.
Promptly, at 05.29 on the dot, the departures board wastes no time in showing a thirty minute delay.
‘Ah,’ says a suitably shrinking Grandpa, and we go for a latte macchiato. As we huddle in the station cafe, a spate of tinny, unintelligible Tannoy announcements heralds little except a train to Rome…which doesn’t appear to be going to Rome.
In fact, if anything, confusion abounds and I contract a mild bout of tinnitus. At 7am, still standing like lemons – if lemons had bluish lips and loss of feeling in their extremities – Grandpa chats up a couple of girls from Yeehahsville, Arizona.
By this time, the Milan train has simply disappeared from the screen.
A bus outside is reportedly taking passengers to Foligno, one stop up the line. I’m reluctant to board, however, as last time my grandfather waved me off on a bus it was an unroadworthy affair across Nigeria.
Riddled with malaria – and with clumps of hair falling out, as though I was moulting – the trip was disastrous: I arrived home three days late to a mother on the verge of nervous breakdown while Grandpa snoozed contentedly in the African bush, certain his grandson was back at school and tickety-boo.
It turns out that Amber and Christie (excellent travel companions) are not in fact from Yeehah, but from Salt Lake City, Utah – named, quite sensibly, after a salt lake. They say ‘si’ frequently, thereby embracing the Italian culture, and then fall asleep.
Both are blissfully unaware that Americans are known around the world as “septics” – as are most septics, come to think of it, making it all the more fun. I should stop informing them.
Thoroughly disheartened by the Italian rail system, I throw caution to the wind and book first-class, something I’ve always associated with stuffy, pompous grown-ups.
But I need power for the laptop to write the blog. Imagine then, if you will, how fierce I become at the absence of power in first-class on this provincial train with tattered upholstery.
Talking of blogging, I rather blotted my copybook back at the Umbria residence – with not knowing the derivation of the word “blog”. Grandpa blundered erroneously to the rescue. As we know, a log thrown off a ship’s stern – to measure speed in knots – led to record keeping becoming known as a ship’s log. So far, so good, but then Grandpa’s font of knowledge dissolves into fatuous hyperbole.
For a personal record on the internet, he intones, something a little punchier was required. ‘The alphabet was accordingly sifted through, arriving early on at “b”. And there you have it, Barnaby: “blog” was born.’
“B” for Bulls**t, more like? Yes,“blog” is actually a contraction of “web log”, but he was close..