Tuesday 11th February5:30 am: Beep beep beep BEEP BEEP beep beep beep. The mind’s response: Goooood morning! You have served your time in the cottage, my friend. It’s time to leave Ooty. Pack your things and let’s get out of here! Yipeee! The body’s: I am very tired. It is five degrees outside and pitch black. And despite those suspicious-looking stains, this blanket feels rather cosy, doesn’t it? You don’t really care about the stains, do you? You’re disgusting. But you’re also comfortable. So very comfortable. So shut the hell up and go back to sleep. When you do, that annoyingly chirpy mind of yours will take you wherever you want to go: a spring meadow with bunny rabbits; a chocolate factory without Oompa-Loompas; maybe even somewhere less innocent like, um, Carol Vorderman’s cockpit.
Don’t get me wrong: I think Carol is one fine piece of pilot, but that last image was all it took for my mind to conquer the slumbering mass of flesh and bones it lives in, something I immediately regretted on the rickshaw ride to Ooty’s bus station. The wind-chill factor made it feel freezing, a deeply unpleasant sensation worsened by the donning of flip-flops and a wafer-thin hoody. But that didn’t really matter: in 13 hours I’d be in Fort Cochin sipping beer from a teapot by the sea, underneath a palm tree or beside a Chinese fishing net. Which at this point felt comparable to bridging the gap between Blackburn and Barbados.
The bus to Coimbatore, from where I would be boarding a train to Cochin, had already departed by the time we reached the station, but my driver had no trouble catching up and persuading Mr Conductor Man to let me clamber aboard. He looked concerned at the amount of baggage I was carrying and told me in Tamil that I could spend the journey’s duration in his seat at the front. It was just as well my language skills are so fantastic because within half an hour it was standing room only, which didn't look much fun on the precarious mountain roads. For the princely sum of 55 rupees, it was an absolute steal.
day one?). Nothing happened. THANK GOD. Feeling rather smug I sat down in my rightful place, but no sooner had I started surveying the scene from my window did the bag owner interrupt. “Sir, I placed my bag on that seat.” I won’t bore you with the minutiae of our conversation, but it ended with him condescendingly “allowing” me to sit there, despite the fact I had reserved this specific spot. Another man opposite felt my frustration and offered me an Oreo, which seemed a fitting empathic gesture, but by accepting I was actually granting him permission to rest his bare feet on the end of my seat for the next few hours. Such are the unwritten rules of Indian train travel.
I checked into my Fort Cochin hotel at 8pm and then I had a nice dinner and then I experienced an overwhelming sense of relief and then I fell asleep and dreamed of puppies and at no point did Carol Vorderman enter my subconscious.