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The conversation, like many others I had with people on trains, derived an easy candour from the shared journey, the comfort of the dining car, and the certain knowledge that neither of us would see each other again. The railway was a fictor's bazaar, in which anyone with the patience could carry away a memory to pore over in privacy. The memories were inconclusive, but an ending, as in the best fiction, was always implied. The sad engineer would never go back to England; he would become one of these elderly expatriates who hide out in remote countries, with odd sympathies, a weakness for the local religion, an unreasonable anger, and the kind of total recall that drives curious strangers away.
There were three people in my compartment, a Canadian husband and wife and a grim hairy boy from an East London slum. They were all going to Australia - the Canadian couple because "We didn't feel like learning French," the Cockney because London "is 'eaving with bloody Italians". It must be a sociological fact that prejudice is a more common motive for emigration than poverty, but what interested me was that these three were living like the poorest they were among, eating vile food, and sleeping in bug-ridden hotels, because they were rejecting a society they saw to be in decay.
Their dialogue was absolutely petrifying. I hired a blanket and pillow from the conductor, who demanded only a token bribe, had a gin anaesthetic, and went to sleep.
Literally Lost 3
Excerpt came from 'The Lost Tribe', by Edward Marriott (picador, pounds 6.99). The action took place in Papua New Guinea.Reuse content