Travelled in 1971

A STINT of three months as a cleaner/transporter in the morgue of a hospital in Geneva was just over. Yes, yes. Dead-end job, a lot of people to talk to, felt like a morgue etc, etc.

It was around 10pm somewhere on the line between Geneva and Montreux. Greece was the destination. I was just thinking about going to sleep when, at a small station, this beautiful blonde and her boyfriend came into the compartment.

It was one of those compartments where all the seats folded down to make one big flat space. I climbed into my sleeping bag and dozed off, only to be woken by what sounded like a train, whooshing through the night. I turned over. It had not been the noise of a train whooshing through the night. The blonde, on her back, turned her head and looked at me. Actually she looked straight through me. She looked glazed. They did not lose a stroke. I turned over again, listening to the full performance until the train having rushed, as it were, into the tunnel, rushed out again. In the morning they were gone.

Everyone tried to travel at night to avoid paying for anywhere to stay. Next stop was Venice. Money was short and I was hungry. I met an American sitting by a fountain and he shared his bread with me. He was in his early twenties, just back from Vietnam. We ended up sharing a bed - for cost reasons only - and have remained friends. I went to his first wedding in Oregon.

We all had the kit - thonged sandles and striped jellabas (we could wear at home). Passport, money and International Student card were carried in a leather pouch around the neck. Stories abounded of gangs ripping people off but there was hardly any room for non-students on the train, which was still called the Orient Express (it split in Yugoslavia).

I was particularly proud of my tie-dye T-shirt made in my last term at school. It faded fantastically fast. It was blue. All the girls were wearing them - or not wearing them as it turned out. After all, the Sixties were only just over.

In Athens, everyone was staying in those huge dormitories in the Plaka where a bed cost around 50 pence. The tie-dyes were coming off all over the place and the bed springs creaked for everyone - except me.

Mikonos, before the gay influx, was the next stop. By now everyone was stripped off, except for the obligatory leather bracelet with beads that you made yourself (I've still got it). I remember getting so tanked up on retsina that I vomited gracelessly into the Aegean while around about tents were heaving with action.

The train home was full of, by now, veteran foreign travellers like myself. It seemed that the whole of the youth of the world was on the move. I got home to Carlisle and used my last remaining 2p to phone my mum to come and pick me up.

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