When Elder Daughter first started school, I used to go and help out in the classroom occasionally.  I noticed how much of the newly qualified teacher’s time was taken up by a small number of boys who knew very little in comparison to many of the other children, quite a few of whom could already read.  One boy in particular did not know his colours.  His mother was tall and blonde and thin and decorative and vacuous and disinterested and I resented the amount of teacher time that her son took up because of her neglect.  I saw her waiting at the station with her husband on Saturday.  To begin with I saw only a beautiful floor-length grass green coat.  The bodice was fitted and the skirt lapped around her ankles.   I coveted the coat.  Her hair was invisible under a grey cloche hat which had an intricate silver brooch of a lizard attached to one side.  Her face was dramatically made up, her flattened skin contrasting with vivid red lips.  She looked stunning, especially surrounded by hordes of men waiting to catch the train to an away football match.  She looked around her, took some chewing gum out of her mouth, and ground it into the paving stone. 

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 The new London terminal for Eurostar was opened by the Queen on the 6th November 2007.   St Pancras station is and odd mixture of Britishness and something much more European and refined.  The soaring architecture left me marvelling at Victorian design.  The skeletal station roof is like being inside the ribcage of an dinosaur.  So ahead of its time and so contemporary.  Looking up at its beauty is a statue of its most loyal protector, the poet, John Betjeman, a briefcase at his feet, looking rather down at heel.  The station is so new that everybody has cameras and most people eschew the towering kissing couple, where they are supposed to congregate, for the everyday Betjeman.  Smiling people queue to pose in front of him and couplets from his verses are set into roundels in the concourse.  A long crowded champagne bar stretches between him and the platform filled with the young and the old, the smart and the workaday.  When did British train travellers ever drink champagne on the platform before?  Happy prospective travellers sit in an indoors outdoors kind of way in comfortable box pews, watching other happy travellers, as their happiness bubbles up inside them and the sharp nosed trains glide into the buffers.

 Catherine Deneuve or is it Ivana Trump?  One or other of them strides on heels like pins across the marble.  Thick blonde hair is swept up into an immaculate chignon and the dark tailored clothes continue column like from shoulder to feet.  Her eyes are hidden behind dark glasses though it it December and raining.  She carries nothing.  A glorious younger man accompanies her.  Olive skin, dark hair.  On the other side a porter pushes a luggage trolley full of brown and gold luggage.  I wondered how she had found the porter and who she was, but I realised that I no desire whatsover to be her.

We wandered round a exhibition of sculpture by Matteo Pugliese.  All of his male figures disappear into the surface on which they are displayed or are emerging from the surface, depending on your outlook. We disagreed about his work.  For me it represented survival, perseverence, pulling oneself out of the quicksand, the triumph of endeavour, overcoming.  For my husband the works represented suffering, torture, emprisonment.

Returning from Brussels, we watched out of the train window as the entrance to the Tunnel came up to meet us.  Parallel rows of ten foot high wire fences ran along the tracks on either side, immigrant-no-man’s-land between, rolls of barbed wire fixed on top.  Every bridge was reinforced with more fences and more wire.  There were floodlights every few metres and cameras that could see everything.  These fences were in France but they are to keep people out of Britain.  A guard had stopped his van near a fence.  He was standing next to the fence, with his back to the train track, urinating. 

Lola Button and Elder Daughter were looked after by their favourite stable girl and her boyfriend.  He is a young paratrooper and leaves for his first tour, a six month tour of Afghanistan, in a few weeks.  Lola Button told us that they spent some of the evening looking at videos of the paratrooper proudly shouldering his machine gun, dismantling it, put it back together again as fast as he could.  He is so proud of the Army.  He has a picture of him with Prince Charles that he keeps in his car.  My husband said he wished he had the sort of experiences our daughters have.  I am very worried for the paratrooper and his girlfriend.

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