Friday, May 17, 2024


For some reason, the night before I came home from Belgium I managed only 5 hours of sleep, so I was pretty wrecked when Pete dropped me off at Genval station to catch the 8.28 to Brussels and the Eurostar.

I had plumped for a train half an hour earlier than was strictly necessary as I like to be early, and safe. This meant that when the train was suddenly cancelled I waited calmly for the subsequent one 30 minutes later. But that one did not arrive either and I panicked. I rang Pete, who fortunately was at home, and asked him to collect me and drive me into Brussels. This meant a nail biting drive through rush hour traffic and I arrived at the Eurostar just before the cut off time. (As with air travel, you have to be checked in and go through border control well ahead of departure time.)

So I slumped in a seat in the dark crowded waiting area to recover, longing for a mug of sugared tea to help me recover, but it’s an inhospitable space and there are no refreshments. 

Art nouveau piece at a museum we visited in Brussels 

My sister texted to ask what Pete and I had got up to, and I texted back - “I’ll tell you later too stressed now sorry.” I needed tea. Any tea. It didn’t have to be Yorkshire tea, it could be any old lily livered pathetic tea. Even PG Tips. Even Liptons. Well, perhaps not Liptons.

And then the Eurostar was late departing. By the time I was in my seat on the train I was utterly wrecked.

Sitting beside me, next to the aisle, was a friendly young Belgian woman who had just completed her PhD in sustainable architecture at Newcastle Uni. We had an interesting chat and then as the train set off, she opened her laptop to work. 

They don’t bring refreshments down the aisle on the Eurostar: you have to make your way up the train and fetch them. I was still feeling old and wrecked and I thought - I wonder what my companion would say if I said “If you fetch me a cuppa I’ll treat you to whatever you want.” 

Yes. I know. Ridiculous. What am I? 103?

I wondered if talking to my neighbour intelligently about her work made me seem more alive and younger than I felt.

Het recently told me about a 90 year old woman she met on a train who had just come back from New Zealand via Jedda, on her own. That is one feisty woman, and I am a pathetic creature by comparison.

I sat on the Eurostar looking out of the window and thinking…if I looked seriously decrepit and walked with a stick, I could probably ask my neighbour to fetch me a cuppa. I turned round and she’d upped and gone, and a few minutes later was back with a coke. Hey ho.

If I’d been next to the aisle I’d have gone myself: it was that extra effort of asking her to move and hauling myself out of the window seat that was just too much.

I tell you this pathetic stuff because it’s the dark side of being 74 and a half and being me.

A friend told me yesterday I was an inspiration, but if everyone knew what went on in my head they would see me for the feeble creature I really am. Plus…I don’t like travelling on my own.


marmee said...

Much fellow feeling re old and decrepit! Have endured 4 weeks of weekly dental appointments exceeding an hour in duration AND at some distance from my home...when I get back I have to have bovril and a slice of toast and sit and watch a LOT of old Location location location episodes ( I know!) to recover !

Sue Hepworth said...

Oh Marmee, I do understand. We can be two old crocks together, except that we’ve never met and live on different continents!

Anonymous said...

That was my ne very demanding departure morning even for a young one. Hoping you’re now comfortable and have access to as much Yorkshire Tea as you require

Sue Hepworth said...

Thanks for your sympathy Ana. I am at this very moment drinking a mug of Yorkshire Gold.

Lina said...

Sue, My OH tells me that I live on tea - it's the best

Sue Hepworth said...

We tea drinkers must stick together, Lina.

Anonymous said...

One of the reasons you ARE an inspiration is because you are so open and vulnerable about all of you. We all feel incapable of doing the simplest of tasks, yet most of us aren’t brave enough to be so real about the experience.