Or Bath In The Time Of Cholera . . . . . .
Hubby and I began our last day in London in the usual way – at Café Nero.
“Are you depressed because we’re leaving London?” he asked me as we sipped our coffees at the outdoor table.
“Not exactly depressed,” I answered, thinking his question a bit odd. “Why do you ask?”
“You don’t look so good. I thought maybe you were depressed.”
“No, not depressed.” Sick, but not depressed. I had awoken that morning to the realization that I was well and truly coming down with something. You know that feeling you get where you just don’t feel like yourself? Like your head’s in a fog and you’re not really present? Like you already have a somewhat sore throat and you’re just waiting for the other symptoms to drop? Yeah, that’s the feeling. And I had it. In spades.
We went back to the room, where I finished packing and then got us downstairs and into a cab.
“Paddington Station,” I told the driver.
“You know where we’re going?” Hubby asked.
“Yeah. To Paddington Station.”
“But do you know how to get us to Bath?”
“Not really, but then I don’t have to know. The guy who drives the train knows. All we have to do is buy a ticket and get on.” I smiled at him. “It’s okay, Hon. I’ve done this before. You’ve done it before, too.”
“I’ve never been to Bath.”
“No, but we went to Oxford on the train last time we were over, remember? Same station.”
This seemed to reassure him and before long we pulled up in front of Paddington Station.
I paid off the cab and we got our luggage out of the boot and headed into the Station. I took a few steps and stopped.
“What’s wrong?” asked Hubby.
“Nothing. I’m just trying to get my bearings,” I said, leading us deeper into the crowd. Before long I spotted the coffee bar I’d sat at so many times before (often with Victoria) and knew that I was, indeed, heading in the right direction.
As I headed toward the ticket booths, I began to feel as though I were walking through thick, sucking mud, each step a monumental effort.
Oh, Jeez, I don’t feel so good.
You’re fine. You’re going to Bath. You’ve been waiting for the Bath portion of this trip for ages now. The Wellington Suite! Come on, you can do it. That’s it, one foot in front of the other. Good show!
Shut up, will ya?
Finally, the ticket office was in sight. I left Hubby guarding the luggage and approached a window.
“Two first class tickets to Bath Spa, please,” I told the woman behind the glass partition, who was looking down at her monitor.
She punched a couple of buttons on her keyboard. “Two hundred and fifty four pounds,” she said.
I leaned in closer to the speaking hole in the glass. “I’m sorry. You must have misunderstood me. I said to firsts to Bath, not two first class tickets on the Concord to Dubai.” My good woman.
She looked up at me then and I swear she did a double-take. And gasped. Her entire demeanor suddenly changed. Did I look that bad?
“Look,” she said, “Being as it’s Sunday, I’ll give you two regular singles and you get in the first class coach. When the man comes round for your tickets, he’ll upgrade your tickets to first class for an extra fifteen pounds each. Sound good?”
“Sounds exactly right. How much are two regular singles?”
ixty-one pounds all together.”
ixty-one pounds all together.”
“Sold. Does that work everyday?”
She shook her head. “Just on Sundays and Bank Holidays.” She slid the tickets through the window. “Track three.”
I thanked her and made my way back to where Hubby was waiting.
“Let’s go. We’re on track three.”
“Where’s track three?”
I looked about as we neared the tracks. “Here it is.”
“How do you know?”
I pointed to the sign that read “Track Three – Bath Spa.”
“Where are you going? There’s an open door on this car here.”
“First Class. We’re going to the First Class carriage. Just follow me.”
We got to the First Class carriage, threw our selves and our luggage inside and set about choosing our seats.
“These are reserved,” Hubby pointed out. “Look, the signs on the seats say reserved.”
“They’re reserved for First Class customers. That’s us. Just pick a seat.”
“Are you sure?”
I told Hubby all that had transpired at the ticket window. To which he said, “How do you know that will work? What happens if we have to pay full whack?”
Sigh. “I don’t think she’d lie to me about it. If worse comes to worse, we’ll move.”
At long last and somewhat grudgingly Hubby chose a seat on one side of the aisle, while I took the empty seat on the opposite side of the aisle. We both had two seats and a table to ourselves. The remainder of the carriage was empty.
Our train pulled out of the station and it was just a few moments later that I was attacked. Someone, I didn’t see what the blighter looked like, hit me with the sick stick. Full force. It began with the chills. Soon after the chills were replaced by the feeling that someone had filled my spine with a shaft of ice. I began to shiver in earnest and what little reserves of strength I’d previously had now completely deserted me.
“You okay?” asked Hubby.
I shook my head.
“You don’t look good. Are you sick?”
I nodded, finally admitting what I’d tried to keep at bay by not speaking of it. The jig was indeed up. I tightened the scarf round my neck and drew on my gloves. “I’m freezing,” I whispered.
“Here,” Hubby said, taking off his coat and covering me with it.
“Now you’ll be cold,” I told him.
“No, I won’t. It’s not cold in here at all. The heat’s on.”
Bundled up as I was now, in my coat and Hubby’s, I continued to shake with the cold. My cough returned and my throat felt as though it was being slit by razor blades. The train soon entered a tunnel and I was able to see my reflection in the glass – I looked as though I’d died on Friday. Bear in mind that this was Sunday. . . . not a pretty sight.
Did I have the flu? The Norovirus? Some other virus? Bird Flu? Cholera? Did people still get cholera? What about malaria? Understand, I am by no means a hypochondriac. Really. But I hadn’t been this sick for yonks. It was the type of total incapacitation one usually only sees in small children and that I can only recall having as a child, when doctors used to actually make house calls and mothers would wrap handkerchief’s smothered in Vick’s Vapo Rub round small patients necks. It had come on fast and hit me like a freight train, no pun intended. I thought fleetingly of dying, which served to cheer me up somewhat, for not only would the misery end, but I would have accomplished my hearts desire – to die in England. To die, with any luck, more specifically in Bath would be a real coup. If I made it that far. And to die in England, in Bath, in Duke’s Hotel, whilst occupying the Wellington Suite would be the icing on the cake.
Typically, the highlight of a train trip in England for me was to look out the window at the surrounding countryside, to catch unexpected glimpses of quaint houses, sheep, cows, fields and hedgerows, not to mention snapshots of various towns along the way as glimpsed through the windows as one sped by. This time, I took little interest in the passing views. All I could think of was the irony of my getting sick just as I was headed for Bath. And Duke’s Hotel. And the Wellington Suite. When first planning this trip, I’d meticulously done my research into Bath hotels. This portion of the trip was especially important, as we’d be spending New Year’s Eve there. Imagine my joy when I found that there was a small hotel off Great Pulteney Street, not far from Laura Place, where they actually used a likeness of the Duke of Wellington as their logo. Where their suits were named after various dukes – including Wellington. I booked the suite on the spot and have been looking forward to it ever since.
Typhoid? Could I have typhoid? I seemed to recall something about one of the symptoms of thyphoid being a bloody nose. Or was I confusing the blood with consumption? I’d have to brush up on my 19th century illnesses. If I lived that long.
Part Two Coming Soon!