SWEET FANNY ADAMS
Copyright © 2001
All Rights Reserved
Fanny Adams. Brit. informal. Noun (also sweet Fanny Adams) nothing at all
(Origin : early 20th cent. : sometimes understood as a euphemism for fuck all.)
Granted, it could have been an airport, say, or any other point of departure for that matter, not necessarily a railway station. Then again, I would not want you to go thinking that his choice had been totally arbitrary, although he was, admittedly, no stranger to acts of random behaviour. It did not have to be an overcrowded railway station, but it sort of made sense somehow.
It's like this : your train is due to leave any minute now. You look up from your book or paper-if you are reading, that is, but I think we can safely assume that you, mon semblable, mon frère, are reading at least one or the other, possibly even both, one after the other, or, better still, simultaneously. You check the time on your wristwatch, the kind that they advertise in The Economist and suchlike publications, something Swiss or German with knobs on (the more, the merrier) which exudes manly sophistication. Just as the Red Sea parted for Moses, the door slides open, blissfully pneumatic, to reveal a stunning Mary Poppins-stacked, stockinged, sorted-in a comely knicker-skimming skirt : entrancing entrance. Being the proud possessor of a Y chromosome, your eyes make a beeline for her A-line, zooming in on silken thighs, NordicTrack-toned. While she fafs about with her umbrella (which will be left behind, of course, accidentally-on purpose like), you are at leisure to divide her putative weight in kilograms by her hypothetical height in metres squared, thus reaching the satisfactory conclusion that the young woman's Body Mass Index slots into the ideal 18 to 20 range. Stocky stoccado, scatty scattato, she click-clicks her way towards the only vacant space (which just so happens to be facing you) aloft a pair of chichi cha-cha heels, whereupon her petulant posterior takes a pew. As she crosses her endless legs with a hushed swish whoosh, the bright young thong hitches up her skirt a notch, pinching the flimsy fabric on either side of broad hips between manicured thumb and forefinger. At this juncture-when you are about to abandon wife and children, sail the seven seas or commit genocide because men cannot help acting on impulse-you notice that those are tear-and not rain-drops irrigating her tanned, yet still unblemished, features. Ever the gentleman, or simply embarrassed, you interrupt your ornithological study and peer out of the window which, being in dire need of a good clean, forces you to squint in the most unsightly fashion. Now is when it happens. For a few split nanoseconds, another train pulling into the station tricks you into believing that your train is pulling out.
Adam Horton-33, caucasian, 5'6'', underendowed, thinning on top-viewed this sensation as a perfect metaphor of his stumbling through life like a sleepwalker on a treadmill, a pet hamster on a wheel, or a commuter on the Circle Line. Hence the choice of a railway station over any other leaving place. But which one ? Paris offered un embarras de choix.
Gare de l'Est was a definite no-no for some obscure reason. Gare d'Austerlitz was likewise ruled out. : Adam, you see, had a passion for Waterloo Station. Watching the workers munching their lunch-break baps at the bottom of the up escalator, eyes cast skirtwards all the while, never failed to microwave the cockles of his little heart. Since childhood, he had conceived of Austerlitz as a sort of counter - or even anti-Waterloo; it was enemy territory. This still left Gare de Lyon, built in the grandiose style - probably the most pleasing, aesthetically. Gare St Lazare, caught between the red-light district and the posh department stores, scored a few brownie points. Proust's lycée was close by, as well as the Opéra Garnier (a fine example of architectural eclecticism) and, more importantly, Marks & Sparks with its large lingerie section where Adam often did a stint of lingering among the petticoats and suspender belts. There was also Gare Montparnasse, where the muses hung out, free and easy. They rode around like BMX bandits astride expensive Dutch bicycles, wearing a saucy look on their freckly faces and precious little else, serpentine locks flailing the air. The area never failed to remind him of the time when he micturated on the tomb of Jean-Paul Sartre after burying his late goldfish (Botty, short for Botticelli) in the shadow of Baudelaire's corpse. Such fond memories.
In the end, however, he had plumped for Gare du Nord which houses the Eurostar terminal. Adam's grasp of French had greatly improved over the past twelve months, but he was looking for a lady who spoke the mother tongue. Besides, the word 'terminal' had a certain ring to it, the finality of a full stop.
The air hung heavy with Chaucerian expletives; dropped aitches were strewn about his feet. Here and there, young men sporting crew cuts were reading redtops from back to front. In the distance, a posse of senior citizens was doing the hokey-cokey. If I should die, Adam muttered, think only this of me : that there's some corner of a foreign railway station that is forever En-ge-land. And there she was.
Sweet Fanny Adams.