At the Auberge in St Leu rising for breakfast at eight raises eyebrows; by ten the market shows little signs of life either. A sleepy town, even the bikes are moth-balled. The 10:19 train to Paris, via Creil, arrives at 1:19.
By then there is a crowd…of three.
The pace changes getting off the train at Creil. There are nine officials waiting at the exit, three have guns. I run through an obvious litany: the ticket office at St. Leu is closed. The train is three hours late.
“What about the conductor, why didn’t you buy from him?””
“I didn’t see him, the journey was only ten minutes.”
After the beige buildings and greenery of St Leu, this is an explosion of new colours. Here there are people hanging out; Tangine bars, a big open market. Railway street is full of hotels, bars and internet cafes. I am closing in on a major city. I must be in “Watford.”
The street life is infectious. Girls in Islamic headscarves read “Closer” magazine, or “Public.” A younger Amy Winehouse sings along loudly and relatively tunefully with her I-Pod. A young black Hipster in low-slung, with record sleeve earrings, spends five silent minutes a few feet from her, just smiling. Eventually he gives up, comes and sits next to me, and says, “She’s a good singer, isn’t she?”
In the internet café a Croatian girl is videoconferencing with a shaven haired man in Split. Outside all is parade. Instead of one local shop there are thousands offering up products from every part of the world. No sign of Clooney though, he’s probably in the shopping mall out of town.
My entire possessions.