Letting the Train take the Strain with Liz Fielding

LET THE TRAIN TAKE THE STRAIN

I love trains. Step aboard and even the twenty-five minute journey from my home into the nearby city of Bath is an adventure.

I can enjoy the scenery. The river, the canal, the weir at Avoncliff, the soft hills, the blackthorn flowering in spring and, last week, those blackthorn heavy with sloes. Then, finally, the view of Bath laid out over the hills, golden in sunlight.

When I was ten years old I travelled with my family by train to Austria for a holiday in St Anton. There were horrible green upright seats on the French trains (my Dad slept on the floor, my aunt stayed awake and knitted socks). The Swiss train had park bench style wooden seats which were bigger and a more ergonomic shape but then our travel courier said there was a spare first class carriage and we were moved to luxury as we swept by Lake Geneva. And we stopped in Basle for breakfast in the station restaurant – stiff white cloths, silver cutlery, our first “continental” breakfast!

I once had a fabulous day out with the dh and the children travelling from London to York on a privately hired Pullman, a treat from the client for all the consultants working on a big project. A fabulous full English silver service breakfast, a day in York (if you go there do not miss the Yorvik Centre – a recreation of medieval York with all the sounds and smells) and then home with roast beef and all the trimmings, good wine and a disco on board. York was amazing, but it’s the train that lingers in the memory. I sometimes see a Pullman waiting at the platform in Bath, the tables laid, lamps lit and long to be one of the passengers stepping aboard.

I’ve travelled first class on the Eurostar to Brussels from St Pancras with it’s beautiful statue of lovers – meeting or parting?. That was a joy. A glass of fizz at the Champagne Bar to toast the poet Sir John Betjeman who campaigned to save it’s Victorian glory from the vandals who would have demolished it, then all aboard to be served great food served by charming French staff. A very different experience to the Intercity from Swansea to Paddington the day before!

Needless to say, a trip of the Orient Express is top of my bucket list. (I recently read a book by Veronica Henry – A Night on the Orient Express ….sigh).

The nearest I’ve ever come to a night of the Orient Express was a night on the train from Nairobi to Mombasa. It’s only 300 miles. In Europe it would go by in a flash but the rails are narrow gauge in Kenya and the top speed is around 30 miles an hour.

The station was packed. We were travelling first class with a sleeping car but there were hundreds of people, loaded up with baskets and bags, crowding onto the carriages with open windows. It was that joyous mayhem that you only get at railway stations – not that hideous stress engendered by air travel.

We were settled in our compartment by our steward. It was an old train and the art deco interior was not quite up to the standard of the Orient Express but it evoked thoughts of the travellers, back in the twenties and thirties who, having disembarked from their ship at Mombasa had travelled to Nairobi and on to their Highland farms. It did have all those Orient express touches, however. The tiny bathroom, the seats that were converted to beds while we having dinner.

Yes, I’m back to food. By the time we arrived at the dining room – flowers on the table, a lamp – white clothes and silver cutlery, we were sliding out of the city in a great curve that took us into the bush. We’d lived in Kenya for eighteen months, not in the city but a small town called Machakos, about forty miles south of Nairobi where, first thing in the morning, before the heat created a haze, we could see the snows on Mount Kilimanjaro from our verandah.

This was familiar territory but for once we were not rushing by in a car, or bouncing over tracks in a Landrover, but high up  There were no towns to pass through now and, as darkness fell, all we could see were the fires lit in small villages, and alongside the tracks.

We knew all about this railway. The dh and I had both read a fabulous book called The Lunatic Express by Charles Miller which tells the history of the building of the railway from Mombasa to Lake Victoria. We crossed the Tsavo river where it had been held up for a year by man-eating lions – the dh had been constructing a road bridge further down the river. It was a crazy, epic adventure and out there, in the dark, very little had changed.

There was no air conditioning and windows had been let down so that there was only the fly screen between us and the bush. The train felt almost like a time machine. We could have been those early settlers whose house we had had been living in.

We slept a fitfully – narrow gauge is not the most comfortable ride in the world – and were woken by our steward with morning tea. There was just time to freshen up, have breakfast and then we were pulling into Mombasa station. White picket fence, bougainvillaea scrambling over the place and an entirely different climate. We had travelled not just three hundred miles, but down six thousand feet from the crisp cool air of Nairobi to the warm humidity of the coast where the Arabs had left their indelible mark and their language and where our driver, with our car and luggage was waiting to pick us up.

Perfect!

Liz Fielding has a new book this month, The Bridesmaid’s Royal Bodyguard.

After being sacked from her job on the gossip magazine Celebrity, Ally Parker is forced to return home to Combe St. Philip with her tail between her legs. She is given a fresh start when her childhood friend, Hope, asks her to work PR for Hope’s marriage to Prince Jonas of San Michele.

When Count Fredrik Jensson, head of security for the royal family, arrives to check out the village, he makes it clear that her past employment makes her unfit for the role. The fact that there’s a sizzle between them from the moment they meet only makes everything worse.

Forced together on a trip to San Michele for the official announcement of the wedding, Fredrik and Ally find themselves stranded overnight in his mountain retreat. Their sizzle flares into an inferno. However, their night of passion sours when he sees her with her ex-boss. Believing that Ally is about to buy back her job with wedding secrets, Fredrik turns back to ice. What will it take to see the person she truly is and a thaw to set in?

 
 
 
 
 
 

28 thoughts on “Letting the Train take the Strain with Liz Fielding

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    Dear Liz, I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this post! Firstly, I love trains and who wouldn’t love Bath. My journey there by train takes close to an hour and a half, but it’s worth it just for the joy of spending a day there. Yesterday I was in Salisbury another favourite destination but this time my train journey took under half an hour.
    I’ve been on Eurostar, but it was to Disneyland Paris. Our son, his wife and two children were on a visit from Australia so Disneyland was a must.
    I loved reading about your Nairobi to Mombasa trip, and I’m going to take a look at both A Night on the Orient Express and The Lunatic Express because I feel sure they will be added to my must-read list. I will also enjoy The Bridesmaid’s Royal Bodyguard so that one is already on the list (I love the cover).

    Hello Nasreen xx

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      Thank you so much, Barbara. I love Salisbury, too. It takes me 40 minutes but it’s through such beautiful countryside. Christmas markets coming up!

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    We’ve visited a couple of train museums, and if I were ever to travel by train, I’d love it to be on one of those old beauties. Modern ones may be faster and, well… more modern… but the old ones reek of history and romance.

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    I’ve only ridden on commuter trains, does that count? They’re never overly romantic, but I did find it neat that the porters wore the pill box hat and punched my ticket.

    The story sounds wonderful. I love all things royal.

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      I commuted into London when I first started work in one of the worst winters in the 20th century, Elizabeth. Wasn’ t late once and despite the crowding It seemed like a huge adventure back then. 🙂

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      I have, Sandra. I’d love to take a train trip across the US or Canada. And thanks for loving my cover. 🙂

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    How I wish I could experience your train travels Liz, so well written too. The book sounds good.

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    Loved the sharing of memories of Liz’s train travel. I’ve always wanted to travel by train, but still haven’t done it. After Agatha Christie’s mysteries featuring a few different trains, I was hooked on the romance and mystery of it. 🙂

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      I love the way Agatha uses the train in her stories. The meetings, the mysteries, the glamour. 🙂 I did have a proposal on a train in one of my books, but think I need to set a book on one. 🙂

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    My longest train ride was about 4 hours and that was a long time ago! Passenger trains aren’t common here. I remember one ride I took in Scotland as a teen – and it was wonderful!

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      When I lived in Wales, Jemi, it used to take three hours to get to London and I met so many interesting people. Once the train filled up witg happy Frenchmen celebrating a great Rugby win in Cardiff. 🙂 All great “material” for a writer!

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    How lucky to be so close to Bath. I think Nicolas Cage has a home there..
    I took a train once to Washington DC, it was about 8 hours- of torture, the heat wouldn’t shut off.People took turns holding the doors open.

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      Bath is such a lovely city, Ellen. Haven’t spied Nicholas Browning in Milsom Street, sadly. Sympathies on the over-heated train. I’d like to say that has never happened here, but I would be lying! You held the doors open? Ours are locked to avoid people falling out.

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    I’ve never been on a train, but I’ve always wanted to ride on one. They seem romantic to me.

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    I’ve never ridden on a train. It’s one of the things I’ve always wanted to do.

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      It’s a great way to get about in the UK, Ratty – though often over-crowded. You have to be prepared to stand on a,Saturday morning shopping jaunt into Bath, but anything is better than taking the car!. I’ve seen some of the great US trains on TV and would seriously love to travel on one of those.

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    Wow! Sounds like some wonderful adventures in life. Mine is mundane by comparison, though I did enjoy a first class train trip through the United States on two occasions. The first was the surprise honeymoon trip. It’s still a very fond memory. And I adore art deco. Our train didn’t have it, but the station still does. ~grin~ Happy Writing and best wishes for much success.

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      I totally envy your US trips, Carla. I once had lunch at Grand Central Station in New York – what a glorious station! Lunch was great but every cell was yearning to be on the platform heading out on an adventure. 🙂

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    I have never taken a long train ride. Just ridden from CT to New York City. Train travel does sound like fun.

    Liz’s new book looks and sounds exciting. Wishing her all the best. 🙂

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    Train journeys are much more relaxing than flying. I’ve always thought it would be lovely to travel on the Orient Express.

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    Trains have always interested me, though I’ve never ridden on one. Not sure I will – when I was a child a Ouija board wrote that I would die by train – but I’m fascinated by them nonetheless.

    The small town I live in made a cozy museum out of an old train station that was the center of the town at one time. I love walking through the museum just to imagine the old life of the train station, not to mention looking at all the cool things.
    Anyway, I enjoyed your post immensely.

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    That sounds so cool. I’ve never been on a train, though I’ve always wanted. We don’t exactly have a lot of travel by train around here.

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    Hi, Nasreen! I enjoyed the accounts of your train travels. I have fun memories on train trips in my past, but they are not as exciting or eventful as yours! Have a good one!

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