Trying hard to exude confidence and calm I had a lift to the station and registered at the Assistance desk.
I was very heartened to be met by a young woman who greeted me by name holding a form with my details on it. I was whisked away in a wheelchair accompanied by a rather worried husband, and put on the train, followed by my suitcase. We set off gaily waving goodbye to ‘other half’ who says he is looking forward to some bachelor time!!
The first part of this trip was completely uneventful and when we drew into St Pancras there were two young women waiting on the platform for my coach. Apart from having to look in my suitcase to find my Eurostar ticket which I had mistakenly packed (senior moment/nerves) all went smoothly and I was wheeled straight to Eurostar Assistance.
However, here we met with a problem. My suitcase was weighed and came in at 21k. The weight limit per case had been changed (I was told it was hidden in the small print) and although I could have taken two cases totalling 30 k my one case was not acceptable. To have the case go with me on the train would be an extra £30.00 each way. To add insult to injury I had specially chosen the one case as being easier for those helping me. And it was half full of medical supplies, not geegaws or nicknacks!
I had a good chat with the luggage booking clerk the upshot of which was that he disobeyed all the rules, refused to take payment saying he felt it was discrimination and insisted on taking it to the train personally and putting it on for me. He said that some of them still had a heart despite the corporate ethos. We ended by discussing particle physics, the state of health of his mum (why does everyone appear young nowadays?) and he said what a shame I did not have longer before my train or we could go for a coffee and discuss string theory!
Once again I was helped onto the train and happily settled: my gluten-free meal came as ordered and all went smoothly until Paris where two gents were waiting for me as the carriage drew in. They whisked me and luggage straight to the taxis where they had already booked me a taxi which was waiting at the front of the queue.
There followed a drive filled with panache, hooting and hand gestures during which I sat back and enjoyed the tree-lined Boulevards, the Circulation, the Seine, the bridges, and so many old haunts. We flashed over the Pont Royal, past the Musee d’Orsay, down the Left Bank and turned into the 7th Arrondisement where nary a riot or strike was in evidence
My friend had arrived earlier that morning from the airport and opened up the flat and came down to open the door for me after the driver had reassured himself that someone was meeting me. He held up the following traffic for me and the crutches to get out of his taxi insisting that there was no hurry at all.
So there we have it: all my fears were groundless and in fact I was bowled over by the kindness and patience of strangers (exactly as Jocelyn predicted, omniscient woman!)
So, here I am, back in Paris, with my great friend, and we will just have to see what I can manage. Or not.