So let me tell you about life on the Trans Siberian Railway. Firstly, the outside bit rarely changes – silver birch and pine blur past continuously. Their flow is occasionally disrupted by the appearance of weathered, wooden, ginger bread villages or the even more occasional sizable town of apartment blocks, railway marshalling yards and uninspiring, functional housing. At the centre of every one, whatever size, will be a statue of Lenin or another revolutionary figure, stretching out to indicate the way forward.
No, real life only carries on inside the train. Attire for men is simple: a pair of light, airy, shorts. Hairy backs, fronts, bellies, shoulders all proudly on display. As they pass in the narrow corridor, the feel of static electricity remains as a light kissing blush of soft fur on any exposed skin.
Meal times revolve around the provisions you have bought on board or those you have been able to supplement in the station kiosks en-route. Inevitably crisps, cereal bars, biscuits form the basis of train diet, enhanced with cuppa soups and noodles. I never want to see another cuppa soup.
The routine on board is quite simple. It tends to revolve around sleep. Mornings are filled with excited anticipation about the day to come. The first hours of flashing trees quickly dampens that. After that any journey through the carriages will be like a sci-fi adventure with sleeping or dozing crew laid flat out in their cocoon cabins waiting to emerge at journey’s end.
Time flows past like the trees. Every few hours the train stops to refresh the clientele. Old friendships, made in the narrow corridors, end with a hand shake or an awkward hug. They are replaced with a catalogue of Russian humanity who will continue the confusion of unintelligible language and life stories. It is truly amazing how long conversations can last when there is absolutely no common language. Why is it that some people are convinced that if they shout louder and louder that the other person will eventually understand what they are trying to say?