Nena: Book 6
Remind Me Again
by Maddy Bell
Copyright © 2015 Maddy Bell
All Rights Reserved.
We’d barely pulled into the station forecourt when with a toot of his horn; Rudi’s big yellow machine went past.
“I bet the trains not far away,” Den suggested as our passengers started to disembark.
As if in reply there was a toot from the ascending transport, clearly not that far away. We’d made it but not with a great deal to spare, the stragglers were still heading for the platform when the Bernina Express slunk into the station. Yeah very close, the saving grace really being the trains scheduled five-minute stop at Poschiavo ostensibly for loading.
“Over the pass I guess, we meet the train at this Punt Ota place in an hour,” I advised checking the timing sheet.
“Lets hope that’s more accurate than the drive over,” Den mused as he put our transport into gear.
“Might get time for a cuppa, I’ll put the boiler on,” I suggested before heading down the bus.
The Bernina is more popular with tourists than hauliers even though its 2253m summit is kept open year round. Of course the best way to see it isn’t on the front seat of a coach but even so it was quite pretty and although there are a couple of interesting bends we made good progress to the summit. By now we were ahead of the train so we pulled into the parking lot at the Ospizio Bernina for our cuppa.
We were best part of the way through our beverages before Den spotted the train on its approach to the pass top station, its red livery standing out in the mostly white landscape. It might be called the Bernina Express but averaging 30kph it’s not exactly the traditional speedy mover you normally associate with the term. A southbound train snaked across the rolling landscape, which attracted Den’s camera and a brief trip outside.
The railway and road chase each other northwards for about ten kilometres so that despite setting off behind our charges train we soon caught up and paced it for a bit before we pulled ahead.
“Why are you stopping, the crossings open,”
“Photo opportunity,” my colleague advised, “be a good shot for the brochure.”
Well you don’t think those pictures take themselves do you and a set up like Global can’t afford to employ a professional photographer, us crew supply most of the pictures. Den grabbed his camera and I joined him over the road to watch the train pass.
“Give over, you’re supposed to be taking pretty pictures of trains.”
“I was, it’s behind you.”
I nearly jumped out of my skin as the train announced its arrival at the crossing. Brakes squealed, carriages clanked and it was gone, we waited for the traffic to clear and returned to Betsy. Any advantage we had time wise we’d now lost although the shorter road route down the valley let us pull in next to Rudi a couple of minutes ahead of the trains arrival.
“Sightseeing eh?” Rudi suggested.
“David Bailey here wanted some photographs,” I told him.
“It’s an English thing,” Den filled.
Rudi shrugged, “you go straight to Moritz?”
“We are supposed to be stopping at Muottas Muragl for lunch.”
“Ah, we too,” the German noted, “there’s a restaurant at the top.”
We were interrupted by the arrival of our respective parties before I could pursue more of Rudi’s expertise.
So of course whilst the signs directed you to Muottas Muragl where you end up is actually the parking area for a funicular railway that takes you up to Muottas Muragl. I checked my paperwork, there was no mention of a trip on these rails, just lunch.
“This doesn’t look right,” I mentioned in a low voice to Den.
“Not another muck up.”
“Er Mrs Fraser?” why do I get these jobs?
By the time we’d ascertained that whilst we were in the correct location, the funicular ride to the restaurant wasn’t included, the Germans, Rudi and his mate, Johannes were away up the mountain. Strictly speaking we were at Punt Muragl where apart from the base station for the railway there’s a petrol station but nowhere to eat. Damn BET again, just wait until I tell Bill.
The girls weren’t actually ‘doing’ anything at the bobsleigh run – oh they were getting a talk and they’d watch madmen sliding down the hillside but they weren’t old enough to ‘enjoy’ the course in person. A quick phone call and the visit was moved up an hour, they’d have longer in the town after than was planned, can’t say our driver was too upset about that.
In theory BET paid bill to supply transport, not guides but on these winter trips, well sometimes you have to get involved, especially when the teachers can’t speak the lingo. I agreed to go with the girls while Dennis took the bus down to the other end of the course to pick us up. We’d been in the clubhouse getting the lecture for about five minutes when one of the officials beckoned me to one side.
“Would you like to be our rider today?”
“For school parties we take a teacher on the run.”
“But I’m not a teacher.”
“You are with this party yes?”
“Er yes, of course.”
“In that case, you are our girl!”
Despite my protestations, ten minutes later I was thrust in front of the schoolgirls sporting the latest in designer protective gear, oh yeah, now we’re rockin’ – not.
“So, we can see our volunteer rider?” the chap in charge queried.
“Er Nena,” I volunteered.
“She is ready to hit the ice so let us go outside, we’ll walk down the course to see how she gets on eh?”
He led the girls outside whilst I was escorted to the start area.
You see it on the telly, the guys sprinting along then jumping into the Bob, thankfully for guests only the driver and brakeman start outside of the missile. I was nearly wetting myself sat listening to the safety talk, we won’t be going at race speeds but even so we’ll be going over fifty miles an hour at times.
“Okay, Markus, Stefan when you’re ready,” the instructor suggested.
If I live through this I’ll, I’ll need a stiff drink!
The starting sequence um, started. I watched the ‘traffic’ lights and our crew started rocking the sled back and forth, beep, beep, beep, the lights flashed to green and we set off. Of course you don’t start at full speed, around the first couple of bends we picked up momentum, the ice walls flashing past just inches away. Its not like you can actually see very much but as we hit the first sharp bend I closed my eyes, not opening them again until we started to slow.
My legs were like jelly and I wanted to lose my dinner, except I’ve not eaten yet. By comparison my co passenger, an American chap, was all yee ha that was until he tried to get up and he had a severe case of rubber legs! As a lady, well I’m not exactly going to say otherwise am I; I got lifted out of the sled and off the track by Markus, our all-important brakeman.
I had just about got my composure back when the girls arrived.
“Lets here it for Nena,” Mr Bobsleigh suggested.
“Way to go Miss!”
“Sooner you than me,” Mrs Fraser told me as we headed towards Den and the bus.
“I didn’t exactly volunteer, that was terrifying.”
“I think you gained some fans, it still took guts.”
“I guess.” I allowed.
“Jennifer Horton, stop that at once!”
Back to normal then.
“We’ll drop them off in the town, Rudi says the coach park is down by the swimming pool,” Den told me once we had everyone back on board.
“Okay, I’m starving.”
“The chap at the sledge place said there’s a couple of cafés round there.”
We beat Rudi to the parking by moments; he must’ve followed us down from the town.
“What happened at Muottas? Johannes saw you leaving from the top.”
“Some crossed wires,” I offered, “It’s a long story.”
We decamped to a restaurant I’d spotted on the way to the parking and convinced the boss to do Den and I some lunch, they’d actually stopped food a few minutes before we arrived. The whole sorry St Moritz adventure was shared with our German friends, Den hadn’t heard about the bobsleigh either.
“They go some serious speed,” Rudi noted.
“I just held on – tight.”
“You wouldn’t get me on there,” Johannes stated.
“Or me,” Den agreed.
“Patron!” Rudi called across the restaurant, “Große schnapps for the lady, she has ridden the bobsleigh!”
Its not that big a deal, mind you the schnapps hit the spot when it arrived.
“I suppose we have to back track to Livigno,” Den mused as we finished up with cake and our third coffee.
“Its much shorter by the tunnel,” Rudi told us.
“Into Livigno, you arrived that way yes?”
“Er yeah,” I agreed, “I thought that was miles from here.”
“Maybe forty, straight down to Zernez, turn right, ten minutes.”
“That’ll save some time, I thought we were in for three hours back across those passes,” Den allowed.
“Old Rudi has his uses eh?”
“Its worth a beer later,” I grinned.
We might’ve only met a couple of days ago but it feels like we’ve known each other forever. Of course the complication to that is they all think I’m Nena, Anne Marie, Johannes, Francois, Rudi, they’re all Nena’s friends, they don’t know Chris at all. Oh well, we might not see each other again after this week, in this business you can go months without seeing drivers on your own fleet!
Although we went to collect our passengers fifteen minutes before Rudi, late arrivals at the pick up meant our two coaches travelled down the Inn valley in convoy. The first stretch has been straightened and even has some dual carriageway but after about twenty kilometres it returns to a typically narrow and twisty Swiss country road. Given the time of year the light had pretty much gone by the time we hit this stretch, which slowed our progress.
There’s only one proper junction in Zernez so that was hard to miss, twenty minutes later we were waiting at the tunnel to return to Livigno. By the time we emerged into Italy it was into full pitch black, it’s only when you emerge from the second two-kilometre tunnel ten minutes later that the first twinkles of civilisation appear in the distance. It felt like the middle of the night but we arrived back at the Federia in time for the kids to make their slot for the evening meal at six.
Of course we still had to park the bus at the other end of town.
“‘Suppose we’ll have to walk,” I sighed, the taxi rank being bereft of transport.
“We’ve got time,” Den observed.
I pulled my jacket tighter around my neck. It hadn’t been exactly hot in St Moritz but it might’ve got into plus this afternoon but here in Livigno, in the dark, the temperature is distinctly cool. We struck off towards the hotel, the main drag, even at this time, almost deserted.
“Don’t you find this all a bit weird?”
“Weird?” Den asked.
“You know, all this Nena stuff.”
“A bit I suppose, got used to it now.”
“Well the first couple of trips, they were weird, I could see Nena but my brain insisted it was Chris.”
“It is Chris,” I pointed out.
“Well anyhow once I started thinking of Nena as a separate person it got much easier.”
“So if I’m ‘Nena’ you think of Chris as someone else?”
“Uh huh, it’s actually more freaky when you, that’s you Nena aren’t in full woman mode, you know, wearing trousers and coats.”
“But they’re women’s clothes.”
“Not saying otherwise, I just like seeing women in frocks,” he allowed.
©Maddy Bell 06.08.16
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