‘Crossed Skis’ is a contemporary novel set in 1951. It starts with a journey by a group of people in their twenties travelling from England to Austria by train to go skiing.
I did a similar journey, about twenty years later, when there was still a train from Victoria that connected to a channel ferry and a train south.
I’ve been fascinated to see what has changed and what has remained the same.
By the time I was travelling, there were no third-class carriages with hard wooden benches anymore but the couchettes hadn’t moved on much from the ones described here and the plumbing was equally primitive.
One of the changes was the relief felt by the party when they finally arrived in France and could get real coffee and fresh bread. They were relieved because they were escaping England’s dreary rationing regime that persisted until 1954, placing coffee beyond people’s reach and restricting access to bread.
When I thought about it, I realised I would also be pleased to arrive in France where I could get a Café Creme rather than the horrible Americanos or the dreary Flat White coffees served in England and I could have croissant made that morning and not warmed up from frozen, so maybe not so much has changed.
One thing I was surprised by was how happy the group were to escape access to newspapers and radio. I know that this is partly a plot device but I was struck by this comment by one of the women in the skiing party:
“No newspapers, no radio,” murmured Daphne Melling. “It’s quite a thought. My revered Papa insists on listening to the news thrice daily almost as though it were a religious obligation. We live in an atmosphere conditioned by Korea, United Nations and the Iron Curtain. Is it really true that I shan’t have to hear about them? I don’t mean to be flippant, but I don’t see that it really helps the world if I am depressed three times a day.Carnac, Carol. Crossed Skis: An Alpine Mystery (British Library Crime Classics Book 78) (p. 43). British Library Publishing. Kindle Edition.
I realised that Daphne might as well have been talking about Twitter, which sometimes becomes my own thrice daily act of self-flagellation over the state of the world.