After bumping and grinding the night away in a dubious cellar club with the locals in Yerevan the previous night it was a dream come true to lounge around in bed the next day, totally missing seeing anything as we are wont to do once we have a booze in us. Our night train to Tbilisi wasn’t until 10.30pm so we’d both just enjoyed what we thought was a nice respectable lie in as we’d assumed that the other people in the dorm getting up and moving about would rouse us at a decent time, but as the ones that had got up were quiet as mice and the other ones were sleeping all day too, it was already evening when Susan checked her phone and realised what time it was! Thankfully we had slept away our hangovers (as well as the entire day) so we immediately packed up our gear, grabbed the rest of our food and drinks from the fridge and headed for the station as although there was still a few hours to go, we wanted to be sure that we got tickets as we were already a day behind schedule (“every other day” night train not running on the day we wanted to get it). Thankfully the tickets weren’t a problem and we even splashed out on a 1st class private cabin for a very reasonable €33. Once they were purchased, we stocked up on a fine selection of vodka, juices, kebabs, sausages and pastries for the train in the little shops in the subway.
We then attempted to find a bar nearby where we could kill the remaining couple of hours until it was time for the train but unfortunately it was at this point that it started to absolutely lash it down, and we couldn’t find a bar anywhere! Even google maps was coming up with nothing in the area and we were getting drenched and grumpy trudging around the streets with our rucksacks in tow, so decided to go into the fast food joint that was just on the corner close to the station in the hope that they sold beer. To our surprise it did, and it smelled really good in there so we ordered some beers, falafel for Jill and a veggie burger for Susan. She’d been quite lucky in Armenia as it was conveniently lent so lots of places had a “Lenten” vegetarian option for those who had decided to abstain from meat. We perched next to the window to watch the world go by while we enjoyed our food and drink and did a quick facebook update to let our friends know we were still alive, since we hadn’t been in touch with anyone since before we’d left for the wilds of Nagorno-Karabakh. It was at this point that a dodgy little old man came up and started talking away to us. Now you know we love a nice friendly old man, but he kept pointing to our beers and then himself and then the bar and we thought he meant he wanted to buy us one, but it soon became apparent that he wanted us to buy HIM one. We wouldn’t have been averse to treating him to a booze but then he started stroking Susan’s leg so since we didn’t know “go away” in Armenian, we decided to head for the train as it was about due to arrive anyway. Said dodgy old man followed us all the way to the platform, now asking us for money, and then onto the TRAIN and only finally left us alone when we found our compartment and locked the door. You give old meeeen, a bad name! And we hardly had any Armenian drams left anyway since we were going to be in Georgia when we woke up the next day!
Since there was still a while to go before the train departed, and it looked like the coast was clear of dodgy old men, Jill went out for a cigarette on the platform and ended up having a hoot with the lady train conductor and a couple of lads who were also taking advantage of the pre-departure prime smoking time. Susan came out to see what all the commotion was as she’d heard Jill cackling away, and got to the platform to find the conductor woman jumping about, trying to mime that one of the lads wanted to take Jill out for a fish dinner, go out dancing, have sex, get married and have babies. In your face language barrier!
Eventually it was time for the train to leave, so we got settled in our little compartment and opened the vodka. When the woman came round to check our tickets, we had more of a laugh with her using international sign language and her boss ended up turning up to see what all the hullabaloo was. He was a big fat old Armenian bloke, and on seeing us sat enjoying our vodka he gave us the thumbs up so we asked if he wanted some. He disappeared down the train and returned with a load of really small shot sized china tea cups, and another little old conductor and we ended up doing shots with them. We got quite indignant that they wouldn’t let our lady conductor have any, but she was fine about it so maybe she actually just didn’t want any.
The conductors went back to checking tickets on the rest of the train, and the boss stayed in our compartment drinking with us and talking to Susan using Google Translate on their respective phones. After a short bout of pleasantries (“Have you enjoyed your stay in Armenia?” etc.) the conversation took an absurd turn.
Train boss: “Do you like Armenian men?”
Susan: “Armenian people are very nice”
Train boss: “But you like the Armenian men?”
Susan (obviously realising where this was going): “I have done nothing with Armenian men, I am a good girl”
After this the bloke seemed to pause and think, and then started typing away on google translate again, before presenting his message to Susan, which she read out loud…
“Forgive me I am very modest. How about blow job or anal secret?”
Well of course we were stuck halfway between being creased up laughing and genuinely shocked and disgusted! Especially Susan, who was concerned that she gave off the air of one who is so desperate that she would happily jump at the chance of “blow job or anal secret” with a fat, sweaty old Armenian train conductor (especially after the Shirley Valentine incident in Cyprus the previous year). And seriously, we wondered, had this approach ever worked? Even when he was younger and, presumably, slimmer? Has there ever been a woman who would respond to this with “Well, I’ve got twelve hours to kill before we get to Tbilisi, and there are a load of empty compartments up there… Aye go on then!”.
He realised that he was being discussed and ridiculed at this point so left us to our vodka, and we made sure to lock the door behind him to avoid any further unwanted advances. We had some of our nibbles, including some hot dog-type sausages that Susan had bought for Jill, that had thick rubbery skins on that you couldn’t eat so the compartment ended up strewn with these orange coloured sausage skins that Susan decided to stick all over Jill’s legs to give her a nice fake tan. As we had an excuse to have a nice relaxing chill out without distractions such as bars or people to talk to, we decided to finally get round to replying to the email from Richard Madeley (after he had tried to ring Susan on her birthday but we were in Uzbekistan and had no phone signal so he had emailed instead – what a gent!) thanking him very much for Susan’s birthday wishes, confessing she was actually forty and not fifty (Aaron – who had sent blank cards to lots of Susan’s favourite celebrities and a few random ones to fill out and send to her – how amazing is that? – had run out of fortieth birthday cards by this point), telling him about the trip so far (including the bizarre incident that had just happened with the man on the train) and attached some photos of the Gates of Hell and Jill lying on her bunk covered in sausage skins. Here is the final correspondence for your delectation. To this day we haven’t received a reply, so we have assumed that Judy has vetoed his replying now that she knows that Susan is a nubile young whippersnapper of only forty, or that maybe his agent was told to filter out any correspondence containing “anal secrets”. Shame on you Mr Richard Madeley! We had hoped this would be the start of a long and happy long distance friendship!
It was getting late and Jill’s leg was getting sausage rot so we decided to settle down to sleep, but the compartment was absolutely roasting hot! We tried to adjust the heater but it didn’t seem to do anything and our window didn’t open, so we had to resort to opening the carriage door (previously kept locked to keep out Mr Anal Secret) and opening the window in the corridor, which the lady conductor kept closing again every time she walked past. We were rudely awoken in the early hours of the morning by passport control (something we’d really missed due to the lack of international night trains on this trip) and the train finally arrived in Tbilisi at around 9.30am when it was just getting cool enough in our carriage to actually be able to get to sleep. Feeling rather groggy but excited about our plans ahead, we bravely hit the streets of country number 9 and the final one of our trip – Georgia.