We arrived in Cologne in the early afternoon with just a short 5 minute walk from the station to the Four Points Hotel, a walk which still managed to sap my last reserves of energy.
Arriving at the hotel exhausted and nauseous, I was dismayed to hear the receptionist explain that the rooms were not currently ready, and they would take an hour or so to get ready. For the others this was not such an issue as whilst on the train they agreed they would so for a walk around the city. Then it was announced that a single room was available, and I jumped at the chance at taking.
At this point I was barely able to keep myself upright, and resorted to using the corridorwalls for balance. I hauled myself to the room which was small, cramped, cold and generally unpleasant – in places I was unable to stand upright due to the sloping roof. However, at that time I did not noticed for the first thing I did was run for the bathroom, and after expelling the now familiar phlegm from my body, I climbed into bed still fully clothed and cursed the entire experience.
I awoke late into the evening and made my way downstairs to join the others for an immediately forgettable dinner. I chatted as amiably, and long as I could manage, and I think it was at this time that I concluded that I was probably more ill then I had initially realised. What gave it away was the looks of pity I was receiving from everyone. I had come to Germany a little apprehensively but with great excitement of photographingWurzburg. Instead I had been practically red-ridden and as a consequence had sank into a very deep depression.
An early morning start was required to catch the train back to Brussels, from where we would catch the Eurostar back to England. The journey passed without incident, and we boarded the Eurostar for the last rail leg of the journey. The Eurostar has seemed quite exotic, if a little cramped a week ago. Now after having travelled on the German railways it felt outdated and grubby and by far the least comfortable of all the trains I travelled on.
Whilst on the train, Mike asked how I was planning to get home. I told him that I would get the Underground to Victoria, and then Express to Gatwick. He then told me that he would have to pass Gatwick to get home and he could have his driver drop me there.
My normal tendency is to thank the person for their generous offer, and then decline as I don’t wish to be a burden. Mike I think sensed this and told me that it would be no bother at all, and that he did not want to let me go face the crowds of the Underground and have to drag my case around when I was quite obviously ill.
After a adventure at St Pancreas to find the meeting place where we would to be picked up from; I was ushered into the back seat of a very nice Mercedes. Mike sat up front with his driver and between them I had an impromptu guided tour of South-East London. We passed through areas which Mike had not been to in over 30 years and he pointed out changes, and his driver filled in the missing year. Even though I felt exhausted and could offer little in the way of conversation it was fascinating to hear of how the communities of immigrants had first arrived and then flourished and to see how the faces could change from Caribbean, to Caucasian to Asian in just a few short miles and how these pockets of people can change in the width of a road.
I was dropped of at Gatwick with plenty of time to spare. I found a place to sit and simply waited for my flight home. I arrived back and went straight to bed. A visit to the doctors the next day confirmed that I had picked up a throat and chest infection, and on top of that a stomach bug, which was responsible for all the vomiting