27 JANUARY 1956, Page 16

Two Journeys

(i) International Incident BY T. G. USBORNE OR official conferences in Berlin I normally took the night train from Frankfurt. On one occasion, in 1948, I found myself sharing a two-bunk sleeper with a French- man. I was disappointed to have been allocated to the lower bunk, for 1 felt certain that the Frenchman, lying level with the top of the window, would object to the courant d'air if it were opened.

I remember that I went to bed first. On opening my suitcase to take out my pyjamas I found to my annoyance that I had packed two blue pyjama trousers and no jacket. There was nothing for it but to sleep in my vest. If the Frenchman noticed it, I wondered whether he would think that I habitually slept in my underwear.

Happily I lost no sleep about it. Indeed I slept so soundly that when I awoke we were almost in Berlin and the French- man was already out and waiting in the corridor. There was no time even to shave. Grabbing my things I threw them in disorder into the suitcase. After leaving the train in Berlin I wondered whether in my haste anything had been left behind. I tallied mentally what had been taken out of my suitcase and it struck me with a stab of irritation that I had left the second pair of pyjama trousers on the rack. Too late to go back!

An exhausting all-day conference was followed by that generous hospitality which could always be relied upon in Berlin in those days. On returning to the hotel I noticed with surprise and satisfaction that I was still palpably sober. A jest current in Berlin at that time was that one of the most difficult diplomatic problems of international precedence was to decide who should be laid on top of whom in the cars after the official parties given by a certain Great Power. It was satisfactory, I reflected, not to have suffered this time.

In this mood of selfconscious sobriety I began to unpack my suitcase. As 1 lightheartedly yanked out of the turmoil in the bag my blue pyjama trousers it occurred to me to settle the point whether or not the second pair had been left in the train. To my relief I soon discovered them still in the suitcase. I had dismissed this trivial and irritating matter from Mind when I suddenly noticed a third garment of exactly the Same blue material. 'Curse it,' I thought, 'the jacket was packed after all and I never need have slept in a vest.' I pulled the garment from out of the crushed confusion in the bag, and held it up at arm's length. I took it under the light, where I fixed my eyes with deliberate and (I hoped) effortless accuracy upon it. There could be no mistake—before me dangled a third pair of blue pyjama trousers.

My assurance of sobriety was woefully undermined. Had the things been breeding in my box? Was this a case of chain reaction or natural regeneration? I was resentful, aggressive, and slightly unnerved.

I have not an entirely clear and distinct recollection of the further sequence of my thoughts or actions in this matter. Apart from any other reasons it happened some years ago now, but the fact that I woke up next morning clad in my vest and pants must, I think, have been due to a sense of resentment and disgust with pyjama trousers as a whole. When I looked over that stifling mountainous bag of feathers which the Germans perversely provide as a substitute for bedclothes I was aware of a sense of apprehension. And then I realised that the sordid problem of the pyjama trousers had again to be faced in the cold light of morning. Alas, the truth was inescapable, for I counted them as 1 picked them up—one, two, three pairs of identical blue pyjama trousers.

One resents the idea of debagging a foreigner, but after seven years' contemplation of this episode the only reasonable ex- planation I can think of is that the third pair belonged to the Frenchman who shared my sleeper the night before and that while he packed they fell from his bunk on to mine below. But even on the most prosaic interpretation it was an odd *incidence.