All aboard the property train

MIPIM remains just a dream for Bruce Dear, who is experiencing a ‘French five minutes’ on a train rather than a long drink in the Cannes sun

Bruce Dear
Bruce Dear

This is a distinctly mopey start to MIPIM. All Eurostars are cancelled. Thirty foot snow drifts have even closed Eurostar’s offices. Your lucky blogger managed to catch the only Eurostar running today – the 5.40am out of Euston. The idea was to roll into Cannes’ blazing blue about 4pm Cote d’Azur time. Five hours later, rather than nosing happily into Provence, my train is trapped in the concrete and perspex brutalist box that is Lille station.

No announcements are being made in English. A friendly French passenger tells us that our train has “an important piece missing, which they are trying to find”. She doesn’t know what it’s called in English. That may be just as well. She is three months pregnant. “I hope to get off this train before my due date!”, she says. We all smile wanly. A few of us are beginning to doubt it.

Another elegant lady, in Monaco merchant banking, is travelling with her two perfect, blond children. “This train is more boring than school,” says her eight-year-old. “I’d rather live at school than be on this train.” I begin to see what she means. “And I need a drink mummy.” We all agree that we really need a drink…

“Right,” says Monaco Mummy, “this is a great chance to get your homework done.” Both girls begin to howl like tortured banshees. I find this strangely comforting – it’s not just my children then.

Surprisingly, the French do travel chaos the same way the English do. No one tells you what is happening. We have been travelling at 10 miles an hour (a rate that will take you across France in about four days). The buffet car’s out of food. They have moved us from train to train now three times, but we are still stuck on the same platform. Truly, I’ll never swear about the Piccadilly Line again.

Monaco Mummy’s children are now climbing through the luggage racks like feral chimpanzees. It’s not just mine then. (My sons, James and Andrew, are actually wonderful, but, believe me, you wouldn’t want to be trapped on a stationary train with them.)

The pregnant French lady (now rapidly approaching her due date) says we will be leaving in five minutes. “Five French minutes though,” she says, “and nobody knows how long that is.”

More blogs to follow from the glorious sea fronts of the Alpes Maritime… Or perhaps from a bar in Lille, if this French five minutes goes on much longer.

Bruce Dear is head of real estate investment at Eversheds