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March 2008





I've been poorly and I can't believe it: I haven't been sick for years. I even survived six weeks in India with nothing worse than a mild headache.

This week we flew to Bangkok and I'm as sick as a dog. It's my very own 'Welcome To Thailand, land of a thousand smiles' – and a billion evil bacteria.

What's more troubling is that Train Man's bedside manner has been a bit of an eye-opener. Normally, he's the most caring man on the planet.

He'll always pick me up from the station, however inconvenient the hour, and he'll stroke my hair during Spooks and ask me if I'm OK (of course I am, Rupert Penry-Jones has just foiled another wayward would-be terrorist).

But as I ran to the toilet to be sick for the first time at 4am on Monday, Train Man simply shuffled across the bedroom and asked me if I was OK as he closed the bathroom door in front of him.

He did it so gently he was hoping I wouldn't notice, but he left me alone with my reconstituted Pad Thai.

When I was over the trauma that comes with being sick, I felt annoyed that he hadn't rubbed my back or said a few 'there theres'.

"That wasn't very nice of you," I croaked.

"Oh I hate the smell, hon. It's best I leave you to it, and surely you wanted some privacy," he replied. No actually.

I wanted George Clooney from his ER days, mopping my brow and stroking my hair – that's what I wanted.

So I shuffled back into bed and before I could say diced carrot, Train Man was snoring merrily. I was sick five more times that morning, alone, with the door closed behind me.

And this morning, for the third morning in a row, I was sick again. Alone. With the door closed behind me. Then something struck me: funny how this Welcome To Thailand bug clears up by lunchtime.

And that got me wondering…

Miles covered: 1,918

Terse sentences exchanged: 5 Bedside manner: Poor

Next week: Zoë puts her morning sickness to the test





Talk about ending India on a high note. I've spent the past three nights dining with a prince, and I don't mean Train Man.

A real bona fide Indian prince. And it's been hilarious.

We arrived at Ahilya, a fort-turned-hotel overlooking the holy Narmada river in Maheshwar, as a final stop before leaving India in two days.

I've been commissioned to write about the fort but it's so serene and relaxing I'm not sure how I'll tear myself away from the poolside.

The flamboyant prince who owns Ahilya holds court every evening, while well-heeled guests hang on to his every word over organic vegetables and local wine. Train Man and I have been royally entertained by characters you couldn't have invented.

But a strange thing has happened to my Prince of Hertfordshire – he's turned into a diva himself.

He's started talking about thread counts, wine temperature, mattress quality (all perfect here), while walking around in an Imran Khan-style two-piece like he owns the place.

This is the man who laughed at me for crying in Jaipur because our hostel sheets were stained.

Last night, something even weirder happened. Like that scene from the Thriller video, when Jacko's date sees he's changed into a werewolf, I looked up at dinner to see Train Man ringing the bell to summon a servant.

The night before, we'd pondered who'd actually use that thing. Prince excluded.

And in a role reversal, it's me getting anal about prices. Train Man has just proudly told me he's booked the five-star Leela Kempinski hotel for our last night in Mumbai. "We want comfort before a long flight to Bangkok, and it's the best that money can buy." (What? That doesn't make it OK!)

So it's a good job one of us has got some work in, because we're over budget already – in India!

Miles travelled: 947

Terse sentences exchanged: 2

Diva factor: High, and it's all Train Man

Next week: Poorly Zoë gets sick of being nursed by Train Man





How fortuitous that nautical stripes are fashionable again," I thought as I boarded the houseboat wearing my finest designer top.

Well, it was fine until it went through an Indian 'laundrette'. It now smells of river water and is paper thin, but no matter.

It was Tuesday, our third anniversary, and the most romantic setting either Train Man or I had ever been in.

Luxury wooden houseboat all to ourselves? Check. Palm trees aplenty? Yep. Meandering lily-strewn backwaters peppered with too-cute water-edge churches? In abundance.

Personal chef making the most amazing yet worryingly creamy curries? Oh. My. God.

Since the Taj Mahal last week I've clutched the KarmaKerala brochure and have been looking misty eyed at Train Man. Gold star for romance and forward-planning. While I'd been scathing about his nerdy 'six weeks in India' spreadsheet, he'd done it to plan this.

And I felt so bad about almost forgetting our anniversary, I bought him a panic present – a CD by Bollywood's Shahrukh Khan, who for some reason makes Train Man laugh.

So we've spent three days swimming and eating Keralan 'wedding feasts' off banana leaves with our hands. At night we've played cards and watched stars pop out over southern India – and I can honestly say it's been paradise on earth.

Only there's always trouble in paradise. Just like the fact I have to end a meal on a sweet, I also have to run three times a week (I suspect the two are linked).

It's a de-stressing ritual and I start climbing the walls if I can't. All those curries + a lack of running-friendly places in India = feeling very claustrophobic.

So after we disembark, I slip on my Adidas. Train Man offers to come with me, but I'm not sure how to tell him I'd rather go alone...

Miles covered: 1,472

Terse sentences exchanged: One brewing

Laziness level: My hips don't lie

Next week: Zoë is horrified by Train Man's diva tendencies





Last night, enjoying a G&T on the bar terrace at the Oberoi hotel in Agra, I noticed Train Man looking pleased with himself.

We aren't staying anywhere as posh as the Oberoi and had only gone there for views of the Taj Mahal and to find some loo roll.

"You excited about tomorrow?" I asked. We'd planned to wake at 5am to see the sun rise over the world's most iconic ode to love.

This was our first glimpse. It was amazing. "Yeah," he nodded. But he was hiding something. Cool-as-a-cucumber Train Man was unusually animated. "Why are you so smug?" I asked, but he changed the subject.

My mind flicked back to Jaipur last week. We'd been to the Gem Palace shop to buy a birthday present for my mum, and I'd hoped Train Man would go AWOL for 10 minutes and buy me some bling.

But he didn't take the bait when I suggested he wander off to look for something for his mum. I couldn't blame him, I wasn't at my most endearing in Jaipur. The harassment, the dirt and the taste of exhaust fumes . . . it made me moody.

I had butterflies all last night, wondering if he'd ask me to marry him at the Taj, but I convinced myself that would be a cliché. Still, I put on make-up when we got up before dawn and wore something that wouldn't date in photos.

Sunrise over the Taj Mahal was so beautiful, I forgot all about me, me, me and gasped in awe at the token of another man's love. Then Train Man snapped me out of it with a gift.

"Happy anniversary," he said, handing me an envelope with ‘KarmaKerala' written on it. More thoughtful and less clichéd than any man I know, he'd booked a houseboat on the Kerala backwaters.

We kissed under the rose-tinged marble then, just like every other couple at the shrine, Train Man made me pose like Princess Diana for comedy homage.

Miles covered: 154

Terse sentences exchanged: Six, but only in Jaipur

Surprise gifts: One, and it's a corker

Next week: Zoë makes a bid for freedom





Ah, the romance of the train. It's always been my favourite mode of transport, even before I fell in love at first sight on one.

So I was looking forward to the night train to Jaipur, the capital of magical Rajasthan.

We booked first-class tickets in a cabin of four beds, and I envisioned myself as an Agatha Christie glamour puss with Train Man as my dashing cohort – but with backpacks.

But our carriage looked more old curry house than Orient Express, with peeling flock wallpaper and rusty light fittings. I was gutted.

TM, ever the optimist, pointed out its faded charm and gestured towards the sign on the carriage door. It would be just us for the five hours to Delhi, then we'd be joined by another passenger.

"Brilliant!" I said. We hadn't been alone in three weeks.

But minutes after setting off, a mouse shot across the bunk opposite.

"There's a mouse in here!" I screamed, making TM jump. Then I cried for the second time in a fortnight. TM looked shocked and, to be honest, I was being a bit psycho.

Even worse, he couldn't get the mouse out of our cabin.

He tried for four hours – a Calvin Klein-clad builder's bum poking out from under the bed while he turned into Frank Spencer chasing the mouse. Resigned to our fate, we huddled up on the top bunk.

Inside, I was angry at TM because a) he hadn't caught the mouse and b) India had been his idea.

Worse still, when the man from Delhi got on, he peppered the cabin with booming farts and the loudest snoring ever.

It was even less funny getting off at Jaipur at 5am. The mist, the dark, the beggars, the stench... I cried into TM's scarf.

"Things will look up when it gets light," he said. No it won't, I thought, until I remembered Jaipur is the gem capital of India, and how he could really cheer me up if he wanted to...

Miles covered: 273

Terse sentences exchanged: 5, on one horrific night

Love of mammals: Minima

Next week: Zoë is surprised by a romantic proposal