How ripping to be barreling to Paris in the hyper-efficient comfort of the Eurostar train.
Two hours and twenty minutes from the faux-gothic splendor of St Pancras to the marginally less splendid Gare du Nord.
Well, it should have taken that length of time. Ten minutes before we were due to buffer-nudge our destination, the train stopped.
There was a trackside fire in the Saint Denys district and we were obliged to await the ministrations of the Parisian pompiers to extinguish the blaze.
The delay lasted a good ninety minutes, causing Mr Gnome and I to miss the 'Suprise!' element of the 'surprise' fiftieth birthday to which we were heading.
Well, not really. Both gnome and human stiffened their upper lips and sat it out, pluckily. Having a substantial AS Byatt to hand was a indeed a boon.
The Eurostar staff could not have been more calmly professional and communicative, offering updates every ten minutes - and opening external doors to cool us down. The air-conditioning stopped along with the train.
Gnome and Human arrived at the party dramatically (two hours and fifteen minutes) en retard.
Fortunatlely, the birthday boy knew nothing of our delay as he wasn't aware we had been invited in the first place. So our entrance was not without its element of eclat. Satisfying.
And the cloud had an argent lining: our next Eurostar trip will carry a 50% compensatory reduction.