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The doorway of Burma

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Breakfast on the move
Brian Aldiss Writer
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Then, eventually, the time came when we were moved to Burma. And that was a very slow process and it involved… it involved going by train some of the way. And certainly, I remember being shed at one station, and the people in charge of the trains were RTO officers, and obviously some of them weren't very good at their job, because at that station, I had to get off, and I had to sleep on the platform – nowhere else to sleep.

And I can see now, that this wasn't the best of arrangements. But, at the time, I was... I think I was pretty excited by it, thinking oh, this is the bloody army, you know. I mean, fed up as troops were all the time, not expecting anything better. And next morning, a man came up very politely and said, 'You want some breakfast, Sahib? Breakfast khana?' 'Yes, I would like some'. So, I went, but then the train came in, and so they said, 'No, Sahib, you get on the train. We help you'. I got on the train. I sat by the window, they brought me a tray of whatever it was I'd ordered, and the waiter hung onto the train, outside. And we travelled 200 miles, while this poor sod hung on outside, because he had to take the tray back. Oh God, I mean really, was that what we were fighting for?

Brian Aldiss (1925-2017) was an English writer and anthologies editor, best known for his science fiction novels and short stories. He was educated at Framlingham College, Suffolk, and West Buckland School, Devon, and served in the Royal Signals between 1943-1947. After leaving the army, Aldiss worked as a bookseller in Oxford, an experience which provided the setting for his first book, 'The Brightfount Diaries' (1955). His first science fiction novel, 'Non-Stop', was published in 1958 while he was working as literary editor of the 'Oxford Mail'. His many prize-winning science fiction titles include 'Hothouse' (1962), which won the Hugo Award, 'The Saliva Tree' (1966), which was awarded the Nebula, and 'Helliconia Spring' (1982), which won both the British Science Fiction Association Award and the John W Campbell Memorial Award. Several of his books have been adapted for the cinema. His story, 'Supertoys Last All Summer Long', was adapted and released as the film 'AI' in 2001. His book 'Jocasta' (2005), is a reworking of Sophocles' classic Theban plays, 'Oedipus Rex' and 'Antigone'.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: train station, breakfast, waiter, train

Duration: 2 minutes, 6 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2014

Date story went live: 17 August 2015