It’s not every Friday morning that the daily commute starts with being sent off by a jazz band, but then not every Friday sees one board the enduringly iconic British Pullman train for a cross-country jaunt and a five-course lunch.
The purpose of our journey on the “Golden Age Of Travel” was twofold. Firstly, of course, it was to transport us (quite literally) to a bygone age; secondly, it introduced us to the forthcoming International Agatha Christie festival in Torquay in September. Building on the success of 2014’s event, which attracted around 8,000 visitors, the 2015 jamboree promises to be the biggest and best to date. According to organiser Anna Farthing, “we’re expecting something like double the number that we had last year, so we’re trying to raise the game quite considerably.” In no small part, this is because it’s the 125th anniversary of Agatha Christie’s birth, and so it would seem out of sorts to do anything other than honour the first lady of crime with a range of events including everything from talks and discussions to a black tie ball to end proceedings at Christie’s old house, Greenway. This last event is being done not without some trepidation; as Farthing says, “it’s the first time that a National Trust property has ever played host to something like this, so we’re hoping that it all runs smoothly…” If not, it’ll be a case for Christie’s most famous detective, Hercule Poirot.
Towards the end of the ride, I manage to have a brief chat with David Brawn, publishing director at Harper Collins and Agatha Christie’s representative on earth. I take the opportunity to ask the question that’s baffled Christie fans seemingly forever; what happened when she went missing for 11 days in 1926? Fantastical rumours have surfaced ever since, ranging from a so-called “fugue state” brought on by her husband’s infidelity to, more fancifully, alien abduction. Brawn is having none of it. “I think it was just a mixture of stress and unhappiness, and she wanted to get away from it all, but because it was Christie, there had to be some mystery involved. Which is why we’re still talking about it now!” No doubt the redoubtable Jane Marple – Christie’s other great creation – could have had an insight.
We return to London refreshed and wiser, with no murders having taken place (much to the organisers’ relief). Mystery buffs and keen readers should become very excited about what lies in store in September; not to go would be a crime worthy of one of Christie’s books.
More information about the International Agatha Christie festival can be found here –http://www.agathachristiefestival.com.
Prices for a Golden Age of Travel by Steam journey on board Belmond British Pullman start from £395 per person including all table d’hote meals. To book or for more information visit belmond.com or call 0845 077 2222.