We hadn't seen each other in ten months.

The last time we spoke, about a week before I left, she promised a year's worth of kisses when I arrived. I was on the way into Luzern to meet her - sitting on the train with my travelling bag crammed between my knees. I pictured her hopping about with excitement and a pocketful of Chocolat Villars, just waiting for me to step onto the platform.

I was stuck living in Bristol, plodding through my final year of study, and she was in Luzern, working at a recycling factory just outside of Zurich. She was responsible for picking plastic, metal and paper, separating it all - saving the world.

"Recycling one tin can produces enough energy to listen to a whole album," she said, out on the shore of Lake Luzern, one evening last summer. "Think of how many tin cans one person uses a year. If everyone recycled their cans, think how much we would reduce the carbon footprint." Eva believed the solution to all the world's problems could be found in tin cans and compost heaps.

I wanted to spend the summer talking about how much our sex had improved, or tell her the story about my lecturer who dropped dead at the photocopier. But it never happened. It was all electric bicycles and offshore wind farms; reduce, reuse, recycle.

"I know how to significantly reduce the carbon footprint," I said, stretching an arm around her square shoulders, leaning in until our noses touched. "Carbon tip-toe."

She pushed me off.

"You're an idiot, JJ."

Despite that, Eva wanted to travel around Europe with me, see it all. Leave from Luzern in June, and whip down through Italy and the Amalfi coast, across to Croatia and sail along the Dalmatian, to travel a loop around Europe.

But when the carriage doors opened, no Eva. 

"I sent an e-mail," she said on the phone.

"What e-mail?" I said, outside the train station in Luzern, bagged down with my new rucksack - pots and pans jangling from the back. I looked like a one-man band.

"It's been 10 months, Jonny. I feel like I've been in a relationship with my iPhone. We knew the distance would be difficult."

A conveyor belt rumbled. I could picture her still leafing through the rubbish as she jammed the phone between her ear and shoulder.

"You could have fucking mentioned it, Eva," I said. "Maybe before I bought a month-long train ticket."

She didn't say anything.

"And you've bought your ticket, too."

"I didn't buy a ticket, Jonny. It says it all in the e-mail."

I could hear the sound of tin cans crumpling beneath the weight of an industrial crusher.

"I'm sorry," she continued, shouting over the machinery. "Check your inbox. Maybe the e-mail was accidentally directed to your spam." 

Tin cans crushed and baled.

"Can I stay the night? Seeing as I'm here."

She had already hung up.


I was crying. I walked along the waterside and watched the water slop against the concrete shore of Lake Luzern. Mount Pilatus towered over the city from the distance, collecting the only clouds in the clear sky around its summit. Sailboats bobbed out in the open water, their mainsails reaching up into a point from the boom. From a distance, they looked like fins of giant sharks lurking below the surface. There were other boats too, some tied in at the lakeside, and one rowing boat, Julia, letters fading on the starboard. She was rotten through to her hull.

I found a pub on the waterfront, just along from the rowing boats. The sign was green and white - The Shamrock. I walked in and heads turned to inspect me. The Undertones blared out from a plastic jukebox in the far corner; Teenage Kicks. Four leaf clovers plastered the brown walls, muscling for attention over the white, green and orange flags. You could travel the world over and still wind up in an Irish bar.

The locals stared. I was the tourist, eyes glazed with tears. They were all sitting on stools around the bar, ladies swirling red wine in bowl-sized glasses, men with Guinness.

A fat man pulled out an empty stool for me. I threw my rucksack down and took a seat next to him. Shirt sleeves rolled up, his forearms boasted a healthy splattering of mud.

"Christoph," he said, stretching out a large, worn hand. As he spoke I watched his chin move. It was dotted with prickly hairs, like a raspberry.


He had the sort of handshake that made everything seem fine. Christoph nodded to the barman and a Guinness appeared. It didn't appear there was a choice.

"What brings you to Luzern, John?" A half-crescent of froth lined his top lip. The foam gushed to the bottom of my pint in an avalanche, settled, turned black.

I glugged down half of it and placed the glass back down on the bar.

"My girlfriend. I came here to meet her, to travel for the month." I sunk the remainder of my drink.

"Oh, super! And she is coming?" Christoph swiped the cream from his upper lip.

"She doesn't want to see me." I could feel the foam bubbling up at the back of my throat.

"So you don't travel?"

"She changed her mind. I'll go back to England tomorrow."

The barman placed a full pint at my fingertips.

"You can go alone, no?" Christoph patted me hard on the back with his big hand.

"It's a bad start, getting dumped on day one."        

Christoph said, "Then it can only be better," laughing from his belly. His gut was pregnant; swollen into a perfect globe. I could imagine peeling up his shirt and finding it decorated with a map of the world. "Why go home now?"


I spent the evening at the pub with Christoph and his wife, Diana. They told me about their farm, high on the hillside on the way out to Pilatus, about how their children all left Luzern, about their cows and sheep. We played darts and Christoph spoke of his passion for Guinness.

"I could have it with my breakfast cereal," he said. "If she would let me." He nudged Diana. She was markedly slim in comparison to her husband, but didn't seem to mind his figure. Long blonde hair fell over her shoulder, fading grey, but she was still young in the face. In her day, she was probably the most beautiful girl in the town.

The bell jangled for last orders.

"Come and stay," Christoph said, placing his hand on my arm. "Help me on the farm tomorrow. Stay as long as you like. Share our bread."

"I would," I said, "But I've booked the night at a hotel." I hadn't.

"Oh." Christoph's face dropped.

"Tomorrow?" Diana said. She didn't say much.

Christoph cheered. "Yes! I'll meet you here, at eight thirty."

"In the morning?" I asked.

"Of course in the morning," Christoph said.

I worried what they wanted me for.


I left The Shamrock and walked out along the docks. Caught between the mountains and the city, I stopped. I don't know why I didn't go with Christoph that evening. Part of me was scared that he would persuade me to travel alone. I stood by the lakeside, looking at the view I'd shared with Eva the summer before. The moon was full; a silver medal suspended in the sky, beyond the reach of even Pilatus and Rigi. I looked out, head spinning and eyelids fleshy, heavy, wanting to close. The street lights cast long flames on the surface water, and the white gable houses lit up the waterside like a furnace. 

The rowing boat, Julia, was still tied up to a horn cleat. It could have been there for years, untouched. Parts of the rib had cracked away, and rust had grown thick over the rowlocks. Chucking my bag in first, I made camp for the night on the bottom boards. 

I laid down on my back. I could hear fish making knife-breaks in the cool water, in lullaby. If Eva was there she would have pressed her icy fingertips into my armpit for warmth. I wasn't cold. The sun had only been down a few hours.

Beyond the bare mast of the boat, the distant silhouette of Mount. Pilatus kissed the stars in the blackness.


I woke up with wet feet. I didn't realise there was a long, thin crack in one of the bottom boards, allowing water to dribble into the hull. I got out and sat down at the waterside, watching the sun climb to the summit of Rigi. The outline of the mountains glowed like gold veins pumping through the skyline.

Christoph came early. I was thankful. I needed a meal and shower. He drove us up to his farm, half an hour south from the city near to Alpnach, at the foot of Pilatus. The car rumbled through the hillside. Swiss pines lined the roadside in regiment, upright, like soldiers.

"You look tired, John," Christoph said. "Did you party all night?"

"Hotel wasn't much good," I said. "Damp."

"You can sleep for an hour. But my cow, she will give birth this afternoon. I want you to be there."

I'd never seen anything give birth before.