uleiman, the Albanian assistant from the Pristina English department, was on the platform with Nada when the Tauern Express pulled into Belgrade at six in the morning. Dark and quite handsome, he looked about in his mid-thirties, a few years older than us. He was wearing a charcoal grey suit and a pale grey satin tie. I was wearing my-two-nights-and-one-and-a- half-days-on-the-train-sitting-in-a-corner-seat-if-you’re-lucky look. Nada, still tanned from an Adriatic summer, was cool and chic as usual, in sandals and sun-dress. It was early September and hot. The shouting passengers racing past us were shiny with sweat. They were shoving huge suitcases randomly through train windows in the classic Yugoslav manner. Under the bright blue sky I had to remind myself that I’d not come to Serbia for another long summer holiday but, at the start of a new academic year, to try and get a job. S
Home in Nada’s flat, where Fowler’s Modern English Usage still propped up Rat I Mir (War and Peace) on the shelf above the couch, Suleiman ex- plained over his coffee cup how he’d first met Nada. Not sloshing through the springtime mud of Pristina apparently, but years ago, on a British Council English course. Pristina was a young, pioneering department he announced, the youngest in Yugoslavia. Plenty of scope for new ideas. Of course, text books were always a problem. And qualified staff. He turned to me graciously. Nada wanted his opinion of a new English grammar. Amid the talk of verbal phrases and new approaches to the problem of the indefinite article, I started to nod off.
“— And what is your field, Miss Mary? Your prospective area of re- search?”