The train officially called Le Calais-Mediterranée Express, but commonly known as Le Train Bleu because of its distinctive dark blue carriages, had travelled down through France overnight and arrived in Marseilles around breakfast time before continuing along the Côte d'Azur, leaving passengers at all the most fashionable of destinations.

Lady Marion de Leon, as she was known to everyone she had met on the train, and indeed anyone she knew on Earth in this time, was sitting on a comfortable chair in the observation lounge with a fine view over the Mediterranean as the train snaked around the long curved bay that formed the famous Côte. It was early November, and yesterday in northern France when they boarded the train it had been grey skies and sporadic rain. Here, the sun was shining from a cool blue sky and the sea really was azure. It was beautiful. She was looking forward to reaching the final destination of the train – Menton on the French-Italian border where Kristoph had rented a villa for the peaceful week away from their responsibilities.

A young woman came into the lounge and sat near her. She seemed a little less enchanted with the sunshine coming in through the big windows and sipped a glass of seltzer delicately.

“Are you all right, my dear?” Marion asked her.

“I did something very stupid last evening before dinner,” the young woman replied. “I think the first one was called a Grasshopper… then a Manhattan and a Highball. I can’t remember what the other two were, but then my fiancé ordered champagne with the dinner… and a lot of details are hazy after that. It’s his fault. He was late for dinner and those things looked so colourful.”

Marion laughed sympathetically.

“If I did that every time my husband was late to dinner, they would have had to sign me into a rehabilitation clinic by now,” she said. “Men are often late for dinner. It’s what lime and soda was invented for.”

“In future, I will bear that in mind. Besides… it’s not fair. HE doesn’t get drunk. Alcohol doesn’t affect him.”

“Yes, my husband is the same,” Marion admitted. “It’s all right, I know who you are. Kristoph explained last night. You’re travelling outside of your proper timeline, and so are we. Your name is Julia, isn’t it? And you’re travelling with your fiancé, whose name is Chrístõ… and who I will know very well indeed in the future.”

Julia nodded. Relief spread over her face. Marion realised that it must have been an awkward situation for her. She was the fiancée of her son who hadn’t been born, yet. There was nothing in any book of etiquette about how either of them should behave in such a situation.

“Come and sit here with me,” Marion said. “Our men won’t be with us for a while. They’re both in the smoking lounge talking very seriously to the Prince of Wales.”

Marion laughed at herself for the way she so casually said that last part. It wasn’t so very many years ago that she got shy being introduced to the Lord Mayor of Liverpool at her graduation ceremony. Now she associated with royalty without a second thought.

“I think something went on last night while we were asleep,” Julia said. “Something melodramatic and probably a bit dangerous, knowing Chrístõ.”

“Yes, he seems to have inherited his father’s natural ability to attract trouble,” Marion confirmed.

“It’s a pity Agatha Christie isn't on the train this time,” Julia added. “I expect it would have made a better story about the Blue Train than the one she actually did write.”

“If it involved either of our men it would probably sound too far fetched for Miss Christie’s audience,” Marion commented. “But I know exactly what you mean. Let’s hope that’s the end of the excitement, now and we can enjoy a peaceful time in Menton.”

“I certainly hope so,” Julia said. She ordered another glass of seltzer from the steward, then she put something on the table in front of her. “Do you know what I’m meant to do with these?” she asked. ‘These’ were a small hardback book, a box of silver-coloured ‘corners’ and a collection of cards with names printed across them in various elaborate scripts. There were addresses and telephone numbers printed in smaller letters along the bottom of the cards. The book had pages that were interspersed with sheets of near-see through tissue and the pages were indexed alphabetically. “Chrístõ bought it for me at the newsstand on the Gare du Nord last night. He said I would need it by the time we reached Menton, but I don’t really know…. People kept giving me cards all the time. He gave me some to give out in return. I’m the Honourable Julia Sommers of Cambridge and the Riviera, apparently.”

“You stick down the corners on the page to hold the cards, usually alphabetically,” Marion explained. She found her own book, which already had quite a few old cards fixed in place and some new ones loose folded into the pages. “They’re your Riviera social circle, the people you invite to parties or to whose parties you go to. I have four of them, one started in the 1893 season, one from 1910, 1925 and this one I began in 1932. I’ve had to discard a few old cards this year and put new ones in.”

“Why?” Julia asked.

“Because Lady Hannah Marchmount is now simply the Honourable Hannah Dunne after her divorce, Miss Anna Freemount is now the Duchess of Argyll, Lord and Lady Amounderness have moved from their small, intimate villa near Cannes to a large, ostentatious one outside Nice. Lady Adelie Greenwich is now a very rich widow and several other Ladies are here on their own pending divorce proceedings and a change of name and station. Plus, apparently the Honourable Hanna is likely to become the Countess of Sebastopol by the end of the Season. I’m not entirely sure if that’s a social promotion or not. The Count lost everything except his title in the Russian revolution.”

Julia spread the cards she was sorting alphabetically. Lady Amounderness’s card was among them. So was the Duchess of Argyll.

“I remember them both from last night before the aperitifs started to muddle things up. They both have very lovely dresses. But I was bored by their conversation.”

“That, I’m afraid, sums up Riviera society,” Marion admitted. “If you plan to visit often you might as well get used to it. Come to think of it, the only difference you’ll find in Gallifreyan society is the lack of partner swapping. They don’t divorce, there.”

“I know,” Julia told her. “I’ve seen enough of it already to get a picture of what it will be like when I live there all the time. I’ve got a little computer about the size of this book with all the names I need to know. It’s a bit less fiddly than sticking these corners in place, and automatically sorts alphabetically. It also automatically sorts my invitations and appointments. But the principle is the same.”

“Yes, I have one of those. Thoroughly indispensible.”

“Even though they are millions of light years apart is there any significant difference between Riviera society and Gallifreyan society?” Julia asked.

“Riviera society doesn’t know that we’re low born foreigners who will water down the noble blood,” Marion replied with a glint in her eyes. “Here, it is assumed that we are equal to the Lords and Ladies Argyll and Amounderness and the Duchess this, Marchioness that. This fine collection of calling cards is proof of that. We are accepted.”

Julia laughed, as she was meant to do, but both women knew there was a serious issue beneath those words.

“Sometimes, I am tempted to go to one of these Riviera villas and speak in pure scouse, just to see what their reaction might be,” Marion said. “But it’s just possible the sky might fall in, so I resist the temptation. Besides, I’m from Birkenhead, not technically a scouser.”

“As if it really matters,” Julia said. “I know all of that comes with it, but I’m marrying Chrístõ because I love him, and he loves me, and I always will, whether he is an Oldblood heir or a school teacher.”

“When I met Kristoph, I thought he was a literature professor,” Marion admitted. “I fell in love with him before I knew he was from another planet, and everything that meant. I’ll always love him, even though he’s Lord High President of Gallifrey now and that makes him late for dinner far too often.”

“There are worse things they can do than let the soup go cold.”

“That’s why Gazpacho was invented,” Marion said. The lounge was starting to fill up now. They turned the conversation away from Gallifrey. Julia sorted her calling cards thoughtfully.

“We’re only here for a week,” she pointed out. “We can’t visit all of these people. Not if we’re going to relax, as well. Which should I accept, do you think?”

“The people you found least dull before the five aperitifs set in,” Marion answered. “But possibly not Miss Chanel and Miss Lombardi. They are just a bit TOO interesting. They’re on the far side of infamous and just short of notorious. Not Mr Maugham, either. He’s pleasant enough, once you get past his shyness, but I’m afraid Mr Haxton drinks too much and it is embarrassing when you’re in their home, and even worse when he’s in yours. I would suggest Lord and Lady Ashbourne. They’re very pleasant company.”

Julia turned to the front of her book. Ashbourne was already inserted under the ‘A’s.

“You won’t want to forget this one,” said the handsome young man who strolled into the lounge with Kristoph. He put a gold edged card down in front of his fiancée. Kristoph gave Marion a similar one. It had the emblem of the Prince of Wales on it and his full name beneath. There was no address or phone number printed on it, but the back of the card had a beautifully swirling signature.

They were only very small cards, and both women quickly put them into their books. But even so, they had been noticed. Before the train pulled into the station at Menton, several people who had not yet given their own calling card to Lady Marion de Leon or the Honourable Julia Sommers made up for their omission.

“I’ve decided I’m not going to call on ANY of them this week,” Marion said as she and Julia alighted and their men summoned porters for their luggage. “We’ll have an evening party on the last night, and they can all come to us, including the Prince of Wales if he is so inclined. But the rest of the week I am going to enjoy peace and quiet and non-alcoholic but colourful drinks in long glasses with lots of ice.”

“I second that,” Julia said. “Especially the bit about the long non-alcoholic drinks.”

“I think you’ve both made the right decisions,” Kristoph told them.