Showing posts with label kindness. Show all posts
Showing posts with label kindness. Show all posts

Monday, 26 November 2012

The kindness of strangers Part 2

My children are both at university now – but out of sight doesn’t mean out of mind. Far from it. The fact that I don’t see them every day makes me worry even more.

I was thrilled, though, when my 18 year old son phoned at 10pm last night. Except it wasn’t for a chat. It was to say that he was on a train from Manchester to South Wales after a weekend catching up with old pals and the train had been severely delayed because of the weather. He’d just clocked that his train was due to terminate at Newport - at midnight, 50 miles from where he needed to be and with no more trains till dawn. 

To make matters worse, his credit card had been nicked a few days earlier, he only had £10 on him and his phone was about to run out of battery.

“We’re stuck at Shrewsbury,” he said. “And I don’t want to waste my battery so I’m switching my phone off now.”

Before I could reply, he rang off.

At midnight, with no news, I rang Newport railway station. But the place had shut up shop for the night. Next, I called a taxi firm close by.

“Don’t worry,” said a cheery voice at Dragon Taxis when he heard the sorry tale. “I’ll go and find out. What does he look like? I’ll see if he’s there.”

How kind was that? The man came back ten minutes later and said my son wasn’t there. But he’d asked the rail staff and in fact the train had travelled on to Cardiff. After that, they’d said, Arriva Trains were laying on taxis (free of charge) to take stranded passengers home. And sure enough, when I finally spoke to my son at 3am, that’s exactly what had happened.   

So, all I can say is: A big thank you to the wonderful Dragon Taxis of Newport. Talk about going that extra mile...

PS. I've just realised it's exactly a month till Christmas. Help!

PPS. The kindness of strangers Part 1 is here.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The kindness of strangers Part 1

“I can’t believe I’m leaving you in Paris,” I told my daughter as we hugged goodbye on the Boulevard St Germain.

“I’m more worried about leaving you on the metro," she replied, deftly handing me a train ticket and a bright pink Post-it note with scribbled instructions to Charles de Gaulle Aéroport.

We’d just spent two action-packed days together and it was time for me to head home while she embarked on her new student life in France.

Determined to allay her fears, I strode confidently through the metro gate (getting my suitcase wedged in the barrier in the process) and hopped on the train to Châtelet-Les Halles.

But after that, everything came unstuck. As I waited in vain for the RER (the express train that connects the city centre to the suburbs), I started to panic. My flight was due to leave in 90 minutes time and I was still miles away.

Then suddenly a couple walked past and murmured something incomprehensible. “Je suis Anglaise,” I replied – my default response when I haven’t got a clue. The man replied in faultless English and told me the train to the airport wasn’t running.  We apparently needed to get a train to Mitry-Claye, a place I’d never heard of, then catch a bus.

It sounds ridiculous but I instinctively knew I could trust the pair. I hurried on to the packed Mitry-Claye train behind them and we hurtled through the grey suburbs of north-east Paris together, past places I’d be afraid to walk alone. The man told me he was originally from Cameroon and was on his way home to South Africa from a business conference in the US. He and his wife had stopped off in Paris en route to see friends.

When we finally reached Mitry-Claye I lost sight of them in the melée. As hordes of passengers tore down the platform in search of the airport bus, a few RER staff in red T-shirts apologetically handed us a tiny biscuit each. Not exactly what you’re after when you’re about to miss your plane, but still.

I pushed my way on to the packed bendy-bus, wondering where my new friends had got to. As it pulled away I spotted them standing patiently at the barrier. My bus was full and they’d clearly been told to wait for the next one. I waved like a maniac and mouthed “merci.” I don’t think they saw me…

PS. The kindness of strangers Part 2 is here.
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