The kindness of strangers

This morning I boarded an Arriva Train Wales service to Manchester Piccadilly from Ludlow station in the Welsh border country. I fell asleep against the window from Ludlow until Shrewsbury, at which point a group of seven senior gentlemen joined me. They were raucous, noisy and a little bit naughty. Like a stag night but with more anoraks.

We all changed trains at Manchester Piccadilly and I found myself sharing the platform with them, waiting for the Newcastle train. Gradually, this gaggle gravitated towards me and inevitably we got chatting. They were on a grand day out together to see the Royal Armouries at Leeds. As our train arrived, I suddenly had an entourage. My bags were carried. My path was cleared, I was guided onto the train and I found myself sat amongst them.

They made me their special guest. They avidly interviewed me about my acting, my music and all my projects. They took a genuine interest in me and I in them. They spent their working lives together building engines for Rolls Royce in Shrewsbury and in retirement make a pleasant habit of taking trips together to do interesting things and drink pints of local brew. Upon hearing that I had a first class degree I received a heart felt round of applause. I was offered tea, career advice and lots of encouragement. We smiled and laughed together non stop until I had to leave them at Huddersfield.

Despite the age gap of at least 30 years, the stark contrast in lifestyle and the fact that I don't even know the names of these extraordinary gentlemen, we shared a joyful moment together that will stay with me. And all because we weren't scared to talk to strangers on public transport. Thank you boys. Here is a gift for you. I never played my ukulele for you on the train for fear of other passengers calling the British Transport Police so here you are. "Thingummy-Bob" as sung by Gracie Fields. A fitting serenage for a gang of ex-engineers.

And as for the rest of you. Go forth. Remove your headphones. Put down your devices. Make eye contact, smile and see what gifts the world offers you.


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