The Kindness of Strangers

By and large we are all strangers, are we not? Sometimes things go wrong and circumstances demand that we put ourselves at the mercy of someone unknown to us.

In an earlier passage of his life, The Wattmeister inhabited a singular universe comprising the racecourses and dog tracks of the Southern Counties.  Its occupants displayed a range of behaviour from penny pinching parsimony to majestic munificence, never delivered without an infusion of sly humour.

But mostly, big heartedness was the name of the game.

Fast forward to a more prosaic reality, less of a community and more of a disparate free-for-all. Or is that just nostalgia?

The Wattmeister, in the company of three other volunteers, spent Saturday night. all through the night,  looking after a transient group of 50 cyclists who had embarked on a 600 kms audax. The control comprised a gazebo, housing the Tuscan Bean Stew, a couple of tents and TW’s campervan so that the participants may take some sleep, and some seating in the form of collapsible camping chairs.

All went smoothly. The Tuscan Bean Stew became Tuscan Pasta then Tuscan/Mexican soup before reverting back to Tuscan Bean and Choritzo Casserole.

It provided hearty fuel for the riders for the following leg of their journey.

After the last rider had departed, the team packed up and went their separate ways. Except that The Wattmeister didn’t advance more than 200m before his normally reliable camper van conked out suddenly on the A343.

A few hours passed before the recovery vehicle appeared. The driver, Barry, did his best to effect a roadside repair before winching the van onto his lorry and transporting it to a garage in Newbury. This being a Bank Holiday weekend, the garage was closed until today, Tuesday 26th May. Never mind, Barry was most helpful and sympathetic to TW’s predicament…which meant a lot.

And by the way, where did May disappear to?

There was still the problem of finding a way to return to Wattmeister Towers…campervan-less. A long walk to the train station, a closed ticket office and a ticket machine that refused to dispense tickets meant that TW boarded the London bound train….ticketless, but with credit card in hand. The journey was spent in light reverie, dreaming of dishing out bowls of Tuscan Whatever to tired cyclists. With light dribble streaming down his chin, The Wattmeister awoke to find himself at Paddington.

Still armed with credit card he attempted to purchase a ticket, but after some cursory questions the smiling attendant waved him through the barrier….no charge.

A short underground journey followed on one of the new ‘bendy bus’ style of tube trains. All open plan, formerly separate carriages now just one world shimmying and sashaying through the darkness, it was a joy to behold. Cost £4.80.

At Finsbury Park, The Wattmeister attempted to pay 2 quid for a bus ticket on the W3. This simple act is no longer possible. TW got off the bus. The driver took pity, perhaps he could see it had been a long day and an even longer night. They made a plan in the event that an inspector boarded the bus..

Some twenty minutes later, The Wattmeister arrived home, somewhat delayed, but buoyed by small acts of human kindness which more than balanced the scales of his automotive misfortune.


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