Dandelion was a bit bemused by my idea of an evening meal, which was half a packet of corn cakes and a can of lager and cup of tea (she provided the tea, which I kept forgetting to buy), so she plied me with chocolate, which I don’t often eat but enjoy when I do. I kept stopping painting to answer the phone; evidently people missed me back at home.
On Saturday, I took the Tube to her house. It’s a bit exhausting, managing a heavy suitcase on the Tube, but a nice lady who worked there called me ‘love’ when she held the gate for me, which was cheering. I was dismayed when I found a flight of steps, but a kind young man helped me with my bag and I thanked him. On the next, long flight of downwards stairs, a young woman, having just climbed them, turned back to carry my suitcase and I only just got my voice back under control by the time we reached the bottom in time to thank her too. The kindness of strangers indeed.
At my destination, I managed to get my case down the stairs, while an older man, also with a bag, and I bitched about the fact that no London tube station makes any concession to people with heavy baggage. There are no ramps at all and often stairs between lines or at the exit.
It was a great party and I met lots of people. I had to leave early because I had a timed train ticket and couldn’t miss it. Sure enough, someone helped me yet again at the next set of stairs (though she was daunted at the weight too, and we lugged it along together), and again at Liverpool Street. It’s a bit shocking, to realise how evident it must be that I’m struggling to manage – but I’m old and quite small and it really was a heavy bag.
Thanks to having set off before the rush hour, I arrived at the station early and went to ask the man at the barrier if I might go and ask the guard if he’d let me travel early. He said he couldn’t let me through before my due time. I said I quite understood and turned away – he relented and called me back to let me through. I walked the length of the train and finally the guard appeared and I asked him if he minded me catching an earlier train? He said that he didn’t mind but if there were an inspection I’d be in trouble and I really should have the ticket endorsed at the ticket office. There wasn’t time for that, so I decided to board the train anyway. When he came to check the tickets, he said I shouldn’t be there. I said that he’d said he didn’t mind, but he told me that he’d meant it personally not professionally as it were. I apologised and suggested I get out at the next station and wait. He sighed and stamped my ticket anyway. I asked if he was sure? – I’d willingly get out – but he didn’t make me.
Weeza and Phil and Zerlina picked me up from the station and we went to the pub. I was a bit of a lightweight, only having a half pint of bitter, and later a small glass of wine with dinner. I slept long and deeply that night and drove home the next morning to play the organ for the Bishop.
Kindness, indeed, I received nothing but. It’s a bit hard but probably good practice for the future, to accept the need for grateful humility.