A Big Little Adventure on Virgin Trains.

trains_in_motion_promotional_october_2013I’ve delivered two keynote speeches and one workshop in two different towns in one day. I’ve caught three different trains and traveled over three hundred miles today. I’m on the final leg and It’s early evening. I alight at Preston to get the next train to London (It leaves in forty minutes)   and a gutted feeling hits the pit of my stomach. I’ve  left my coat on the train. My favourite coat.   So I grab the nearest train guard: Kieran. He looks at me with a wary pity. “where were you sat on the train?”. he asks. But the memory has departed with the train.  Another train guard arrives: Barry. He demonstrates with a pen   “There’s a front portion and a back portion of that particular train.”IMG_2323

The memory arrives. “The front portion ” I trumpet!. . “Wait on the platform. I’ll see what I can do.” says Kieran and walks away whispering into his radio.  I stand alone by the track and envision my coat lowering into its grave surrounded by weeping clothing accessory relatives.  An umbrella sobs  “He… he held me” A  handkerchief  weeps  “I was  close to his heart.” A  pair of gloves is inconsolable  “he held me too”

“All is not lost… all is not lost…” Kieran echoes me out of hallucination “We’ve got it. The coat.  The conductor will drop it off at Wigan. Your train to London passes through Wigan so we’ll have him there for you with the coat. We’ll put you in at coach c and wait for Wigan. He’ll be there with your coat”.  Three train guards and myself stand and wait at the platform. We chat about what I do and they tell me they’ve been to Edinburgh Festival.  I get to share that I wrote the anthem for the Preston Guild.

IMG_0300I can hear the London train in the distance. As it pulls in Barry gives me a book “I’m the illustrator. It’s doing really well. We’re  going up and down the country promoting it” he says.  It reminds me that creativity will always find its way.

As the train departs I can see over the guards  heads.   I can see that Preston station is changing. Automated machines stand  like centurions at the entrance. They may print “thankyou” on the tickets but they won’t coordinate the return of your coat within two hours of losing it on a Thursday night when you’ve left your treasured possession  on a train and you’re nearly too tired to speak.

IMG_0312So the London train pulled in to Wigan and my coat was waiting.  Wigan happens to be were I was born.  Billinge hospital to be exact.   I take the coat and thank the train guard.

Thankyou Kieran. Thankyou Barry. Thankyou Virgin Trains. All the machines in the world, all the zero hour contracts and all the streamlining practices of industry could not replace what they did on Virgin trains tonight.

The true value of  organization in our great industries is in the workers.

11 thoughts on “A Big Little Adventure on Virgin Trains.

  1. Brilliant ! Automated machines don’t respond to warmth of human interaction. When we are polite compassionate and kind to one another it has ripple effect.

    • True Liz. When things go wrong the machine stops. This is also a blog in support of the thousands of workers who have dedicated their lives to our rail networks. They seem invisible as we rush from A to B.

  2. Although you just inadvertently undercut Jeremy Corbyn’s message today favouring re-nationalisation, I do get it. Organisations when you can actually reach human beings and talk with them are, well, they’re human! What I can’t deal with are corporations that will go to all kinds of lengths to prevent human to human contact. So often on the internet you can’t even find a viable email number, let alone a human being you can talk to. Glad you got your coat back

  3. A heartwarming tale and wonderfully written. Hopefully my comment won’t stay on long and I won’t come across as a grammar Nazi, but “and your nearly too tired to speak” should read “and you’re nearly too tired to speak” 🙂

  4. I love the sentence about the weeping clothing accesories especially the unconsolable gloves !!May your gift with words continue to shine and brighten many a moment.Myself I have so many weeping accesories they could have a wake for all the articlesI
    have left on busesand trains,xxx

  5. I’m so glad you got your favourite coat back Lemn I love your story the name Wigan is great and the picture of you screaming and pulling your hair is really
    Nice too see.

  6. Politics and grammar don’t warm my heart like your retelling of this story did. Made my Monday warmer and brighter already. Thanks 🙂

  7. What a wonderful tale. We all need people to take care of each other, not
    machines, I’m glad your coat made a brief visit to Wigan, Lemn!

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