South-West Trains has rebranded itself as “The South-West Railway”, at least in its station announcements.
Usually I only mention train companies to grumble about them; I think this is true for others too. But a pleasant change: yesterday this train company did me a huge favour, saving me from the potentially quite serious consequences of a senior moment.
I was heading for a family reunion and barbecue in Camberley, not an easy place to reach by train, with no direct service from London. In addition, media coverage of the engineering works at Waterloo suggested that the chaos there is not yet over. So I decided to take the tube to Richmond, buy a ticket there, and get the Reading train to Ascot where I would change for the branch line to Camberley.
Because of the timing, I left home without coffee. I was hoping for a leisurely coffee in Richmond, but when I had bought my ticket I saw that the Reading train was going in a few minutes from the other side of the station, and I hurried over to catch it. (After years of commuting, my instinct is to catch any train going in the right direction.) I guess that the lack of coffee partly explained what followed.
The train was tremendously crowded; not all the passengers were going to the rugby at Twickenham. With some difficulty I managed to find a seat, and put my bag on the rack. In the bag were beer and sausages for the barbecue, birthday presents, and my St Andrews house and office keys.
We pulled in to Ascot, and I leapt up and got off the train. As the doors shut and it pulled out, I realised what I had done: I left my bag on the rack.
I have left things on trains a couple of times before. Once the item came back days later; all the other times it vanished without trace. But before yielding to despair, I hurried to the ticket office, which fortunately was not busy. I told the ticket seller what I had done. She phoned through to Bracknell; I described the bag to them and told them where it was on the train.
Then I sat down on edge, to wait.
Twenty minutes later, I had my bag back. A SWT guard got off the train carrying a blue bag. I approached him. “What’s in the bag?” he asked. “Beer and sausages”, I replied. He handed it over with some banter, about these being the essential items for a barbecue, anything else is just frippery.
So when I got on the Camberley train, it was the one I would have caught had I had a coffee in Richmond and been less out of it in Ascot. The same man who had brought my bag was on the train, travelling to his next job, cue more banter; I invited him to the barbecue, which he regretfully declined.
So thank you, SWT staff, you saved me there!