We all know that feeling of arriving at the station as the barrier goes down and watch your train slide away from you.
It leaves you feeling irritated and perhaps distressed at the prospect of a long wait for the next train and the hassle of arranging an alternative pick up at your destination.
The last time this occurred was earlier this month when the Eurostar arrived late and I didn’t have enough time to cross Paris to catch the connecting TGV at Montparnasse. I arrived with 4 minutes to go before the departure time but the awaiting station uniformed official mercilessly blocked mine and several others entrance to the platform claiming we should be there at least 2 minutes before departure and indeed by the time she had completed her declaration it was just just less than 2 minutes!
I walked away crest fallen, luckily with a semi-flexible ticket and started to make my way towards the Salle d’Attente ready for more than one hour’s wait. On my way I noticed, out of the corner of my eye a cycling machine for charging batteries.
I put down my luggage and plugged in my iPad and it wasn’t long before a young French girl from a small village near Nantes joined me also having missed her train connection. We both began pedaling as if in a road cyclists heaven cycling the French Pyrénées on a challenging climb. (Echoed by passing French young men) then she said that there was no need to pedal so hard, the devices did not charge any faster and we slowed down to a casual pace.
She then started to tell me how she had worked as an ‘au pair’ for a councillor’s family in Rochdale near Sheffield. Whilst living there she had worked as a volunteer at a youth club and it was whilst working there that she had gone back to the flat of 2 of the young girls from the youth club. She had been discouraged but felt she had something in common with them as they claimed that they were bored at home and she empathasisec as she been brought up in I small out of the way village in France. When she arrived at the flat she was not unduly surprised to see the disheveled outer appearance after all the outside of her parents farmhouse was not exactly pristine.
As she entered the flat she was shocked and surprised to see that it was totally empty except for some bedding strewn on the bare floorboards, no doors, no electricity and only cold running water. Her look of surprise prompted the girls to admit that both parents were drug addicts and they had sold every possession and use the doors as firewood to make an open fire to cook and keep warm. What do you do to occupy yourself the French girl asked and they told her how they played cards by candle-light and listened to the radio when they acquired batteries.
Following this experience she went back to France and studied Political Sciences and now involved in French Politics.
We the talked about social deprivation and poverty and she felt is was because in Britain we had not had a Revolution and didn’t appreciate the concept of Liberté,Egalité & Fraternité and tended to concentrate our efforts on Liberty(freedom).
More importantly after this experience she had phoned her mother to apologise for complaining about being brought up in a boring simple village on an ordinary farm!
It was not long before we noticed that 45 minutes had passed and we parted with devices charged and in separate directions to try to make some difference in society.