Dear other Mum (sorry, I never thought to ask your name),
I hope you and your family have had a wonderful holiday up on the Norfolk coast. With four children under the age of 8 I can’t blame you for wanting to escape the house for part of the school break.
As your friend bundled you, your children and your belongings onto the train at Letchworth my heart went out to you. The trouble with commuter trains is that they’re full of commuters. The trouble with commuters is that they consider themselves the only ones who deserve to travel by rail, even though we have to pay for our tickets too. We have our own time restrictions too – at least if the office workers leave for home later than planned they won’t have to contend with small people having a post-bedtime meltdown for the last half-hour of the journey.
But it’s how, on Thursday, the two of us, our collective six children, two buggies, travel cot, car seats and assorted baggage happened to find ourselves squeezed into the doorway of the last carriage of the 16.44 from King’s Cross to King’s Lynn. I hope you didn’t mind me organising the bags and suggesting that your son sit on one of the car seats.
I lost count of the number of times you apologised to our fellow travellers for your kids and your stuff. There was no need to apologise at all. Your children behaved themselves the whole way, the girls chatting to Boo, your son happy to entertain himself with the view from the window and your baby daughter charming everyone. They didn’t even grumble that there were no seats. I always want to grumble when there are no seats.
As for your stuff, kids come with baggage. And I didn’t see any of the commuters apologising for their bikes and cases. And, really, if there’s nowhere to store luggage it’s First Capital Connect’s fault, not yours.
If we’re picking on First Capital Connect, maybe it would also be nice if they had more than just four carriages travelling to King’s Lynn.
‘Gosh, it’s busy!’ you declared whilst once more apologising for the abundance of your stuff for the hundredth time.
‘It’s always like this,’ a man lamented as he fought for space.
I can’t blame the commuters for being less than happy if this is the state of affairs each and every journey home:
But as it is, once the aisle cleared a bit, it wasn’t actually necessary for departing travellers to negotiate our limbs and ephemera to exit the train. They could have left by the doors at the other end of the carriage. But I think they wanted to come and have a peek at your beautiful baby. She really is the sweetest thing with the biggest eyes ever.
Once we managed to get seats (two-thirds into the journey!) it was really lovely to chat properly to you and your children. It’s rare to find someone so open and happy to chat.
‘Do you do this much?’ you asked me as I piled your things into as condensed a space as possible.
We do travel the route to and from London quite a bit, with Boo requested for castings and shoots on a fairly regular basis. Last Easter we had to do the trip three times in a week. It can feel arduous at times. You and your children certainly made the journey feel faster, despite the circumstances.
The children were so excited to be headed to the coast, to visit the seaside and use your friend’s jacuzzi. I hope you’ve all had a great time.
I want to wish you well for your journey back. The children are darlings and although you felt flustered your parenting skills are awesome. To manage four children in such a situation without a tantrum from any of them is a real credit to you. I hope you manage to find a friendly face willing to help you off the train at your station. I’m sure your warmth will have people falling over themselves. The train back towards London in the evenings is also a lot quieter than the one travelling from the capital, so you will probably be a more comfortable journey.
I wish you luck, but I don’t think you’ll need it. You’ve made your own luck by having such lovely, loving children. Just don’t feel the need to apologise for them.
Yours with admiration,
The Gluestick Mum