Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Thank you Jamie and Oskar.

Well, what have I been doing? Not blogging, for sure. But you might remember I wrote just before Christmas about taking the lads to the panto at Hackney Empire,  and the other day I noticed the Empire was showing something else I'd like to see. So I booked tickets, and at six o'clock T and I set off for the London Overground train, expecting to reach the theatre with half an hour to spare.  

The train was crowded, but all went well for about ten minutes, until we came to a screeching and unexpected halt.  "We'll be off again in a couple of minutes, we're just waiting for a signal," explained the driver.

"I don't think so," said a teenage boy standing next to me.   "We're halfway between signals. Look."  He showed his younger sibling something on his phone.

"Wow, Jamie," said the kid, peering at the screen. "So we are."

Two minutes went by.  Then another two. And another.  I looked at the dying streaks of sunset from the window. There was a slight click and suddenly most of the lights in the train went out. 

"Power's off," said Jamie, quietly.  "These lights above the doors will last for ages, but they only run on batteries.  I think we'll be here for a while."

"We'll be on our way in a couple of minutes," the driver announced again above our heads, and I hoped so, because the train was crowded and you never like to run too close to the starting time when you're going to a show.

"Not getting my hopes up about that, I'm afraid,"  Jamie muttered to the kid, and once more, he was correct.

As time went on, everyone got a bit tired of listening to the driver's updates about two minute departures, and soon we were straining ears to hear what Jamie was figuring out from his phone apps.  It was clear that the train had developed a serious fault, so when the driver finally admitted it, Jamie was already explaining to the kid how a diesel would soon be pushing us to the nearest station.  "Look - this is it. It's not far away.  Can you see? It's not one of the regular trains - it's got a temporary head code...."

I didn't think I looked as if I was drooping, but a blond haired man with a ponytail, fantastic glittery trousers and a big woolly poncho politely tapped my arm and said that that the long thin package he was sitting on had some space for another person.   I accepted, sat down, and he introduced himself as Oskar.

Nothing happened.  Then, "Oh, the walls and windows are all wet, look!" said the kid, rubbing a finger against the carriage wall.  

"Yuk. That's condensation from peoples' breath" said another passenger.

"The air conditioning's gone off," explained Jamie. 

"And it's sure getting hot" said a woman anxiously, and sure enough, people were starting to remove their jackets, and then their sweaters. Those who were sitting near windows tried to open them, but they couldn't be budged. The driver's voice crackled through. "We'll be moving very soon" she said, but nobody believed her any more.

It was perfectly dark outside now, and so we stood and waited and watched in silence as goods trains rumbled past the window, black and a bit creepy.  It got hotter. In fact, the atmosphere in the carriage was getting distinctly depressed, and suddenly Oskar made a decision. He pulled out a Bluetooth speaker, waved it in the air, smiled and music drifted out. And what great music it was. I don't usually appreciate other peoples' music in the train, but this was just perfect for our situation: melodious, cheerful, rhythmic and relaxing, and not too loud.  

It's amazing how a bit of music can change the mood. Passengers began moving around, tapping their feet, clicking their fingers, smiles appeared, sweets were handed out.  An mildly party atmosphere replaced the gloom in our bit of the train.... 

.... for as long as it took another passenger to push through the crowds from the other end of the carriage. His face was tense and drawn.   "People are very stressed up at our end. And this just adds to it!" he hissed.  Well, I was sorry for him, because he clearly was stressed, but somehow he did remind me a bit of Basil Fawlty....

Oskar smiled and turned the music off, but by then the ice was broken, and he got everyone chatting away, telling their own little stories. One woman owned a hairdressing salon, had been working late, was not looking forward to having to shop before she could eat.  Another had just moved to London, so being stuck on the train was a kind of introduction to the city for her, lucky woman.  Oskar revealed he was a carpenter from Sweden, and had come to England because he fell in love with a woman, but that broke up. So, he retrained as a massage therapist and travelled around a small but growing clientele. The object I was sitting on was in fact his portable massage table.

"Give us a neck massage, Oskar, that'd be really good" someone said, but at that moment, there was a commotion and a pair of men in fluorescent jackets suddenly arrived in our part of the train, carrying tools.  Were they going to fix the problem?


"We've got to see to the emergency doors. Idiots are pressing the emergency buttons, and every time they do it holds us up for another five minutes while we sort it out," sighed one.

The driver's intercom crackled. "Please, passengers, don't try to get out of the train, all the lines are live!" she said. "We'll be on our way in a couple of minutes,"  Silence.  "I mean, I'm doing my best, just give me a break, will you?" she snapped, and clicked the intercom off. 

"Don't worry, the rescue train's really near, it's been waiting at a signal for ten minutes," said Jamie.

 "The passengers on the Island of Sodor must feel like this,"  T remarked, and that was just what I'd been thinking too, for he and I have been reading lots of stories lately to little people about the Island of Sodor, where Thomas the Tank Engine and his friends operate the most accident-prone railway in Storyland.

Just then, a couple of policemen

hove into view through the crowds.  Not hurrying, just purposeful.  One of them explained that A Really Useful Engine would be coming very, very soon - or something like that.  And this time I was glad to find that Jamie agreed. "Yes - at last!" he confirmed,  peering at his screen, and a few minutes later there was quite a bump as Thomas - or was it James -  or Mavis - or Diesel?  finally arrived to the rescue.

Clunk, clank.  At last, we were moving - at least three feet.  Then another couple of feet...  And over the next twenty minutes, our poor broken-down train was pushed with excruciating slowness the 20 metres or so to the next station. Jamie filmed it for his Youtube channel....

... until finally there we were at the platform, only two hours late!  Now all that needed to happen was  someone to open the doors. "They still don't have any power," explained Jamie. "They'll probably just open one door manually, but that's all right."

And it was all right.   A few moments later, news spread that one door was opened at the end of the train. I thanked Jamie and Oskar, and some of the passengers said goodbye to each other - a couple even exchanged addresses - and then we filed out and went our separate ways.

By now T and I had almost forgotten our play. We were still miles from Hackney, and there was no chance of getting there even for the second half.   So we made our way through the milling crowds in the booking office,  many of them asking the harassed staff why they couldn't get the train. 
(Answer: "Because the train has broken down, like it says on the huge notice in the station entrance.")

And then at last we were outside in the diesel-reeking air of Camden Road.  We hadn't expected to end up here when we set out so optimistically.  Suddenly I thought of Jamie. I knew the pair of them had a few more stations to go, and I should have asked if they would need any help in getting home. 

"I'm actually not worried about Jamie," said T. "He's super competent.  I bet he gets home quicker than we do."

And with that, we set off - unfortunately, in what turned out to be the wrong direction. This time there was no Jamie to ask for advice, either.  So I expect he really did get home quicker than us.  

Oh, and before we parted, Jamie did suggest I asked London Overground for a refund of the cost of the theatre tickets, even though their website says they only refund the single fare. I suspect he might be right.  He was right about everything else.  Thanks Jamie, and thanks Oskar, for keeping our spirits up.

And I've applied for the ticket refund.  I'll let you know. 


  1. Wow, that was quite an experience, Jenny, but you already know that. It made great reading though and the star of the show, Jamie, will henceforth be known as a hero. Sad about the show, though, but I think you will look back on this and laugh. It is amazing how emergency situations like this can bring people together.

  2. How awful for y'all! Sorry that happened. Yay for Jamie, Oskar and T! The Island of Sodor reference is precious.
    Beautiful story though, enjoyable reading

  3. Sorry you missed the play but what a memorable time you two had! I've only been stuck once, at an airport and people were screaming to get to their planes. Not a happy scene. Wishing you good luck with your refund.

  4. This is a really great post, Jenny, and what an interesting insight into human nature and how we all operate when confronted with the unexpected. You had a pair of angels in your carriage, in Jamie and Oskar. It really would have calmed everyone down having realistic explanations from Jamie as time went on with no proper action or explanation. It seems a pity the driver did not explain what was happening or planned instead of the nonsense she kept repeating. So sorry you missed your show, and fingers crossed you get the refund!

  5. That was an adventure that you won't forget. However unfortunate, it made a very good story.

  6. You've made this very unpleasant experience extremely enjoyable to read. Thank you for sharing it.

    And I sure hope you get that ticket refund!!

  7. What a story! How odd to have the "official" announcements going on at the same time as Jamie's more realistic and truthful ones. And Tony's right- that boy IS super confident!
    I'm glad it all turned out okay.

  8. What a wonderful adventure! I dislike Thomas the Tank, but that's for local reasons. It seems, though, that the karma drifted your way.

  9. I suspect T is right. Jamie seems to have it all in hand. It sounds like one of those adventures that goes awry and yet some jolly good experience comes from it all. Of course, missing the show is distressing but perhaps Jamie will be right about the tickets. You never can tell. Jamie and Oskar sound like two fellows you want around in an emergency just to keep the calm. And one thing is for sure -- you won't forget this experience for a long while!

  10. Yes, it will be interesting to find out if you get that refund.

  11. I have found that the British often exhibit this kind of attitude when faced with circumstances out of their control. My husband and I were once stranded on the rail network when it had been hit by an unexpected blizzard trying to get back from London to Liverpool. My parents were with us on their first visit to the UK and I well remember how impressed they were by the camaraderie exhibited by the various people we all encountered during the long trip. Wonderful story, Jenny ... you just have to love that Jamie and that Oskar!

  12. What an adventure! You'll probably remember that night longer than you would have the play--LOL! :)

  13. Jamie and Oskar certainly made your breakdown a bearable and unforgetable experience. Sarah x

  14. Now there is the young man for a crisis!

  15. Isn't it amazing the amount of information you can get on a smart phone, if you know where to look?

    And I'm always grateful for people who seem to take charge in a bad situation and manage to get the people together to make something positive of it.

  16. Oh my! At least you were able to turn it into a story for us. Oh dear, and that poor train driver too. I loved your Thomas pictures. My most awful train journey was travelling from Glasgow to see friends in London. We arrived five hours late. It was when there was all the flooding, and some trains had been cancelled, and the replacement buses had got stuck in traffic... We waited 40 minutes at one station because too many people got on and wouldn't get off because they didn't know when the next train would be. And then there was a police chase down the platform, and the drunk chap with his dog, and then the family with the pet tortoise in the shoebox. And it got warmer and warmer, and no one could move because people and their luggage were blocking the aisle. When we finally got off the train at the other end there was one guy from the rail company telling us that if we wanted to claim our tickets back we could go on to the website and blah blah blah....but no one took it in because we all just wanted to get on to wherever we were supposed to be five hours back.

  17. Sorry you missed the play, but it does sound like an interesting adventure!

  18. Oh my goodness. I got a little claustrophobic just reading about being trapped on the train. Jamie was so cool with it all. He would have made me feel better. Glad you got off and made it home even though you missed your play.

  19. What an adventure!! I agree with T, you did not need to worry about Jamie :-)
    It is obvious that things DO happen from time to time, such as machines breaking down or other disruptions. What I really dislike is how things are often handled. For instance, why didn't the driver admit from the start that she did not know - and could not say - when the train would be moving again? As you know, I am on public transport almost daily, and have been in plenty of situations like this as well. Their information policy is the worst about it all.

    Oh, and good job Jamie's phone wasn't running out of power - mine would have given up long before!

  20. How wonderful that two great fellows like Jamie and Oskar were there among the passengers. They sound like they were both terrific young men...level-headed and compassionate. Great to see. :)

  21. What a great night out! It could well have been a more interesting experience than what was on offer at the Hackney Empire.

  22. Well I know the incident wasn't funny Jenny but your recollections and story-telling have really made my morning very happy. I'm so glad I live where I do. Mind you if the ferry's engine's go in the middle of The Minch I mightn't be so amused.

  23. Odd circumstances though
    Hope this time he proves wrong

  24. Goodness, what an experience! Funny how some people just settle in and make the best of it, while others get absurdly steamed up and hysterical. Odd how the driver kept giving you all those bogus reassurances - why not just tell you the truth, it'll be a long delay? I await the response to your request for a ticket refund with interest!

  25. I had to google "panto."

    Every crowd needs an Oskar.

  26. Thank goodness for the Jamies and Oskars - every train should have them!

  27. Goodness me, I felt as though I was right there by your side in that clapped out train carriage. I'm glad you were all getting along by the end of your ordeal and making the most of a bad situation often helps pass the time, well done!

    Thanks for the photo of Camden station, a distant reminder of my time spent in the area visiting my dearly departed granny.

  28. What an adventure! Bet you weren't expecting that. I loved the bluetooth and music moment. There's a video doing the rounds online of a man on the Tube breaking into an Erasure song and the crowd on the platform joining in bit by bit.

    Have a great weekend.

  29. Sounds terrible, but you had me hooked from the start. I feel as though I know Oskar and Jamie really well now too.

  30. Dear Jenny - Sorry that you missed the show due to a happening on train, but you showed us such a nice train drama on this post. When things happen, there are always some people like Jamie and Oskar. Being stranded on a train without accurate information is so stressful and as the time gets longer, people’s frustration or fear increases, which could make the situation much worse. I agree with T, though I understand your feeling. Jamie is a smart-phone savvy and could take care of himself even without smart-phone. Anyway, all’s well that ends wel, if you could get refund for the tickets. Incidentally, I wouldn’t like to be stranded on train or bus due to flodding or snowstorm and high on a roller-coaster.

    I’ll get back to you (your email) when kindergarten spring break is over. Have happy springtime.


  31. I like the Spring look, it's marvellous!

    Just glad I was not on the train, such minor difficulties can lead to temper outbursts.
    The driver failed badly also, she could have been more honest.
    London crowds can be so funny.

  32. Hello, Jenny
    What an unpleasant experience you had! I am sorry you missed the play. That was not a Thomas story!

    Last Saturday, Mac, Janet and their daughter visited Kyoto. I met them at Kyoto station, having a pleasant time with tea.
    They are traveling in Kyushu now. Janet said to me that she knows you well through blogging.

    I am looking forward to seeing you again! Have a good day.


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