The kindness of strangers
One reason I am back in the UK is to take in as much as I can of the Rugby World Cup and I have been pretty lucky in the bid for tickets, having been successful in getting tickets in about eight of the possible fifteen or so matches I bid for – sadly not the final, however, so I will have to watch that on TV as with most fans of the game!
I did get tickets for the opening game and also, with friend Ken, was able to see the game between South Africa and Japan which was a great game. It was certainly one of those “I was there!” moments in life. As I have said elsewhere the whole stadium (less the South Africa supporters of course) were all rooting for Japan, the underdog, to do well and “Didn`t they do well!”
So, after the opening match and the SA v Japan match and a great visit with Ken`s daughter Andi and her family in Brighton, it was then time to drive over to Cardiff for my Sunday match watching Wales and Uruguay. Could there be another upset on the cards, or would Wales stand firm against the largely amateur side (apparently only three players in the national team actually play Rugby professionally and, yet, here they are at the World Cup, well done!)
Because Fatima could not get over to the UK for this World Cup and my niece Deb was unable to take advantage of a spare ticket (she is English but, having gone to university in Cardiff, she has chosen to favour Wales over the English – no accounting for life`s odd decisions!!) I had arranged for the tickets to enable Peter, the husband of a cousin of mine, and their 13 year old son Matt, to come along and join me at the match.
I had never met Matt before and only met Peter once at a family do about 20 years ago, so we had exchanged emails and made appropriate arrangements to meet up near the correct gate, since I was in possession of the actual tickets. All fine so far.
Peter said “Send a message to me when you get to the park and ride and we will set off from my mum`s and arrive more or less at the same time as you”.
“OK, will do” I emailed back and we exchanged telephone numbers and sent each other pictures of what we looked like now. All fine so far. (Well, except for the fact that Matt told his father they would be looking for a Jeremy Corbyn “lookalike”. Hmmm!)
The official Rugby travel guide provided a link which gave the distance between Brighton and Cardiff as 206 miles with an estimated journey time of just over four hours. So I allowed another two hours anyway and even managed to set off a quarter of an hour early to be on the safe side. As it was, the journey from Brighton to the M25 junction with the M4 was relatively traffic free and it was a sunny morning, lovely travelling weather. All fine so far.
After two and a half hours driving I decided a short break was in order and stopped for a loo break and a cup of coffee and a BLT buttie, thinking it might be a bit rushed trying to get something to eat at the stadium. Had a nice read of the Sunday paper for half an hour. All fine so far.
Then I crossed the bridge into Wales and paid my toll and kept on driving towards my goal, the Cardiff West Park and Ride at Cardiff City Stadium. All fine…OOPS, hang on, traffic started to slow down and quickly became stuck as we neared Newport and the road diminished to two lanes instead of three. But I had set out in plenty of time to allow for delays. Perhaps I shouldn`t have read the Sunday paper so thoroughly. No cause to be concerned yet – it will speed up. Ever the optimist.
But we kept on going slowly and more slowly until our average speed was declining below ten miles per hour, at which point I saw a sign for Cardiff saying it was 18 miles further. Hmmm – that would take us well past kick-off. Perhaps I should think of phoning Peter and letting him know that I was stuck in traffic and may be delayed in getting to the stadium.
So when the traffic next came to a complete halt I picked up my phone. Nothing. No reception. It could not be money because I had recently topped it up to avoid such problems. Then I remembered I had had problems trying to send a couple of texts on Friday evening and thought that was a reception problem, but really there should not have been a problem at Twickenham, should there? And here we are approaching Cardiff and there shouldn`t be a problem here either! Hmmm – what to do.
Perhaps there would be a service station and I could use a payphone? Do such things still exist? And that would make me even later and I would miss the first half and Peter and Matt would as well. Then I noticed something nearby that might provide a solution. There was a car in the inside lane with two occupants wearing red shirts AND the driver`s window was open. Next time we move, maybe I can ask for help, so I got prepared.
I opened my passenger window and as I drew level I shouted across (bear in mind we were travelling at walking speed and a gap had opened out just in front of both of us) – “Are you going to the match” I said, projecting my voice. Somewhat surprised to be spoken to in moving traffic the driver and his female companion looked across and, in the best traditions of Rugby as an inclusive sport, they cheerfully admitted they were.
“Can you help?” I shouted. “My phone`s not working and I have to meet a cousin I have never met and let him know to set off soon to the match and I will try and meet him there.” They smiled and shouted back, “Yes, fine”.
So we carried on driving slowly and carefully leaving a good gap between us and the traffic in front as told them my cousin`s husband`s phone number, his name and my name and the fact that we had to use Gate 1. They sensibly asked me to repeat the phone number and then they repeated it back to me. And then we had to catch up to the traffic in front. My lane had moved about six or seven car lengths further than theirs before we stopped again but as the queue started off again the inside lane started first and I carefully let them catch me up, leaving a safety gap again.
“He got the message” they shouted. “He will meet you there.”
“Good!” I shouted back. “Because I have got his tickets.” And with that the traffic started moving a little more quickly and I never saw them again.
Aren`t people nice!
Once the traffic had got past Newport it speeded back up to normal motorway speeds and I arrived at Park and Ride half an hour before kick-off, had to walk three-quarters of the way around the stadium to reach Gate 1 and as I was getting to the point where the road turned in towards the gate somebody stepped out and, in a querying voice said “Keith?”
Having greeted each other as we carried on walking in to the stadium we arrived just in time to take our seats as the National Anthems concluded, with a drink and a hot-dog.
I called the number on Peter`s phone at half-time and left a message on their voicemail to say thank you and now Peter has emailed me the number I shall try again to speak to them. IN fact I will do it now. No time like the present!
Oh dear! Voicemail again – it is still working hours, so I will try again this evening. I will let you know how I get on. But if I do not manage to get through – to the two Welsh supporters who kindly phone ahead for me, I say, “Many thanks for your help!” I do appreciate the Kindness of Strangers and promise to pass the favour forwards.