A story of grief by a man and a boy

spelling boobies

I used to laugh a lot at the stark contrast between human behaviour back home in the north of England and life in London. The best way I can sum it up is that if you collapsed and started foaming at the mouth up north, the whole street would come out to comfort you, tea would be made and dished out, and your recovery would be deemed ‘heroic’ in the local paper.

In London you’d be cursed for fitting during rush hour, trampled by commuting wildebeest in suits and pencil skirts, and blamed for costing someone £3.85 whilst your skin blistered from the scolding coffee they just spilled on you.

It’s an easy box to put Londoners in and one that most people who live in the capital have fallen into, perhaps unwittingly, at one time or another.

But if you were ever in any doubt about the existence of common decency or the potential for human kindness in the Big Smoke then read on.

This morning my phone rang while I was on the bus. A ‘blocked’ number, which always makes me nervous. The anxiety soon turned to dark humour, however, as a call centre worker from the Child Benefit Office suggested that I should have made contact with her rather than the other way round, and that I should have done it in November.

Yeah, I thought, I had nothing else on my mind back then. What was I thinking?

Yet I remained polite. I answered all of her questions, thanked her for calling and went back to my journey to work.

But I quickly became aware that there was no way that the people sitting around me didn’t hear what I had to say. That I was 33, that I was widowed in November and that my child was only two years old when it happened. I’d spoken quietly but that often makes people listen with more intent.

The chap sitting next to me has doubtless stepped over a fitting train passenger or growled at someone for spilling a little cappuccino foam on his expensive suit. But this morning his typical London temperament was cooled. So much so that when he got off the bus a couple of stops before me he passed me his mobile phone. He could see I had my headphones in and perhaps didn’t feel so comfortably actually talking to a stranger.

Not having experienced anyone quietly sneaking me a gadget at the back of the bus since an old school friend spelled out ‘BOOBIES’ in numbers on his calculator when I was nine, I was unsure what was happening.

‘Have a good day and good luck’.

And that’s all he wanted to say.

Seven little words that say so much more about humanity than the sum of their parts.

Screen shot 2013-06-26 at 10.11.06

21 comments on “spelling boobies

  1. lottiescblackbird1
    June 26, 2013

    Wonderful Ben – thanks for sharing as always!

  2. Sarah
    June 26, 2013

    That warms my heart. Good to know that people can show empathy for strangers even if it is through the modern world of the mobile phone. But how rude for eavesdropping!

  3. munchiesandmunchkins
    June 26, 2013

    This made me smile and also get a bit teary (I blame my pregnancy hormones) thanks for sharing this. So good to know that people can be genuinely nice to strangers.

  4. lucie
    June 26, 2013

    Love x

  5. TheFaceOfBeau
    June 26, 2013

    Lovely story Ben – nice to know that whilst most people can be insensitive / clueless / uncaring, even if they know you!!, some people get it right and restore your faith in human beings 🙂

  6. Ruth
    June 26, 2013

    There once was a girl that was *type on calculator* 13 she had a bust size *type on calculator* 8445 she went to the doctor and he said *type on calculator* 0 take these *type on calculator* 2 *type on calculator times (x) a day. Instead of taking 2 she took *type on calculator* 4 and ended up *= on calculator, turn calculator upside down*…

    That’s what Welsh schooling does for you.

    Happy Wednesday.

  7. Naomii Chaplain
    June 26, 2013

    i love that man and I don’t even knwo who he is.

  8. Steph
    June 26, 2013

    What a lovely thing to say and do and I hope it has restored your faith in humanity and those Londoners ever so slightly {she says as a fellow NW’ener!}.
    I have been following your blog for a while now and every post makes me well up. I am so very very sorry for your loss. I have a Jack slightly younger than Jackson and I can’t even begin to imagine your situation. Keep strong x

  9. Christy
    June 26, 2013

    Nice. 🙂 As much as we like to isolate and hide our situation, this example shows how just sharing a bit of information allows others the opportunity to show compassion.

  10. Sam - Up All Hours
    June 26, 2013

    Good to know that there are some decent Londonders left out there! 🙂 I am one and I do agree that we aren’t always the most friendly. That man did good. xx

  11. nornironman
    June 26, 2013

    Great story Ben and a nice touching example of how a simple gesture on the donor’s part, can mean so much to the recipient. It’s little positive moments lilke that in our lives, that can help us get through the day sometimes!

  12. Katy Hill
    June 26, 2013

    Great story! Whoever said something lovely couldn’t happen on public transport! You were amazing at Britmums by the way. Oh – and I tried to teach my kids the important lesson of “How to Write Boobies on a Calculator”, but it doesn’t work on an i-Phone! End of an era! x

    • sarah pointer
      June 26, 2013

      kindness……it’s what it’s all about….x

      June 27, 2013

      Thanks Katy. Tough evening but I’m glad I went along x

  13. Oh wow, just shows there are still nice people out there 🙂

  14. littlebrownbird
    June 26, 2013

    Just lovely x

  15. Charlotte
    June 27, 2013

    Wow, it’s so nice when people show care.

    I am a born and bred Londoner but came to university in Newcastle, after completing my degree I returned to london to work for a while. One morning on my commute to Paddington the train was so hot and full that I fainted whilst standing up – the train was so crowded I apparently stayed standing and on arrival into Paddington as the train started to empty I collapsed to the floor – I was devastated to come round in the train doorway to people stepping over me to get to work! Only one gentlemen deigned to stop and help me up, he checked I was ok and then insisted in putting me into a taxi and paying for my 5 minute journey to the door of my work. His kindness that day touched me deeply and I have never forgotten it. Everyone else’s actions that day ensured that I moved back up to Northumberland to settle and have my family!

    I do still love London though – it’s in my blood.

  16. Pingback: FRIDAY FIVE: A few recommended reads… | Pouting In Heels

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