The salt of the earth
I meet some great folk on my travels. The ones who will do anything to help and always give of themselves to make the human experience of those who meet them a memorable and positive experience.
I just need to mention a few of them who recently have gone out of their way to extend to me the real hand of friendship and humanity and whose dedication and commitment to their various events make them the joy that they are for the public of course, but also for those of us who work at them.
Bob is the engineering manager at Haven Street, the Isle of Wight Steam Railway. As well as what is obviously a highly skilled and challenging role keeping all the ancient engines, coaches, tracks and signals working properly and managing, I imagine with great patience and courtesy, all the volunteers and others who do the actual manual stuff, he also organises the Woodland Stage at the Steam Rally. The Woodland Stage is a delightful small acoustic theatre in a wood close by. The calm atmosphere created by the trees around make for a great setting for folk music and I was lucky to catch a wonderful song about the first world war by Karen Tweed and Mark Hickman and some of the set by the Grimshaws in that great environment.
Bob caught me before I left topping up the power steering fluid in the lorry, which requires me to tip the lorry cab forward and fiddle beneath! He asked if anything was wrong and I explained the particular challenge I have with this part of the engine. Without hesitation he had one of his men come out and give me advice and suggestions as to the nature of the power steering system on the lorry. He had worked for Ford for years and knew the Cargo series. Half an hour later I had the benefit of a lot of knowledge I otherwise would not have. No immediate solution but a lot of wisdom which is an essential pre-requisite to it!
An afternoon’s drive took me to Wallingford, the pretty little Oxfordshire town on the Thames and the location of a charming and popular annual folk music, steam and beer festival, the Bunkfest (www.bunkfest.co.uk). I set up a basic space for myself and started the generator. Two minutes later and it died and refused to restart. Technology! And almost brand new too. I gave up overnight and the following morning mentioned the generator in passing to the Bunkfest electrician. Five minutes later Ian was there, another of the site electricians, and within a half an hour he had it working again and showed me a few tips to try if the issue happened again. He refused the tip I offered, saying, ‘It’s all part of the service!’
Later in the morning I searched the town on the mini-motorbike for an electrical suppliers to replace some of the show extension cables which needed renewal. A charming old world shack in the middle of almost nowhere is where I discovered Flex (www.flexwholesale.co.uk). I was explaining my requirements to the guy on the desk when I heard ‘It’s Mr Alexander’ from the dim recesses of the shack. The boss, Matt emerged, shook my hand, gave me a hug and offered a cuppa. He had seen the show over a number of years and was now one of the sponsors of Bunkfest. He refused any payment and I left with everything I needed with no charge!
I noticed a sign on the wall where in previous years might have been a pinup girl calendar. It read, simply ‘Stop War. A good man is a gentle man’. There’s a photo of it below.
All three of these experiences gave me reason to stay firm in my belief that despite the dreadful affairs we listen to on the local and national news, there is some hope for humanity. Certainly if Bob, Ian and Matt are anything to go by. My hat is off to all three.
This story could be repeated many times over in my weekly life, so to those I haven't mentioned by name, my heartfelt admiration and thanks to you all.
All the best from a road near you,