Crossing Divides: A train chat that still gives me goose bumps

Gideon Richards Image copyright Gideon Richards
Image caption Mr Richards said he was glad to be able to help a distressed woman he met on a train

As the BBC and public transport companies encouraged people to chat to fellow passengers as part of Crossing Divides On the Move day, readers shared their memorable experiences on trains and buses.

'I will never forget his kindness'

Gideon Richards, 55, from Huddersfield, gets a lump in his throat when he recalls sitting down next to a woman in great distress on the train.

"She was crying and I thought 'do you or don't you say anything?'," says the sustainability consultant. "I wasn't expecting to hear what she told me. Even now it gives me goose bumps."

The woman he spoke to was an HR worker from Surrey who was returning to her family home in Leeds after being told her brother was missing, believed to have killed himself.

"I was desperate to get home, and in a bit of a state," she tells the BBC. "My face was puffed up, I had tissues in my hand and my nose was running. I was so self-conscious."

After catching a train from Woking and the Tube across London, the 34-year-old - who asked not to be identified - was dreading the two-and-a-half hour journey from Kings Cross.

"A guy sat down and after a few minutes he just asked if I was ok. He said he was sorry, and then just asked me about myself, where I was going, what I did for a job. It took my mind away from what was happening.

"He was amazing and even offered to pay for a taxi home. The kindness he showed me on that day, I never have and will not forget."

Mr Richards says of the encounter: "I just tried to give some moral support. I'd like to think someone would do that for me."

'Passengers inspired me to start my own business'

Image copyright Shirley Brown
Image caption Shirley Brown says you never know what you might learn from people you meet on public transport

Shirley Brown, 62, from Liverpool was travelling to the Lake District with her mother when a fellow passenger knocked over her coffee.

"We got talking and she told us she was on her way to start a new job in the Lake District as a live-in carer.

"I just thought that sounds wonderful. I asked her where you would find a job like that and she told me The Lady magazine."

Twenty years later, Mrs Brown was considering setting up her own care business.

"I remembered the woman I met on the train. I put an advert in The Lady for carers and got 62 replies in 48 hours."

And some crucial business advice came from someone else she met on a train, a woman who worked for HMRC. She told the woman about her plan but said she didn't know where to start.

"She said 'oh it's very easy, we run courses' so I signed up to one.

"I've never looked back."

'We have made friends for life'

Image copyright Jason Sutherland-Rowe
Image caption Jason Sutherland-Rowe, centre, says people he has met on his commute have become friends for life

Jason Sutherland-Rowe from Shoreham-by-Sea told us how commuters on his journey to London had set up a social club, sharing drinks and nibbles on Thursdays for a number of years.

They're still in touch but social gatherings are "few and far between" these days, as there is less space on the newer trains, says Mr Sutherland-Rowe.

"We still make the effort for Christmas, birthday and other significant events.

"Commuting with the group was very therapeutic. We've had people go through relationship break ups or lose parents etc and the support from others is an enormous help.

"We have made friends for life, and no disruptions or change of rail provider will alter that."

'We talked 50 Shades of Grey'

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption For some, trains are great places to meet new people - stock photograph

Grace from Bristol, "loves strangers" and counts herself lucky to have met many "weird and wonderful people" while commuting.

"There was the lovely man who taught me about cryptic crosswords," she says.

"The guy who had just split up with his wife and just needed a giggle with a stranger... the sales director for Lovehoney's 50 Shades of Grey range. We were turning a lot of heads in our carriage that day."

Grace says she once got a surprise when she offered a newspaper to a woman she was sitting next to.

"It turns out this very lady had held me as a baby, as she was an old colleague of my dad's. That one probably threw her a little more than it did me."

'You could change someone's day'

Image copyright Barbara Black
Image caption Barbara Black, pictured with her husband Ron, says starting a conversation could change someone's day

Barbara Black, 70, from Shoeburyness in Southend, says: "I got on the bus last Saturday outside my house and there was a big wagon in the way and the bus driver had to sit there for about five minutes.

"I thought 'oh he's going to be in a really bad mood now'. But he wasn't, he was smiling and singing 'Oh I do like to be beside the seaside'.

"If the driver is friendly and chatty it sets up a chain reaction and everyone smiles at each other and chats."

Mrs Black says her role as a bereavement co-ordinator at Southend Hospital has taught her how a smile or a few words could change someone's day.

"I help women who have lost babies through miscarriage or stillbirth," she says. "It's difficult for them because everybody around them who was pregnant at the same time are getting their prams on the bus and going to their baby groups and chatting with the other mums

"You don't know what a difference a chat could make to someone who's feeling alone."

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