14 Aug, 2006 The Kindness of Strangers !
Many years ago I asked the driver who was taking me to perform a concert in the Midlands to pull over and pick up a couple of rain soaked fans who were hitch hiking to see SM play live later on that day. The driver questioned the wisdom of my gesture stating that in all his years of chauffeuring artists he had never known the situation where he was asked to pull over and “give a lift” to fans on their way to a show!
Perhaps I was being naïve but I could not for the life of me see why not especially as it was bucketing rain outside, I had plenty of room in the vehicle, and we were going to the same destination after all. In any case we picked them up as requested. They were delighted, and I was happy to help out especially since in previous years I myself had experienced life as a miserable and wet hitchhiker while negotiating my way through Europe’s myriad motorways, autobahns and autostradas. Let me tell you, it wasn’t always fun.
Last week gave me good cause to recall for the first time in ages that incident from the distant past where I stopped to pick up those who were in need of a lift. And all because thanks to the good grace of a Simple Minds admirer I myself was given a lift – albeit in a private jet – from Brussels to Gothenburg and therefore was able to perform in a show that only hours earlier we were certain would have to be cancelled.
To recap, on waking in my London hotel room last Thursday morning to the news that all of Britain’s airports were seemingly under a state of siege due to a very real and alarming terrorist threat, I instantly knew that I would have great difficulty in getting out of the country and into Sweden on time for that evening’s scheduled performance. Although only early in the morning already I could see that many flights were being cancelled right, left and centre and a resulting huge backlog of delayed flights was already emerging. Being the case it was easy to perceive that whatever previous travel plans arranged for me were already up the spout, and as I frantically began packing my bags our tour manager Mr Zop, already in Sweden with the rest of our group, had begun concocting a Plan B!
In his wisdom Zop had reasoned that it was best to get out of the UK at any rate and rather than head for the airport and all its chaotic scenes, we decided that I should make my way to Victoria train station and if at all possible catch the first available train heading to Brussels. This I duly did while Zop brilliantly managed to secure me a last seat on a train that was packed beyond belief. Evidently many others like me had decided to catch the train rather than chance the airport.
The real problem however would begin after I was due to arrive in the Belgian capital as any flights scheduled that day for Gothenburg would not arrive anywhere near our committed on stage time. Being the case I was quite sure that all attempts to make it would be in vain and that we should inform all and sundry that the show was cancelled. It was then that a simple text message from Zop informed that “someone who knew someone had been in touch with someone, and that this someone was willing to pick me up at the private airport in Brussels and drop me off in Gothenburg en route to their destination in Oslo. The show was therefore most definitely back on!”
Well indeed, thanks to this “someone” and his act of generosity, I was airlifted from Belgium and despite arriving at the venue with less than seventeen minutes to spare, I was amazingly able to get on stage bang on time – when only little more than two hours earlier I had been sweating it out in Belgian! A fantastic gig ensued and I was left happy if not more than a little drained afterwards, somehow thinking that my gesture of picking up some fans on the way to our show so many years ago had perhaps been rewarded ten fold!
Here’s to the kindness of strangers!