Poles Apart

My ticket holder.

My ticket holder.

Rail replacement.

It’s hard to think of two other fairly innocuous words put together that can make the heart sink so. They signal that what was going to be direct and simple has become distended, distorted and convoluted.

Here are my attempt at other two word combinations to make the heart sink, that tell you things are not going to be as simple as you thought.

Hard cushion.

Misplaced keys.

Sandwich malfunction.

I don’t know how I would have faired against a hard cushion, misplaced keys or a malfunctioning sandwich but on Sunday it was just the rail replacement I had to contend with. The train would only take me so far and then some bus would take some route, twisting and winding through the missed stops. No idea of time frames. For me making my way up from the Scottish Borders late on the Sabbath needing to meet a connection once back north… I was feeling a bit scunnered. I had had a great weekend with fantastic friends. I was looking forward to a pleasant but uneventful trip back and now everything was suspended up in the air.

Enter stage left a melancholy Polish man.

A young Polish man spoke to me on the platform asking for guidance as nothing had been announced and he had seen me investigating why our train was only going one stop. He was in a the same predicament as me except he didn’t have a bus to make he had an aeroplane to catch! So I relayed what I knew and we made polite conversation. Turned out he was only in Scotland for the weekend and was heading home to Poland that night.

As we continued to chat it transpired that unfortunately he was unlucky in love. He had come all the way over to try and speak to his ex girlfriend who now lived here.

He only got to see her for fifteen minutes.

So there we were.

If the train had been running as usual we would have never spoken. He would have spent his last few hours in a foreign country at a loss with no one to talk to, just alone with his thoughts as he tried to work out how to get back with a reasonable but not complete grasp of the language. As it was we continued talking as we made our way on to the train and then on to the bus about all sorts of things including relationships, sport, weddings (in Poland they are two days long!), God, designing houses, the concept of getting closure and its Polish equivalent.

If he hadn’t asked for help I would have had a frustrating journey on a twisting bus always checking the clock, getting increasingly stressed and wound up. Instead I met a direct, refreshingly honest and engaging conversationalist who asked me what my dreams for the future were and was able to share in the pain and delight of living. We didn’t give each other any advice, we didn’t ‘learn’ anything. There were no life lessons. We didn’t get rid of any of the pain in our lives or enhance any of its wonderful qualities. But we did share them.

I know I really needed that and I guess he did too. With the help of my beautiful and resourceful girlfriend who I managed to get through to on the phone I managed to work out what buses were going where and get him on another bus to the airport and me on a bus home.

It saddens me to think of the Poles apart, all of his unanswered questions and her inability or unwillingness to explain. But it was real. Real life and I was a part of that. He was such a genuine, resilient person. It is a privelge when people feel like they can express the pain and the discomfort of living to you. That Sunday the Polish traveller and I were able to share some of the pain, not sort it or overcome it, that we were carrying with us. We are very different people, living very different lives in very different places but that day – because of a rail replacement – we were not poles apart.



  1. Beautiful.

  2. Reblogged this on The Classy Guide to Life and commented:
    Inspirational. Just shows how a disruption to many lives can make connections in others.

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