The Kindness of Strangers

Today, I was going to write about my lazy Sunday baking adventures- custard tart adventures, to be precise. A custard tart is all well and good; comforting, made with love, and unapologetically and wonderfully old-fashioned.

But the tart will have to wait until tomorrow. A chain of events happened yesterday that made me feel happier than a whole custard tart – eaten with my best friends and washed down with buckets of tea – ever could.

Yesterday I was blown away by the kindness of strangers.

My Sunday was supposed to be pretty laid back. I  lolled around in bed until about 11.30, then decided to try out my new running shoes. It was a great run, and I really enjoyed it – even setting a new PB for a 5k.I got home, showered, and changed, put my key back on my keyring in the lounge, then started planning my baking for the day.

Then a lovely surprise happened; Alex got off work early and snuck in four hours early! Hurrah! We decided to drive to Tesco together before it closed to buy baking ingredients and bake up some Sunday night treats, so stepped out of the door, slammed it shut, and then….

Me: ‘I haven’t got a key.’

Alex: ‘I haven’t got a key either.’

Me: ‘Oh SHIT!’ ‘Oh, it’s ok, I’ll just phone the….oh SHIT! I’ve left my phone in the house!’

Cue pale-faced panic and endless expletives. We checked if any windows were open. They weren’t – for security reasons(!) We called the estate agent. No answer. Obviously – it was Sunday. We called Alex’s sister 300 miles away and asked her to check our estate agent’s website to see if there was an emergency number. That would have been far too easy. She logged into My iCloud account (thank you, Apple!), and got the number I had stored in my phone for the locksmith. He wanted £80 to let us back in. £80.  We could have stayed in a B&B for half the price.

I told him we’d call him back.

We drove to the lovely @nataliedoodles‘ house to use the internet to see if I had any e-mails with out-of-hours information in there. Then I had a thought; Twitter.

Could it work? ‘But it’s such a tricky problem…’ I thought. I figured we would just have to pay the £80 and suck it up as a life lesson. Then, with nothing to lose, I posted the following tweet:

Within about 10 minutes, this tweet had been retweeted by 9 different people. And within 15, I received the following reply from @annifrangipani – someone I’d tweeted several times before but never met:

To say Alex and I were shocked is something of an understatement. We sat in awe of the power of twitter for a moment, before hastily taking up the incredibly generous offer.

Anna woke up her partner, Rob, and they dropped everything. They drove from the other side of Bristol on a Sunday evening to help us – two people they’d never so much as clapped eyes on – get out of the completely-our-own-stupid-fault pickle we were in.

Isn’t that absolutely amazing?!

Rob – who studies the intricacies of locks as a hobby (and nothing more – a very upstanding member of society!) had never picked anything as advanced as our front door lock. But he got straight to work with his set of picks, with liquid refreshment provided by one of the beers Alex had bought in the interim at the supermarket, anticipating a long night ahead.

Five minutes of picking and poking with various implements later, and I almost burst into Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus as the door popped open. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so much gratitude.

I was left in shocked admiration, humbled and amazed that two complete strangers would go to so much trouble to help us. The experience reminded me of a very important fact:

People are good

It’s a fact that’s easy to forget. Good people rarely make the headlines – unless they’ve been unjustly imprisoned or murdered. Good deeds don’t sell newspapers, and smiley faces don’t have the same car-crash-esque impact peering back at you from a news stand. If we’re lucky, we stumble across a last-breath local news item about someone running a marathon for a cause they’re passionate about, or a page 46 snippet on a young man retrieving an old lady’s handbag. Twice a year we get whole evenings on tv devoted to sharing the wonderful stories of people up and down the country who’ve been raising money for a good cause.

But it’s the everyday kindness most of us are missing – the little things that catch you off guard, disarm your ‘get-out-of-my-way’ or ‘I’m-having-a-bad-day’ face. I’ve had a lot of these come my way recently. Im continually humbled by the kindness and helpfulness of tweeters, most of whom I’ve never met, and probably never will.  When my Grandad had took a sudden turn for the worse and my mam and I knew nothing about the care system, several of my lovely followers sent well wishes and very helpful advice that I found really touching. But it’s not just the twitterverse that’s buzzing with kindness.

From the woman beside me on a train that I’d spoken to for just 20 minutes sincerely wishing me all the best for my move to London, to getting a free ticket to the Vagina Monologues this weekend via a freecycle-type site.  From the offer of a free all-day parking ticket from someone who was heading home the other week, to the lovely family who offered me a place to stay when I was 17 and on the train journey from hell that almost left me stranded in Ely, 150 miles from home, after a traumatising  university interview.

We’re so used to hearing about stabbings, protests, government cuts, financial crises, ‘feral’ youth, unemployment and injustice, it’s easy to forget that kindness permeates all of these situations and many more. The passer-by who holds the hand of the victim, the well-wishers who bring tea and cake to sit-ins, the young people who volunteer to help the elderly or spend their lives caring for a parent,  those who spend their free-time campaigning for justice, or who give up their sleep to provide a compassionate voice at the end of a helpline. And those – like Anna and Rob – who go out of their way to help strangers like me just because they can.

I, for one, won’t forget this good deed in a long time. I hope it can play a part in helping  me remember that at, wherever and whenever I find myself downhearted, grumpy, stressed out, furious, or frustrated at the way things are going – whether in my life, society, or the world – I’m never more than a few meters away from kindness.

You can read more heartwarming acts of kindness here. Be warned; there may be blubbing.


  1. Nelly

    What a fabulous blog post this is, it really does warm you heart and restore your faith in humanity. Definitely got me smiling on this tedious Monday afternoon. Thank you.

  2. Christine

    That’s a totally amazing story! It’s cool that someone would come to your rescue so quickly (and he was probably thrilled to get in on some serious lock picking action).
    You’re totally right that we need to focus in on the good things in our lives, even if they’re teeny-tiny, like someone holding the door for you (or a fresh baked custard tart — definitely looking forward to your recipe)!

  3. CW

    I’ve been a mate of Rob’s since we were small and although I didn’t know he’d graduated from paperclips and screwdrivers to the professional equipment, that is exactly the sort of thing he’d do. As someone’s already pointed out I bet he couldn’t wait to try out his skills in a ‘real’ situation and was well chuffed when he cracked it. A winner all round. Good work Rob.
    Nice article too.

  4. bakingaddict

    Such a heart warming post. It’s really nice to know that people really do care and will selflessly help you if you are in need. Thanks for reminding us about humanity and to appreciate everyone and everything in life.

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