A busy week and no time for posting so, inspired again by Mr London Street (I hope the RSI gets better so he can get back to his full length [fnar, fnar] posts - that’s not to say that I’m not enjoying the writing in the 100 word posts we’ve had this week.) today will be the first part of a two parter.
The title for this post comes from a film first shown in 2000. The film concerns a schoolboy, asked by his teacher for an idea that can be implemented to make the world a better place. He suggests that, in return for a good deed done to you, rather than doing a reciprocal good deed to the person who did you the good deed, you do a good deed to three other people, you ‘pay forward’ the good deed. I’ve never seen the film so I am not able to comment upon whether it is heart-warming and life affirming or sugary-schmalzy pap. I also haven’t spent time thinking through the implications of the idea or of a comparison between it and other similar ideas like doing random gratuitous good things.
After my return from a season in Hull I had a great, though far too short, visit from my brother and sister-in-law. They left on the morning of the last Wednesday in August and we had most of the day to finish packing and tidy the flat up before leaving early evening for Germany and a train to Düsseldorf. Here is not the place to write about the project but, together with JTO, I have a project to visit every European capital before the end of next year, not 27 EU capitals but the 45 or so in the whole of Europe. As a break after my work in the UK, and JTO‘s continued work through the summer, we were going to Moldova to tick Chisinau off the list. It is not an easy city to get to, particularly cheaply, so when an old favourite, Air Baltic, started flying there it was too much of an opportunity to be missed out on; take advantage of the cheaper introductory offers and get to spend time in one of my favourite cities in the world, Riga, and visit friends living there. I was worried about the very short time we had between flights and any delay might mean we miss our connecting flight. As a result of flying low-cost, and as is so often the case with cheaper flights, it meant we had a journey overnight to get to our departure airport in time for our flight. That was not so much of a problem as we had plenty of time to get ready. In hindsight we had enough time to go to Düsseldorf and spend the night there so we woke fresh and ready for the flight to Riga, but we didn’t. We got the tram and then the bus over the border into Kehl in Germany. (I make no excuses, international travel was so much not done by people like me when I was younger, that I still get excited travelling and even crossing the border into Germany from France, passing the redundant, and since the NATO summit in April, destroyed border posts – I know it’s only 5 km from where I live – but I like it.) Here’s a report of the border post being destroyed in April:
In Kehl we got some dinner at a very nice German restaurant we had eaten in before and then the train via Offenburg, Frankfurt etc. to Düsseldorf. On the stop before Frankfurt our itinerary said we should switch trains but, hey, we thought, the train we’re on goes to Frankfurt as well, we’re comfortable and have seats, so why change? A lesson we learnt, if the itinerary from Deutsch Bahn says switch trains do so. We came into Frankfurt railway station to see our connection to Frankfurt Airport, and on to Düsseldorf, leaving the station. I ran to the information people only to find it was the last train of the night and there were no more to Düsseldorf. Running around the station area only revealed there were no buses that would get us to Düsseldorf in time for our flight. JTO found a taxi driver who was willing to drive us but he wanted €300. We spent more time trying to find a way to get to Düsseldorf but there were none. The only thing we achieved was to get the taxi price down to €290. By now it was around 1:00 in the morning and if we wanted to take the flight we had no choice. So, the taxi it was. We left Frankfurt and got onto the autobahn. I was full of paranoia that the driver would take us a long way to make up the fare, when it was close locally,(which it actually wasn’t) that he might drop us off somewhere leaving us to be robbed or worse. Of course he didn’t. He took us to the airport. He went the most direct route as he wanted to get us there and then go home. JTO, with her ability to fall asleep on any form of transport slept through the journey while I stayed awake stewing in my paranoia. I also had the Kraftwerk song, Autobahn, going through my head during the journey so here it is with the original film:
We got the to airport and JTO went to get her wallet to pay the taxi driver and, second awake nightmare of the journey, it was not there. I had already got money out from that I had earned in the summer, would I be able to get more? Feeling really bad I went off and found a cash machine which fortunately gave me the money for the fare. What an awful way to start our week away. We tried to sleep for a couple if hours before the check-in opened with not much success. After check-in we got something to eat and then got onto the plane. Of course my previous concern about the transfer at Riga came back, after the night we had had, it would just be the end if we missed our connecting flight to Moldova. Of course, it went totally smoothly. We arrived in the early afternoon and got a taxi to our hotel worried that the disappearance of the wallet, together with the money and cards, would mean that we would not be able to make the best of our stay in Moldova. I was pleased I had the money from working in Hull as it would make the difference between enjoying our tie there and not. That was when our luck changed.
On our first day we walked around and saw the sights of central Chisinau and then had something to eat. On return to our hotel JTO discovered she had a missed call. It was from American Express. Her wallet had been found on a train in Germany and handed to the German Police and because it contained one of their cards the company had been contacted and now had contacted us. We were given contact details for the police station where the wallet was now being kept. A bottle of something sparkling was clearly in order to celebrate our good fortune. Although the things we wanted to do whilst there didn’t quite come off we enjoyed our holiday particularly the break somewhere totally different from home. Time was spent trying to work out how we could get to the police station to collect the wallet on our journey home and talking to the police station in Germany to collect the wallet. We went to Riga and whilst there realised that it was impossible to get to the police station and use the train we were booked upon. It would mean buying extra train tickets, hiring a car and a number of other logistical nightmares. Why not get the police to courier the wallet to us? Talking to the police they said we would have to courier and fax them a letter of permission before they could take money out of the wallet and send it back to us. So, we found the DHL concession in the basement of a new shopping centre and between Russian, some Latvian and the assistance of a person from a nearby shop we managed to explain what we wanted and organised and paid for the transaction. During it we had to talk again to our third police officer, explaining the full story each time, in my schoolboy German and his schoolboy English to get the exact address of the police station.
We returned to the UK and both went back to work. The following Thursday I came home to find there had been a delivery which had been missed and had to be collected from the post office. I took the card round with ID and got back a package for JTO. When she returned she opened it and inside was the wallet. She had to complete a form to let the German Police know we had received the package but the timing could not be better, just before we left for our 10th anniversary and our trip to Ch’tiland.
Coming Next: Pay it forward II – The American Case