I arrived back at Paddington Station after a midday event in London, quite early for my afternoon train home. The day was now considerably warmer than when I had left Mark at 6.30 am, and as I was wearing a thick coat and carrying several bags, I was feeling hot and dishevelled. Time for a cup of tea and perhaps a nice piece of cake.
The station tea shop was up a flight of stairs off the main concourse. With difficulty, I juggled self, bags and coat upstairs, found a table, divested myself of the coat and sat down.
To discover there was nothing sweet on the menu.
And no, I didn’t fancy the damp sandwiches on offer.
I shrugged coat and bags all back on, and rather crossly trudged downstairs to the much smaller and busier ground floor cafe. The range of refreshments on offer was not tempting, but eventually I grudgingly paid an astonishing price for a dry scone, with butter and jam in tubs plus, thankfully, the essential large mug of tea. I dived for a table just being vacated, then discovered I lacked a knife to spread the butter and jam onto my scone. Gritting teeth, bags re-slung over my shoulder, I staggered back to the serving counter. No knives anywhere, just flimsy plastic forks. I accosted a young fair-haired barista behind the counter, who cheerfully ransacked the shelving under the counter. He failed to find any knives.
Once more back to my seat, where I attacked the hard scone with the blunt handle of a plastic fork. I sighed as the scone crumbled and flicked much of itself onto the coat and bags on my lap. Flour dust spread in a pale layer over my hands.
I made a silent promise to myself to resist any future temptation to do London awaydays. Although I had enjoyed the event itself, I now felt tired and frustrated. I regretted the vast amount in train and tube fares and refreshments the jaunt had cost me.
Scrubbing with a tissue at my floury hands, I was about to give up on the scone entirely when a voice in front of me said in a strong East European accent, “Ma’am, I found a knife.”
And so he had – there were twenty knives in the bag he held out to me, to be precise. I settled for one.
It made my day.