Summer 2003 : I got on the train and it was fine, I knew I had about three hours to Ely, so I read my book, I think it was one of Philip Pullman’s trilogy – before the films were even a glint in the producers eye! I was looking forward to the 50 minutes I had at Ely before my next train too, I loved to sit and read in those days. There was an Arab-looking man sitting opposite me, carried on reading.
About 10 minutes before Ely he started to ask me about a phone card he had, whether you have to dial another number to activate it. I had a look and said “Yes, this one should do it”. We get off and he follows, asking me for the next train to somewhere, I’m not sure where, but it was the same as mine. The Station Master hears, and asks me to look after him, I guess he’s a regular on that route. We sit down and he tells me he’s an asylum seeker, and shows me his papers. He’s going to work at Felixtowe in a warehouse, but goes to Peterborough for the markets.
He’s got a family in Afghanistan, a wife and two daughters, “one five o’clock, one eight o’clock”.
He doesn’t earn much money, but everything he has he sends to his family. He tells me that they are scared and want to come but he can’t do it until he’s settled here. We get on the train and he sits with me, we don’t talk because I am reading, I leave the train and say good bye. I wonder what happened, whether he managed to do it, I hope he’s happy with his family here.
It’s nothing spectacular, it didn’t save lives, but this lovely man stays with me forever.