A single pink glove waved at me from its perch on the railing spike. I was walking along the Water of Leith with L. when I spotted it. It wasn’t a cheerful wave, more forlorn, like a flag fluttering in surrender. “Ah, what a pity. I hope she retraces her steps and finds it.” I said aloud. “And what makes you think it belongs to a she?” L. asked. “Ok then, I hope the small handed man with a penchant for cerise kid-gloves retraces his steps and retrieves it.” Unlikely, on both counts. Then again, if it were mine, I think I would retrace my steps and have a search – after all, it turned out well for me once before.
That ‘once before’ was at Antrim train station. I’d taken a late flight over from England, managing to get the last connecting train through to the North Coast. The moment I got on the train, I missed one of my purple suede gloves and realized I had either left it on the platform bench where I had been sitting, or dropped it somewhere nearby. The train was quiet and something made me tell the ticket conductor about my little disappointment. “I would ring back now for you, love, but there’s nobody on at this time of night.” I wasn’t expecting him to resolve it for me, but he tore a piece of paper for his ticket roll and wrote something on the back of it. “This is the direct number for Antrim station – so that you don’t have to go through to a call centre. If you call them first thing in the morning someone will take a look for you.” It seemed an unlikely plan to me, but I felt his kindness and thanked him. The following morning I did make the call. Yes, of course – I was told (by Janine), she would send someone out from the office to the platform and give me a ring back. Now, I’m quite sure Janine and her colleagues had enough to be doing without searching for my errant glove, but whether it was a quiet morning, or I had hit on a run of helpful people, or simply that the customer service is five-star in Antrim, I was in luck. Janine called me back within half an hour with the good news. She was delighted for me. “I’ll send it down on the 10.47 from Antrim. Can you go and pick it up in Coleraine?” Of course I could! It still makes me happy now when I think of my rescued glove: from my clumsy hands, dropping and mislaying it, to a series of helping hands, picking it up and passing it on.
Helping hands don’t always manifest physically, though. There are invisible helping hands in the form of words, such as an unsolicited warm greeting, or inspiration, when ideas and positive thoughts appear to come out of nowhere. C. claims that her doctoral thesis was written by the invisible helping hands of ‘fairies’. Sitting down late at night, after putting her children to bed, she’d put the ‘I can’t/don’t want do this’ thought in a tightly sealed tin and choke out pages of data analysis. She would tell me how she would waken the next morning, re-read it, and thank the hard-working fairies from the night before.
Sometimes, try as you might, the fairies don’t make an appearance. I’ve been willing them to turn up to paint my hall, but they have been unreliable. There is always another approach – get someone in. This morning four helping hands have arrived to help me paint the hall. In this case, the help involves me stepping back and letting them at it! I suppose it frees me up to do something helpful, now what might that be…?