As simple unexpected acts of kindness go, this one will take some beating. I was on a train from London to Plymouth last Friday afternoon, on my way to a reunion of some university friends, among them people I’d not clapped eyes on for more than 30 years. Oddly, I found myself getting nervous about it, feeling almost as frightened as a fresher at the prospect of making friends again with old friends. And when I get nervous, I get tired. I have this much in common with the footballing great, Gordon Strachan, who tells me that when he was nervous before games, he couldn’t stop himself from yawning uncontrollably. This greatly annoyed his managers, not least Sir Alex Ferguson.
I tried to lean my head on the window but the gap between the seat and the window was too big, making it most uncomfortable. After a bit of wriggling, I felt something soft being pushed into the gap. It was a rolled-up pink woolly jumper from the woman behind, for me to use as a pillow. Being prone to a bit of a slobber while snoozing, I tried to refuse but she insisted. I slept very soundly, thinking what a wonderful species humankind can be.
When I woke up, I was quite unable to find words to adequately convey my gratitude. The sentences I composed in my head all felt a bit cloying. In the end, I just said thank you several times and left it at that, which still doesn’t feel enough. So, to the woman in the red dress and slobbered-on pink jumper who alighted at Totnes on Friday, I thank you again, most sincerely. And please post the garment to the Guardian so I can get it washed for you.
Adrian Chiles is a broadcaster, writer and Guardian columnist