Behind the clean, efficient counter of the lost property department at Euston Station lurks a dense jungle of paraphernalia left by passengers, including mobile phones, sunglasses and purses.
And a vast and assorted collection of umbrellas.
The office has been closed for hours, and the last train has long left the station.
All is quiet – until four of the department’s, hopefully temporary, residents break away to the furthest corner and engage in earnest conversation.
The first umbrella, a Liberty print ladies version, opened the debate by stating that “you won’t believe how I ended up here. My owner brought me from North Wales on a shopping trip. By early afternoon she had accumulated designer bags from Harrod’s, John Lewis, Harvey Nichols and many other high-end stores. She turned down the offer of a bag to put me in, as it was raining steadily outside at the time, and I was called into immediate action.
I had a premonition even then that, in the panic and confusion that was bound to accompany the train’s arrival at Crewe for her connection, I might be left behind. And so I was, though I did get an extra trip back to London.
I suspect the half bottle of Prosecco she drank on the journey didn’t help”.
A foldable child’s Peppa Pig design replied “mine was a young mother with two kids, both with their own umbrellas. I “belonged” to her five-year-old daughter, and the six-year old boy carried one in the shape of a particularly ugly frog. Their mum had brought them to London for the day from Hemel Hempstead to visit the Natural History and Science Museums.
The day was going well until it was time to catch the train home. As they gathered their belongings for the return journey, mum discovered that one of the umbrellas was missing and harangued her daughter for leaving it somewhere, the precise location and timing being a total mystery at the time.
Well, I can exclusively reveal now that I was left in the ladies’ loo opposite Platforms 1 and 2.
Oh, and by the way, that blasted frog survived the ordeal”.
At that point, a multi-coloured beach brolly interrupted, insisting that “they’re both conventional ways of being left behind. My abandonment was much more interesting. They brought me, along with their two teenage boys, from Watford Junction on a day trip to the seaside. I spent five hours on Viking Bay Beach at Broadstairs, shielding them from the whistling wind and intermittent drizzle, I blew inside out at least twenty times (fortunately my spokes are strong and I didn’t suffer any lasting damage), and how did they repay me?
Left me to go round the entire Circle Line three times, being pushed from seat to seat (I nearly gone thrown onto the platform at Shepherd’s Bush Market), before a kind commuter picked me up and brought me here”.
A large, black, Ministry of Defence affair with hand-carved ash handle had been listening to these laments with increasing irritation. He could not restrain himself any longer and haughtily exclaimed “that’s all very interesting but incredibly boring. My owner is a senior civil servant currently employed on top-secret government business. It is as highly stressful as it is well remunerated and requires high intelligence and discretion. He needs to relieve himself – literally – on occasions or it would all become too much.
So, his Tuesday afternoons are set aside for visits to a professional lady along the road from here at King’s Cross. To cover his tracks he always walks from his office in Whitehall and, due to today’s inclement weather, I was recruited to join him. We arrived at the appointed time and he promptly disappeared to carry out his business. At least he had the good grace to prop me by the door to the flat rather than condemn me to witness the proceedings from the inner sanctum.
At the customary time of four in the afternoon, the door opened and, as immaculately attired as he had been when he arrived, he took his leave. However, with the sun strenuously trying to penetrate the tattered curtain in the lady’s bedroom, thus restricting his vision, he omitted to collect me on his way out.
So how did I get here, I hear you ask?
It transpired that, rather than, as I would have expected, she resided in the hovel that hosted the afternoon’s divertissement, the lady in question actually commuted to her place of work on a daily basis, just like the office workers and retail staff that frequent the concourse here from the early morning until midnight.
After attending to three more gentleman callers, she duly took the 18:57 to Birmingham New Street, but not without making a short detour to this establishment to place me in its safe custody.
I must say I was surprised but equally gratified, to learn that the entertainment industry is as subject to gentrification as any other these days.
It makes one proud to be British”.
By Tony Quarrington