Curious Georgie: Note on a train saga would have been nothing more than an anecdote a few years ago

The heart-warming act of a stranger on a train quickly turned into a national man hunt - with media coverage to match

Handwritten note Sammie Welch received from a stranger when she was travelling with her three-year-old son on a busy First Great Western train from Birmingham to Plymouth
Handwritten note Sammie Welch received from a stranger when she was travelling with her three-year-old son on a busy First Great Western train from Birmingham to Plymouth

I’M aware I’ve only been here for three and a half years, so don’t have much basis for comparison. Nevertheless, I still feel confident in asserting that these are funny times we’re living in.

And I’m not talking giggle fits.

One particular event from the past week reinforced this observation.

It was the ‘news’ story about the man who had left a surprise note and accompanying fiver for a young mum he had been sharing a carriage with on a long train journey.

Apparently he had been so impressed by the way she had looked after her young son throughout, he decided to leave an anonymous parting gift when the time came for him to alight.

The note he left said: ‘Have a drink on me. You are a credit to your generation, polite and teaching the little boy good manners... Have a lovely evening. PS I have a daughter your age. Someone did the same for her once! Hope when she has children she is as good a mother as you!’

How did I know what the note said, you may wonder.

Well in these days of social media, what would have once been a lovely gesture to give the recipient a warm and fuzzy feeling, now has the potential to become a national – and running – news story.

When the young mum in question –Sammie Welch – posted a picture of the note on Facebook in the hope of tracking down her ‘mystery benefactor’, it went what they call ‘viral’ and soon ended up all over the pages of national newspapers while being talked about on loads of TV and radio shows.

In the days that followed, the man in question, (who turned out to be 50-year-old Ken Saunders) found himself the subject of a national manhunt.

The country wasn’t going to rest until they found him and put him in front of the cameras.

During the days in between the heart-warming train-carriage note drop which had sparked the FIND HIM campaign and the predictable climax thereof (they found him and he went on the telly with Sammie and her three-year-old son, Ryan – who now has £5 in his bank account, ‘Hello Ryan!’), this random act of kindness had been put under the microscope more times than Big Bro Fred has asked Mum to open and set up his microscope.

And let me tell you, that is loads.

Here are a selection of the questions tabled for discussion:

* Did this man have the right to comment on someone else’s parenting skills?

* Would you have felt patronised if someone had left you this kind of note?

* Why did he feel like he had to leave money as well as the note?

* Why didn’t he tell her to her face?

* Why does anyone feel the need to congratulate people on bringing up their kids in a proper manner?

* Was it irresponsible of him to suggest she spend the £5 on drink?

I could go on (we listen to a lot of talk shows in our house), but I think enough time has been devoted to this already.

Especially when you consider that all of the above questions were answered (at length) after they had been asked.

By my reckoning, this adds up to a wholly disproportionate amount of time being taken up discussing something which, only a few years ago, would have been no more than a snuggly anecdote among friends and family.

Still, those talk shows have got to fill the airwaves with something haven’t they?

I mean it’s not like we’re deciding who’s going to be our next Prime Minister any time soon or anything.

I Now Know

Katie Price (left) and Katie Hopkins
Katie Price (left) and Katie Hopkins

* Katie Price accepts her entitlement to help with her disabled son Harvey when it comes to getting him to and from school. Meanwhile Katie Hoppykins (who is presumably the Beatrix Potter character who got away) thinks that she should refuse this help because she has millions of pounds in the bank. Cue the kind of national political hoohah nobody would have predicted when the current series of Celebrity Big Brother kicked off.

* Any lip readers who judged Kim Sears by her cover may well have got a shock when they watched her watching her fiance, tennis player Andy Murray play his semi-final match against Czech Tomas Berdych in the Australian Open down under. As the on court action reached fever pitch, the tension seemd to overrule Kim’s usual demure demeanour... leading to an outburst which has no place in a family newspaper. Particularly in the confines of a column penned by a three-year-old.

* Not all skirts have the capacity for an impressive flary twirl. But that does not make them bad skirts. I repeat. That does not make them bad skirts. I repeat. That does not make them bad skirts. Leave it with me.

* Three people may soon be able join forces to make a baby. As I have no idea how babies are made, this means very little to me, but Mum reckons this is pretty amazing news lots of mummies and daddies to be who have had trouble making a baby on their own.

Dippy the dinosaur stands on display in the Natural History Museum in London
Dippy the dinosaur stands on display in the Natural History Museum in London

* People care very much about dinosaurs - even when they’re not real. A #savedippy campaign was launched this week after the London Museum revealed plans to replace its much-loved dinosaur with a 25m skeleton of a blue whale. The campaign may not stretch to the North East though... rumour has it, our very own Shepherd of the Arts (Freddie to his friends) has his sights set on bringing Dippy the diplodocus to Tyneside and displaying him in the Palace of the Arts in Exhibition Park. Wonder if he’ll be going after Barney next?

A Gold Star for... Bébé Ella

Fans of Nutella can have their name across the front
Fans of Nutella can have their name across the front

Every week I award a gold star to a child of my choosing. The child in question may be real or fictional, historic or current, and the award may be for a specific act or a wider body of work. Basically they are my stars and I’ll give them to whoever I choose, assuming I don’t stick them all to the lounge telly first.

Unless you’ve been raised as an only child in a monastery, were schooled in splendid isolation by robots as a youngster, or happened to be six foot tall at the age of four, it’s probably fair to say you’ve been teased at some point in your life. Unfortunately it’s a part of growing up.

In fact, in England I’d go as far as to say it’s a way of life or a national pastime, and something we cherish and to a certain extent encourage – we even have newspapers, radio shows and TV programmes that focus entirely on teasing celebrities, politicians and the like.

It keeps everyone’s feet firmly on the ground, which is vital as any English person will tell you.

Those of us that like to think the English still lead the way in teasing might want to look away now though, because in France the playground teasing is apparently so bad that the government will step in and change your name if they think the one your parents gave you might lead to ridicule growing up.

A judge in Valenciennes, northern France, took a tough stance against a couple who tried to call their child Nutella in September 2014, after a “shocked” registrar reported their choice to the local prosecutor.

The judge said giving the child “the name of a chocolate spread” was against the girl’s interests, as it “might lead to mockery and unpleasant remarks.”

When bébé Nutella’s mummy and daddy did not turn up at the November hearing, the judge ruled that the girl should be renamed Ella.

The French law says that parents are free to select the names of their children, but anything out of the ordinary must be made known to a prosecutor in case they are contrary to the interests of the child.

At least they’ve moved on from the traditional approach to naming children in France, which was to give the baby the name of the saints day they were born on. If my mummy


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer