Monday, 14 March 2016

That Time Someone Stole Our Suitcase...

Hellooooo again! I had every intention of writing this post sooner but it's been a stressful week (as you'll find out) and whilst the words have been spinning around in my head, I've found it hard to put down in writing.

Some of my Twitter friends may already know about the nightmare mum and I had last Tuesday, but I wanted to share the story again as a warning to others to be more vigilant on public transport.

First, here's a bit of background information about Tuesday. Since 2005, March 8th has been a very sad day for mum and I. It is the anniversary of grandad's passing, and whilst there's not a day that goes by without him in my thoughts, his anniversary always hits home just how much I miss him.

Last year, Kingsland had their album launch party on the same day, and whilst I still felt sad, it was nice to be able to spend the day with so many of my favourite people and actually create a positive memory on what is usually a very painful day.

So this year, when I found out that DNCE were going to do their first ever UK show in London on the same date, I begged for time off work, grabbed one of the last few tickets and jumped at this special opportunity.

For those of you wondering who the flippin' 'eck is DNCE, they're the four-piece band behind the super catchy track 'Cake By The Ocean'. Oh yeah, and the lead singer is Joe Jonas, a.k.a the teenage LOML. He has been bae since I was 16 and my car, which I've had since I was 17, is named after him haha. Not forgetting the time back in 2009 when I was the coolest 18 year old in the land, saying f-you to a big party and opting to see the Jonas Brothers live for my birthday instead.

In the week running up to the gig, I kept tracking social media to see whether there would be any opportunities to meet DNCE in London and I'd worked out a few possible places. I saw that they'd met loads of fans at radio stations, airports and venues during their other European dates too so it's fair to say that I'd built my hopes up quite a bit. We'd even chosen a super early train so that we would have plenty of time to wander round London in case they announced something last minute.

In fact, I'd stupidly dreamt that this post was going to be called 'THAT TIME I MET THE TEENAGE LOML' but instead it's 'that time some wanker stole our case from the luggage rack on the train and subsequently ruined our entire day' - catchy.

Yes, some absolute tosser thought it was okay to help themselves to our suitcase and its entire contents. To be honest, I'm still in complete disbelief at the situation. We boarded the first train in Carmarthen at 3am, before arriving at Swansea. We then changed trains, and boarded the direct service to London Paddington. We had seat reservations, so we stepped into the specified carriage, put our suitcase in the only luggage rack on that particular carriage and went to our seats, which were halfway or so down the carriage, with our backs to the rack. In hindsight, everything about this situation screams alarm bells, but as seasoned travellers for at least four years now, we thought nothing less and trusted our case to be safe in the rack.

At roughly 4am, the train set off, and then arrived into Paddington at 7:30am. With both myself and mum feeling poorly anyway, and being up at stupid o'clock, we slept quite a bit during the journey. As we rolled into Paddington, I allowed all the work people to get off the train first before making my way to the luggage rack, just to be greeted with absolutely nothing.

I've never felt my heart drop so much, I didn't know what to do. After searching the other end of the carriage and speaking to one of the train staff, we were told to go to customer services to arrange to speak to the Transport Police. Lots of long conversations ensued, we did further checks with lost property etc., but the reality was that our case was long gone and there was nothing we could do about it. CCTV was supposedly checked at every station, but there was not enough evidence to secure a conviction. One thing I was quite horrified to learn is that there's no CCTV on board any of the high speed trains to London, which baffles me a bit in all honesty.

Perhaps I'm extremely na├»ve but as a regular train user, I've never seen or heard of this happening to anyone before. In hindsight, thieving happens everywhere but I've never considered it happening on a train. Of course, there's always messages on the train telling you to be vigilant of your personal belongings but when you have a case, you can't keep it beside you. You have to put it in the racks provided and it's not always possible to sit beside it or keep an eye on it for the entire journey.

I did some googling on luggage train theft a few days ago, and one of the suggestions was to either stand by the luggage rack for the journey or get up at every stop to check your luggage. In all honesty, who does that? You'd get in the way and be extremely uncomfortable if you were to stand all the way, and as for getting up at every stop, you would have to wait until passengers boarded and left the train first, and by then it would be too late anyway. The only benefit I can see of doing this would be the ability to pin point where exactly your case was stolen, however with thieves being so crafty I don't think it would make a difference.

Following the phone call to the Transport Police, we sat down in Paddington and made a list of everything that was in the case. The only 'valuables' were mum's camera and glasses, however the case was also full of clothes (practically half of mum's wardrobe since she always packs the kitchen sink). All of these are materialistic but we don't own masses of clothes so for us it made a huge difference.

By stealing our case, all the thief gained was a camera. Well done lad, I really hope it was worth it because for us, we lost so much more and you ruined our time.

On the materialistic front, we lost a case full of clothes, some of our best and most loved items, some of which we had to try and replace whilst in London as we only had what we were wearing to travel. For most people, this would be relatively easy but when you're big in size, it's a nightmare. I hate shopping at the best of times, but when I HAVE to look for things it's even worse. I managed to get a few bits in Primark but there are other things you just can't buy on the cheap. Even buying toiletries in London is expensive (I was quite grateful on that day that I don't wear make up, the essentials cost far too much as it was!)

On the childhood dream front, having our case stolen and having to traipse round London all day subsequently meant that my opportunity to meet Joe was taken away from me. I stupidly went to reply to a friend's tweet at some point in the morning and saw pictures of DNCE with fans outside Capital FM on my timeline. Our plan had been to head to Leicester Square for breakfast as we had a feeling they would be stopping at the radio station. I was right, but I didn't even get the chance to try and meet them as our plans for the day had to drastically change. I'm still bitter about this - I've been a fan for eight years and this was the first real opportunity I really had to make a dream come true, yet some wanker took it away from me all for the sake of a camera essentially.

As for making March 8th more positive, that went down the pan too. Obviously the person who stole our case had no thought for anyone but themselves, however it just so happened that he picked a day that's already so painful for us and decided to make it even worse.

The experience has also made me so paranoid on public transport now. I practically gave myself whiplash on the first train home, as we sat three seats in front of the luggage rack and I kept turning round every two seconds to see if our new case was still there! On the second train, the case was on the bottom rack and we were sat facing it, yet I was so paranoid that I couldn't see it, that I got up to check and moved it higher up the rack twice.

In the future I would consider using a holdall or something for an overnight stay, anything that can be kept by our feet on the train (although we always tend to use a case as it's much easier). On longer stays which involve two cases, we will definitely be splitting clothes so that if one case was to be stolen, we'd still have some clothes left in the second, as surely the chances of two cases being stolen are very small. I will also put the case on a higher shelf on the rack, with the handle facing in. Our case was on the bottom rack, which I imagine was easier to steal as it's more hidden. Learning that there's no CCTV on our London trains has also made me more wary when travelling at silly hours, which we often do. It's scary to think that there's no security on these trains, especially when you barely see staff walking around during the journey, anything could happen.

We've learnt our lesson the hard way and I hope it encourages others to be more wary in the future too. I can only be grateful that valuables were limited in the case and that we were only away for one night - we've done two whole Kingsland tours via train before, imagine how much worse the damage would have been had someone stolen our case then haha.

The only good thing that did happen that day was DNCE's gig. As much as we didn't feel like going by then, it was either that or staying in our easyHotel room, which oozed prison vibes with its lack of TV and windows lol. To be honest, for an hour, DNCE made me forget about the crap day we'd had. They genuinely were phenomenal and I really hope I can see them again soon, and maybe even meet Joe next time lol. You can read my review on the CelebMix website.

The whole case saga made me angry, upset and frustrated, it's put a dampener on travelling for me but it won't stop us from going. The thief will not win and won't put us off from doing something we enjoy, it's just a matter of being a lot more careful in future. I'm adamant that NOBODY will be stopping me from seeing John Newman on the weekend - no thief will ruin my day again if I can help it.

If anyone's made it through this post, I'm interested to know if you've ever had your luggage stolen from a train or know anyone that it's happened to...leave a comment below.

Hwyl am y tro ✌️