Knebworth Woods

The kindness of strangers…

I lost my mobile phone today. I was walking with Sara and the Outdoor Adventure Club around a sunny Knebworth looking at the delightful bluebells now out in abundance in many of the surrounding woods.

When we’d almost finished the walk, I realised I didn’t have my phone on me. The phone case had my return ticket and credit card.

I think I know where I dropped the phone so I start to re-trace the group’s steps. I quickly realise that I don’t know where I’m going because I’ve been nonchalantly chatting to people whilst blindly following Sara. After about 3 km walking on instinct and faith, I get to the truck where I think the phone is. I look where I leaned on the truck. I look behind the truck. I look under the truck. It’s not there.

I had not thought what I would do if the phone was not by the truck! But now I’m determined to find the phone!

As I wonder what to do, a boy appears who lives in the house near the truck. An idea pops into my head. It’s obvious! I ask him if I can get on the internet – with either a phone or computer – so that I can use the Find My iPhone feature on iCloud. His dad comes out then his mum (Rebecca) appears with her iPhone. I try to log on to iCloud but it doesn’t let me without installing some apps, which we can’t do because the owner doesn’t have her Apple Id details.

Rebecca suggests phoning EE. I phone EE. Claire answers. She asks various questions but can’t locate details about my phone on their system. Claire then suggests phoning Apple and helpfully adds that Apple will need the phone’s IMEI number. I reply that I haven’t quite memorised the whole fifteen digit number. The line goes quiet. Suddenly inspired, she encouragingly wonders if I know the phone’s shorter (12 character) serial number – perhaps I have the original box with me? I’m embarrassed to tell her that I haven’t yet got into the habit of carrying the box around with me. We say goodbye on friendly terms.

I phone Apple anyway on Rebecca’s phone. We give up after five minutes of hold music.

I ask Rebecca about an internet connection in the house. Rebecca says they have one but the laptop screen isn’t working! So I go into the house and connect the laptop to their Grundig TV. The laptop is slow booting up. Windows decides it wants to install a load of updates. Thanks Microsoft. Whilst all this is happening, Rebecca makes me a cup of tea. I didn’t know this family until about thirty minutes ago. Also, I learn that they don’t have an electricity supply from the grid: their electricity comes from their own solar panels.

Eventually, I log on to iCloud and it says now is the time to enter new security questions and answers. Why new questions now?! You can’t believe how difficult it is to think of your favourite film or the first album that you bought when you have something else on your mind. Thanks Apple! I enter a new set of questions and coin some answers, then click Find My iPhone. I’m asked to answer two security questions. I then wait… then… a map appears with a green dot. It’s my phone’s location. Wow! iCloud tells me the phone’s location was transmitted about a minute ago. Great! All is not lost.

Rebecca and hubby look at the map on the screen and try to figure out where the phone is. I zoom in and out, enter satellite mode and eventually they conclude that the location is about a mile away.

It would be great if you could just send the coordinates of the phone to another phone but that would be too easy. I take a picture on my camera of the TV showing the map. At least we know roughly where it is.

Rebecca, her son (Joshua) and I go off to look for the phone. I’m hoping that by the time we get there, Joshua, who speeds off on his bike, has found the phone. During our twenty minutes’ walk, Rebecca tells me some of her and the area’s history. We talk about trees and how they’re so characterful. We get to the bluebell woods. Joshua hasn’t found the phone. We split up. We search. We intermittently call the phone and hope to hear it vibrating (it’s in silent mode). No joy.

When I started re-tracing my steps, I knew that I had the phone at lunchtime. Since then we’d walked about 7 km. We are in the Hertfordshire countryside. We’d walked through grassland, nettles, puddles, mud, swamps, and woodland. The phone could be invisible even if we were standing in front of it. This is a fool’s errand. We are looking for a needle in a haystack, says Joshua.

After fifteen minutes of fruitless searching, a couple appear. They say hello. I say hello. Rebecca knows them. I briefly tell them the sob story and show the picture on my camera of where the phone is. The man points to where he thinks it could be. We walk there. Then, suddenly, two metres away, I see the phone. Unbelievable!!! How did we miss it? We’re ecstatic! Still in shock, I thank the couple.

I also thank Rebecca and Joshua many times. We return to the house with a sense of achievement. As if the family hasn’t done enough for me, they give me a lift to the station. We exchange details.

At the train station, a homeless man asks me for some money. I give him the change I have. He notices my muddy trousers and shoes and asks if I’ve been walking. I say I have. He goes on to tell me about other walks in the area. I make a note of them. We say goodbye on friendly terms.

Today, I had been lucky in so many ways. This was an unusually short walk for me. Therefore, there were several hours of sunlight remaining at the end of the walk to search for the phone. Last weekend, it rained for much of the day and it would have been too miserably wet and cold to look for the phone. Today was sunny. Some walks don’t pass houses. I found a kind and generous family at home, who recently got internet access. You can walk for miles without seeing anyone. The couple appeared in the woods out of nowhere at the right time. Yes, I had been very lucky.

On the train home, I couldn’t help smiling and wishing goodwill to everyone and thought, what a wonderful world it sometimes is. How can something this trivial bring on that feeling?

Thank you Rebecca and family for being kind to a stranger.

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