Zoe Folbigg, from Hertfordshire, has written a novel, The Note, inspired by how she finally acted on her year-long infatuation with the ‘Train Man’
A WRITER who lusted after a handsome stranger on her daily commute has revealed they’re now MARRIED with two children – and she’s penned a novel about their heartwarming romance.
Zoe Folbigg, 41, remembers the first time she spotted “beautiful” Mark, 42. It was July 2003, and she was waiting for her usual 8.21 train from Hitchin, Hertfordshire, to London.
“Commuting is quite a dreary experience – the same characters, no one talks, delays… then one day, this new person walked up the platform,” she told The Sun Online.
“I thought he was the most beautiful man I had ever seen. It was definitely love at first sight for me. I know that sounds crazy but that’s how I felt.”
So began Zoe’s infatuation with the guy she’d nicknamed Train Man.
In the hope of catching his eye, she began making more of an effort with her appearance – wearing more make-up and styling her hair.
She’d always sit in the same train carriage as him, and noticed they shared the same taste in books and magazines.
“I was working at a teen magazine at the time and Train Man became a talking point in the office,” she said.
“Friends would ask if I’d seen him and what he was wearing. They encouraged me to talk to him but I didn’t feel confident enough.”
With the help of a friend, Zoe concocted a plan to strike up a conversation with him.
She decided to one day sit near him, drop her train ticket and pretend not to notice. Then, when he handed it to her, she’d start a chat.
But it didn’t go quite as planned. “The ticket lay on the floor for what felt like an excruciatingly long time,” she said.
“I pretended I hadn’t notice, he picked it up and handed it to me. But I completely froze. I squeaked ‘thanks’, then went back to my books. I was just too shy to make a move.”
In May 2004, Zoe finally decided to act on her crush. She wrote a note, to give to him on her birthday.
It said: “It’s my birthday and I think everyone should do something frivolous on their birthday and this is my thing. I think you look lovely. If you’d like to go for a drink here’s my email address, if not happy travels and I’ll leave you in peace.”
Zoe’s plan was to hand him the letter as the train pulled into King’s Cross and then confidently stride away. But on the day she was overcome with nerves and bottled it.
She eventually handed it to him 11 days later. “He had hay fever and was sneezing into a tissue when I said, ‘excuse me, can I give you this’,” she said.
“He looked baffled and asked me to repeat what I’d said, which was excruciating. He eventually took the note and I walked away as fast as I could.”
That day, at 5pm, Zoe received an email from Mark that said: “Thank you, that was a lovely thing to do. I’d never have the guts to do something like that, but unfortunately I have a girlfriend and I don’t think she’d like it if we went for a drink. Happy birthday. Hope you have a nice day.”
Zoe was devastated. “Basically thanks but no thanks, in a very nice way,” she said. “I was gutted and mortified that I had to tell everyone.”
During this time Zoe continued to see other men, but they never made it past the first date.
It also didn’t help that she saw Mark every day at the station. “It was quite horrific,” she said.
“I got on the same carriage because I knew I’d have to see him at some point. He was sweet, smiled at me and blushed.”
Then on January 28, 2005, Zoe received an email that changed her life.
“I’d been out for lunch with work friends and I got back to my desk and there was an email from Train Man,” she said.
“He said his circumstances had changed and asked if I still fancied a drink.
“It was the best email I’ve had in my entire life. I squealed and all my mates were so excited.
“We went out the next night in the town where we live.”
Fortunately, the date went as well as Zoe had always hoped it would.
“I had such high hopes and it had been so built up but we just clicked,” she said.
“He said he’d noticed me. He said he thought I had sparkly eyes, which was nice.
“His relationship had ended about a month after I gave him the note, but that was nothing to do with it.”
Mark soon moved into Zoe’s house, and three years later popped the question on a train in Australia.
They tied the knot in 2009 and now have two sons together, Felix, seven, and five-year-old Max.
Zoe says the response from her story has been so lovely that she was inspired to pen a novel, The Note, about her experiences.
“I get emails from strangers around the world saying it has inspired them to give people notes on their commute. A girl in Australia did it on her bus to work,” she said.
“The Note is based on my experiences, but I didn’t want to make it autobiographical. It’s fiction so there are more juicy bits!”