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Changes: Francis Bourgeois

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Annie [00:00:05] Hello and welcome to Changes you lot. It's Annie here and I'm so happy and excited to bring you this episode. It was an episode that made me actually well up with tears several times, but also laugh a lot. I had a very warm feeling in my heart afterwards. That's because the person who I spoke to, my guest this week is genuinely someone who will make your heart sing with glee. He has not only seen massive change in his life, going from an unknown train obsessive to a viral sensation, but has changed the face of what it is to be a train spotter in general. In doing so, he has made millions of people very, very happy. I am talking about Francis Bourgeois real name, Luke Nicholson, a man who describes himself as a railway and an engineering enthusiast. He is now the world's most famous train spotter, with over 2.8 million followers on Tik Tok and 1.6 million followers on Instagram. Strapping a GoPro to his head, Francis is known for using a fisheye lens to record himself watching trains fly by. He's so euphoric upon the train going past, and even more so if the train toots its horn or tones, as Francis calls it, that it's impossible not to be like infected with his enthusiasm. It's so contagious and it's so endearing. He has many celebrity fans. Everyone from Joe Jonas to Thierry Henry has joined Francis Trainspotting and he collaborates with brands like Gucci. He has written a book, The Train Spotters Notebook, and currently hosts the series Trainspotting with Francis Bourgeois for Channel Four, with guests like AJ Tracey and Aisling Bea. So despite Francis Bourgeois' huge success, he has had a situation with people questioning his authenticity. As Luke Nicholson, when he was at school, he changed himself to fit in. When pictures were found, some people jumped on it and called him a fraud, an accusation which he discusses here in amongst his changes and his life story. I absolutely loved talking to Francis Bourgeois for this episode, but I'm going to let you hear him and judge for yourself. Enter the podcast, Francis Bourgeois... Francis Bourgeois, hello and you are so welcome to Changes! 

Francis [00:02:33] Hello, Annie. Thank you for having me. 

Annie [00:02:36] Did you know that there is a mug online with your face on it in a heart with the words, 'I choo-choo choose you' on it?

Francis [00:02:46] Wow. I wasn't aware of that, but I am aware of Valentine's cards that have that on it *laughs*. 

Annie [00:02:54] Really? 

Francis [00:02:54] Yeah. 

Annie [00:02:56] The whole part of doing the research for this interview was so lovely and fun and joyfilled because I just got to watch you being incredibly excited on train platforms. That was a fun little bit discovering that mug. 

Francis [00:03:08] *Laughing* yeah. 

Annie [00:03:09] What's your favourite train in the world? 

Francis [00:03:12] The Class 37. 

Annie [00:03:13] And why? 

Francis [00:03:14] For many reasons. It was manufactured between 1960 and 1965 and it still runs on the railway today. The main thing that it does is run on sort of test train services. So trains that will use ultrasound and lasers to scan the track, but I'm not as interested in that side of the train, more about the locomotive, the 37. And that's because it sounds absolutely amazing. There's very little muffling between the big V12 engine and the exhaust. So when it goes on to full power, it's like such a bassy, rattly rumble. It sends goosebumps all through my body. I was at Barnes Station night before last, and I was going to see two Class 37's and it was such a rollercoaster because, the reason why I wanted to see this specific service and venture out past midnight was because I heard that one of the 37's had blown up previously. And I was waiting on Barnes platform, it was completely dead. There was like an owl next to me sort of going *cooing noise* *Annie laughs* and I was waiting for it at the end of the platform, and I saw it coming around the corner and 37 6 10, the one that supposedly blown up was leading. I was like, what?. I was shocked to see it. And then it just erupted. The driver gave me some tones and it was like- I watched the video back and you can see my hands like involuntary shaking *Annie laughs* just because it feels like there's electricity in my body, just like, sort of shaking me you know. 

Annie [00:05:03] I mean, I watched that video and I've never seen such utter joy. That moment it seems, when a train kind of thrusts past you, seems to completely change you. How does it change you? What does it do, that moment? 

Francis [00:05:16] Well, a lot of it is sort of like a matter of suspense, and there is always the eventuality that the driver might sort of coast through or something might happen that might not yield the desired outcome for the situation. But when it does happen and it's kind of resolved you're like, yes! That there's that kind of happiness in the fact that it's happened. But then there's also the total stimulation from the sound of the locomotive and any tones that might happen, which just like a cherry on top of the thrash. I think also just by the fact that it's a rare train to see gets me hyped and excited and it's just like a real melting pot of all of these aspects of my railway enthusiasm that just really come together in these moments. I would say the feeling is very similar to if someone's at like a rave or a concert and it's like really building up, and you're like 'c'mon!' *both laugh*. Or in a football match where everyone's cheering and everyone's together, it's like, it is euphoria. That's the word. 

Annie [00:06:24] Yeah, it genuinely, it looks like that. I mean, you exude that and it's impossible not to get contagiously excited just watching you. I see why your girlfriend is happy just to come and watch you, watch the trains, because that alone is such an uplifting experience seeing the joy that you get from it. When you talk about tones, can you explain what they are for people who might not know? 

Francis [00:06:47] So tones are essentially horns on the locomotives or trains, and their purpose is to alert people of the train's presence. But the driver has access to them on like a little lever and sometimes like an up down tone, a two tone, is something that a driver will do or sometimes even multiple tones. And it's just a horn that's kind of going *double horn noise*.

Annie [00:07:12] Yeah. 

Francis [00:07:13] Each train and Locomotive has its own unique horn, so that's another kind of collecting aspect of railway enthusiasm. But you have all these different sounds. 

Annie [00:07:23] Can you remember hearing, seeing, experiencing your first train? 

Francis [00:07:27] I definitely remember what it was like to be a toddler and --- even less, and also being a railway enthusiast at the same time. It was more just I loved all things mechanical. I think I, I loved cars. I loved planes. I used to collect Hot Wheels cars and I'd line them all up on the bay window of  my parents flat in Halston, and at the same time I'd also look out the bay window at all the cars on the street. And because we didn't have a car when I was really young, we used to get the train everywhere, and Willesden Junction, it was just where it all started. We'd sit on sort of platform five and wait for a silver link service to pull in. And in front of the platform but on a lower level you'd have the West Coast mainline, so you'd have all sorts of things going on there with freight, high speed trains going up north or down to Euston. And just all of these sounds and noises going on. And I think for my young brain it really sort of latched on and sunk its teeth in. There's a real element of predictability and linearity with how the railway works. I find it almost like calming and settling for my brain. 

Annie [00:08:44] Yeah. To know something's going to happen when it's supposed to happen. And you talk about 'we', so that would have been your mum or your dad coming with you and sitting on the platforms with you. 

Francis [00:08:53] Yeah. 

Annie [00:08:53] Did they encourage this? 

Francis [00:08:54] They didn't actively encourage it, but my parents are very open and willing to let me just explore anything and become my own person. So I mean, they were very enabling in that when I said could we go to the platform now? They were like, yeah sure. But none of my parents are railway enthusiasts, I'm essentially a product of my environment. There were moments, for example, where I remember seeing a Eurostar parked up next to The Big Yellow Storage on Scrubs Lane. 

Annie [00:09:24] I know it so well. I know it so well. 

Francis [00:09:26] I said to my dad, ahh Dad, can we go back please. I remember going up to the three spike fence with my dad and like, looking through, and seeing like this massive Class 373 Eurostar just there, and peering through. And just that being enough for me to just feel satisfied and happy.

Annie [00:09:47] Yeah, yeah. 

Francis [00:09:48] And then, I used to go to my mum's office and I'd sit in the back while she was working and I'd cut out- there was this train book, and I'd cut out pictures of the trains and then laminate them. And then she'd print off certain pictures of trains for me in her office and I'd cut out and laminate them and take them back. 

Annie [00:10:05] *Exclaiming* oh Francis, why is this making me want to cry! It's so sweet, and so lovely as well that you had a mammy who would print out those pictures for you and, you know, enable. 

Francis [00:10:17] *Laughs* yeah. And I owe so much to my parents and my brother just for really giving me the tools to be where I am at the moment. And just, I think reassuring me that whatever decision I make, they're behind me. So for example, when I quit my job, they were like well, if you want to do it, you know, I think they knew it would be a bit of a risk, but I think they were like, you know, you can do it. And I'm very grateful for that. And my brother as well, he's two years younger than me and my whole life I've spent kind of doing things with him like creatively. And I think he's definitely played a huge part in my growth I guess. 

Annie [00:10:59] Is he the one who helped you get on Tik Tock originally, is that right? 

Francis [00:11:03] Yeah. And we were making videos anyway, like little sort of sketches and things, as we have done for ages and ages. I had an Alba camcorder from Argos that was like 20 quid and we used to film everything. We'd do things like I'd pretended to be like a grumpy grandad, then he'd be like a mischievous teenager like trying to like poke me and stuff and then create these elaborate kind of sketches really. I used to love it, really used to love it. And I think because of that, when lockdown happened and I was back with Ben, he was like ahh we could start a Tik Tok. The first couple of videos were just kind of random creations. As time went on, because I was train spotting and also wanting to create videos at the same time they kind of just collided. But yeah, I owe a lot to Ben for helping me get that started really. 

[00:11:57] *Short musical interlude*

Annie [00:12:07] And when did Frances Bourgeois- because that's not your real name, but is he a character or is he completely you but with a different name? 

Francis [00:12:14] It's me. It's like a pseudonym. 

Annie [00:12:15] Yeah, got you. 

Francis [00:12:16] when I started the Tik Tok I was also looking for jobs in the engineering industry, so I was very much aware of how they'd sort of scour every form of social media to see what I'm like. So I kind of wanted to bypass that by using a pseudonym and not feeling like I'm restricted by any kind of future employment prospects, really. And it made me feel like I could sort of come out my shell a bit more and just *laughs*. 

Annie [00:12:48] Yeah I hear you. 

Francis [00:12:50] be my whacky self in a way. 

Annie [00:12:51] Yeah, yeah. I mean, now you are a household name. You're all over the TV, you're on the red carpets, you're interviewing people, celebs, you've got this Channel Four show. I mean, it's been incredible to watch and it's a horrible question, I'm sorry to ask it but why do you think people are so attracted to your videos and to what you do? 

Francis [00:13:13] I think because to put it simply, I'm happy *Annie laughs* and through just the translation of energy I guess people feel happy because of it. And also I think it reminds people of moments when they've been feeling amazing, moments of euphoria. And I think people can identify with having a really strong love and passion for something as well in some cases. And I also understand in others, some people might not have like a really strong passion, but I guess through my videos they can connect with what it feels like. 

Annie [00:13:50] Have you noticed a surge or a new movement of young people who are on the platforms? 

Francis [00:13:55] Well, I'd say there's certainly like a new generation of enthusiasm. I feel like I have influenced a few people, but I think social media in general has enabled people to come together with railway enthusiasm and it's sort of catalysed it even more. But the thing that I love to hear and really sort of makes me feel good is when I get a message or someone comes up to me and says, you've made me reconnect with my passion and feel strongly with it again. Or some people have said, you know, you've made it cool and you've made the public perception of it change, which I find bonkers because I've always felt the railway is cool. But I think to be able to make that difference for people is really powerful, and I'm really grateful that I'm in the position where I can. 

Annie [00:14:46] Yeah, there's a lovely quote that I picked out from an interview that you did with The Gentleman's Journal. You said, "one of the most meaningful things was when a young train spotter messaged me saying I used to be bullied for my hobby and now people respect me for it. In that moment, I basically helped my younger self become free. So that was powerful". That's beautiful. That's so beautiful. Can you tell us a little bit, Francis, about the younger self and I suppose your relationship with your passion? 

Francis [00:15:10] Well, from London and then later to Somerset, I carried this passion for the railway very strongly through primary school. I had my model railway and that took over vast portions of the house. That was the thing I'd look forward to, finishing school and going back and tinkering with my railway. I essentially switched schools for secondary school. Not switched schools per say, but I went to a school that my friends at my primary school didn't go to, so I was starting afresh essentially. I had one friend who I went to the school with called James, but we weren't really in the same classes so I had to find my kind of social footing through just experience in secondary school. I sort of quickly understood what was 'cool', like the status quo, what the popular people liked and were interested in. I had no one else talking about trains apart from me and James. I felt like if I went out with that, it was what I'd potentially be known for. I thought I wouldn'y really be socially kind of successful, I guess. And I think my main goal was just to make friends. 

Annie [00:16:18] And what were you like in school? Were you quiet? Were you academic? 

Francis [00:16:22] I loved maths. It was a really interesting transition, I'd say, through secondary school for me because I started out being really quite quiet and shy and not really finding my place. In my mind I treated it a bit like a feedback loop of what's kind of being said that's cool, and I'd adapt and then feed that back in. I made some really great friends. Really, really great friends, but I had a friendship group that I started out with that I then switched over to a new one and I realised after the main body of secondary school that my initial friendship group I guess made me the happiest. And I reconnected with them in sixth form and then really focused on my studies. I guess I just switched my kind of objectives really. 

Annie [00:17:14] Those few years when you went with the other crowd, how did that change you physically and in terms of you as a person? 

Francis [00:17:19] Within this new group that I went into, I made friends that I definitely sort of still call friends. But the way that it changed was, I remember the first stage was identifying that these guys were talking about like Supreme and like clothes and stuff like that. And I thought, ah, Supreme. And I remember visiting my granny in London and I thought I could go with them to the Supreme shop. And I went there and got some Supreme clothing. And I thought, ahh yeah, this is going to be great like, they're gonna think it's so cool. So I remember it was like a, like an own clothes  day and I wore my Supreme jumper and it was like a really strange reception to it. I was like, yeah! This is it. I kind of identified that people were interested in the clothes and it was kind of helping me socially, I guess. So then I kind of went into that space and I was like getting into Airmax shoes and being hot on like the latest Supreme drops. I started to, like, gel up my hair in the beginning and then I went shorter and then eventually shaved it all off. It was an interesting transition, but I felt at the time and I still feel now, it was like a natural evolution into being a teenager. And at the same time, my model railway took a back seat and I decided it was time for me to move on. And it was kind of my coolness compass telling me, that's not it anymore. That's your childhood and you can sort of leave that and let go of that. Which I have come to regret massively. I sold it all on eBay. It was really weird because I was lining all my trains up and making them look like they were in a depot altogether and taking photos on like a nice white background and I was looking at them and was like, aah. I still wanted to- there was a bit inside me that still wanted to keep them, but I sold them all. They went to a model shop. Through sixth form, I then just got really stuck into my maths and physics and engineering and I thought, yes, I'm going to become an engineer. At the same time, my railway enthusiasm kind of switched to YouTube. My comfort would be watching train videos, but going to uni was was a big shift and I found that there were so many people with so many different interests and appearances and hobbies. I realised then that secondary school and sixth form, everyone kind of became the same person in a way. 

Annie [00:19:59] Yes, completely. Yeah. 

Francis [00:20:01] Out the other side of that, I started Trainspotting again. Lockdown happened and then that was brought back and really accelerated. 

[00:20:09] *Short musical interlude*

Annie [00:20:18] It's such a wonderful story. It's kind of interesting how you know, your approach in as a teen, it's quite mathematical. It's just like ok! It's like talking about this feedback loop. Okay, how you know, how am I going to integrate? How is this going to work? And then, it's so wonderful that you were able to come back to the original passion and I guess- not just- I mean, obviously it was there, you're watching the videos, but to be able to act on that and to keep going and then to make it what you are today. Are you a full time trainspotter now Francis? 

Francis [00:20:48] Yeah. It is my job essentially. 

Annie [00:20:50] When you say you left your job, what was that job and when was that? 

Francis [00:20:54] So it was part of my degree. So I studied mechanical engineering and in my fourth year, I started work at Rolls-Royce. 

Annie [00:21:05] Wow. 

Francis [00:21:06] I was working there for just under six months, and at the same time, my videos were sort of gaining traction. And in fact, the main reason why I chose to use a pseudonym in the first place became totally redundant because by the end of my time at Rolls-Royce, nearly everyone knew me and had seen my videos. Even the plant director had been shown my video at one point which I found quite funny. It was my first time having a proper job, and I was working with cars and I was being an engineer. 

Annie [00:21:38] That decision to take a leap from the proper job, as you called it, to this, which is obviously still a very valid, proper job but it's different you know. You don't get a pension, you don't get all the- you know, the kind of sense of security you get from working with a big company is not quite there. You said your parents backed you. How did you have the courage to do it like that and how did you know it was the right time to do it? 

Francis [00:21:59] I think because I realised there were some opportunities and railway events that were happening that I really wanted to see and that I was missing. I went on this app called Cameo where- 

Annie [00:22:12] Oh yeah *laughs*. 

Francis [00:22:13] You can create sort of birthday messages for people. And I remember, I put my car in for a service and the bill came back in the thousands and I was like, oh my God! How am I going to afford this? And I thought- I'd been debating doing cameo, and I thought actually, I probably need to do it now in order to get my car serviced. So I went on it and put on my Instagram that I was on Cameo and there was one happy birthday message that I recorded, but where I realised how absurd it was, what I was doing, I was just going *sings* 'happy birthday too-', and I realised all of my housemates were listening to me doing all of these happy birthday messages *Annie laughs* and I just started laughing. And I sent this cameo to someone and I also saved it and put it on my Instagram story saying 'I'm doing cameos', and then with this video of me just not being able to contain myself singing Happy Birthday. And then off the back of that it was just *repetitive noise*.

Annie [00:23:16] Crazy amount of cameos?

Francis [00:23:18] Yeah, so after that I'd get back from work and do like sometimes 40 or 50 of these cameo videos. And it was really exhausting. But luckily I was able to make enough to pay for my car service. And also it gave me sort of the reassurance that if I were to sort of finish my job, I would kind of have a bit of financial stability, I guess. And I thought, you know what? I have this great opportunity now to do something that I never thought I'd be able to do. And yeah, off the back of that, I created some of my most kind of successful videos. My first encounter with 73962 ---. I did a video where I fell off the back of this camping chair. 

Annie [00:24:13] *Annie laughs* I saw that one. So the train rushes past and it's like the velocity of it knocks you off your chair. How many views does that one have now? 

Francis [00:24:21] That one has 15.2 million on TikTok and has only just been surpassed by a video I posted four days ago, which has since got 5.8 million. So that's only- 

Annie [00:24:36] In four days!! 

Francis [00:24:37] Yeah, that's only just overtaken that one so- the falling off the chair one has been a long standing success. 

Annie [00:24:45] Do you think that because you started making the videos in 2021 during COVID, you know the way you're talking about people obviously just enjoy watching happiness and joy and this sense of euphoria that you get, it's beautiful to watch and it's so contagious. Do you think something about COVID and how the world suddenly seemed so scary and threatening in a way, you know, contributed to your videos getting such popularity, as a lovely counteraction to that? 

Francis [00:25:13] I think so. And a lot of people have come up to me and said, your videos got me through COVID. I was very lucky to be in the countryside during lockdown and I had access to open spaces and, you know, when I had my hour walk in the day, it would be when I'd walk to the train bridge and I'd see a train or I'd go out and film a music video with my brother. Even though it was so awful for a lot of people, it was one of the best times for me and Ben because we were just together and had nothing stopping us from being like creative. And I think that translated in the videos and then translated through to people. I think if lockdown and COVID hadn't happened, I don't think I'd have made my TikTok account and I don't think I'd be where I am now. Which is a really weird, really weird thought. 

Annie [00:26:06] It's interesting you say that one of the reasons why you like trains or your brain, it seems attracted to trains, is the predictability of it. The kind of security and- but your whole path has been so unpredictable, hasn't it? 

Francis [00:26:18] *Laughs* yeah. 

Annie [00:26:19] Like the predictable thing would have been to not go back to trains and then to go to university and to kind of go and get the proper job and stay in it. 

Francis [00:26:27] Yep. I think that satisfies the other side of my brain in that, leaving my job was going off in a completely different direction. But I think my heart was leading me. And I think it just felt, it felt right at the time. 

Annie [00:26:49] And there's an element as well of being able to make that decision, of being sure in yourself and being kind of confident in your own decisions and in your own ability to make decisions and your own ability to forge your own path. And that's always been encouraged in you by your parents. You know, you've always been your own guy. That's the one thing I've learned being a parent, right, is that you have kids and they are their own guides, I have two sons, from the minute they're born. Like they're just them. And all you can do is facilitate them and enable them as you use that word. But a lot of parents can't help, I suppose, well-intentioned, to try and steer their children in a way where they think it will do them well or they, you know, it's more security or that but it felt like your parents were very- they trusted you to be the person that you needed to be for yourself. 

Francis [00:27:36] Yeah, yeah, definitely. But they're still advising that I round off my degree and finish it. Because I essentially have a week long essay that I need to do in order to convert from a master's in engineering to a bachelor's in engineering. And then I can graduate. And I think that's the only thing that they wanted me to do *Annie laughs*, to make sure that three years of uni and of sweat and tears haven't just sort of been thrown out the window. 

Annie [00:28:05] Yeah, that's fair. I get it! That's fair enough. 

Francis [00:28:08] Yeah. 

Annie [00:28:09] Will you do it, do you think? 

Francis [00:28:10] Oh, yeah, definitely. 

Annie [00:28:12] Yeah, good. What do they think now that you've left the job? And your brother, how do they feel about your success? 

Francis [00:28:17] I think they're excited by it. But as always, their main focus is on my well-being and just- I'll go home and my parents will make sure I'm eating well, drinking well, sleeping well *laughs*, not going out too much and just just making sure I'm good. They're also making sure I understand that this might not be forever. I might end up back in engineering again, which I would be totally happy about. But I think they see me going off and doing something that's quite out there and, you know, there are moments where, you know, on social media they might see I'm getting sort of hate or not nice comments and, you know, naturally as parents I think they want to make sure I'm fine. And I think that's their main objective. 

Annie [00:29:21] You are now kind of a viral Tik Tok person, and that's a whole new landscape, that's a whole new thing. You know, that's something that can only be of our time. So it's kind of a new frontier, I suppose, of celebrity and a whole new set of goods and bads and pros and cons. How have you coped with the change in becoming, you know, viral and being recognisable for that? 

Francis [00:29:46] Ermm, it's been interesting because when I, I think I was on 260,000 followers on TikTok and that was the first time someone came up to me and said, I love your videos, can I get a photo? And I was like, what? And up until then I thought 260,000 verses 64 million UK population, that's just a small percentage and enough to feel fine walking around and know that you're not going to see someone. And I felt from that moment afterwards I went to a pub and everyone's going 'Francis! Francis!', and it was totally overwhelming and out of this world. And afterwards, when people came up and asked for photos, I'd be like yeah sure, sure. And it felt- it was a bit nerve wracking. But since then, I've kind of developed like a- kind of like a bit of an autopilot mode to deal with those sometimes really like jumpy surprisey situations. Like, I can understand why people get very excited because they know that I'm someone who loves trains and gets excited by trains. But sometimes in the street when someone runs across and shouts my name I'm going to be like *gasps*. But yeah, there's kind of like a set sort of procedure in my mind and a way to like, go about these interactions. But there are moments that completely break that where, for example, there might be a parent with their son on a platform and they say, *whispering* 'he really loves your videos, can he get a picture?' *Annie laughs*. And then immediately I think, okay, that is little me there. I'm like, *excited voice* 'hi, hows it going?'.

Annie [00:31:32] *Laughing* and they're like, oh my God! Love hearts in their eyes. It's Francis! It's so exciting, like they have someone to, like, look up to and aspire to. 

Francis [00:31:41] Some of these faces that I've seen like stay in my mind, it's kind of complete *gasps in awe*, like almost, I can kind of see the tears like brimming their eyes and it's like, oh my God, I have that kind of effect. It's really weird. That is the side of the public interactions that I really love, when I can see someone old or young and see in person how I've kind of affected them. Because through the phone I can see people saying, ahh it's wholesome and duhduhduh, but there's never that connection in my mind to someone's actual emotions. Whereas seeing it in their face and seeing it in person is totally different. But online, when the whole thing came out about people questioning my authenticity- 

Annie [00:32:35] Just to explain, so that was people finding photos of you in that era that you described as a teenager where you're, you know, you're all muscly and you've got your gelled hair and you've got your road man clothes and you look very different from the Francis Borgeois that they know now. 

Francis [00:32:50] Yeah. 

Annie [00:32:51] So they were questioning your authenticity.  

Francis [00:32:54] Yeah, and I remember, I'm not on Twitter but I remember people texting me saying are you ok? I'm seeing everything that's happening on Twitter. I thought, oh God, what's going on? And then I went on Twitter and saw that I was trending. All of the people saying, 'this guy's a fake!'. Then I think the fact that people held me in their mind as someone who's happy, wholesome, loving, caring, loves trains and is just out there doing that, seeing that online and then seeing a picture of me appearing to be different, I think destroyed a lot of people's belief that I was real and genuine. And I remember driving- I was actually trying spotting at the time. I was in the North Hampton area, and I was driving back to London and I remember driving and just being in an absolute state because I thought, I'd kind of just come out of my shell in posting my train videos and I almost felt like I was being sort of pushed back in. But I remember driving and thinking, I'm going to say something about it definitely. And the only way I can really go about this is just being totally open and taking people back to the time where these photos are from and kind of explaining my story as I have done now, you know, kind of the transition through school to university and to now. And with that video, I couldn't have anticipated how well it was received because so many people not only kind of realised that I was being so open and genuine, but also people realised that they kind of identified with it as well to an extent. 

Annie [00:34:39] Yeah, yeah, yeah. 

Francis [00:34:40] And I feel like everyone has gone through school and felt in some way or another that they've needed to conform or hide themselves or pretend to be something they're not. And I think because of that, people saw my experience and then that was enough to confirm that things, you know, are genuine. And I still get people saying, this guy's a fake, he's a fraud, duhduhduhduh. But I know in my heart that I'm having a brilliant time and I'm making a positive difference and I think that's what I hold on to and that's what keeps me going without worrying about people saying that anymore. 

[00:35:23] *Short musical interude*

Annie [00:35:33] Francis, what change would you still like to see moving forwards? 

Francis [00:35:37] I would like to see more kindness and random acts of kindness. I see very visually how energy can be created. How happy energy can be created. A train driver can do like a horn, and that's their random act of kindness *laughs* for me, and I am excited by it and that's the translation of energy to me. 

Annie [00:36:07] And then the translation of energy to all of your viewers. 

Francis [00:36:09] Yeah. 

Annie [00:36:10] Think about that. Like it's just exponential isn't it? It's exponential kindness because it just goes on and on. 

Francis [00:36:17] Yeah, and I see people saying, oh you've made my day. And I thought, actually the train driver has made your day because maybe that morning he had a delicious breakfast that someone very kindly made him. You know, that knock on effect is so unprecedented. And sometimes an act of kindness could go to someone and that energy could fizzle out. And, you know, maybe that person isn't ready to continue that energy. But in general, I feel like if everyone can try to do that and if there's a culture of random acts of kindness, I think everywhere will be better and that everywhere will become a better place. Yeah. My mum is a massive advocate for random acts of kindness and sometimes she'll randomly buy the next person's coffee. And she doesn't need to have the gratification of knowing how grateful the next person is. She knows that her energy that she's just put out then, you know, has made someone feel happy and you know, that that can continue. From like an engineering, sciency perspective, energy can never be created or destroyed. It's always sort of translated or turned into something else. But, kindness-energy can be created, and it can be multiplied and expanded, and all it takes is for someone to act on it. So that would be the change that I'd want to see. 

Annie [00:38:01] Oh, so beautiful. That's such a beautiful answer. And your mother sounds like a complete legend. 

Francis [00:38:05] Yeah, she is. 

Annie [00:38:09] *Laughs* Francis, thank you so much for this conversation. It's been a joy to speak to you. Thank you. 

Francis [00:38:13] Thank you, Annie. It's been lovely too. Thanks. 

Annie [00:38:19] I'm so grateful to Francis for that conversation. I found it really moving in a lot of places and I found myself welling up. As the mother of two sons and as someone who's kind of in the middle of parenting young children, I'm always so curious about how to allow children to be fully themselves and it feels like Francis' parents did such a good job of kind of enabling him to be him, you know. And obviously, he had to go round the houses in secondary school and have a bit of an identity crisis before he was able to come back to himself, but the fact that he was able to come back to himself is a very beautiful thing, I think. And I'm very excited for him and to see what he does in the future. But yeah, an all around hugely charming and incredibly intelligent guest. Loved talking to him. So, if you enjoyed this, please share it. Send it to everyone you know. Maybe you know Francis Bourgeois naysayers. Send this to them and let them decide for themselves. Maybe you're a train spotter yourself. Maybe you have someone in your life who loves watching Francis' videos. Or maybe like me, you're someone who's just really interested in how to bring up children in all of their glorious differences. But yeah, share it around and if you like, do subscribe too. We release episodes every Monday. Changes is produced by Louise Mason through DIN Productions. Thank you so much. See ya!