I went on a little jaunt last Thursday. It was supposed to have been a coach trip to Hatfield to be with Shosh on her finals results day on the 3rd, but ended up more like a magical mystery tour. It all started out fairly easy enough – hop on National Express 502 to London Victoria to await connection from there to the University of Hertfordshire, which is a mile or so away from where she and Gav live.
Apart from the fact that it was a hot day and the windows of these coaches do not open, facilitating passengers to rely on the air conditioning to abate any heat related episodes, all was going well until just after Bristol on the M5. I had dozed off a bit and woke suddenly, not only to find my chin resting on my chest, but also to hear the ominous announcement from the driver that there was a problem with the coach and that we would have to sit on the hard shoulder for a bit to see if things improved. It transpired that the coach was overheating. Hmm with no engine running and no air conditioning, that was not the only thing over-heating. After contacting his superiors it was decided that it was too risky to try and take the coach further down the motorway to the next convenient exit and that a replacement would be dispatched forthwith.
Unfortunately, for obvious safety reasons, we were not allowed to leave the coach and wait in the relative fresh air of the motorway so had to remain seated, an exercise which – with the vehicle being full to the gills and, as mentioned above ,no air circulating apart from that which entered through the open door – was becoming more unbearable heat wise as the seconds ticked on. However, as we were so near Bristol, the wait was not too bad and it only took around half an hour to reach us.
I was sitting by a window – I like to sit next to the window on coaches and trains so I can have something to lean against if I doze off – so I pulled the curtain across in an attempt to gain some shade. Then the girl in the seat in front of me decided to pull it across her window too, which – of course - it was designed to do. However, in an attempt to satisfy her needs completely, pulled it so far across her that it then left a gap on my window for the sun to continue its attempt at bestowing upon me that irksome summer prankster, prickly heat. Envisioning the start of the one of those games of ‘that is mine, give it to me’ I yanked it back and secured it tightly behind the curtain fastening so that my window was again shielded and was satisfied that we both now had perfect protection from the sun. If she needed more, which she clearly didn’t, then she could pull the curtain across more from the seat in front of her. If nothing else, it caused a titter from the chap next to me who had witnessed the scene unfold and who obviously understood my mutterings of ‘there that’s better’ as I made my sunshield secure and tutted under my breath.
A barrier to thwart anyone’s odd attempt to veer off to the right on to the motorway formed between the two coaches, made up of a policeman, one of the drivers and a good old friend – a red and white cone - and we were soon on our way again. This replacement coach, however, was newer and more luxurious with the added bonus of a much more efficient air con system.
I dozed off again. I don’t know why I bother to sit next to the window – when I awoke my chin was again on my chest. I hate to think what I must have looked like to the passenger in the seat next to me, lolling around like a puppet that has lost its head strings. I just hope I didn’t drool. At least I didn’t wake up with my head upon his shoulder though – now that would have been embarrassing. Anyway, I awoke this time just as we were arriving at Heathrow Airport coach terminal.
I had been scheduled to arrive at London Victoria at 5.20 pm. However, peering down the aisle of the coach after my companion in the next seat had left I saw, to my horror, that it was now 5.45 pm and we were still nowhere near London. Hmmm, no connection for me then I thought. I had a word with the driver and it transpired in our conversation that whilst I had been nodding my head in rhythm to the bumps in the road (not that he knew that of course) the coach had been caught up in a tail back from an earlier accident, which had made us even later. This explained our tardiness at Heathrow and answered my question as to how - after about half an hour delay on the M5 - my 45 minute connection window had evaporated out of the other kind of window.
He rang through to his office and it was arranged that he would take me to the National Express office at Victoria where they would sort me out with a replacement connection. This would mean I would have to go to Stansted Airport and then catch a coach to Oxford which stopped at Hatfield on its route. I would not get to Hatfield until around 10.30 pm if I was lucky.
Shosh and Gav decided it would be just as easy for them to go meet me at Stansted and that it would be slightly quicker so that became the plan. So, I reached my final destination eventually after quite an eventful journey that started with my leaving Woolsery at 10.15 am.
I cannot fault National Express in their attempts to get me to my destination; all the drivers were friendly and helpful and I give them a pat on the back for actually having the stamina and patience to handle one of those vehicles up and down the motorway, and around London etc. I am not sure whether I will travel by coach again though – at least on the train you can get up and wander around, and go and get a drink or something to eat. On a coach, not only are you are at the mercy of traffic conditions, but there is that mid-summer lavatory problem. No, don’t get me started about that toilet at the back......