Every now and then I think that going on the bus would be fun. I think that it must have been fun on one occasion and that is the one that sticks in my mind. So when the mechanic said, "Do you want a lift home?" I said, "No - we'll go on the bus." In fact, I thought, we'll make an adventure and go to the next town, have lunch and then get the bus back home. What fun it'll be!
So, we went to the bus stop: the little one wanted the toilet, so we missed the first bus and as we now had time to kill, we headed off to a cafe where she decided she didn't need it any more. We went for the next bus; she needed the toilet again. We missed that bus and then found the toilets shut. We headed across town for the other toilets, they were shut too. “Frozen,” said the women in the empty Tourist Information with her back smugly pressed against her own private suite that she said we sadly couldn’t use because of Health and Safety. I made the little one promise to wait and we went for the next bus.
I wedged the pushchair into the Pushchair and Wheelchair space and sat, poised, as it rattled about with the whole bus calling, “Whoa!” every time it threatened to head off down the aisle with the baby sleeping soundly in it.
We had lunch and sauntered to the “Bus Station” that used to be called the “Bus Stop”. The bus was late and I should have smelled trouble when the bus timetable didn’t concur with the one in my pocket, but being made of sterner stuff I instead ran the hundred yards between the two bus stops (still not technically a Station) to make sure we wouldn’t miss it wherever it stopped.
Eventually the world’s dirtiest bus smoked around the corner. The driver told me, “No, that timetable changed in November. If you’re cold, you can get on this one if you want to and go round town first?” It wasn’t the best offer I’d ever had, but not the worst either, so we hopped on. The girls were delighted because they found two fruit pastilles on the floor in their favourite flavours. We set off round parts of town that I had never seen before - we passed the same friend three times. We ground our way up and down steep hills to places that if people had been standing at the bus stops, they would have perished with hyperthermia by the time we’d arrived.
An hour later, we returned to the Station where the driver had a break – probably to give him the strength to drive a knackered empty bus for the next stage. Finally we set off to our village, the girls picking at chewing gum as we wound around empty caravan parks and deserted hamlets. The baby fell asleep on my lap half a mile from home, about the same time as it started to sleet.
We were finally slung out into the snow with a crying baby, a collapsed pushchair and one glove less than we had that morning. When we reached home, just above the sound of my grumbling, the phone was ringing: it was the mechanic. “NO – we can’t collect! Delivery please!” I shouted. In fact, thinking back, I’m not even sure I said Please…