Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Coach Journeys

Because of the governments comprehensive spending review and decision to increase student tuition fees, I decided I had to economise or risk crippling student loans, so I took the coach to London where a lesser man would have taken the train or flown. "No no" thought I, "I shall take the coach. It is a mere £15." (This isn't strictly accurate, since my tuition fees are paid by the SAAS, but I wanted to briefly seem topical).

As I headed to the bus station, my heart was light and my spirits jolly. Anyone walking past me would have instantly surmised from my jaunty demeanour and hastily constructed and therefore musically weak whistled tune (A future number one, doubtless. Perhaps I shall licence it to Lady GaGa and eagerly reap the rewards) that I was in an almost unparalleled good mood.

Except one little girl (She looked about eight) who challenged me to a fight for no particular reason , which I declined graciously. Good to the statistics though a win is, I would have felt mildly like I was deliberately rigging improbably easy street fights to artificially boost my street cred, so I carried on, notable by my lack of fighting 8 year old girls.

Anyways, I arrived at the station in good time and settled onto the coach, an overnight double decker to London (Instantly, of course, my first thought was that as it was a double decker, and intending to travel on the motorway (Specifically the M6, fact fans, although the M1 down the east coast would have clearly been the better option) we were going to fall over and be killed. I could see the headlines in my head. "15 killed in bus accident, 12 page pull out on sport" although a mere fifteen deaths would have been pushed off the front page by Wayne Rooney breathing heavily or something).

Interestingly, Sian Lloyd, Welsh weather presenter (And on How 2, one of the most under-rated shows of my youth. Bring back How 2 I say) was on the coach. I would have felt she could have afforded more luxurious travel, but in these troubled times, how is a weather girl to get to and from the nations of the UK? (Disappointingly she is only the second most famous weather presenter I've ever seen, having seen Michael Fish competing in a 1997 village fete charity "It's a Knockout" competition, with actual host Frank Bruno refereeing, assisted by John Anderson in the peak of his Gladiators refereeing days. I recall them all being hit in the face with custard pies for donations, although I could be making this up/dreaming it in one of my many Bruno-Anderson-Fish trio of dreams (Particular gem, Michael Fish is the contestant on the final segment of Gladiators (The event was called "The Eliminator", named after ZZ Top's famous car, of course, although some claim it was named after their studio album. No one argument has won conclusively, but as an aside, I like to think it's the car that John Fashanu, legendary host and long-time fan of ZZ top named it after.) against Frank Bruno, refereed by John Anderson, obviously. Fish wins by the merest of whiskers after an unexplained hurricane knocks Bruno to the floor just yards from the zipline) so I was largely unimpressed.)

Anyways, for the Dundee to Perth segment (A gem of a journey down the M90 for fact fans eagerly digging our road maps to accurately understand the trip) I had a double seat to myself, but as the hour was still fairly early (8:40 pm, for those of you who are curious. Don't let it be said that I don't pander to the every whim of a fact fan), I made no effort to sleep, a move I later regretted because, at Perth bus station, a man so vast and gargantuan he had his own gravitational pull got on the bus and, as per usual, opted to sit next to me.

Now, I don't want to seem like I'm moaning, but Perth to London is a longish way, particularly when you go the crazy route of the M6 southbound and then off at Birmingham (To explain this, we also stopped off at Preston (Initially, I thought it was Manchester) so briefly, I felt I was on the wrong bus and was actually doing some sort of night tour of crap towns of the North of England) , so to be pinned to the window (I briefly considered having that faintly erotically charged fling over the armrest that two strangers occasionally have, but sadly he swelled well past the armrest, and that segment of the journey was written off, a shame as I had been slightly looking forward to it. There's nothing I enjoy more than gentle challenge for the armrest. It's one of the few thrills between two strangers.) for literally 9 and a bit hours was a tad dispiriting.

There was the briefest of relief when he flitted off to the toilet, but sadly, he came back after no more than 15 minutes, and with his disgraceful size had brought with him a new facet to his hateful personality: A smell. I shan't be vulgar about this smell, but to put it politely, it was not a smell you want to be pinned up against for several hours.

Also, on his return, he appeared to insist on ditching the vaguely meek legs together and went for the all-out legs spread apart. Frankly, I was becoming so miffed I very nearly told him that if he had to adjust his seating position to compensate for his grossly enlarged plums, there was very little chance he would be a balding 40 something on a coach from Perth to London. But I didn't, because [a] he was asleep, a quality I found triply annoying in him since it was his actual presence that was stopping me sleeping, and [b] I'm too polite and mild-mannered.

Sleeping! Most men put their efforts into sleeping as a single-task, but this man found time to fidget and snore loudly too (So loudly that at one stage he woke himself up, causing me to laugh. He glared at me, and I told him I had seen the face of Ron Atkinson in a pork pie, and it amused me) thus doubly keeping me from sleeping. The man was and always will be a one-man-anti-sleep-band.

Thankfully, on the journey back up, I had the double seat to myself, and thus, thankfully, had a lovely sleep on the way home,, despite waking up in a storm of wind and rain and thunder during which my driver thought it judicious to overtake on the motorway (M6 northbound, fact fans) whilst I merely opted for pinning myself to my seat in terror and gently moaning, considering sending texts to loved ones.

Fortunately though, we made it. So Coach Trip accurately reflects coach journeys. You'll be next to someone you don't like for an extended period of time, but it's cheaper than flying and makes good TV. If I get the chance, I'll implore the driver to let me vote off the guy sitting next to me.

As a caveat, some or all of this may not be true, and I reserve the right to completely make stuff up.

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