11/23/2006

A bus ride filled with peril through the Downs

“You can get on, but I'm not sure if I'll be able to get you up the Downs,” said the bus driver as I tried to purchase a single ticket on the 62 to Dunstable, where my aunt and uncle live. “There's been a serious road accident and the police aren't letting anyone through.”

I got on anyway. I had been waiting for the bus for 15 minutes. A taxi driver stopped and asked if I wanted to take a taxi. It would have cost twenty pounds for the ride. I told him I'd wait for the bus, but to check back in 30 minutes or so, just in case.

There were about a half-dozen teenage girls loitering about in the bus shelter, across from the Rose and Crown. The words coming out of their mouths would have made a sailor's mother invest in a soap factory. An older woman was waiting for another bus, which was also late, the 500 to Watford.

Thankfully, the bus arrived, and I got on, taking much too long to pay because I couldn't find enough change to pay the 2.70 for the ride. There were four or five other people on board, and one of the teenage girls got on as well. And, off we went.

The road that heads to Ivinghoe goes single-track when you get to this one block of flats, because everyone is parking directly on the road. There is nowhere else for them to park. No driveways. No parking lot behing the block of flats. So, with no solution, they make up their own. No one should really blame them.

The interior lights of the bus were fully blazing, making it impossible to see outside very well. So, all I could feel were the various jerks and starts as the bus rounded corners without seeming to slow down. I thought there might be a second accident. We drove through tiny villages, coming incredibly close to hitting various buildings. Very little clearance. Very little room for chance.

We got to the accident, and sure enough, the road was blocked off. It was in the country, no lights around except for epileptic blue.

“Looks like this is when we start playing 'Let's find Luton'”, shouted the bus driver. So, we started off down a single-track lane, on a huge bus, careering down even smaller passages. As we passed one pub, the people inside stared out at this bus, which really shouldn't have been speeding past their pub. I could see in, watching people play darts, barmaids pulling pints, logs crackling over a fire, meat pies being eaten. You know, England.

Thankfully, the driver was very good at playing his game, and country gave way to city, and the lights of shiny Dunstable began to come into focus. Again and again I heard the driver tell new passengers about the police lights and the accident. I recognized more and more pub names. The Bell. The Swan. The Five Bells. The Winston Churchill. And, it was outside the namesake of Britain's wartime prime minister that I got off the bus to walk back to the Peterson's house.

Of course, it was a really long walk, and I was carrying quite a bit, so I decided to get another taxi. 3.50 later, I was at the house, and was welcomed in by Jim, who seemed happy to see me, if only to tell me about the mess in the kitchen. They just purchased a new dishwasher, but to install it required moving the washing machine, and Jimmy explained the whole palaver to me. I sat in the lounge, and proceeded the long process of trying to fall asleep after being awake for 34 out of 36 hours.

On the whole, I'm happy to be here, though it's hard to be away from home for any amount of time when you've got a 13 month-old at home. But, as I type this, I'm waiting for my son to be dropped off by one of Pippa's friends. Jimmy drove me here this morning because I wasn't sure if I would be able to make it here. He works in Chesham now, and Tring is sort of on the way, but not really.

I can feel the inevitable cold coming on. Henry coughed right in my face yesterday. Maybe it was his way of giving me a little bit of a present?

The morning is allowing blue skies to poke through, which leaves me incredibly grateful. It'll be fun to take Henry out somewhere. He's talking so well now, and is a brick of a child. He's a big boy, takes after his mother. But, he's my boy, too, and we're going to have a great time today. I've got 11 hours until I have to catch the bus back to Dunstable.

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