The other day, I went to a local market-town (sounds like fiction already)—on the bus.
It was something of a reconnaissance mission—to see if I would want to do it at all.
I knew before I set off that there wasn’t much in this small town—but I couldn’t quite believe that there wasn’t—or, I thought my memory must be at fault.
I arrived in the bus station much too early—I had forty minutes to wait—I resolved to set off from home later, in future, to catch this bus from the bus station to my destination.
Actually, not much of what I write here is entirely accurate—there was a destination—somewhere I would get off the bus—but there were other places on the way that also interested me.
In fact, I had been thinking that I would travel on that particular bus one day—it went through localities that we might move to—I had considered it—
And it turned out—as I should have known—that the best part of the trip was the journey out—
But—I can’t tell this story without saying where I was going, and—therefore—by a sort of default, saying where I am—mentioning by name those places the bus passed through—and from—
How Incognito do I want to remain?
Do I give fictional names?
Do I refer to these places only by the first letter of each—I was going to S, and passed through M, and N, on the way—places I had considered moving to—and GA—
I’ve been trying to write this for a few days—I met someone I know on a bus into town—a day or so after ‘the trip’—and the tale of going to S toppled from my tongue (I know).
Because it had been interesting, this journey.
Belinda texted me while I was out—she had rung me at home, and my husband had told her I was in town—that was what I had told him—by note—he had still been in bed when I set out.
I told him only that I’d gone to town because I wasn’t certain that I would go to S—from the bus station—I might decide, after all—not today—
How long would I be? Belinda wanted to know.
I texted back—I was in S, but waiting for the bus, which should arrive in half an hour or so, and that it was a fifty-minute journey on the bus—to the bus station in town, that is—and then there would be another bus, of course, from there to home—I’d say it would take me a while…
Okay—I have the set-off, I have the destination, I have the come-back—what happened in the middle?
There was going to be a fair there for a few days towards the end of the week, and fairground-people were already setting up equipment and rides.
Some might say I was there on the wrong day.
I was hoping there would be a second-hand bookshop, but there were only various charity shops, which turned out to be dead losses.
From one, though, I bought a Mary Berry—cooking for occasions—I thought it might be useful to have some new recipes for when people came round—something easy and quick to put together.
I looked in a—let’s call it a ‘general store’—we have one in the town I come from, but the one in S is bigger.
I knew it stocked fabric—there was cotton, which was reminiscent, in thickness and pattern, of how cotton used to be, in the old days.
But it was—old-fashioned, and dull in colour—and I told Belinda, later, you would need to be thinking outside the box if you were going to use it—you would need to be something of a designer—otherwise, you’d look as though you had come from a different era—you’d got stuck in a time-warp and had only just found your way out…
I got fish and chips from a café—I had difficulty getting across to the person who served me that no, I didn’t want to take out, but sit in—I wanted a cup of tea—
But I was ensconced at last, and could watch, out of the window, other customers—they sat on benches in the sunshine, with cans beside them.
School-teenagers were coming out from the secondary school that I knew was in S somewhere—streaming out, going up the high street. I watched them pass.
I ate my fish and chips—the chips could have done with being cooked for longer on a slightly lower heat—some of them were still raw in the middle—and drank my tea.
I leafed through the Mary Berry.
As I got further through it, I found a page with splashes of—well, you don’t know what, do you?—on it.
And more—as I turned pages.
Well, you know what your own cookbooks can get like.
And this one—I reflected that it would be not so bad if it had come from my Auntie’s—I would at least know it had come from a basically clean house.
But—uggh!—I resolved to take the book home, copy a few recipes from it, and then—fling it. I didn’t fancy having it gracing my shelves.
And, with that thought, I went to get the bus.
I walked from one end of S high street to the other—and back again.
I couldn’t find the bus stop from where I could get a bus back to my home-town—there was the one on the other side, where I had alighted (not long before) but there was no—opposite number, as it were—on this side of the road—
I asked passers-by, but no one knew where the bus stop was.
Eventually, someone said—there was one on the way out of S, beyond the roundabout.
I said I knew the roundabout, and would walk in that direction, since that was the way I had been going. School-teenagers went in shops, out again. They had their favourite sandwich shops, it looked like.
It was a longer walk than I’d anticipated. The sun was hotter than I thought it would be.
I walked on, and school-teenagers did the proverbial milling around me.
The bag with the book in it—it was getting heavier and heavier.
I passed a rubbish-bin—and took the book from my bag—the only thing I had bought, apart from the fish and chips, and tea—and flung it, there and then. I wasn’t going to carry that any further.
I found the bus stop at last.
I had at least forty-five minutes to wait, and the bus stop was in direct sunlight.
I watched the school-teenagers on the other side of the road making their way back to school. I thought they had probably checked-out the fair-rides while they’d been at it—getting their lunches.
I watched a woman in a strapped top and high-heeled shoes going past, and later—much later—watched her coming back again. She looked as though she was managing the heat—and the shoes—very well.
There was an interesting old house on the other side (everything occurred on the other side now) and I left the bus stop for a while to go further along so that I could see it better. It was probably an old people’s home—but it looked private—and I’d been reading novels that I counted as being historical (though I’m not sure anyone else would)—from the 1940s—and the characters lived in houses just like that one—why, there was the old summer-house at the bottom of the garden—and there were two cars parked further round a curved drive—do you know, I think it was a private house?
Something did happen on my side of the road, then—a young man came along and sat in the bus stop.
I went and sat in the bus stop with him.
He had headphones on, so I didn’t attempt conversation.
I sat a while, but the sun was full in my face.
I exited the bus stop, stood under a tree outside, but there were midges, so I found a spot part in and part out of shade.
The bus came at last, and the young man and I got on it.
The countryside was green, and had that fulsome but dusty look of late summer.
As we went back through GA I saw that still had its second-hand bookshop—but with buses so infrequent, who would get off there, and look in there—and find not much, probably—and wait an hour for the next bus to come along so you could continue to your true destination?
There wasn’t anything else in GA unless you were interested in the ice-cream parlour, or had brought a picnic-tea to eat beside the babbling brook.
The brook does babble—that isn’t a cliché—I have been to GA before, when times were more accessible.
And we passed the new-builds in N—but they were on the far side of the district—from my home-town, I mean—and my home-town was the nearest place of amenities. N was surprisingly far-out.
I’ve just looked on the internet—from my home-town to S is 7.9 miles, as the crow flies—but I didn’t go that way.