A thrilling day out
7.00am Tuesday 5th February: I awake with a tingling feeling of anticipation and prepare myself for a very special day out. Showered and smartly dressed for the grand occasion I shovel my porridge down quickly and check that I have everything ready for the journey of a lifetime.
9.25am: With my documentation pocketed I set out for the first stage of my trip. Who knows what dangers I might face and there is the daunting prospect of being left stranded if my carefully planned time table failed. It is very cold, there is a bitter wind blowing, but the sun is shining.
9.55am: My first carriage arrives, 10 minutes late, in the form of the No. 19 Stagecoach. Shivering I show my boarding pass and step into its luxurious seating area.
10.20am: Arrive in Corby after travelling through Desborough, where four passengers alight but no one boards, and Rushton, where no one does either. The driver maintains a sedate pace in order not to cause discomfort for remaining few passengers. I now have a 40 minute cold wait for my next conveyance so decide to enter the imposing Cube and examine their public toilet facilities. These are adequate and clean but the hand dryer blows only intermittently. I am not impressed by the public library which is on a gradient alongside a sort of multi-storey car park ramp.
11.10am: My next carriage arrives, also 10 minutes late, and I become involved in a conversation with two ladies who consider the Internet to be one of the roots of much evil. The carriage driver takes us on a tour of half of Corby, including the Asda superstore for non-Internet devotees. Several simple country-folk board here for the remainder of a bouncing ride over humps and holes, with which Corby is plentifully endowed. The driving technique for these is high speed and almost no braking.
11.25am approx: Disembark at Rockingham and enter tea room to be greeted by large assembly of cyclists some of whom will endeavour to beat my next vehicle to Gretton. Rockingham is no warmer than were Rothwell or Corby.
12.19pm approx: Next carriage, quaintly named Centrebus, arrives and I join the existing passenger on board. I fail to notice the sign on the rear warning me that the driver’s other vehicle is a Porsche. It soon appears that this bus is supercharged and I’m treated to a hair-raising ten minutes as we career along the valley road to Gretton. A lorry appears suddenly in front of us on a blind bend and both vehicles take to the bank. We are perilously close to the ditch and I have cause to wonder why I didn’t choose a seat on the offside. Tree branches crash and scrape along the side before we regain the tarmac. Our demonic progress continues, clods of mud flying from under the wheels and the bus vibrates alarmingly as the driver extracts every last watt from the roaring engine. We pass a cycling companion on a bend on Gretton hill and swerve in quickly in the face of an oncoming car. My low heart rate is probably now dangerously high at about 50. Centrebus should issue monitors and smelling salts to fragile passengers.
12.30pm: Quivering with fright I stagger off the bus outside the village hall and enter for some soothing soup. Am mollified by winning a pair of ladies’ mittens and a tube of hand-cream in the raffle. Avoid stacking tables and chairs by having to leave in time for the next bus.
1.25pm: I join two ladies in the bus shelter and await the arrival of the 1.30 bus. It fails to appear and I am offered a lift into Corby by a couple from the lunch. This is fortuitous since my next bus is on time and I would have missed it.
2.06pm: I board the Peterborough express stage and travel in comfort on the lush Italian leather seats as far as Oundle. The experience of descending the bends between Upper and Lower Benefield is always a thrill on a double decker but I have to admit to preferring it on a trike.
2.40pm: Arrive Oundle and walk through the churchyard and along Glapthorn Road to Abbott House Care Home. I discover that the derelict building alongside the road is not it and that the Home lies behind out of sight. I am taken upstairs to a lounge where Steve Blyth is asleep in an armchair in front of a TV set with the sound very low and sub-titles allowing the action to be followed. How considerate, I think. Steve wakes up and I spend an hour with him recalling the good old days and bringing him up to date with club affairs. For half an hour a snow storm blows around outside and two silver birches sway wildly in the great wind. The staff, who all appear very friendly, offer me a cup of tea and biscuits. A female inmate enters from the adjacent lounge, treating us to her very low opinion of the armchair occupants within. I guess she hasn’t been offered a chair. She manages, with her Zimmer, to safely negotiate me and my jacket, which is lying on the floor, and insists I have only one biscuit. The staff tell me I may have as many as I like. I take only one. Steve is very pleased to see me and seems quite comfortable, anticipating that this may be his home from now on.
4.20pm: Leave Abbott House and walk back to the Market Place where the X4 eventually arrives and I get on to begin the two stage journey home. Drizzle is falling and it feels even colder than before.
5.10pm: Arrive back in Corby where I decide to alight and catch the direct bus back to Rothwell rather than continuing on X4 to Kettering. I now have 30 minutes to wait for the No. 19. Macdonalds beckons but I decide that the waiting queue and a too hot beaker of tea might cause me to miss the bus. I walk across to the Cube again and pass the time in conversation with the library attendants. It turns out that the female of the pair once lived in Mellis and cycled to work in Eye. Now she runs and may perhaps gravitate to triathlon. When bussing one does meet different and interesting people, it’s a whole new world.
5.40pm: The No. 19 arrives and takes on several passengers, so not everyone drives to work. It’s dark now but I manage to identify Rothwell when it appears. I walk home, calling at the Co-op for something for dinner.
6.30pm: Finally arrive home congratulating myself on completing such a long and tiring journey without the aid of a minder. Prepare a hot drink and eventually put my meal on to cook.
12.10am: Wake up suddenly, remembering that I had watched most of the 10.0pm news and switched the oven off. The TV goes off automatically. Forgot about the steamer cooking my green veg. Remove black pan from stove, transfer complete meal to a plate and place in fridge for tomorrow. Stagger upstairs to bed. The end of a perfect day. What a relief and a pleasure it will be to cycle again.