Today has been EPIC. Unnecessarily so.
I wasted a remarkable amount of time over the weekend, trying to figure out how to get to Sorghumlea by bus. I was not going to miss my voice lesson for a mere frippery like a dead car.* Ah, Great Britain, land of functioning, country-wide public transportation. In the first place, the bus timetable sites are all run by an inbred cabal of malicious gnomes. Who don’t speak English. And who don’t count very well either. Or tell time. And they certainly can’t read maps. At one point I was trying to find the schedule for the last and longest leg of my return journey, from Mauncester to New Arcadia. I was on the HAMPHIRE site. I kept typing in ‘Mauncester. New Arcadia.’ And the web site, which had been showing me the outward journey from New Arcadia to Mauncester thirty seconds before, said primly, ‘you are asking for information outside our range’, and threw a map of western England—Dorset, Devon, Somerset, Cornwall, on the screen. ARRRRRGH. It did this several times. It did this after I’d refreshed, and after I’d closed down and started over. It would show me my way out . . . but not my way home.** It also refused to acknowledge a bus stop it had marked on the map. I knew it existed in real life because I drive past it on my way to and from Nadia every week. I’ve even seen people getting on and off, and some of them turn and walk down the long slope toward Sorghumlea. And there it was on the map for the route to some OTHER bus stop but nooooooo, it did not exist.
It was not one of those occasions when I remembered to sing instead of scream.***
I finally found it ON ANOTHER SITE. Hey, competing bad Hampshire bus schedule sites. What an interesting approach to serving the public. It is, furthermore, listed as being in some other town. You’re in Mauncester and you’re rolling up the hill toward Sorghumlea. Off to the east, on the far side of Sorghumlea, there is Drollbody. On the far side, okay? THE FAR SIDE. But this bus stop is listed as being in DROLLBODY and if you want a schedule for it you have to look at the DROLLBODY SCHEDULE.
Meanwhile . . . tonight’s the night the Muddlehamptons are interviewing candidates for their new musical director. In fact—have I moaned to you about this already? I’ve done a lot of moaning about it in various venues—I suspect the Muddles and I are going to part ways permanently due to a few little practical aspects like the loolessness of rehearsals, and Nadia telling me that the number-one reason for tired crackly voices is dehydration and I MUST take water to rehearsal and I MUST DRINK IT. Two and a quarter hours plus a half hour commute and no loo? . . . no, I must not drink water, tea, champagne, or the blood of the parish council who hasn’t seen fit to install a loo in the old Muddlehampton church. But the non-musical director, Gordon—I’m not sure what his title is, but I like him, and he runs everything but the actual singing, and steps in there too when the proper MD is caught in a traffic jam in Dorset, Devon, Somerset or Cornwall—says that this is an issue that comes up and will come up again as part of the changeover to a new MD and he’ll keep me posted. But they’ve been practising at St Frideswide for a very long time and I doubt anything will happen. Therefore I’m probably looking for a new choir.†
HOWEVER I would like to see whom they snabble for their new MD, and the interviews were tonight. I emailed Gordon about my transportation problems†† and he said someone could give me a ride back but—particularly when I didn’t know if I was going to look up from my knitting and discover I was in Dorset, Devon, Somerset or Cornwall—he couldn’t promise a ride to. Sigh. So I said I’d take a taxi from Mauncester if all went well.
It didn’t, of course. The bus from New Arcadia to Mauncester was seven minutes late, and I had only ten minutes to make my connection to Drollbody. You can get a lot of knitting done on a bus, supposing you aren’t wasting too much time worrying.††† The young man with the earring behind the wheel put his foot down, and we made up the time. So I pranced gaily downstairs at the bus depot and there, lo! There was the bus I wanted, with the right banner heading on display, and it was even parked in the slot with the right number on it. Yaaaaaaay.
I darted across and sprang onto this beautiful, excellent, existing bus. And asked for Drollbody Corner. The driver looked at me and shook his head. I don’t go that far, he said. You need the 772.465Aaa(x) bus. It only runs once an hour, and you’ve missed it.
My voice lesson, at that point, was about fifty minutes off. And even if I could get to Drollbody Corner it was a fifteen or twenty minute walk from there.
Well, where do you go? I said.
In Drollbody? said the driver, who was not being a passive-aggressive creep or anything, just telling me what’s on the ground rather than on some (*&^%$£”!!!!! web site.
I’m trying to get to Sorghumlea, I said.
Oh, said the driver. I can drop you at the corner of Pigglefwamp Avenue, opposite the leisure centre.‡
Great, I said. Thanks. And sat down. And got out my knitting.‡‡
I was toiling up the last long slope to Nadia’s mum’s house, having double-timed from Pigglefwamp Avenue, when Pooka chirruped. I of course panicked instantly because it was going to be the dog minder telling me something terrible and . . . it was a text from Niall, saying, Do you fancy Curlyewe this evening?
No, I texted back. I still have a dead car, and I’m in Sorghumlea for my voice lesson and it’s going to take me till Wednesday to get home on the bus.
There was a pause while, I assume, Niall the Seriously Mentally Disturbed looked at a map. Curlyewe is on the wrong side of Mauncester from Sorghumlea by a considerable margin.
I’ll pick you up, texted Niall. When is your voice lesson over?
NO BUSES, I thought. NO BUSES. I’d already decided—toiling up that slope—that I wasn’t even going to try for Muddlehampton. And I might take a taxi home anyway.
???!!!!???? I texted. Then I phoned Peter. I’m going to Curlyewe, I said. Niall is picking me up at Nadia’s.
Great, said Peter. Now remember to eat something.
Feh. If it weren’t for the sodding ME, I could have given up eating entirely when I hit menopause. I could just have a little chocolate occasionally when I was in the mood.
Niall was at the bottom of Nadia’s driveway when I came out. And he handed me a bag of fruit. You have to eat something, he said. ALL RIGHT. ALL RIGHT. ALL RIGHT. So I had a pear, a banana and an apple.
We sprinted across country to Curlyewe—and it’s perfectly true that teaching people handbells is a lot easier with a second person to provide ballast. And then we stayed on to ring tower bells—I admit that the niceness of Curlyewe’s tower bells enters into consideration—and hellhounds were very glad to see me when I finally got home. And we hurtled down to the mews for supper.‡‡‡
And to an email from Gordon saying that due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control they’re going to do it all again next Monday.
* * *
* No, of course I haven’t heard from the garage. I will ring them tomorrow. Sigh.
*** Unfortunately it was warm enough over the weekend to have the windows open—not summer warm, mind you, but warm enough that you could sit around in only one woolly layer.
† Which is not going to be easy in the back woods of Hampshire. Nadia says that the Lesser Disconcerting area has half a dozen good amateur choirs^ but Lesser Disconcerting requires serious motorway driving, not the little piffling stretch to get to the abbey.
^ begging the question of how good an applicant needs to be
†† One of the most, MOST irresistibly charming facts about bus service in this area of Hampshire is that it ends comprehensively at about 7 pm. Which means if you want to do anything in the evening you have to have a car. Bell ringing starts at 7:30, you know? The Muddles start at 7:45.
††† I was, of course, sitting on the upper level.^ Britain’s double-decker buses would be another reason to live here if I used the bus system more than about once a year. And I was very distracted by being able to see over all those fences the hellhounds and I walk past every day, and look at all those hidden gardens. Oooh.
^ It fascinates me that not everybody makes a rush to the stair. Not only were there more people sitting downstairs, but I got a front seat, where you rule.
‡ There is no doubt a reason why the British call something that is essentially a gym and exists to provide you with the most efficient means to sweat and pant and raise your heart rate and improve your lung capacity and so on a leisure centre.
‡‡ I also had a surreal conversation with the woman in the seat opposite, who wanted to tell me there was a short cut to Sorghumlea. She was probably right. But since she didn’t know any of the street names her explanation that ‘it goes like this’ with appropriate hand gesture and ‘then you kind of bear right at the big tree’ was not wholly satisfactory.
‡‡‡ I had a LAMB CHOP, okay?
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