Not one of my finest moments…

Pea brain A working life as a project manager and call centre planning specialist have taught me to do detail and to keep a note of important information. That’s been emphasised by many early failed construction attempts on the allotment that have forced me to plan ahead. But my natural tendency is to skim over things and hope for the best. I’m the eternal optimist… things always work out for the best won’t they?

So when fixing up to go to the Cambridge Arts Theatre last Friday to see their production of The Haunting I briefly perused the bus timetables to check all was OK. We like to amble in by bus and Linda’s words of warning echoed in my ears… ‘It’s a Good Friday bank holiday, shouldn’t you check the buses are running?

Normally it’s not worth checking the timetable since there’s a bus at least every 15 minutes. But I did the checking anyway… in my own fashion. I noted Stagecoach were running a Sunday service and their timetable indicated some early morning buses only ran Monday to Friday. So no problem.

Off we set just after 14:00 on the 15 minute walk to the nearest bus stop. The show didn’t start until 19:45 but we planned to enjoy a walk around Cambridge in the sunshine and a snack at our favourite eating place, the Cafe on the Round.

On arriving at the bus stop my wife, who does have an eye for detail but doesn’t use a PC, eagerly eyeballed what timetable details were displayed. She noted we’d just missed a Whippet bus at 14:15 and their next bus wouldn’t be along for another two hours. Stagecoach helpfully displayed all their services other than for Sundays on a timetable some two years old.

A slight feeling of unease started to well up in my breast.

After a while I suggested we walk to the next stop. Further up the route there was a bus stop with radio display showing the next few buses due. We decided to walk down the route since this would be heading towards St Ives bus station where we might have to end up. Between stops I nervously eyed back up the road to check a bus wasn’t trying to creep up on us and whizz past. That’s happened before… we once missed two buses while walking to the next stop. No chance of that happening this time… not a bus in sight!

It was a hot day and after three stops and with no radio display in sight we piled into the bus shelter to await our fate. The aluminium seat was scorching and the plastic shelter caught the sun and built up an oven temperature in a most effective way. Not the only thing heating up, as Linda reflected on my inability to do anything right.

We did spot a bus… a Whippet 1A service to Cambridge, unfortunately on it’s way back from our destination heading towards Huntingdon. Was that a look of disbelief and sympathy on the driver’s face as he stared in our direction?

Our hopes rose when we saw a frail old couple wobbling towards us. Surely they wouldn’t have the strength to walk into town… they must be heading for the bus stop knowing a bus is due shortly! But as they came abreast they mysteriously picked up renewed strength  and headed onwards with confidence, past us and the bus stop.

One hour on and with no sign of a bus on our side of the road I helpfully suggested we wait until about 15:15, the logic being that surely the Stagecoach bus wouldn't run at the same times as the Whippet bus… if they synchronised with each other and with the Whippet buses running at 14:15 and 16:15 the most obvious time for the Stagecoach bus to arrive would be about 15:15.

I had renewed certainty in my theory as a group of drunks attached themselves to one end of the bus stop. They certainly were waiting for a bus, but no use asking them about the next arrival they were so far gone. Fresh optimism when a much more distinguished gentleman arrived. He thought Whippet buses ran every hour… at least they did a few weeks ago. We pointed him to the timetable showing the next Whippet bus wasn’t due for another hour. After a while he decided to walk to his destination in town.

We’d had enough by then and decided to retrace our steps back up the route in a general direction of home and to go as far as the stop further up the route I knew had a radio display. Before we got there the Whippet 1A service and the driver with the sad face reappeared, this time heading towards Cambridge. Hurrah! But on asking when the last bus back was, a time of 22:00 didn’t seem helpful. The last show we went to didn’t finish until about 22:20 and we didn’t want to be stranded.

In the end I drove us to Cambridge over two hours after we’d set off on foot. Linda isn’t the best traveller but fortunately the A14 was quiet. A pleasant amble from the free parking in Barton Road, along the hidden paths from Clare Road, around the College playing fields and onwards to Silver Street, soothed troubled nerves and the play was very enjoyable.

The play ended at 21:40. It might have been helpful if I’d checked that when booking the tickets. We could have caught the last bus back!

Three weeks into retirement… am I forgetting the importance of detail again?

1 comment:

  1. Julia7:07 pm

    Oh John what we would all have missed if indeed it had been one of your "finer moments". Seldom if ever have I felt such empathy and involvement in two poor individuals' plight experienced when having missed a bus. How boring would it have been to read that yourself and the ever long-suffering Linda had visited Cambridge and seen a play!. I eagerly await your next skirmish into the world of newly retired folk. Julia


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