Heading to Hereford
Trip Start Aug 17, 2008
33Trip End Feb 09, 2009
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
On Sunday, February 1, it started snowing. I was so stoked! I had hoped for it to snow before I went home, but I was losing hope - the only snow I had seen we a 10 minute light flurry in Paris with Rachel. But here is was - still deciding whether or not to settle, but definately falling from the sky: tentatively at first, but gradually growing bolder and wilder. By the night, there was a thin sheet of snow settled on the cold land, and I couldn't resist writing my name in the snow, a sort of Gemma-was-here or sticking-the-flag-on-new-land achievement.
In the morning, the snow had only been added too, and we set out for the bus in the darkness, set off with the untouched snow throwing the light of the street lamps back at us.
At 7:10 am, I had said my goodbyes and was on the bus. There is something undeniably adventurous about being on a bus in the early hours of the morning. The radio was on and listing off all the schools that were closed that day. The sun rose, and the sparkly snow smiled, making me squint (nice alliteration, eh?). But then we were on the A12, weren't we? The famously horrible A12.
And yes, we stopped. For a very long time. The coach driver came and chatted to us all - he had been in contact with the coach company, trying to find out what to do; no one had any answers. Eventually the police came and directed the bus into a queue with other heavy vehicles to wait for gritting to be laid on the "hill" (what hill?), and beside as the cars moved past, being able to get up the "hill" despite the icy surface.
After an hour of sitting the this queue, we finially moved again. The going wasn't too bad from there - still slow, as safety required, but moving - but the problem was... the driver was meant to stop at 10:30, when he was to arrive at London, but it wasalready past this time, and apparently the coach company is really strict with their tacometer thingys, & it could be illegal for him to drive over time...
He was advised to drive as far as he could and then terminate, "but where does that leave you? I can't just leave you stranded!" he said to us, as he tried to figure out what to do. So, we got to the next stop that was still open - Romford. There he had arranged with the coach company for a taxi top be waiting to take us the rest of the way to London Victoria.
We waited at Romford for 30 minutes waiting for the taxi, meanwhile the coach behind us, which had managed to miss waiting for the gritting, sailed past (slowly, of course), still roughly on time, driver still under his tacometer thingy - empty. If the company had been more organised, he could have stopped, collected us, and continued on his (and our!) way, but the taxis had been called already, so it was too late.
After having sat there waiting for 30 minutes, the driver somehow realised that the ambulance, which was sitting in front of us, was our ride... Suddenly, we 5 coach passengers were loading ourselves into the back of the ambulance, chatting to each other, and the driver, as if we were all old friends - an older lady and I had already been chatting for the 30 minutes while waiting for the taxis.
In the ambulance, the driver asks, "does anyone know the way to Victoria Coach Station?". He had no idea, and his GPS wasn't recognising the destination. He passed a street directory over, and an older gentleman took up the challenge. Suddenly England was giving me exactly what I had found lacking - real life British sitcom: this was why I loved England, I expected the Brit sitcoms to be the way of life over here, but had found it astoundingly... normal. But now I was feeling England was finally living up to my hopes for it.
The trip into London took about an hour, and yes, we did have to swing by the hospital (to drop something off). Everything in London was snowy, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Tube Station Signs, and there were people throwing snowballs or building snowmen everwhere. The snow may have been a hassle, but a more beautiful and joy-giving hassle you have never seen before in your life (unless you're a parent, in which case I guess you could say the same for your kids).
Finally, 3 hours and 15 minutes late, we arrived at Victoria Coach Station at 1:45. I had missed my 12pm connection, so had to wait until 4:30 for the next coach to Hereford. I continued to chat to the lady I had met on the bus until 3pm, when her connecting coach, and then there was a Danish woman who overheard that I was going to Hereford - so was she.
In the current circumstances, everything was such a mess, and no one had any idea what was going on, so if you founf anyone trying to do the same thing as you, you stuck together - made a team. We were team Hereford. She was lovely - her accent sounded South African, but no, it was Danish. She was lovely and we passed the time chatting.
At 4:15 we realised something weird. The bus had arrived, and the list of stops was up on the screen... Hereford certainly wasn't on it. I got out my timetable leaflet and found that there were in fact no less than TWO 444 busses due to leave at 4:30 - we must be the other one! So she ran back and found a departures screen, and yes, we needed the one at gate 18, not 9! (There had been no bus listed specifically for Hereford before), so I hurried through the bus station and found it, doors open, and driver standing impatently in front of the bus.
He took our tickets irritably, & sent us on board. It was great to finally be on the coach. With any luck, the next thing I would have to do would be step out and into my cousins car - in 4 hours' time. We soon left the coach station and were on our way (after our driver had grumbled at some people and told others to hurry up, and yelled at a guy whose first language obviously wasn't English - he was one Grumpy coach driver - I'm glad we hadn't had him for the morning coach; our first driver had been incredibly friendly and kind!).
And, 4 hours later, we were indeed at Hereford, only 10 minutes late. And there was Kathy, waiting. My mobile phone battery had died, so I hadn't been able to tell her that I was definately on this bus, so I was relieved to see she had decided to come out anyway, hoping that I was on it.
After a 5 minute drive, we were at her house, and I was shown to my room - the library. It was a fantastic room, with bookshelves climbing up the walls, and a big bed in the centre of the room covered in heavy, warm doonas of maroons, forest green, royal blues and warm browns, The ceiling was high, and the windows reached up towards it. And beside the bed had been put a tray, upon which was a kettle, coffee sachets and tea bags, a blue glass bottle of water, a glass and a mug. A jug of milk was put on the window sill, where it would keep cold over night. It was beautiful.
Tom, Kathy's 5 year old son, was already asleep. When her husband, Colin, arrived home, we all had giant bowls of pesto pasta and then went to check out the weather report while tasting hand made chocolates from a giant chocolate box.