The closer the date came, the more insane the idea seemed to me. Let me explain: a little last minute I got an e-mail inviting me to a book-presentation. The booklet is made up of 10 short stories, one of them being mine. The presentation was back in the home-land however and though my parents were kind enough to offer me a ticket (I told you they were great.) I decided to find out the most economical route myself: by coach.
So there I was 9pm at Victoria Coach Station which, should you ever wish to visit it, is not that close to the Tube station. The check-in counter is even further down from the entrance, so my ‘at least 60 min before departure’ check-in became a mere 20min. Ah well, nobody really seemed to mind: the clerk behind the desk was going so slowly it probably wouldn’t have made a difference if I had shown up with oceans of time to spare.
The coach driver was our guide and explained our route with the included mandatory stops. The vehicle was packed. I am short, so I don’t really mind, I can even stretch my legs (hoorah!); for others the 8 hour ordeal was a bigger issue. Let me introduce the Croydon Posse behind me. Ah yes, so nothing against Croydon people (very lovely) yet sometimes very particular. Here a couple of snippets of my night, courtesy of one individual at the back of the bus:
” Bruv, there aint no space man! Why are we going that slow bruv?” no answer of his mate who is trying to sleep. He then calls to the busdriver: “Boss! Boss! Why so slow man?!” upon no response of driver to his mate: “Why so slow?” Mate turns around: “We are waiting for the train, we missed the first one, he just said man.” “I don’t understan what he’s sayin man. Jeee if this was an Villa Aston Coach: we’d be flyin bruv.”
The only uncomfortable bit was on the train through the tunnel when the driver had to turn the engine off. He invited people to come off the coach if you wanted to. But it is the middle of the night and if you stay on the bus, well you are trying to sleep despite the air-con not working. Yes it is hot, but it’s also half three in the morning… Enter our friend from outside.
“Bruv WOOOOHOOO IT’S HOT! How can you sleep like that man? Come outside? At least it is cool out. What? Mate? Were you asleep? I don’t get it man. How can you sleep I mean it’s HOT! I can HARDLY BREATHE.” to driver “BOSS! BOSS! What’s going on man?! We are dying here.WHOOO.”
His mate obviously gives up at sleeping and they have a long chat. I must have fallen asleep, but I woke up as soon as the engine started to leave the train and the air-con thank god came on….
“So I says yeah…whats ya gettin married for yeah? And yeah so it’s like all like arranged like. So her parents like have so I says like that is so fucked up yeah. And so I don’t know what to do bruv, I mean I spoke to her friends and all, but it’s insane yeah getting married to this guy she ain’t met. I’m upset. I jus don’t know what to do bruv. Yeah I mean the family man… I means we were always together man. I mean I don’t know why I’m so upset you know what I’m saying. I mean she was only like a 7 out of 10 but yeah you so used to have her around you know. It’s like insane man. INSANE! you know”
At this point I know: Insane. It’s 5am. Insane.
When we finally near my end destination at 6.30am, I hear my new friend remark:
“Ah man people here they ride those bikes like Mario Carts bruv! WHEEEHEEEE Insane like! I nearly got hit last time. Like they have like no fear!”
When I get off, I cannot help but smile, I have made it through the night: fearless on the Villa Aston Coach. INSANE!