Sunday, 26 September 2010

Return To The Land That God Forgot.

It was such a beautiful, crisp autumn morning that I quite forgot that I was on the Valium Run. The depot was deserted and the sun shone through the cracks in the dilapidated old building. The sparrows were in chirpy mood and all was well with the world. The thought of trundling up and down a hilly route between the 'Land That God Forgot' and a notoriously volatile Northern market town for the next 11 hours was pushed to the back of my mind.

Why I am moaning about the Valium Run? I have no idea. I must practise what I preach when I live by the motto that - it could be worse. Apart from the length of the day, there are so many plus points and I always come back feeling you have met extraordinary people and seen some extraordinary events.

I hadn't been on the Valium Run since August. I was greeted, touchingly, like a long lost explorer. "Where've you been?" "'Ello fella." "Watch yer." and "Me tomatoes are struggling" were some of the salutations. Followed by what was new, the same and general complaints about modern day living. This little rural route is like a community day centre. Everybody knows everybody, except for the odd rambler or tourist.

A passing holidaymaker fron the South was surprised: "Excuse me for saying, but this is the last of the 'Old England' I know."

So little had changed. The glass door on the telephone box was still missing.

"I've looked everywhere but ah canna find it," said one of the passengers. "It's a mystery. And do you know what, they took the door but they left the screws and the hinges. They're still there."

The old wooden hut on the disused railway track was no more. It had been torched. "Aye it's just the bairns up to their high jinks. They are just having a warm up for bonfire night in November"
They were more concerned about the new bus services from other bus companies as a result of the council's 'value for money' strategy when re-tendering the bus service contracts.

"It canna be cheaper for the council. We now have five school mini buses in the village every morning, half empty, when there used to be one. Now the other new timetable means that you have to wait for an hour and a half for a connection." That is a challenge. 90 minutes spent in the Land That God Forgot, where the only thing to do is stand in the bus shelter and count the number of hairs on the back of your hand.

The local market town looked to have suffered from the downturn. Four shops had closed in a month. The place has a depressed atmosphere, unsurprisingly. This did not affect the anarchic driving at speed through the centre of town and 'law of the jungle' parking, i.e find any double yellow line and dump the car, leaving the wife in the front seat in the unlikely event that a policeman or traffic warden appears.

As I drive into the town, an elderly lady steps into the road and rotates her arms in frantic helicopter rotation movements. Her coat flaps wildly in the wind and she threatens to take off. I have been forewarned that she might be angry as the bus had not appeared the day before. An investigation was inconclusive as to whether the driver had cut a corner and gone off for an early tea break. I was dreading having to take the flack for someone else's misdemeanour.

"Eeh, that's the third time the bus hasn't come. And I missed me doctor's appointment." My heart sunk, expecting the worst verbal lashing. It didn't come.

"Never mind," she said and smiled.

How can anyone not like the Valium Run?

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